Arts·Art Hurts

Tattoos might be accepted now, but they've always been an act of rebellion for Liz Kim

With over 23 thousand followers on Instagram, it might be a while before you can get a tattoo from Liz Kim.

'There's something subversive about what I do'

This is part two of Art Hurts, a new CBC Arts digital series now streaming on CBC Gem, that focuses on eight of the game-changers in the Canadian tattoo landscape. And they're all female-identifying or gender non-binary. Just saying, guys.

With over 23 thousand followers on Instagram, it might be a while before you can get a tattoo from Liz Kim. In fact, her waiting list is shut down for now (we'll see if we can convince her to open it back up). So why do so many people seek her out?

Maybe it's the loose, sketch-like quality of her tattoos — they can look like she's drawn them freehand on your body. Or perhaps it's the life she puts into the many tattoos she does of people's pets (she points out that it gives her an excuse to get a ton of pictures of dogs from clients). Or maybe it's the fact that her clean and bright studio in Los Angeles is a safe space — a haven for queer people or people of colour who might feel not the most comfortable in a street space full of white dudes getting inked.

But as you'll find out in this video made by filmmaker Daniel Lins da Silva, Kim also sees tattooing as a sort of freedom, even a subversive act. From growing up in the church in Edmonton, to breaking out on her own as a tattoo artist, to completely changing her aesthetic game while deciding if she wanted to become an illegal tattooer in Korea, Kim has used her practice as a way to assert her independence.

A lot of people get me to tattoo their dogs and cats on them, which I love, because then I get like a million reference photos of their dogs.- Liz Kim

Between Edmonton, Vancouver and Los Angeles, Kim has moved around a lot. But now, she's pretty settled in her current digs between Filipino Town and Echo Park in L.A. If you're close enough, maybe try sending her a few pictures of your pet — she may find time in her packed roster.

See more of Kim's work and follow her here.

Stream Art Hurts now on CBC Gem.

About the Author

Lise Hosein is a producer at CBC Arts. Before that, she was an arts reporter at JazzFM 91, an interview producer at George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight and a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto. When she's not at her CBC Arts desk she's sometimes an instructor at OCADU and is always quite terrified of bees.