WONG Wei Yin, 26, had no choice but to quit school after her UPSR examination.

Due to financial constraints, her parents could not afford secondary education for her, so, at age 14, she applied for work in a hair salon to help support her family.

“When you stop studying at the age of 13, it’s very saddening. It’s wasn’t like I was a bad student. I really wanted to go on studying, but I had no choice,” said Wong, now better known as Kinki Ryusaki, who scored six As and one B in the UPSR exam.

Today, she is a professional tattoo artist who has a waiting list that can last up to a few months, with many foreigners from Europe and countries like Australia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and China coming to Malaysia just to get tattooed by her.

She gets invited to tattoo conventions overseas, and recently she was featured in the German tattoo magazine Tätowier Magazin.

Her interest in tattooing began when a customer, who was a tattoo artist, walked into her salon one day. Curious about the art of tattooing, she decided to leave her hair dressing job to pick up tattooing.

After two years of working as a hairdresser, her journey as an apprentice tattoo artist began when she first walked into Bloody Ink Tattoo Studio in Kuala Lumpur (where she still works as a tattoo artist). There she met the founder Water Chan, 38, who has been a tattoo artist for about 16 years now.


Interested to be an apprentice under Chan, Kinki pursuaded him to train her to become a tattoo artist.

“Kinki is a very good apprentice. She’s not just talented and smart, but she is also very responsible and hardworking. I don’t always need to repeat myself when I teach her; she learns very fast,” Chan revealed.

It is surprising, however, to learn that Kinki had never dabbled in art – drawing, sketching or painting – before her foray into tattooing.

“I believe everyone can draw – but only if they practise. The more you do it, the better you’ll be at it,” said Kinki, who only started drawing when she began her apprenticeship.

It wasn’t easy for Kinki to receive training, however, as Chan wasn’t too keen on taking her as an apprentice initially. He would brush her off whenever she asked for training but Kinki was very persistent.

“Kinki would come to my tattoo parlour about three to four times a week to beg me to accept her as an apprentice, even to the point where she would buy me meals and drinks, just so I would take her in,” said Chan.

Although Kinki proved to be a good apprentice, the journey to get to where she is today wasn’t easy.

When she first started out, she received an allowance of only RM500 a month for two years, which went towards supporting her family.

When her father was admitted to hospital to receive treatment, her mother had doubts whether her career in tattooing could help support her family of six.

“I was earning only so much a month, and my mother often asked me whether I was making the right choice. Even my friends didn’t believe that I could be successful. No one believed in me.

“What made it even harder was that my master was really pushing me to be better. The pressure wasn’t easy (to handle),” said Kinki, who specifically enjoys doing Japanese style, black and grey, and portrait tattoos.

However, giving up was the last thing on her mind. The pressure and negativity around her only motivated her to achieve her goal and prove to people that she could do it.

Chan said that Kinki’s determination and hard work is something that many people can learn from. “Kinki used to work on her sketch from 10am to 10pm everyday without taking a day off. She never wasted time partying and hanging out with friends, but focused on her skills, which is why she’s successful today.”

After two years, she finally “graduated”, and according to her, she is earning about 20 times the amount she used to get as an apprentice.

“Even if I don’t have a good education, I’m a professional today. But my success didn’t come easy,” she expressed.

She added that people may think of her as a popular tattoo artist, but may not know of her struggles and challenges, and how she got to where she is today.

“You have to persevere if you want to achieve something. You have to or you won’t achieve it. You have to go through hardships.”


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