I went to Naomi for my first tattoo and from the beginning she made me feel welcome and at ease. The studio is amazing, as soon as you walk into it you feel comfortable and chill. I gave Naomi a rough idea as to what I wanted and she designed it amazingly to the style I liked. Would definitely do business here again and look forward to getting my second tattoo with Naomi.
I cannot recommend NAOHOA enough! Naomi was able to cover up an absolute travesty of a tattoo that I’d been hiding for around 20 years. I am now so proud to walk around with an absolute stunner of a work-of-art on my arm. One draw back is I’ve found I do take my top off more now which is a little strange in the office! Naomi was great to deal with which is always good when you’re sat next to each other for hours on end, she makes you feel relaxed and comfortable during the whole process. 10/10, gold star, top marks!
May marks “Mental Health Awareness” month, where people post their stories and support to lessen the stigma of issues such as Depression, Anxiety, Bi-Polar and many others.
Mental health issues affects 1 in 4 people in the UK and can be debilitating to one’s daily life if left untreated. Unlike physical injuries or disabilities, internal struggles cannot be easily seen and, if held by a high-functioning individual, is practically invisible to others.
Having suffered with severe Depression for a decade and overcame it with professional help, I wanted to dedicate a post of resources for people in similar situations. When you’re in the thick of it, it’s hard to fathom a life without the grip of mental illness and easier to settle for coping or getting by. Words can’t describe how enlightening it feels to be rid of such a burden and I want you to know that it is possible to get to the other side.
I won’t mince my words. It’s not easy and you will have to face your fears, but take baby steps and you’ll get there eventually.
Please bear in mind that I’m not a certified therapist and that this post is about me sharing resources that I’m aware of. Some worked for me, but they might not work for you. If in doubt, contact your GP for professional advice.
In no particular order, here are things I found during my journey.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
CBT is a talking therapy that focuses on your current situation rather than delving into the past (though some therapists may explore this with you to gain a deeper understanding). It involves changing the way we think (cognitive) by analysing our experiences logically for what they are. From there, we can make decisions (behaviour) to respond to circumstances in a healthy way, rather than falling back to old habits that may be destructive.
It’ll teach you how to interrupt the flow of negativity and direct it towards more positive outcomes.
The tasks can be challenging, but they’re completely worth it. You get what you put in. If you have time with a therapist, tell them everything because they can only help you based on what they know. The temptation is to play it cool and keep the mask up, but you’ll make more progress if you allow yourself to be vulnerable and accept help…it’s also much easier than going solo!
Contact your GP for a referral. NHS waiting times are likely to be a few months, so get in sooner rather than later. Private options are also available. Unfortunately, not all areas get the same funding or level of training, so the quality and availability of therapists may vary depending on where you live.
If speaking to others feels too much right now, there’s a free app that has turned therapy into a game. Fight your demons through small, daily actions and gain Power Ups when you do. Get badges and trophies for your wins and call on Allies to help, so they can cheer you on. ✊
Learn more via Jane McGonigal’s TED Talk above. Skip to 3mins to hear positive links between gaming and life goals, or 7:40mins to hear about Superbetter.
Borrow from the library for free, visit a book shop or download an audio book. Whichever floats your boat. ⛵
Here is one my therapist recommended for me, though you can find other specific to what you’re going through. It goes into a lot of detail and has exercises to follow along the way. It’s essentially what I did in sessions, so if 1:1 therapy is not available to you in your area, then this is a good alternative.
If you’re considering the self-help route, it may be worth asking someone you trust to check up on you every now and then for accountability. CBT exercises are worth going through, though they can take some determination at times.
Meditation is the act of being present. Not in the past or future – just the here and now. The most common form of meditation is seated, eyes closed and legs crossed (lotus pose, if you can manage it!). Alternatively, you can do a walking meditation, where you walk slowly and mindfully, observing all you encounter without interaction or comment. Whatever your method, the goal is to clear the mind of thoughts and simply be and exist in the space you’re in.
When deep in the midst of mental illness, this can be a truly challenging task. Be kind to yourself and allow baby steps. When I first started, I set the bar as low as 10 seconds, then went up to 20, 1 minute, 5, 10, 15….with daily practice, 15-20mins seemed like nothing at all and made a huge difference to my temperament and ability to stop the flow of negative thoughts before they spiralled out of control.
Apps such as Calmor Headspacehave a free week of guided meditation each. Personally, I prefer Calm, as I find Tamara’s voice more soothing and their annual cost is more affordable (£29.99 per year, at time of writing). It has multiple sound options and can be used for self-directed meditation (free). If you’re the competitive sort, it’ll show you how many days you’ve meditated and keep track of your running streak…the longest chain I’ve managed so far is 147 days!
Getting the body moving releases endorphins and serotonin, making you feel good inside and out. For a better chance of sticking at it, choose an activity you enjoy, so it doesn’t feel arduous!
Besides being physically fitter, positive side-effects can include improved self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment when you’ve achieved goals or milestones. The good thing about exercise is that there can be clear, tangible goals, such as being able to do full push-ups or a trick you’ve been practising for weeks.
If you take part of a class, then being around other people will take you away from isolation and potentially make new friends. Taking it outdoors will give you a chance to enjoy the beauty of nature and breathe cleaner air than being cooped up indoors.
Keeping occupied physically can also clear the mind, as you’ll be focused on the task at hand. Whether it’s counting reps, keeping track of the route or trying not to fall (yes, I’m looking at you, Yoga 😂), these are ways to stay in the present and let the mind take a well-deserved break.
What makes you feel happy? If you’re struggling to think of anything, what did you enjoy doing when you were a kid?
As working adults, it can be tough to fit in time for leisure, but if we neglect this side of our lives, we’ll be more prone to burn-out and low moods.
Having interests outside of work not only makes us more well-rounded people, they can also help us feel refreshed, challenged or enable us to widen our social circles with like-minded people. If you’re concerned about ‘wasting your time’, think of it this way: energy gained from outside of work can feed into your career, whether through inspiration or new skills acquired that compliment it.
When I was in the severest part of my Depression in 2013-14, I didn’t do anything fun in my spare time, despite longing for it. Low self-esteem talked me into believing I wasn’t worthy of nice things, so my time was spent working and mentally spiralling into a black hole until I passed out from exhaustion…don’t do that!! It’s such an unhealthy and miserable place to be in. 😰 Nowadays, I make things, draw comics and am trying to get back into playing the piano. 🎹
Walks, jogs, cycling…skating, anything! Heading to the park or taking a trip to go hiking can be a great change of pace and environment.
Allow yourself the time to take in the scenery, hear the birds and breathe in the fresh air. If it’s sunny, even better! Low levels of Vitamin D can make us lethargic, and just 15minutes (depending on your skin tone) of natural, direct sunlight each day can help us feel more perky.
If you can’t find anyone to join you, there are group walking tours available – just have a look at places like Meetup.com or Facebook (please exercise caution when travelling alone and always let someone you trust know where you are).
Being with Others
This can seem like the hardest thing to do when struggling with mental illness. From not wanting to ‘burden’ others with their problems and being a killjoy, feeling scared to leave their home, to not feeling worthy of their company or nice things in general, there can be lots of reasons why people with mental illness may isolate themselves from others. Kindness and patience is needed from friends, along with a willingness to try from those going through a rough time.
Confiding in someone you trust who would be willing to sit with you during down spells is a beautiful thing. Instead of pushing them away, cherish those around you who have your back.
Use and need of medication will vary depending on your case and your GP will advise the best course of action. Please research these first to make an informed decision.
Personally, I avoided medication because I wanted to muster the strength to overcome Depression without it. The idea of having to make an appointment and physically get myself to the GP again if I had a relapse filled me with dread, so I instead made a beastly effort to go without. This approach suits my stubborn personality type, but may not be appropriate for others, and I certainly don’t judge those who choose to take them.
That’s not to say they’re wrong – everyone is different and their situations unique. I simply can’t comment on their effectiveness due to lack of experience.
Just bear in mind that medication is a crutch – it’ll help you get by, but it won’t resolve the underlying issue(s) that cause their use of them. I highly recommend CBT for lasting change.
Last but not least…rest. 😌 Take one step at a time and allow yourself to take a break when times get overwhelming. Take a step back, breathe, recoup and start the next day with a fresh start. You’ve got this.
Thanks for reading and I hope this helps! If you know someone who is struggling with mental illness, please consider sharing this with them. 😊
Throughout March, I shared insights on the business via social media. Here, you can find them all in one space!
I’m Naomi Hoang, Tattoo Artist and founder of NAOHOA Luxury Bespoke Tattoos. I studied Fine Art and Graphic Design throughout my school years, before gaining a BA(Hons) in Illustration at the (then named) Arts University College in Bournemouth. A year after graduating, I managed to break into the gaming industry as an Illustrator and Concept Artist, before leaving it all and falling into the world of tattooing.
Here at NAOHOA, I get to know clients one-to-one so I can design tattoos that are truly unique and personal to them. Nowadays, I use an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil to design these, as it’s much quicker. If you follow my Instagram Stories, you may catch me every now and then sharing updates or doing a Live stream, where you can chat with me while I draw! .
I’m a self-taught tattoo artist, since going down the apprentice route didn’t work out for me. A lot of people fret if they hear this bit too soon, so I often leave it out until they get to know my work. 😜 Tattooing is much like painting, so it didn’t take long for me to pick it up. 🎨
How Did I Get Here?
As mentioned in my previous MMM post, the apprentice route didn’t work for me, so instead I undertook business training via Business in Focus (Cardiff) and any free sources I could find online.
Without a clue how to secure a premise, my adviser told me to simply knock on doors until someone let me in! Straight after my appointment with him, I walked around Cardiff, knocking on every salon door asking for a room to rent. So, so many people turned me down for being a tattoo artist, as if I’d be trouble. 😅 Eventually, I stumbled at Leila & Violetta’s salon, which has since changed owner to Susan. It was unstable here for the first 2-3 years, due to conflicts between the first two owners, which put a tense vibe in the building. 😞 Also, I didn’t have the full room to myself, so 1/3 was ugly and too embarrassing to show (I didn’t even take a photo before painting it!)…I think these were blockers from me advertising too much as I wasn’t proud of my space, especially with “luxury” in the title. I’m defo grateful to my early clients for glazing over the dodgy walls and salon drama!! 🙈
Things are much better now, thankfully. 😊 It took a crazy intense 3 months to go from idea to fully functioning and licensed studio with basically no work experience in tattooing…all or nothing, eh? 🤣 Without a doubt it’s concerning how easy(…ish) it is to set up a space, but I’m also kinda glad, since I knew I had the skills to pull through and didn’t wanna put up with more BS I’d already been through in gaming and tattooing. Time to put a spin on things!! 💪🏼
….and that’s how I became my own boss. 😎
Flat Lay / Tools
I’ve split this into three images of my essential equipment, based on type of use.
As you can see, I’m quite tech-heavy! I grew up with tech and gaming, thanks to an older brother who saw me (the youngest) as a last chance for a little bro, ended up with yet another sis, then decided to treat me like a bro anyway. 😆
From top left to right: iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, which I use to draw my designs (also used during Instagram Lives). Selfie Light for taking photos of tattoos and products (rarely for actual selfies, hah). Wireless mouse and wrist rest for when I’m doing admin and my compact Brother thermal stencil printer. I use a mix of the printer and old-school tracing out the stencil, depending on the design.
Then there’s my laptop (Dell XPs13), my trusty Contigo flask that has survived 6 years so far, and my personal phone. Besides the printer, I use these pretty much every day!
Organic, vegan-friendly ink by Japanese brand, Kuro Sumi. I love how bright, yet earthy their colours are. For black, I use Dynamic Color, as I find it much darker than Kuro Sumi’s. DC is vegan-friendly but not organic. Machines used are by British craftsman Wayne Taylor and well-established American brand, Bishop Rotary. I tend to use the former for shading and latter for lining.
Although I have decent posture; tattooing for long hours, designing and admin pretty much all involve sitting down and being hunched over. It really does a number on my body and mind if I don’t take steps to maintain them. I have a thick pilates mat on the left, which I use for working out and doing stretches. Gua Sha for applying pressure all over to improve circulation and a very spiky foam roller for deep-tissue massage around my body – especially for my back and glutes. Adorable bento box for lunch breaks, ’cause besides art, food is my life*! NeckSaviour to stretch out my neck and the @calm app on my phone to meditate – clearing my mind so it has time to chill out. I use these every day.
My uniform is black because it’s smart, sleek and gives consistency (…also more forgiving if ink lands on it!). When doing Consultations, I’m able to wear long sleeves, glasses, jewellery and leave my hair down. When tattooing, I opt for contact lenses, garments with shorter sleeves, remove jewellery and put my hair up with a stick to avoid distraction when working. 😊⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
On the right, I’m wearing a Vietnamese dress (Ao Dai) I designed specifically for work. It’s all-black with purple orchids that are on-brand. NAOHOA’s colour scheme is off-white, purple and occasionally pink and the logo is an orchid, because my Vietnamese name (Mai Lan – ‘Lan’ being an exerpt from ‘Phonglan’) is based on the Dendrobium Orchid. Ao Dai are often floor-length, but this one stops at the knee for more practical use.⠀⠀
From day one, NAOHOA (all caps) was intended to be a brand – a platform for creativity and giving. I want to expand into different sectors over time, starting with tattoos, which is why the name is not attached to any given field. As some of you have figured out by now, NAOHOA consists of the first three letters from my first and second name: Naomi Hoang = NAOHOA. It took a while to figure out the right combination of letters to name my brand but once it appeared, that was it! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Here, you can see my attempts to figure out nice-sounding names based on my name (Vietnamese/Western/meanings behind them). Most were taken by other companies or people and although Nao Hoa is a Vietnamese name, NAOHOA wasn’t taken, so happy days! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ You can read more in my blog post:⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ http://www.naohoa.com/naohoa-logo⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Inspiration was drawn from luxury brands such as @bezant_london, @shiseido and @swarovski 💎
Thanks for following my journey through this, folks! I hope they were interesting to read. 😊⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀ On July 3rd, NAOHOA will have been up-and-running for 4 whole years!! I cannot thank you enough for being here – especially during the early stages where I was finding my ground. Since the latter half of 2018, things have really taken off and I’ve finally hired an assistant to help with admin tasks (you’ll have seen her social media posts here and there lately). ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ It’s been a tumultuous journey of elating highs and devastating lows. Running a business is definitely not for the faint-hearted and I’m grateful to have help all around me – in particular, my parents and partner (Zan). Mum’s a Buddhist and gave me this statuette last year for the business, along with a beaded bracelet she had blessed by the head monk of the temple she attends. I wear it every day, along with a ring from Zan on my right hand as a reminder of their support. If it weren’t for them & few more, I’d have quit so. many. times. 😐 As much as I love what I do and meeting all of you, sometimes the pressure of it all can really get to me, but they’ve egged me on and picked me up no matter how low I sank. Don’t worry, things have evened out over the last year, so I’m okay!! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ NAOHOA has made me stronger as a person, taught me to appreciate and look after myself (…because no sick days) and enabled me to meet the most wonderful people. From fellow business owners to amazing clients who become friends, I truly am grateful to all of you. 💛⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ So…how should I celebrate all this in July?! Post ideas via Instagram or Facebook! 😃
Happy #InternationalWomensDay ! Along with my attempts at calligraphy, I’ll be dedicating this post to some wonderful female business owners I’ve had the pleasure to befriend. 💕 In order of when they gave me selfies. 😜
In July last year, Sophie made a firm decision to open Cardiff’s first not-for-profit zero waste store. She achieved this with an ambitious Kickstarter campaign, aiming to raise £30k in 13 days. Fair to say, she totally aced the target with over £3k spare, thanks to the collective efforts of eco-warriors far and wide. I’m incredibly honoured to have been able to help by donating tattoo Gift Certificates, which whisked away in no time, raising £800 towards the kitty. Sophie’s been a real trailblazer and so many of us are grateful to her vision of making eco-living that much easier in Cardiff.
I met Alice during our stint at NatWest Accelerator 2018 and although our businesses are completely different, it’s super cool that our passion for an ethical, eco-friendly lifestyle is a common thread between them. Alice runs a Subscription Box service, where you can receive a monthly parcel of goodies and tips to live a life more in tune with our planet. 🌍 She puts a lot of thought into her posts and it’s a joy to see her business grow. 🌱
Star clients who leave a review on Google AND Facebook have a chance to win an exclusive Deluxe Box from her at my seasonal Prize Draw!
Emily and I befriended over Instagram and although we haven’t met in person yet, we totally will when we’re in the same area! Running Camarthen’s only specialised tea house, Emily serves an amazing range of teas and homemade cakes I want to dive my face into whenever I see her posts. In fact, NAOHOA will be switching tea supplier to Leaf & Bean very soon! 🍵
Along with running a vintage cafe, Emily is also open about her Crohn’s Disease in order to normalise and comfort those who also live with colostomy. There really is nothing better than supporting nice people doing good in the world. 😊
NatWest-Accelerator-Bestie-and-fellow-Nerd, Marina specialises in helping businesses find their voice and encourages them to shout to the rooftops. Nudging people’s mindsets away from thinking brands are just logos and business cards, she shares her knowledge so that people can express themselves authentically, inevitably making them stand out from the crowd. You’ll have seen pics of us now and then from gallivanting around arty museums and events. 🎨 Check out her latest workshop here (ticket sales end Sunday 10th March!): https://bit.ly/2J5LAym
Who inspires you?
Why not give them a call or shout out on social media? I’m sure it would make their day~ ✨
“I would thoroughly recommend NAOHOA whether you are going for a first tattoo or just want a beautiful custom piece designed by a truly talented artist. Naomi creates a wonderful tattoo experience ☺️ it’s the longest I’ve had to sit for thus far but the chat was easy and engaging and the process was pretty much as painless as it gets bearing in mind you’ve got a needle sticking in your skin!! Thanks a bunch, I’m sure I’ll be back!”
In July 2018, an ambitious Kickstarter campaign to raise £30k in 13 days began. Its mission? To open Cardiff’s first zero-waste store.
(Spoiler Alert: They totally nailed it, and NAOHOA helped raise over £800 towards it by donating tattoo Gift Certificates) .
Climate change and our impact on the planet has been firmly in our minds over the past few years – particularly after the boom of Blue Planet II‘s release in 2017 . Since then, many of us have tried switching to more eco-friendly alternatives such as shampoo bars, bringing flasks to cafes or switching to bamboo toothbrushes. Many bars and restaurants have replaced plastic straws with paper ones, or scrap the use of them altogether.
In-store, you’ll find dried goods ranging from loose-leaf teas and snacks to a plethora of grains, pulses and spices. Household products such as shampoo, conditioner, washing up liquid and even bath salts are on offer, along with ethically-sourced, sustainable swaps and clothing.
The choice available is impressive and, with Sammy’s Fruit & Veg stand across the road, I’ve happily done my plastic-free food shop between the two every week without feeling like I’m compromising on my lifestyle. The only time I shop at a supermarket these days is to buy meat and eggs. Granted, these can be bought at the local farmer’s market on weekends and I’ll try to add this to my routine once I’ve finished working on Saturdays.
Spices in particular have been a pleasant surprise. When reusing glass spice jars, I’ve managed to refill on smoked paprika (35p), garlic powder (15p) and ground cumin (9p) for ridiculous prices. For someone who loves to cook, this is a huge bonus.
The atmosphere is upbeat, staff are super friendly and helpful and customers themselves tend to be polite and patient. It does take longer to shop there, as you need to weigh your containers before and afterwards (or just afterwards, if you’ve used them in-store before), so factor that in when you visit next. If you’re a total dork like me, you can make a Tare Book to keep the stickers in (instead of leaving them on containers).
UPDATE: 06/03/19 You can now go label-less at Ripple! Simply write the container weight with a permanent marker, then bring your items to the till for the staff to process for you. 😀
* Speaking of tote bags: You can now support yours truly by buying a NAOHOA Tote Bag for just £10! (or £5 if you buy one straight after getting your tattoo). It’s made using sustainable cotton by the eco-friendly UK company, BIDBI. /shameless plug
Personally, I started this journey after watching a documentary called Plastic China (2016), which follows the harsh reality of families working at recycling factories. In 2018, China decided to refuse recycling material from other countries in an effort to restore damage made to their land.
Since then, I’ve added on a bunch of eco-switches to existing habits, including furoshiki, soap-making and, more recently, baking sourdough…all of which my farmer-from-Vietnam mother finds both amusing and endearing that things are, in her words, ‘going back the old way’.
As mentioned, NAOHOA was able to help raise £800 towards their £30k goal by donating 1hr Gift Certificates. It was a huge rush to see the first batch go within two days, then the last push in just 1.5hrs!
It was an honour to help and I’m grateful that a.) I was able to at all, and b.) the shop exists, because it’s become an integral part of my lifestyle now.
Being an independent business owner, I know how important and uplifting it is to support one another, and I’m loving the scene here in Cardiff right now. 💕
Habits That Make a Difference
If you’re offered something you don’t genuinely want or need, refuse it. It’s a simple notion that often gets overlooked, especially when it comes to freebies.
Utilise items that are useful, such as containers for food (even when eating out, to save the restaurant giving you more plastic or single-use boxes that can’t be recycled due to contamination). Get creative and repurpose or upcycle objects to either use yourself, give away or sell. Pinterest is a great source for inspiration.
If you have space, composting food is a great way to give plants and crops extra nutrients…for free!
Besides discarding, this should be our last port of call. Why? Currently, Britain doesn’t process all of its recyclable waste, relying heavily on other countries to finish their work. When I discovered this and the shocking fact that waste that isn’t processed gets dumped…well, it made it clear that throwing things into green bins is nowhere near enough to make an impact.
What steps have you taken to do your bit for the planet?
Ripple Tattoo Gallery
I’ll keep this updated with photos of what the pledgers got inked!