If you’re an avid Instagram user who enjoys trawling through profiles of tattoo artists, you’ve probably already stumbled upon @Henn.Drawn. Established in February 2016, Henn.Drawn offers temporary body art services using henna and Jagua ink.
It has since received an impressive and growing pool of followers, many of whom are undoubtedly attracted to the super dope and gorgeous ink art. We met Henn.Drawn’s founder, Ng See Min, at Starbucks (one of her favourite work haunts), where she greeted us with a jovial smile and neon-orange hair.
At a very early age, See Min started doodling tattoo designs on her hands. She admitted that, “In school, I was one of those classmates who you thought had her head buried and was diligently writing notes, but in reality, was actually doodling.”
She eventually found out that by using henna ink, she could transform her doodles into temporary tattoos that last for two weeks. “I posted my works online. Friends and classmates who saw my pictures then started asking me to draw on them,” See Min said.
Interestingly, the 22-year-old has never once taken any art lessons. Her published work on Instagram, which was then an intended platform to consolidate her portfolio, gained popularity and eventually transformed itself into a full-fledged business.
Often used to create beautiful mehendi art, the orangey-brown henna dye is derived from a plant and stains the skin for about one to two weeks. On the other hand, Jagua ink is derived from a kind of edible fruit, which is native to the rainforests of South America, and it stains the skin blue for similar periods as well.
One would expect See Min, who has had ample practice drawing with henna ink, to have zero qualms about using Jagua ink, but the truth is far from that. When she first started out with Jagua, she had her fair share of struggles.
Jagua ink was unfamiliar to her then, and she thought it was similar to henna ink until she became aware of the ink’s unforgiving nature.
“If you see me at events, my hands will be stained. It was a flashback to how I was when I first started out inking for people, I trembled like crazy.”
“I think it was the fear of sort of being responsible for the person’s body. I needed to control the pressure used to squeeze the ink out and the amount of ink that comes out. It took me a few months.”
Having been “forced” to be constantly meticulous, See Min’s freehand drawing and proportions improved dramatically over a short period of time. She eventually mastered the skill of shading with Jagua ink.
“Jagua ink can be translucent in small quantities, so it can be tough to shade with it. I eventually learned how to use it and I like how it adds depth and layering to my work,” said the former styleXstyle intern.
The Sociology undergraduate at the National University of Singapore was also the first artist who brought in and used Jagua ink in Singapore. Despite its aforementioned irksome qualities (and expensive shipping fee), See Min still continues to provide Jagua inking services to people.
“I feel that I am a bridge between henna art and modern tattoos. I realised that there are a lot of people who, like me, have parents who forbid inking or are unable to decide on what tattoo to get. Using Jagua ink creates the effect of having real tattoos but without the commitment.”
She added that, “It’s a great way for people to figure out if they really want a tattoo. Otherwise, it is also a good platform for people to try out certain designs that they have in mind before making it permanent on their skin.”
While working on my tattoo, I asked See Min’s opinions on the craft in Singapore. She replied, “I feel like the scene is underrated. A lot of people tend to think that international tattoo artists are the best but they actually don’t realise that there are a lot of great artists here in Singapore as well.”
“The whole industry is improving, I guess. The younger generations are more open and acceptable and appreciative towards tattoo as a form of art and self-expression,” she added.
Floral designs are a hit amongst many female customers, while geometric designs are popular amongst male customers. Animals and nature-inspired designs, such as mountains and waves, are also gaining popularity lately.
See Min has also worked with several notable figures, such as famous Thai makeup artist and influencer Amata Chittasenee (@pearypie), Singaporean actress Rebecca Tan, and Miss International Africa. We asked See Min to list some of the most demanding projects she’s encountered, and one particular incident stood out.
“I actually drew LKY’s face with Jagua ink on the arm of this female customer during the National Day Parade last year,” she laughed. “I don’t really enjoy doing portraits. Proportions matter for portraits and mistakes can happen. If I draw the eye a little smaller or bigger, the portrait would look different. So, I was super stressed then.”
The 22-year-old has her sights set on expanding her business; her home is in the midst of renovation and her room will eventually be converted into a studio of sorts.
When asked about her ultimate goal, she said, “My ambition is to eventually become a tattoo artist. I do have a few tattoo artists in mind whom I want to approach after I graduate. So hopefully, I get to do both tattoo and henna craft.”
Prices: Depending on the size, design and ink, prices start from $20 (one-hour session)