Mina Aoki was drawn to the tattoo scene as a kid growing up in New York only a decade ago. Since her beginnings at Daredevil Tattoo, she has made a name for herself as one of the city’s top young artists. Working in a bold American style, she is especially excellent at the juxtaposition of shadow and lines, creating pieces that seem animated. Her tattoos, like the voluptuous girls we know and love, attack classic themes, yet are distinct in their chimerical quality. Aoki has the fantastic ability to render your pipe dreams permanent. Mina does her dream weaving out of Cathedral Tattoo in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Q 1 || Since you’re a young artist, are there still a lot of ‘firsts’ in tattooing that you have yet to encounter?
Tattooing is always moving so i feel like not having any firsts would be like agreeing to not be great. It’s important to me to try new things and be open to all the firsts that you can get your hands on. There is no end to learning.
Q 2 || What role, if any, does self- doubt play in your development as an artist, and have you developed any specific outlook or mantra to defeat the feeling?
Doubting yourself is a huge part of tattooing and being an artist, the important thing to do is to dive into whatever it is knowing that whether the outcome is what you wanted or not, at least you went for it. I can’t grow without taking that leap. My biggest goal is to do good tattoos, or even great tattoos and thats how I choose to ignore my doubts.
Q 3 || At this point in your career, you are way past the point of needing mentorship. Since artists are constantly evolving, from what or from whom do you think you are learning the most right now? Would you consider experience the best form of education, or do you think guest spots and just interacting with other artists has the best effect on your work?
I’m learning the most from working with all of the people that i’m lucky enough to be around and from talking about my ideas with people who are willing to hear them. Tattooing as much as possible, and traveling and being happy allows me to learn.
Q 4 || You’ve mentioned that a crucial part of tattooing is doing it for the right reasons. Have you had any encounters with people who were doing it for the wrong reasons? Can you elaborate on what the wrong reasons are, and how they take away from the art form and the culture?
This might be a touchy subject. What I meant by that, the right reasons being, tattooing because you love tattooing. I understand I am young and pretty new at this, but the people that I most look up to still clearly love to tattoo. Tattooing has seemingly become watered down with Instagram likes and money hunger, and I know, I want to make money just as much as the next guy but I would take a hit on my wallet to do a tattoo that I had a good time doing. And thats where the love comes in. I just want to try my best to not do a mediocre tattoo.
Q 5 || What do you think is the most important part of building a bond with the people you work around, both as friends and as artists?
Having fun and remembering not to take ourselves too seriously is really important. We are very lucky that we get to work with people like ourselves who understand the day-to-day.
Q 6 || Did you explore other career options a few years ago, when you were growing up, or were you always an ardent believer in the tattoo industry? Was there ever a time when you didn’t feel supported in your choice to become an artist?
Once I made the decision to go for it, nothing would have stopped me. I knew I wanted to tattoo from the mere age of 14 and I haven’t looked back since. Of course sometimes I daydream about having a job where work is work and then I get to go home, but then I remember how great my life is.
Q 7 || Is there anything about the tattoo scene that you loved as a teenager, but later discovered it wasn’t what you thought it was?
As a teenager i still thought of tattooing as a job for bikers and tough guys, which I loved. I thought it was so cool that you get to be an artist but still be a badass. But it’s not quite like the movies in that way. I used to be scared of going into tattoo shops but things have changed.
Q 8 || Finally, do you have any appearances or projects coming up that you’re especially excited about?
Right now I’m working on a drawing for a book that I’m very excited about and also a new set of flash. Besides those, I’m trying to work more on painting and just focusing on tattooing right now.