Some of the most amazing tattoos in the world come from a country where tattooing is illegal and from an increasing group of female artist that are more than willing to break the law.
When you think of tattoos, the first thing that comes to your mind is probably something bold, something traditional like a sailor's chest, or perhaps you're thinking of something tribal, or some faded barbed wire. Although these tattoos have had their moments of popularity, they're not for everyone. Nowadays there's been more of a preference for the softer side of body art, with an emphasis on soft-hued colors and delicate lines.
Maybe you just want to illustrate your more whimsical side, the side that identifies with nostalgic fairy tales, the beautiful and innocent, that which comes from nature.
A feather or a flower, a unicorn, a dreamcatcher, Peter Pan, the Little Prince, a dandelion in the wind: these may be the tattoo designs for you if you'd like to emphasize your more whimsical style of life, so people would see you as the creative being you are.
This style can feature extremely fine-line tattoos, some impressively intricate and others subtle and diminutive, paired with a watercolor effect. These designs share a look of blended paint washes, with little to no black outlines, and a color palette of pastel hues. Tattoos are illegal in Korea, but that doesn’t stop people from adorning their body and making of them a rebellious statement, even if it is of a subtle and elegant creativity.
One artist who excels at these designs is Mini Lau, who is making this style famous in Hong Kong. Like many of those developing this style in South Korea, she works with designs of natural objects like flowers, feathers, fish, and whales, as well as fantasy or fairy tale characters or designs. There is a distinctly innocent feel, emphasizing beauty and hope. It is not surprising that many of these tattoos have a feminine appeal and many of the well known artists of this genre in South Korea are women.
In South Korea tattooing is illegal, unless performed by someone with a doctor's license (and those people are doctors, not tattoo artists). It has been regarded as a symbol of criminality, gangsterism or generally anti-social behavior. But younger generations are slowly overcoming this taboo.
Lau uses this style at a shop called Hello Tattoo with two other artists. Other rising artists in this style are also young women, Banul, Tattooist IDA, Seoeon, Chaehwa, Zihee, Silo, and Tattooist Flower. More women are getting tattoos than men, so it makes sense that the female artists are gaining in popularity.
Thanks to social media, especially Instagram, these artists have gained thousands of followers, bringing awareness of their style to the tattoo community outside of Asia, and of course, attracting new customers and opportunities to continue experimenting with their style.
After scrolling through image after image, we can notice a subversive appeal of the innocence in most of these pieces. There is a certain sincerity going with a tattoo of Peter Pan or small emblematic sets of flowers and small birds, the size and design often looking like embroidery work.
If you are in Seoul and would like a tattoo, make an appointment with one of these artists, but be prepared to wait, as these are performed in clandestine locations because of the law and their occasional crackdowns on the industry.
But if any of these designs inspire you, there are plenty of creative artists displaying their work online for you to discover. After all, tattoos say a lot about who you are and what you want, even the most minimalist.
MyModernMet and Tattooblend