On the steep slopes of Wyndham Street, in the heart of the bustling Lan Kwai Fong district of Hong Kong, lies a temple perched on the 12th floor of a high rise. To become a tattoo artist at Tattoo temple requires a lengthy apprenticeship under the guidance of master and founder of Tattoo Temple, Joey Pang. Even so, a current apprentice at the temple noted that the completion of an apprenticeship doesn’t mean one is ready to practice tattoo art. When it comes to apprenticeships, everything comes down to your master, your teacher,” she said. Some tattooing… they don’t know drawing, they don’t know painting, they have no design skills.
Tattooing is just a technical skill, but tattoo art is when you bring your drawing, your art onto a piece of skin. These styles form the portfolio upon which a client will choose who he wants to design and execute his tattoo. Designing a tattoo becomes a process of collaboration between the client and the artist, said Wang. This sense of pride is seen clearly in the detailed, meticulous beauty which separates tattoo art from tattooing. In Hong Kong, tattoos, which were once associated with the Triads, are now becoming more and more socially accepted. Despite a growing appreciation for tattoo art, both Olivia and Wang seem destined to revert back to their roots in traditional forms of art.


An artist is a higher level than a tattoo artist I think, because it contains many mediums of art, not just tattooing. Whatever their end game is, the tattoo artists of Tattoo Temple are redefining tattooing and its traditional stigmas. Inside, however, you won’t see golden shrines of deities, nor hear the rhythmic chanting of Buddhist monks. Founded in 2006, Tattoo Temple specializes in custom-design tattoos created by their tattoo artists, without the use of stencils or pre-set designs.
Apprentices are first given the responsibility of equipment maintenance and hygiene, and learn how to take care of customers as well as their fellow artists.
They begin with stencils and perfect drawing straight lines before they can transition into more complex, personal designs.
Wang, a 26 year old local artist at the Temple, believes a tattoo artist is very different than a person who simply practices tattooing.
Wang, for example, was an animator before he decided that tattooing would offer him a more stable job in Hong Kong. The design is your own design and your concept is something you are proud of, more than a client coming and just picking one of the pictures,” said Olivia.
Tattoo Temple is so well known around the world that many clients fly thousands of miles for their tattoo, and can even be put on a waiting list for several years. First, the customer has an idea for his own tattoo, and will choose the artist based on whose design style fits that idea best.


A quick look on Tattoo Temple’s website reveals dozens of tattoos that look more like paintings than what you’d think would come from a tattoo parlor. Tattooing in general has standards now of higher quality, and more delicate designs are causing a rise of female customers.
Instead, the drone of electric needles persists as dark shadows stir behind a dozen translucent cubicles. Then they practice on fake skin, then pig skin, their own skin, and their friends’ skin before they are ready to become a tattoo artist.
Olivia, another tattoo artist at the Temple, specializes in delicate and realistic portraits. Olivia was once a makeup artist, but decided tattooing would give her more opportunities to practice her passion for drawing. Then, the tattoo artist adapts the idea into his own style through sketches and eventually Photoshop.
Joey Pang, founder of the Temple, has a style derived from traditional Chinese calligraphy.



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