Artist Stories

Hana is Freehanding Her Future

Hana pursued interior design in school as a “compromise”—but its influences still show up in her current tattoo work.

Born in Beijing, Hana moved to Australia before landing in Canada when she was nine. The culture was very similar, with the only differences being “the accent and the weather,” making the transition an easy one.

Throughout this far-flung journey, Hana remembers always being drawn to art. It was a pastime that her parents supported, with Hana’s mom enrolling her in oil painting classes. And eventually, she chose to study interior design in university.

Choosing interior design as a concentration, though, wasn’t entirely informed. “When you're young, you don't really know what that is,” she says. “But it felt like a direction.” Hana finished school into a career in the field, working in design studios for several years after graduation. 

While interior design was a creative industry, the lifestyle didn’t fit with Hana’s personality—she wasn’t cut out for the rigidity of a 9-to-5 office job. “Being in this kind of structure was really hard,” Hana says. “I remember feeling suffocated.” While Hana did love the exploration of architecture and spatial design, she didn’t have the creative freedom afforded by the experimental nature of her school environment. “When you actually start working, the reality of it can be very different,” she says.

“I did eventually decide to quit interior design,” Hana says. “I think I was burnt out.” But she didn’t find tattooing right away. She travelled and opened herself up to pursuing other interests. “I was feeling quite lost with what I wanted to be doing,” she says. Then, Hana travelled to Denmark, working in hospitality and visiting friends.


One of those friends was a tattoo artist. Hana found herself hanging around the studio where she worked. “She knew that I had an art background so she just asked me if I wanted to try it for fun,” she says. “That was the seed.”

Hana began experimenting with tattooing. “I didn't have a single tattoo at the time,” she says, “but when she taught me, it felt immediately exciting and interesting.” She feels lucky to have had her start under the guidance of professionals, learning proper technique and hygiene. “My first tattoo was kind of wobbly,” she says. “I did this tiny little thing.” 

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Today, tattooing is Hana’s main source of income—and the safe and supportive community where she has found belonging. While she left her career in interior design far behind her, the discipline still influences her work. “My style developed quite naturally from the way that I was drawing in school,” she says. “There are some influences of architectural diagrams.”

But in a way, tattooing helped Hana stray from the precision of this work. She finds herself drawn to a freehand style of tattooing lately. “Freehanding is a really interesting experience,” she says. “You're constantly improvising.” Hana loves the fluidity of this style, and how it changes in the moment as a client moves their body.


Tattooing has given Hana the creative freedom she didn’t find with her former career. “You do your own thing, set your own hours,” she says. It’s this aspect and the human connection that makes it a career fit for Hana. “There's always a connection between myself and the other person,” says Hana. “We are actually co-creating.”

This intimacy, however, can be draining, says Hana. “You have to take care of your energy. I think that's something I really had to learn.” She likens it to other forms of body work performed by massage therapists and nurses, where the potential for burnout is high. Beyond the emotional toil, Hana was also surprised to find tattooing to be hard on her body. “I'm really feeling it in my shoulders now,” she says. 

These days, Hana is making efforts to set boundaries and be kind to her mind and body—while doing the work she loves. “I've been building towards exploring new things, too” she says, referring to large-scale tattoo work. She plans to seek out guest spots to align with travel and find more time for other art mediums, she says. “Other than that, I'll just be here tattooing.”

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