If These Walls Could Talk

Meet the woman behind East Austin's first hand-poke tattoo parlor

Meet the woman behind East Austin's first hand-poke tattoo parlor

hand-poke tattoo design from Austin's No Good Tattoo
No Good Tattoo is opening in Springdale General. Courtesy of No Good Tattoo

Emily Ng has always been intrigued by tattoos. Now, with the opening of her shop, No Good Tattoo, a female-driven contemporary studio in Springdale General, Ng gets to spend her days mastering the craft.

A working artist now for four years, the entrepreneur began her tattoo career in a rather unusual way. “My roommate brought home a hand-poke kit, which uses some of the same tools as [machine tattooing], but the only difference is you don’t use a machine,” she says.

After doing one on herself, Ng's friends started asking for her to create tattoos for them. “It grew quickly and became obvious I wasn’t going to have time to accept all the requests I was getting, and I was going to have to start charging people.”

As her business began to grow, Ng started examining the Austin tattoo landscape, and quickly realized there was a lack of studios spotlighting hand-poke artists and other contemporary styles. One studio in particular — Moon Tattoo — has hosted hand-poke guest artists in the past, Ng says, but Austin needed more more shops with contemporary and hand-poke options. As one of the most tattooed cities in America, there needed to be more variety.

In building No Good Tattoo, Ng also relied on input from friends to guide the vision for her new shop. She had heard tattoo horror stories — everything from a client feeling uncomfortable to people ending up with tattoos much larger than they wanted — and knew she had to do better.

"At the shop, we want to be thoughtful so everyone can feel comfortable,” Ng says. “I think most people when they get tattooed just go in, get through it, and let the artist do what they do, but we want our clients to get here and feel comfortable asking for anything they need. We also want people to feel safe in getting tattooed and be able to feel comfortable asking about the process.”

Hand-poked tattooing is a very intimate experience, and Ng, alongside No Good Tattoo’s two other resident artists, strives to create a comfortable space for all, including people of color and those within the LGBTQ+ community.

“We offer color swatches because it can be hard for people of color to come into a tattoo shop,” she explains. “Most tattoo artists are white men and may not feel equipped to accommodate people with darker skin and colors come out differently on different skin tones. Here, we try to explain everything, give you options and we encourage you to ask questions. When you’re in a space getting tattooed, you are so vulnerable.”

All of the artists currently at No Good Tattoo prioritize flash (previously designed pieces clients can choose from), but create custom work as well. Inspiration comes to Ng throughout the day, and she can often be found sketching in her notepad or flipping through a stack of 1960s and '70s National Geographic magazines she picks up at Goodwill.

“Usually, people see some tattoos I've done in the past and pick a few elements they like and let me go for it," Ng says. "For instance, one of the people that just reached out to me said they wanted a baby blue sedan. I did a flash of an old hot rod car, and they reached out saying they wanted similar to that.”

In addition to No Good Tattoo’s resident artists, there are plans to bring guest artists from all over the country into the shop.

"Part of opening the shop has been a curation process, and I’ve been encouraging my clients and anybody to reach out and suggest guest artists,” she says. “That's part of the reason why I've gotten so many tattoos. I pick the people I love that are pushing boundaries and creating really interesting pieces that happen to be on skin."

No Good Tattoo is still only soft open, so expect to see extended hours coming soon and guest artist announcements to follow. Follow No Good Tattoo on Instagram at @nogoodtattoo for updates or to book an appointment.