Within the bustling urban metro that is Bangsar lies Pink Tattoos, one of KL’s most well-known destinations to get inked. Lynda Chean, 32, is no stranger to the tattoo community and has created a place for herself in Malaysian culture as one of KL’s premier tattoo artists.
“I’ve always been intrigued by tattoos, but I don’t think the younger me would have pictured where I’d be today.”
Lynda started out as a copywriter in an advertising agency, with a background in graphic design and advertising. But struggling to find fulfilment with work, she switched careers and headed into tattooing around 2006.
Her decision to pull the plug on her ad career was a risky one; her father was especially concerned about her choice to leave a steady job, and her ability to adapt to a completely new line of work.
It was a choice that had to be made; her search for fulfillment and the desire to spend more time with her family preceded all other priorities.
“I made the decision to open up my own place to show my father that I was going to be okay, that I was on the right track, and that I had a clear path.”
And her decision so far has been justified.
Now one of KL’s hottest spots to get inked, Pink Tattoos has grown from a one-woman show into a team of four (five if you include Rarr the cat).
“There’re three artists now working at Pink Tattoos; Fin, Khang Wei, and myself. My husband Su Keats helps me out with operations,” she explained.
And no, the name of the place doesn’t have anything to do with any fondness for the colour. As she’s explained in many other interviews, it’s because her full name is Lynda Chean Moy Pink.
“Also there is ‘ink’ in ‘Pink’.”
The business now goes through about 1 to 3 tattoo sessions per artist daily and sometimes even 4 to 5. And as for the leading lady herself, Lynda has quoted the number of tattoos she’s worked on since the inception of Pink Tattoos to reach well into the “thousands”.
Through her work, Lynda has also met clients who have become more than that.
“I have some pretty loyal customers who have been with me from almost the very beginning. But some real friendships have emerged through me tattooing them.”
Her inspirations stem from a wide range of sources: nature, textiles, paintings, great artists and great art. In a previous interview, she’s mentioned her style to be detailed, whimsical, and “antique-y”.
When asked about memorable tattoo sessions, Lynda fondly recalled the time where she got to tattoo her own mother and sister during her 30th birthday. “That was pretty special.”
But a journey isn’t without its challenges.
“Like at the start of any business, you learn things you didn’t know that you had to know. It’s all a matter of taking things as they come and being adaptable.”
Since the formative years of Pink Tattoos, Lynda has come a long way. She’s navigated her way through the uncertainty of her choices, learned to deal with the demands of difficult customers, and managed to build herself a mini tattoo empire of sorts, complete with a formidable team located in a stylish premise within a hip locale.
But more recently, she faces a new challenge, one that she rather welcomes.
“I just became a mother a year ago. My working hours have had to be cut down drastically while I try to balance work and home life. I am truly thankful for my amazing team for making this transition possible.”
She’s learned plenty, and she has her own thoughts about the tattoo scene.
One of her most foremost concerns is to do with safe practices and hygiene. With the rapid growth and expansion of tattoo shops locally, she hopes that businesses will do the responsible thing and adhere to strict cleanliness standards.
“Growth and competition is healthy but the most important thing is that each shop takes hygiene standards seriously. A bad tattoo can hopefully be covered up, but catching a disease or an infection from poor hygiene is unforgivable,” she said.
Lynda also enforces her own rules when it comes to risky tattoos. She declines to do micro tattoos and white tattoos, as those don’t heal up well. She also strictly does not accept underage clients.
Regarding changes in tattoo technology, she explained that while advancement in tattoo tech has made life easier for artists, it has also become easier for unqualified persons to gain access to such tools. This makes it potentially hazardous for unknowing would-be tattooees.
So do your research first before you go to any tattoo parlour.
Her unwavering determination to maintain strict hygiene standards and safe practices is derived from her resolve to run her business the right way: through hard work and honesty.
“We try to put our best into every piece that walks out of the shop. If we feel that something is not right, we will decline the project instead of taking it on just for the money. So in that way, we hope that our work ethic speaks for itself and in turn grows our client base of like-minded people,” she firmly stated.
Lynda also has a few pointers for aspiring and upcoming tattoo artists: Avoid dodgy 4-day tattoo courses and go through a proper apprenticeship if you’re serious.
“There are no shortcuts. Self-improvement is key. Learn everyday.”
Today, Pink Tattoos still hopes to grow further.
One of Lynda’s proudest moments currently is still the day she opened her studio in Bangsar.
“That was when Pink Tattoos grew from a one-woman show to the amazing team I have today,” she added.
And she still hopes to grow the business further, expressing her desire to “find the right additions” to grow her team.
It’s been an interesting enough journey for Pink Tattoos, but it will be even more exciting to see where Lynda’s ink journey heads to next.
Feature Image Credit: Pink Tattoos