If you’re looking to get a tattoo of ink master Joey Pang, you’ll have to wait two years!
Pang’s signature ‘Chinese calligraphy’ style is a work of art in every sense of the word.
“Every tattoo for me is an artwork,” says Pang, who often spends months working with a client before putting any ink onto skin.
And just like the tattoos she designs, art has always been a permanent fixture throughout Pang’s life.
“I loved drawing since I can remember. I was doing graffiti in my own home! My parents never yelled at me for it, so they let me develop my drawing. So when I was looking for something to do for the rest of my life, I knew it had to involve drawing.”
Pang’s mother also does Chinese calligraphy, and she admits she grew up as ‘kind of a wild kid’.
“I did whatever I wanted to do. I quit school quite early, and my parents didn’t stop me. My family was quite poor, so they agreed if I could just start earning money, I could take care of myself.”
In an attempt to find herself and her purpose, Pang travelled to New Zealand – and it was here that her love for tattoo art sparked.
“I saw Maori tattoos which were really beautiful, and they had a really positive attitude to tattoos, which was the opposite to Hong Kong at that moment.”
“Tattoos can be artwork; it’s just a different medium of drawing.”
Pang then did an apprenticeship in Thailand to develop her craft, as the country had a very strong tattoo culture of its own.
“They consider it lucky, and they’re really open to getting tattoos. The locals don’t have much money, so to offer them free tattoos is like a gift to them. They’re very happy to do it.”
She then went on to train in Europe, where she was inspired to infuse her art with something a little closer to home: Chinese calligraphy.
“A lot of Europeans got tattooed with Chinese characters, and they don’t even know if the writing is correct. I was surprised by how bad it was,” Pang admits.
“I felt it was my mission to promote the proper Chinese culture – so it had to be through Chinese calligraphy.”
“Tattoo and art have the same concept. It’s just the tools that are different.”
While many tattoo artists share the same collection of ‘flash’, or pre-fabricated designs, Pang only provides custom tattoos through her studio Tattoo Temple.
“Every client has their own story. They need to know what they really want, because they carry the tattoo for the rest of their life.”
“I can’t say, ‘Let’s do a tiger on you!’ It may not fit them. And next year, they’ll forget why they even got it – which is the problem with flash. There’s no connection with the tattoo. We have to make sure the tattoo represents the person.”
Pang has been teaching apprentices for ten years, but has stepped away from that in order to further develop her painting style.
Inspired by the likes of Swedish tattoo artist Filip Leu, she wants to move on to bigger things.
“I love the concept of full-body tattoo art, with the body as a canvas – to take over the whole body. This is what I want to do with my art as well.”
And with such a long waitlist, it seems tattoo enthusiasts can’t get enough of Pang’s work. Even her father is interested in joining the queue.
“My dad asked for a koi fish tattoo. Sometimes he’ll talk about it and never follow up,” jokes Pang.
“I think he’s worried about the pain!”