“I feel like I manifested this,” reflects Ng See Min of Henndrawn. The Singaporean body artist recalls scrolling through her Instagram one day when she chanced upon the profile of another artist who was using jagua ink (derived from the fruit of a tree indigenous to South America) to tattoo designs on her own skin. This accidental find was a veritable life-changer for the 27-year-old, who today counts herself amongst the country’s top jagua tattoo artists.
Ng entered the world of body art as an act of defiance against her family’s intolerance for tattoos, but it soon developed into a celebration of the body—a way for her and her clients to fall back in love with themselves. “I get so moved when I witness how clients fall in love with themselves after a session,” she adds. “It’s so amazing. You could see it as just a temporary tattoo but it’s more than that—you are intentionally embodying a message onto yourself. It’s kind of like journaling in a way—except that someone is helping you facilitate it. And at the end of the session, there’s a unique piece of art on your skin—something that’s born for you and because of you.”
Here, as the artist-in-residence of Vogue Singapore’s ‘Every Body’ issue, Ng elaborates on her journey as a jagua tattoo artist, her creative processes, and what the themes of self-love and body positivity mean to her on a personal level.
Tell us about your creative process.
My design process is a very collaborative one. I get inspired by bouts so if I don’t have anything that I’m drawn towards, I would depend more on the client, or the subject joining in and tell his or her story. It starts with why you want to get a tattoo, what pushed you to book this appointment—is there something you want to celebrate, or are you looking to empower yourself with this tattoo? I gather all the data points and start to build the story from there.
I start with a very loose idea of what I want because ultimately, the look of the tattoo is dependent on how the client feels. The design will usually morph and evolve as I find out more about the person and discover more things that I want to document in the piece. So, in that sense, I would say that I just surrender to the flow—I don’t exactly know how the design will turn out until the end of the session.
What are some themes or messages you hope to convey in your designs?
Peace, love—self-love—joy and light. It sounds a lot like ‘live, laugh, love’ but there’s a deeper meaning behind it.
My obsession with self-love and seeing how it manifests in others comes from a rather dark place. Until recently, I never really had a relationship with myself. We associate self-love with the tangible things—doing your hair, meditating, whatever. But once you remove all these things, I realised that I never really spoke to myself—I didn’t know how to genuinely love myself from within.
I think that’s also why my art style has always been rather collaborative, because I focus a lot on serving and fulfilling the needs of others. I didn’t know how to listen to my own needs and my own voice—I didn’t even know that my own voice existed.
I think that’s why I find self-love so intriguing, and why I want to manifest it for others. I’m still on my own personal journey and I find it so beautiful that my work allows me to learn lessons in that way beyond what we think is just drawing temporary tattoos.
Tell us more about ‘Coming Home to Yourself’, the piece you have created for Vogue Singapore.
Apart from including the theme of self-love, I wanted to include the message of coming home to yourself. I asked Vanessa, the model, a couple of questions about her own journey with self-love, and I was particularly inspired by her answer to the question ‘what is her superpower’, which was the ‘ability to love the unlovable’, and by unlovable, she meant her past self.
I found that amazing because self-love is really all about finding love for ourselves. We compare ourselves to others and wonder why is it that they can love themselves—like, where do we buy this? What can I do to get this? And the funny thing is, self-love has to come from within. We search for places and material things that can give us love, but ultimately self-love has to come from yourself.
Titled ‘Coming Home to Yourself‘, Ng’s completed jagua tattoo features a dismembered portrayal of Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty and love, as a reflection of how the path to self-love and acceptance is not always smooth sailing. The artwork may be fleeting—jagua tattoos typically fade after two weeks—but the intentions behind it remain. “It has never been about the artwork,” Ng adds. “It doesn’t matter whether you get a temporary or a permanent tattoo, the design just brings out what is within.”
Body model Vanessa Caitlin
Photographer Hazirah Rahim
Videographer David Bay
Hair and makeup Angel Gwee using Chanel Beauty and Davines