Two Singaporean women pioneering in the rise of hand-poked tattoos

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  • Hand-poked tattoos have gained popularity in Singapore.
  • Two women artists are part of the slow but growing group who have picked up the craft.
  • Vivien Su and Celestine Teo are the founders of the tattoo studio Funky Lane.

Normal tattoos are made with machines, tattoo guns that are automated to be fast. But hand-poked tattoos are slow because artists are doing it manually.

Hand-poked tattoos have gained popularity in Singapore over the past year. A small group but growing group of artists have picked up the craft. Some have moved from home studios into rented spaces to cope with the demand. The Straits Times speaks to two artists who share a studio.

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Vivien Su, of Funky Lane, says, “I started during the circuit breaker. Before then, I had always been interested in hand-poked tattoos, but I never had the time or opportunity to get into it. I went online, bought all the supplies and then one day, I poked myself.

“As I started to gain more followers and clients, who wanted to get my tattoos, it began to make sense to move into an external space. I rented a room because I could have more freedom in decorating and creating my haven for tattooing. There is a feeling of solidarity where I can ask Celestine tips, talk to her about some difficulties in client management or even just tattooing itself. Most of my art comes from my life.

“Having grown up in Shanghai, a lot of my artwork is inspired by Chinese culture. My surname stamps are a common thing in China, and it’s always been a tattoo that I wanted to have so when I became an artist, I started to do this design. If I work full-time, I can make between $5 000 to $6 000 (more than R70 000 to R80 000) a month. I’m a final-year student at Yale-NUS.

“During the earlier part of the Covid-19 pandemic, I was very anxious about my job search prospects. As a liberal arts student, it can feel like you don’t know your place in the world during this difficult time. So, tattooing has been a blessing, because even though it started as a passion, it has now presented itself as a viable career after I graduate.

“Growing up, I have always had a strict sense of what would be next for me, from primary school to secondary to high school and then college. And then, after college, I find a job. I think tattooing is exciting because it showed me that there is no path that I have to follow.”

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Celestine Teo, also of Funky Lane, says, “I came across a video and found it interesting, so I did more research. I tattooed a small heart on myself. Running a tattoo shop at home became a bit too much after a while because my family is home. With a lot of people walking in and out, it’s a bit dangerous. Funky Lane studio was created to bring a setting that we were comfortable with so that both parties could be satisfied.

I like anime. I like the dark themes, but a lot of inspiration comes from inside my brain. Sometimes I have super-wild nightmares, and my dreams are very vivid. Sometimes I’ll dream of monsters, and I draw them as doodles. If it weren’t for the Covid-19, I wouldn’t have started poking tattoos again. I mean, it probably sounds weird, but I’m sure many people wouldn’t have rediscovered their passions.”

Source: The Straits Times

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