Tag Archives: art

Shanghai Ink

Everyday is an adventure in Shanghai, but yesterday a few girls decided to go on an adventure I had yet to experience in a foreign country.  I believe the idea started with Cat, another American teaching at Kid Castle in Shanghai.  She wanted to get some ink for her birthday which is coming up soon.  Lindsay, a Canadian teaching at Kid Castle who also happens to have a birthday in the next couple weeks, decided to join her.

A friend of Lindsay had a large tattoo done in Shanghai, and the work was fantastic.  He recommended the place to Lindsay and Cat with only one warning – they don’t speak any English.  Small details, when you want to discuss artwork that will permanently be placed on your body, right?

So Lindsay recruited Mandy, a Taiwanese co-worker, to help with the translation and scheduling. My co-worker and friend from Taiwan, May and I heard about the girls plan and decided to join.  As did two other friends, one more American and another Taiwanese.

So yesterday was tattoo day.  I met Lindsay at the subway and we made our way over to meet May, Penny and Mandy around 3pm at the tattoo parlor.  Cat and Tara joined shortly thereafter.  On the way, Lindsay still was undecided as to exactly what she wanted but had some ideas – and with the help of a computer would be able to show her best idea to the artist.

It was slow going when we first got there, us girls all sitting around in the smoke filled lobby area of the tattoo parlor, looking through books of pictures, discussing ideas, and trying to get a grasp on price range.  There were 2 Chinese men there when we got there, but when Lindsay started talking specifically about the tattoo she wanted we were informed she would have to wait for the “tattoo master” because of the level of detail in her tattoo.  The artist who was there would not be doing hers, and the other man there at the time was an “intern” and doesn’t do any of the work.  (I referred to him as the air freshener – as he sat around chain smoking for a good portion of the time we were downstairs.)  Lindsay inquired as to when the tattoo master would be back, another day?  Another week?  Oh no, he will be here in 10 minutes!  Wonderful!

Once the ideas were formed, the price negotiations began.  They were a bit steeper than we imagined at first, but with 3 girls there all wanting tattoos the Chinese speakers managed to negotiate the prices down a bit.  Once Cat came and let them know she wanted to get 2 tattoos, the prices were dropped a bit again.

Probably an hour and a half after Lindsay and I arrived at the tattoo parlor, the designs were decided on, the prices were dropped one final time, and the 4 girls were ready to get their tattoos.  Cat was getting INI tattooed on the inside of her finger and a Chinese symbol 凰 (huáng or phoenix) tattooed on her back – the price 600 rmb ($93) for two small tattoos.  May decided to get a blue and black star tattooed behind her ear – the price 500 rmb ($78).  Mandy, who was the only one who had never gotten a tattoo before, decided on a small angel (fairy?) on her back with BTS2010 written under it for 700 rmb ($110).  Lindsay’s was the biggest, most detailed and was the only one done by the tattoo master, it is a picture from the cover of her favorite book (which apparently I need to read) A Fine Balance.  It actually took just about as long to prepare and do Lindsay’s tattoo as it did for the other artist to do the 4 small tattoos on the other 3 girls.  The final price for Lindsay – 2300 rmb ($360).

The smoke filled lobby was bothering a couple of us and we were craving coffee, so Cat, Tara and I set off to grab some coffee for everyone while the artists got started on Lindsay and May. We had been at the tattoo parlor for probably a good two hours, and we were finally going to move upstairs and get the show on the road!

It was a nice place, clean and respectable, the guys were obviously very talented and it had come recommended.  Although there was some discussion and debate; all of the girls were ready to have their tattoos done at this place.  The language barrier was tough, and Lindsay, especially, spent a lot of time discussing via Mandy as translator the specifics and details of her tattoo.  The colors, the size, the precise location and position, the price, the details of the shading… When we first walked in she was wary as to whether or not she would be able to clearly illustrate what she wanted, but I think we were all confident with the artist’s ability when he started and only more so when he finished his work.

As for me, I watched and took pictures.  It was definitely a fun time – even if I didn’t get any ink of my own.  Around 8pm we were finished, paid and hungry so 6 out of the 7 of us went out for dinner and drinks to celebrate our freshly tattooed friends!

Here are just some of the shots I took:

Price, designs and waiting.... the long process before the ink!

Discussions we don't understand

Browsing for ideas

The peanut gallery! Anxious to watch and photograph the start of Lindsay's tattoo.

Does she look excited?

Apparently behind the ear hurts...

May is the first one finished! I left the sepia theme to show the beautiful blue!

The first-timer is a bit nervous!

Here she goes! First ink.

Mandy is the second one done!

An artist capturing his work

Lindsay watches intently as her process begins

Coffee & Tattoos

She is done and happy!

A perfect replica

It was Cat's idea - but she is the last to begin

Tattoo #1 - done!

On to number two...

Who smiles while getting a tattoo? Our dear Cat does!

The last of the five tattoos is done!

My freshly inked girls and the non-English speaking hard working artists

If you are in Shanghai and in need of some tattoos, I would recommend checking this place out.  Their website is www.sh-tk.com, they are located at 654 Yan’an Xi Lu near Jiangsu Lu (延安西路654号near 江苏路).


Secrets in 上海 II

You’re too late…

Built as an auto-parts factory, supposedly an opium storage facility at one time, and for the past several years the home of up to 40 international artists, 696 Weihai Road in Shanghai is one of the city’s secrets that you may be too late to discover. Always full of information, my friend Roger let me in on this secret Saturday night – when a friend brought him to the last big event at 696, as the tenants have been given notice by the Chinese government that they are being evicted.

"Inside" one artists studio - the walls may not all be in the best condition

Graffiti - Roger got much more interesting (and controversial) pictures the night before

Plans for the run-down, yet historic, full of character and artistic buildings are unknown – but because of their prime location in Shanghai, a block away from a massive Louis Vuitton store and malls filled with other high end luxury brands – they will probably be demolished and replaced with retailers and other corporations willing to pay an exorbitant price for a modern workspace in Shanghai.

The alley way leading into 696

While I missed out on the open bar, food, DJ’s, endless partying, painting of a car and artistic displays that occurred throughout the night on Saturday. I did convince another friend, Daniel, to go check the place out with me on Sunday, as supposedly May 3rd (today) is the last chance to do so.  Of course, I got us lost on the way, as I only knew it was “near Jing’an Villa” (my other Secret in Shanghai) but I had us wandering around the wrong neighborhood for about 1.5 hours before I realized I was subway stop off…

When we arrived at the correct location, 696 was mostly abandoned, everyone likely tired and resting from the party the night before.  However, we did find plenty to explore…

Car painted at Saturday's party

We were able to speak to the artist who helped arrange the painting of this car at the party, as a promotion for some company.  He has a PhD in Art and is a professor at Fudan University in Shanghai.  The art he had displayed in his studio, shared with another artist on the fourth floor of one of the buildings, was fantastic.  The detail and complexities in his oil work left me awestruck.  Below is the only picture I got in his studio.

Oil Painting

A few other artists had their studios open as well, or art on display outside.

An artist's display - in a beautiful room

Appreciating art

The son of an artist playing, while dad worked

Showing us his father's art, the lips that spoke back to you

An artist's plastic body leaning against a barbed wire fence

Moon's art

More of Moon's art

Outside Moon's Studio

Peering into an artist's studio through dirty glass

The otherside of the same dirty window

Most doors, however, were closed and locked. Yet, in wandering around the various buildings, up dark staircases, though the dust and grime of the past several decades, we could still find the personality, character and idiosyncrasies that made 696 a fascinating place to explore.

A stairwell, with laundry and meat hung to dry

Dried flowers left in a window

A painted window

Closed doors

The buildings in 696

A passageway between buildings, with the sun shining through holes in the walls and ceiling


This room was unexpected – completely formally decorated, with food and drinks still on the table, it was as if people sitting here for a dinner party had just vanished into thin air.  The room didn’t seem to fit in with the rest and the furniture, deep red walls, dried roses and dishes on the table made it eerie and mysterious.

Unexpected and formal

Other rooms were completely abandoned, only trash and discarded items left behind – signs of those who had already responded to the eviction notice.

An empty studio - left for demolition

A busted bust and other trash left behind on a rooftop

Another emptied studio

Up rusted staircases, around precarious second and third story outside pathways, by peoples homes from which they are being evicted and up a ladder we made it to the rooftop of one of the buildings in 696 for a shot of the city of Shanghai in the background.  Standing on the roof, you can see the red row houses of Jing’an Villa and the skyscrapers of Shanghai behind me.

On the roof

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