Meet Liz, the Hong Kong based tattoo artist with a love of animals and a heart of gold. I went down to Liz's studio in Hong Kong to get a touch up of a tattoo, at the same time asking her a bunch of questions about herself, her profession and why she chose her path. It also helped as a distraction from the pain as the needle buzzed over my ribs!
Name: Elizabeth Pae Or / Liz Gaus Occupation: Tattoo Artist & Owner of White Walls Tattoo Studio Hometown: Hong Kong
What were you doing before you were a tattoo artist? After studying information technology and economics at the Utah State University in Hong Kong I became a preschool teacher. I really loved working with the kids but knew deep down it was not what I really wanted to do. I think a good rule in life is if you must drag yourself out of bed to do something it is not the right thing for you. Had you considered being a tattoo artist before that? If not, what did you want to be when you were younger? Like most young children my idea of what I wanted to do changed all the time. My main occupations that I wanted to do was to be a lawyer, actor or wedding gown designer. All very different professions! If I had the money I would still be keen to go to law school. Not necessarily to become a lawyer, but I think I would find learning about the ins and outs of law it really interesting.
What inspired you to become a tattoo artist? I have always been artistic and had a talent for drawing. When I was little I use to buy these candies that had a fake tattoo in the wrapper that I would secretly apply against my parents wishes. They would get so angry when they saw them on my skin. So, I guess a little part of becoming a tattoo artist was rebelling and finding a profession where I could put my artistic talent to good use.
The office mascot
I see from your social media that you are very interested in animal’s rights, do you have any animals of your own? Ever since I was a child I have been in love with animals. My aunty had the most beautiful dog that I was madly in love with. My parents would never let me have a pet so as soon as I moved out I got a dog. I now have 5 cats and two dogs. A message I would like to get across is 'adopt don’t shop'. There are so many beautiful animals that need a home. Right now, I am working on becoming a vegetarian. It is so hard in Hong Kong though. Then I can truly say I am champion for animal’s rights. What is your spirit animal? Someone told me that a person should have two spirit animals. Firstly, an animal that you think you are like and secondly an animal that people see you as. I personally think I am like a tiger, inside and out – ha-ha. What other social causes are you interested in? Global warming is such a scary problem that we are facing. You can really feel it especially in Hong Kong! Personally, I try to be more sustainable by cutting down on my plastic use and I try to buy secondhand and vintage clothing. If I had the money I would love to invest in some Stella McCartney pieces. She is such a trailblazer for eco-friendly fashion! What do you love about your hometown of Hong Kong? I love the friendly people in Hong Kong who treat each other with respect. My most loved place in Hong Kong is my home with my animals and husband. I am such a homebody! As much as I am a homebody and have a huge love for my city, I do also love to travel and learn about other cultures. I am really lucky to have made so many friends from around the world through my job and travels. It is important for me to have an open mind and heart. What is a usual work day like for you?
It goes from tattooing, to drawing, to research to cleaning to consultations, then back again in no particular order. My timetable is all over the place. Each day is very different, so I have to be very organised.
Where do you find your inspiration for your tattoo designs? My clients normally have a pretty strong idea of what they want, and they normally go for something in my style, so I don’t need to do too much research anymore. If I do need to research I watch videos - especially for animal tattoos. I also research different current or deceased artists and get inspiration from the nature, architecture, animals and general life I come across in my daily life. How would you describe your personal tattoo style? Abstract, expressionism and full of soul. What are your favourite pieces you have tattooed? Any wild requests? There are too many favourites to count! But I have to say in general, floral, mosaic and animal tattoos are my favourite. My clients are usually very decent so don’t come in asking for anything vulgar or impromptu like you may come across in a tattoo shop in a party town. I have had some strange requests though. For example, a very professional guy who worked in an office asked me to tattoo the Chinese character for punishment on his palm. I ended up having over an hour’s consultation with him to really make sure that is what he wanted. He assured me that he was certain he wanted it and that it would be ok with his job. He could easily hide it if it was on the inside of his palm. He wanted to be reminded of the sin he had committed but didn’t let on to me know what he had done. It was all very bizarre. Who are your favourite kind of clients? I love the clients who are polite, respectful and have a positive attitude in life. How long did you train until you could start tattooing on people?
I trained for a year until I started tattooing on people. I did my apprentice at Tattoo Temple in Central Hong Kong, before going solo and opening up my own shop.
I love your studio. Why did you choose this space and in Tai Kok Tsui? I fell in love with the cleanliness of the building. And of course, the lion rock view from my window. It really represents the Hong Kong spirit! What do you like to do in your down time? Netflix & Draw!
How would you describe yourself in three words? Introvert, sarcastic and genuine. What does the future look like for Liz? Que sera, sera. … I plan to tattoo until the day I physically can’t anymore. It really is my passion and I truly love my job. It is perfect for me.