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.
* Check out my personal page for bento pics: @naomi.hoang🍱
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:⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
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! 😃