While some tattooers specialize in designs featuring demons or monsters, Joice Wang would prefer to spend her days illustrating delicate and elegant floral pieces. From roses to peonies to lilies, this New Jersey artist can handle any variety of flora that comes her way. And yet, despite producing soft and feminine designs, Wang began her career in a rough-n-tough street shop many miles away from the posh Manhattan tattoo boutique she currently resides in.
What made you decide to pursue tattooing and what was your first shop experience like? I'd grown up loving art. Out of all of the things, my parents signed me up for, I never missed a single art class, even if it meant not seeing any of my friends. When it came time for everyone to decide on colleges or what they wanted to study, I really had no interest in anything other than pursuing art. And after seeing how many art students were struggling financially and finding jobs outside of their field after college, I had to be a little more realistic with my own expectations. Tattooing stuck out because it was one of the only remaining jobs where an artist is creating art with their hands instead of applying it commercially. The first shop I worked at was a street shop in Trenton, New Jersey. It was a great place to start because the expectations of a $50 tattoo are much lower than at a high-end shop. It let me experiment and learn, but also put in my time as a beginner. But like many street shops, there came a lot of harassment. It was only about five years ago, but at that time it was more unusual for a first generation Asian woman to enter the industry. I don't look back with fond memories, that’s for sure.
How has working in New York elevated your art and taken your career to the next level? The standards in New York are just higher. There are so many shops and so many styles. I think personally, it showed me how far you can take detail and precision by seeing how everyone else was pushing it. I don't think that I really started learning until I came to New York City. I changed everything about the way I was tattooing, even down to how I photographed my work.
How would you describe your style of tattooing and did it evolve? I always have a hard time describing my style. I’m influenced by botanical illustrations and vintage flower studies. But as far as tattooing, I definitely don't consider myself part of any specific style. I don't even consider the tattoos I do to be very realistic. I just try to follow the basic rules of tattooing and make a pretty picture. I was definitely more traditional in the way I applied tattoos at the beginning of my career. But I think that was really just based on how I was taught.
How would you describe your clientele and do they differ from the conventional tattoo collector? My clientele is for sure different than those of my peers. I hate to generalize, but they're usually not the people you would think of when you hear “tattooed.” I get a lot of first-timers and younger women. I think because my work is so feminine and flower based, I attract the people who have always wanted a tattoo but didn’t want something so bold. When I think of a tattoo collector, I imagine someone with very large pieces from the industry’s top artists.
If you could only tattoo one type of flower, what would it be and why? This is like picking your favorite kid. I guess I would have to say a peony, but more because they're my favorite leaf to tattoo.
What’s up next for Joice Wang and how can our readers get an appointment with you? I’m working on a secret project and I’m really behind on it. But once I get about finished, I will be opening my books for January 2019. My email is email@example.com and my wonderful manager, Johnny, handles all my bookings.