Positive inking at Hong Kong’s first tattoo festival

Body art is losing its negative connotations, organisers of city's first convention say

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 October, 2013, 4:45pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 October, 2013, 7:20am

The buzz of tattoo irons filled the air as artists from as far afield as Korea and Poland showed off their ink skills at Hong Kong's first tattoo convention yesterday.

The organiser of the event, which runs until tomorrow at the InnoCentre in Kowloon Tong, says the show is a sign that the link between tattoos and the seedier side of Hong Kong life is being broken.

International tattoo artists joined local and mainland professionals to show off their designs, doing freestyle tattoos and customised sketches for visitors.

Video: Hong Kong's first international tattoo convention

Local and mainland tattoo aficionados getting ink right there from master artists is a sign that times have changed and the public is more accepting of the body art, said organiser Gabe Shum, of local salon Freedom Tattoo.

"Tattoos weren't always associated with triad members. We want to change that attitude," said Shum, organiser of the convention. Shum himself has a list of clients that includes world- famous tattoo fans such as soccer star David Beckham and basketball ace LeBron James.

Shum dreams of showcasing local tattoo talent to the world.

"Conventions like these are great," said Sara Man from local tattoo shop Starcrossed Tattoo, saying that the convention would help break negative stereotypes and boost the industry's growth.

Man runs the Tsim Sha Tsui salon, which has been open since 2006, with colleagues Richard Phipson and Ross Turpin.

"Clients are both the best and the worst part" of being a tattoo artist, Phipson says. "When you spend 10 hours with people, you get to know them very well."

One of the opening day highlights yesterday came when four models stripped down to show off full back and thigh tattoos by award-winning Taiwanese artist Diau An and his top apprentice Diau Bo. "Tattoos in Hong Kong are in great demand, as in many other developed parts of the world," said Diau An, whose real name is Chen Cheng-hsiung. "As people are seeing it more like art and culture, the hunger for tattoos as an art form will grow."

His work, inspired by Japanese art, has garnered global awards and invitations to work around the world. He has two shops in Taiwan and a dozen apprentices. His assistant says he is fully booked until next year. "I picked [a Chinese koi design] for the tradition it stands for," said Oscar Qu, 31, who came from Shenzhen for a Diau An tattoo.

The convention continues today and tomorrow with four tattoo competitions and live music.