Interview With Tattoo Artist JayHan

Tattoo artist Jay Han (@jayhan_tattoo) works at Goodvibes Gooddays tattoo studio in Ulsan, South Korea, where he creates tattoos mixing realism, brush strokes and oriental motifs. Here we chat to the artist about…

How long have you been tattooing?

I’ve been tattooing for around nine years. I came to tattooing quite late compared to a lot of tattooers. Before that, I ran a hot dog restaurant in Daegu, South Korea, for two years, it was called: Han Sangjo Hot Dog. After that, I moved to Seoul and worked as a carpenter for two and a half years – which overlaps with the tattoo apprenticeship. I started my tattoo artist apprenticeship when I was 30, and I’m now 40.

Do you have a background in art?

I have loved pencil drawing and Oriental art since I was young. I majored in Oriental art and graduated from Oriental Art College in Ulsan. After graduating from college, I worked a few different jobs as I was looking for other things to do besides painting.

But in the end, painting and my experience were always in the bakground so I then decided that I wanted to work in the painting field again. Art chose me.

What made you want to become a tattooer?

When I decided I wanted to paint again, at the same time, my best friend became a tattoo artist. I saw what he was doing, and through him I was recommended to a studio. I found tattooing interesting and thought the profession was really cool. So, I started tattooing.

How did you become a tattoo artist?

I was able to become a tattoo artist with lots of practise. I simply turned my drawings into tattoos and gave them to my clients. To make the best tattoos I can I am training more and continuously studying.

Do you have any tattoos?

Yes, I have a few tattoos. My chest features Chicano-style lettering. I also have realism portraits on my arm. I love music so I have a few musicians on me. When I was 13 years old, my neighbour owned a record store and played American hip-hop and R&B to me rather than Korean hip-hop. I have portrait tattoos of Michael Jackson, Snoop Dogg, and Tupac.

What was the first tattoo you did on someone else?

I gave my friend a rat tattoo. It was a simple line design, but I was sweating a lot and nervous. I can’t forget that feeling because it was also my birthday that day.

How would you describe your style?

I like mixing oriental art with black and grey. I also like doing backgrounds with brush strokes. I am still working on perfecting the tattoo style I want to be known for. It’s a journey.

What do you like to tattoo?

The tattoos I want to do are a collaboration between oriental and black and grey. That’s important to me, but I also want to do tattoos that make my clients feel happy and satisfied.

What inspires you and do you have any artists you admire?

Yes, there are a few people. Artists I respect include Q Tattoos, Kwon Tattoo, Robert Hernandez, Chenjie, and many others. There are more black and grey tattoo artists and oriental tattoo artists that I respect. Looking at their work inspires me.

How can clients book in with you?

In Korea, there is a messenger called “KakaoTalk” and I receive a lot of enquiries through that. I am also communicating with customers and receiving reservation enquiries through Instagram. But clients can email me too.

Sometimes I’d like to receive booking enquiries through just one platform, but clients want to contacts me in their own convenient way, which I don’t mind so I have opened up multiple methods.

Do you have any guest spots planned?

If a good opportunity is available, I would like to experience various countries. However, I think there may be visa issues, so I am refraining from traveling as much as possible.

Is tattooing underground or becoming more mainstream nowadays in South Korea?

Koreans’ thoughts on tattoos are very open. Because many artists (singers, actors, etc.) have been exposed to tattoos they talk about tattoos on social media and YouTube. This means the younger generation’s negative thoughts about tattoos have decreased significantly. However, celebrities who appear on broadcasting stations still cover their tattoos with flesh-coloured stickers.

It can be said that tattoos in Korea still remain underground. And among tattoo artists, there are some who think it’s a subculture. But there are many people who think of it as just a job and only for money. The interesting thing is that, although tattoos are illegal in our country, there are many talented Korean tattoo artists around the world. When I see this, I am so proud and I want to develop further, and follow the same path as them.

What’s been your proudest moment so far?

I created a tattoo on a client who had a keloid scar. He was so stressed out about his skin that he couldn’t even date people. However, many good things happened to the customer after we covered the scar with a tattoo. Seeing that customer happy and satisfied made me so proud of the work I do.

Follow JayHan on Instagram for more tattoos.

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