Tattoo Artist Choyu Talks Modeling & Mandalas

Date

October 11, 2017
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When Choyu isn’t busy being the subject of many photographers’ artistic eye, she’s creating art of her own as a tattoo artist based out of Seoul, South Korea. Although Seoul is her home base, Choyu is sought out internationally for her intricate mandala designs and often travels the world to tattoo. After putting a face to her work, modeling jobs began coming her way, turning her into the multihyphenate tattooist-model that she is today. Read our interview with Choyu to see what it was like doing her first tattoo (which was on her parents!), why she chooses to specialize in mandalas, and more.

Give us some insight into how you continue to push your designs/creativity.
I travel a lot. I mainly focus on mandalas in my designs and there is nothing that gives me more inspiration than beautiful architecture, temples, and nature. I think that’s why I mainly visit warmer places–southeast Asian countries that are beautiful all year round. I also recently visited Miami, Florida. But, the most inspirational place I’ve been to was the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. The details on the building and on every door, wall, table, and trinket were all so beautiful; I took thousands of photos.

디자인과 창의적인 생각을 계속 하기 위해 무엇을 하나요?
주로 여행을 많이 다녀요. 만다라를 그리기 때문에 아름다운 건축물, 절(사원),자연들 만큼이나 저에게 좋은 영감을 주는 것은 없죠. 그래서 주로 여름나라, 사찰들이 아름다운 동남아를 자주 여행지로 선택하게 되는 것 같아요. 이번달에는 마이애미를 다녀왔어요. 그곳에서 가장 인상깊게 생각나는 곳은 Vizcaya Museum and Gardens 였어요. 기하학적인 건물디테일과 문이나 벽, 테이블 의자들, 소품들 하나하나 너무 아름다워서 사진도 수천장을 찍어왔죠 ^^

How do you find a balance between being a model and a tattoo artist? 
As a freelancer, I am able to dictate my schedule at my own pace. If I am traveling for leisure or for work–and there are people that request for my designs–I do guest work for at most a week. There are foreigners who come to Korea to get work done by me, but working abroad for those who can’t come out here helps get my name out there. There are certain merits with that, haha.

타투아티스트과 모델일을 병행하면서 발란스를 어떻게 찾으세요?
프리랜서로 일하다 보니 스캐줄을 대부분 제가 조절 할 수 있기 때문이 큰 문제는 없는 것 같아요. 여행을 가거나, 촬영일로 해외를 가서도 제 타투 디자인을좋아해주시는 손님들이 있다면 일주일 정도는 그 나라에서 타투 게스트워크를찾아서 꼭 하려고 해요. 한국으로 작업을 받으러 찾아 와주시는 해외손님들도간혹 있지만 그렇지 못한 분들을 위해서! 또 그러다보면 제 작업물도 알려지고저에게도 분명 여러가지 메리트가 있으니까요 하하하.

Tell us about your first tattooing experience. How different was it compared to now?
Just thinking about the first time I tattooed makes my palms sweaty; my first customers were my parents. It was nerve-racking to think about doing amateur tattoo work on someone I didn’t know too well, and my parents are my biggest supporters. My mother once said, “Who are you ever going to practice on? Practice all you want on your mom and dad and if you mess up, it’s okay! It’s a given that no one is ever perfect on their first try and if you do mess up, it’s already meaningful that your first tattoo work is on us. You will do well if you stay true to your confidence.”

I was so happy for her words and my first work went smoothly. I was extremely thankful to my parents, and I want to continue making them proud by growing in my work. I still get a little nervous, but not as much as my first time and I’m definitely more confident. It’s hard to avoid the nerves that come from wanting to do well on a tattoo that will last on a person forever. 

첫 타투를 작업했을 때.. 지금 생각해도 손에 땀이날 정도로 긴장이 되네요 하하   제 타투 첫 손님은 저희 부모님이셨어요. 아무래도 완전 아마추어인 저에겐 모르는 손님이게 타투작업을 하는 것 자체가 엄청난 부담이구요. 항상 제가 하고싶은 일을 든든하기 서포터즈 해주시는 것 같아요. 엄마가”누구에게 연습을 해보겟어 엄마아빠에게 마음껏 연습해봐도좋아 작업이 망하면 어때? 처음엔 누구든 못하는게 당연하고, 설사 망쳤더라도 너가 우리에게 타투를 해준 것 자체에 의미가 있는거야. 자신감 있게 충실하면 다 잘할 수 있어 “라고 말해주셨어요. 그 한마디에 정말 행복했고, 첫 작업도 무사히 잘 할 수 있었어요. 부모님께 너무 감사하는 마음이 크고, 앞으로도 계속 성장하는 모습으로 부끄럽지 않은 딸이 되고 싶어요. 처음만큼은 아니지만 전 지금도 조금은 떨리는건 있어요. 그래도 이제는 자신감있게 잘 할 수 있죠 . 다른 사람에게 평생남는 “타투”이기때문에 잘하고 싶은 마음때문에 긴장을 완전 안 할 수는 없는것 같아요

We’d love to hear a bit about how you got to where you are today as a tattoo artist and model.
Right after becoming a tattoo artist, I was involved with modeling due to an opportunity in passing. Our tattoo studio and photographer began a project called “Tattoo Girl” and our female tattoo artists came together with concepts for the shoot. It was great fun. The attention we received after uploading the images on social media was amazing, and that’s when I started receiving requests. It was then that I realized modeling was fun and I had a passion for it, and I continue to work hard at my job.


“I get peaceful and forget my fears when I draw mandalas, therefore cannot stop drawing them.”


타투 아티스트과 모델을 되기까지 어떤 과정을 거치셨나요?
전 사실 타투 아티스트를 시작하고나서 모델일에 우연히 접하게 됬어요. 저희 타투스튜디오와 사진작가님과 “타투걸” 이라는 소제로 프로젝트를 진행하게 됬는데 저희 타투스튜디오 여성타투이스트들과 서로 바디페인팅 타투를 해주고 여러가지 컨셉으로 촬영을 했어요. 정말 재밌었죠. 사진을 sns에 업로드하고 반응이 좋았고, 그이후로 촬영문의가 들어오기 시작했어요. 모델일에흥미와 재능이 있다는 것을 점점 알아갔고 지금까지도 열심히 하고있어요.

Can you share a couple of tips on how you prepare yourself before your tattoo appointments?
I always tell my clients to make sure they are in tip-top condition. If clients come in tired, the pain can increase, so be well rested! The aftercare is more important so I usually emphasize on that more.

타투 받기 전에 사람들에게 알려주는 개인 팁 몇가지 있나요?
타투를 받기전에 알려줘야 할 팁이라면 완벽한 컨디션 조절을 해서 와달라는 거에요 하하 몸이 많이 피곤하면 아픔이 더 크기때문에.. 충분한 수면도!타투를 받기 전보다는 받은 후의 관리법이 더 중요하기 때문에 강조해서 설명해드리고 있어요 !

What inspired you to pursue mandalas as your object of interest?
I was always drawn to pretty, repetitive patterns as a young child. Mandalas possess an essence that helps shape the level of enlightenment in esotericism. The circular repetition of the design represents unity and harmony of all things together. I have my own shortcomings and through drawing mandalas, I have come to reconciliation with myself. Books can give me advice and understanding, but nothing can give me a better understanding of myself than when I draw mandalas. I get peaceful and forget my fears when I draw mandalas, therefore cannot stop drawing them. Mandalas help bring mental calmness (as they are often used in artistic treatments) and are so beautiful to look at!

만달라를메인 디자인으로 꼽으셨는데, 이유는 무엇인가요?
어렸을 때부터 반복된 예쁜 패턴의 것들을 좋아했어요. 만다라는 “본질을 소유한 것이라는 의미가 있고,밀교에서 깨달음의 경지을 도형화한 거예요. 둥글게 원형으로 수레바퀴를 이루듯이 모든 법을 원만히 다 갖추어 모자람이 없다는 뜻으로 쓰이죠. 저에게도 모자람이 있고 그만큼 깨달음이 필요해요. 책을 많이 읽는 것만큼 좋은것도 없지만 만다라를 그릴 때 만큼은 뭔가 깨달음을 얻는 느낌이랄까,  고민이 있을 때만다라를 그리면 그 순간만큼은 잊어버리고 마음이 평온해지는 기분이 들어요.그래서 그 매력에 헤어나오지 못하는 것 같아요. 또 정신 미술치료에도 많이 쓰이고 있어요. 그리고 무엇보다 만다라는 위풍당당하고 아름다우니까!

How do you describe your personal style?
I am not one to follow the latest fashion trends. Day to day based on how I feel, I choose outfits that are best suited for me. Comfort is what I aim for, but I can’t lose the opportunity for a statement piece! 🙂

현지님의 패션스타일은 어떻게 표현하세요?
유행을 따라가려는 성격은 절대 못되요.. 그냥 그날의 기분에 따라서 , 나에게 제일 어울리는 나다운 옷을 입는 것 같아요. 최대한 편하기 입되, 포인트는 놓치지않으려고 해요 ㅎㅎㅎㅎ

Just out of curiosity – what led to the huge hair change from beautiful long black hair to a chic silver bob?
I love the look of alluring, long feminine hair. But aren’t there times when you want to make a change? Haha.

인스타그램보면 긴 생머리에서 파격적인 은단발로 시크한 변화를 올리셨는데, 어떤계기로 파격변화를 하셨나요? ^^
고혹적이고 여성스러운 긴 생머리의 매력도 너무 좋아하지만 무언가 변화를 주고싶을때 있잖아요? ㅎㅎㅎ

What advice do you have for any aspiring women tattoo artists in the world?
Forget about gender constraints–you are no different than a male tattoo artist, so continue to push forward in chasing your dreams!

여성 타투 아티스트로서 타투 아티스트가 꿈인 여성들에게 조언 주실수 있으세요?
성관념자체를 버리고 여성타투이스트라고 별 다를게 없기때문에자신있게 꿈에 도전하시길 바라요!

Where are your three favorite spots in Korea that you would recommend to a friend?
Jeju Island is a definite place to visit for its beautiful sights. Gyeongju is famous for having the most cultural heritage sites, and Jeonju is the best place for Korean food fit for a king.

현지님이 한국에서 추천하는 곳 3군데 소개해주세요 ^^
특별히 너무 아름다운 대한민국 섬 제주도! 그리고 문화유적지로 좋은 곳은 경주, 한국의 전통음식이 맛있는 전주 이렇게 3곳을 추천합니다.

What does MISSBISH mean to you?
To me, MISSBISH is being able to show all of your true self with confidence and without fear.

현지님에게 MISSBISH 란?
to me, 꾸밈없이 진실된 자신의 모습을 자신있게 두려움없이 보여줄 수 있는 것

Photos by: Christina Choi