Meet Yerae, a blossoming talent in South Korea’s tattoo scene, whose artistic journey took a surprising turn from conventional professions to the captivating world of tattooing. In this interview, she shares insights into her unique floral tattooing style, navigating the challenges of the tattoo culture in South Korea, and her commitment to transforming scars into beautiful stories. With a focus on cover-ups and a dedication to merging oil painting with tattoo artistry, Yerae offers a fresh perspective on the evolving canvas of body art in Seoul. Following is her interview with The Art Insider.
Can you tell us more about your background and how you got started as a tattoo artist in South Korea?
My name is Yerae, and I’ve been practicing the art of tattooing for approximately four years. Although I’ve harbored a deep interest in art throughout my life, the demands of other professions kept me from pursuing drawing or painting. However, fate took an interesting turn when a friend invited me to accompany them to a tattoo studio in Seoul. It was during this visit that I found myself captivated by the idea of tattooing—creating something truly meaningful on someone’s body.
What inspired you to pursue a career in tattoo artistry?
I believe that tattooing serves as a unique form of self-expression. In contrast to painters or illustrators, tattoo artists craft their art directly onto the canvas of their clients’ skin, creating a permanent and indelible form of personal expression. This permanence is a key allure of tattoos, as they unveil a person’s personality, life principles, preferences, memories, and philosophy, traveling with them wherever they go—a timeless testament.
My introduction to floral tattoos marked a pivotal moment for me. Until then, I had perceived tattoos as invariably bold and hardcore. However, this exposure revealed the delicate and feminine facets of tattoo artistry. This revelation served as inspiration, leading me to embark on a career in tattooing. With a longstanding passion for nature and art, tattooing became the perfect avenue to merge my interests, allowing me to express myself creatively in a medium that seamlessly blends both aspects.
Could you share some of your favorite tattooing styles or techniques that you specialize in?
I specialize in creating floral, delicate tattoos, with a particular focus on cover-ups. The majority of my floral and botanical designs are meticulously tailored to complement each client’s unique body shape. Additionally, a significant aspect of my work involves incorporating birth flowers or flowers that hold personal significance for my clients or represent their loved ones.
South Korea has a unique culture and perspective on tattoos. How has this influenced your work as a tattoo artist?
To be frank, working as a tattoo artist in South Korea poses its challenges. As some readers may be aware, tattoos are often perceived more as a medical procedure than an art form in South Korea. Additionally, there’s a lingering stereotype associating tattoos with gangsters, and as such, they are still met with disapproval. However, there is a gradual shift in perspective, thanks to a growing number of younger individuals embracing tattoos. Despite these challenges, my works in Korea tend to be smaller and more delicate, avoiding bold and daring designs, reflecting the prevailing cultural sentiments
What sets your tattooing style apart from others in the industry, and do you have a signature style or approach?
I believe my distinctive tattoo style lies in the harmonious fusion of color and composition. Numerous clients have expressed that the vibrant colors drew them to my tattoos, despite the delicate designs.
Moreover, the common perception is that cover-ups should be dark, thick, and bold. However, I differentiate myself in the tattoo industry by specializing in cover-ups adorned with flowers. This unconventional approach sets my style apart and challenges the traditional expectations associated with cover-up tattoos.
Could you provide some insights into the tattoo scene in South Korea and how it has evolved over the years?
Many are aware that, historically, tattooing wasn’t a prevalent practice or widely discussed topic in South Korea. However, with the rise of fine line designs and meticulous attention to detail, the Korean tattoo market is experiencing significant growth, and Korean tattoo artists are gaining recognition for their exceptional talents and designs. Despite these strides, the tattoo industry in Korea still faces challenges in establishing a safer and more comfortable environment for both artists and clients.
I remain optimistic about the future, aspiring to see a greater appreciation and pride in tattoos among a growing number of individuals. In my own efforts, I am actively contributing to the promotion of Korean tattoos on an international scale by showcasing my work during travels to different countries.
Have you had any notable or memorable tattooing experiences with clients or specific tattoo designs that stand out in your career?
While I take joy and pride in all my works, I hold a special sense of accomplishment for my scar cover-up projects. Many clients carry emotional weight tied to their scars, often stemming from past traumas or memories of injury. One memorable case involved a client with multiple red marks on her right leg. Through a series of four sessions, we transformed her leg with a beautiful floral sleeve tattoo.
Upon completion, my client expressed immense happiness, sharing that she hadn’t worn a short skirt since childhood in an effort to conceal her scars. It was a powerful moment for both of us. She conveyed that even her parents were delighted to see the scars effectively covered. It was during experiences like these that I felt a deep sense of pride and fulfillment as a tattoo artist.
It’s great that you’re interested in featuring your work in our magazine. Can you share some details about the kind of tattoos you’d like to showcase in our publication?
Firstly, I’d like to showcase some of my cover-up works. Numerous individuals find themselves regretting their previous tattoos, whether due to poor craftsmanship or associations with memories they’d rather forget.
Thirdly, my floral tattoos are designed to gracefully follow the natural contours of the body. I’m enthusiastic about taking on more extensive and larger pieces in the future.
What are your goals and aspirations as a tattoo artist, and how do you see your career evolving in the future?
As a tattoo artist, I aspire to establish my unique tattoo style as my distinctive brand. Additionally, I am presently honing my skills in oil painting to broaden my artistic horizons. My goal is to seamlessly merge the worlds of oil painting and tattoo artistry, and I am excited to witness the evolution of my career path in the future.
Could you share any advice or tips for individuals considering getting a tattoo, especially if they’re new to the world of tattoos?
In the realm of coverups, my clients often share important considerations. Firstly, the adage ‘cheap tattoos have a reason’ holds true. While tattoos come with a price, the cost is a reflection of the artist’s skill and experience. Prioritizing price alone may lead to future coverup desires.
Secondly, clarity about your desires is crucial. While many clients seek tattoo artists’ recommendations, it’s essential to have a clear idea of what you want. Knowing your preferences and choosing a specific style can guide the process.
Thirdly, the advice is to trust your own instincts and not be swayed by others’ opinions. I typically provide my designs later in the process to avoid potential confusion caused by external influences. Emphasizing the importance of following one’s heart, I encourage clients to focus on their own preferences rather than external suggestions.