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So you want to be a…tattoo artist

We are blessed to live in this world at the same time as Australia-based tattoo artist Xia.

From being a saviour of bats to a premier creative focusing on dark, neo traditional style, you really are shit out of luck if you miss out on making your next body ink appointment with her. Currently operating out of Raven’s Hollow Tattoo in Melbourne, she’ll also take appointments at Brisbane’s Harpoon and Highwater (if our pandemic permits). We asked Xia to take us through her journey to becoming one of the most recognised – and unique – artists in Australia.

How did you get your start in the tattoo industry?

It took me 9 years to step into the industry. When I was 19, I got interested in tattooing. I was a Fine Arts student back in Spain and I was very passionate about tattoos and art but unfortunately, getting into tattooing for a female in Spain back in the early 2000 was hard. No tattoo shop wanted to take me in. It was in 2014/15 back in South Korea when I finally found an artist who saw potential in my portfolio and took me on board.

What does your day-to-day job involve?

Designing tattoos takes more of my time and effort. I usually prepare my designs on my day off together with answering emails or I get them finalised before my client comes in. Then the stencil is prepared, the set up is done and the customer is welcomed. Tattooing itself is the easiest part!

What have been the highlights of your job?

Travelling and getting to meet artists I admire and loyal customers that later on became friends.

Can you describe some of the more trying times you’ve experienced in this job?

There are many challenges for a tattoo artist, obviously competing with extremely talented peers in a saturated market is always hard, but there has been situations when people tried to take advantage of me or make it difficult for me to evolve. This is something I would like to mention because I know a lot of young artists who want to become a tattooist and would take any apprenticeship that is offered to them. Tattooing, since is not like another job and not equally regulated (there are no certificates or schools to get qualified), is tricky when it comes to apprenticeships and some shop owners might try to take advantage, sometimes out of jealousy, sometimes to get free labour for years. My advice is to work on an instagram portfolio until reaching a High technical and artistic level that is so any reputable studio would be please to have you.

We hear a lot about what tattoo artists don’t like to tattoo – Southern crosses, etc. I’d like to spin that in a more positive light. In your experience, what do tattoo artists love to tattoo?

That is easy! We usually display in our portfolios what we love the most! Some tattoo artists are happy to be more general and tattoo anything but others only display elements they want to tattoo more of! For example, if you go to my Instagram page, you will see a bunch of cats, bats and vampire ladies for a reason. But that doesn’t mean that it’s all I want to do all the time, just what I enjoy the most!

The demand for tattoos has obviously skyrocketed in recent years. From your interactions with customers, what has caused this boom in the culture?

I believe it’s a combination of many elements. Society has changed (when I was younger, I saw a lady with a half sleeve, and it was hard for me to grasp!) but also tattoos are portrayed differently in the media, and we commonly see celebrities or sports people with tattoos. There are slowly getting more accepted in working places as well, but still, they can be a stigma and people will treat you differently if you have visible tattoos.

On a similar topic, since you started your career as an artist, what are some of the biggest ways you’ve noticed the industry change, given the increasing involvement with the mainstream?

There are more and more artists, which means, more different styles and the level of tattooing has increased a lot. Because of this, the newest equipment and supplies are much better.

Xia is currently taking bookings at Raven’s Hollow Tattoo in Melbourne for mid July-August. For enquiries, email [email protected].