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:
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).