Arts·Art Hurts

Tattoos hurt. And if you want a big one, you need an artist who will guide you through the pain

Nomi Chi takes you into the studio to discuss their monumental tattoos, the transition from art school to art practice and the importance of working through pain.

Nomi Chi takes you into the studio to discuss their monumental tattoos

This is part seven 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.

You can't really talk about tattoos without mentioning pain. And tattoo artist Nomi Chi doesn't shy away from it. Their tattoos are fantastical scenes full of animal/human hybrids — and often, they're very large. Chi, based in Vancouver, gets clients who arrive from far away to go through long sessions to get their designs, which are often in black and grey with long lines that look as much like they were made with a pen as they were with a tattoo gun.

In this video made by filmmaker Daniel Lins da Silva (who has covered tattoo artists Liz Kim and Yi Stropky for CBC Arts in the past), you'll learn how Chi made their way from art school to tattoo studio. And you'll get a look inside their (very full) sketchbook and how they negotiate the journey of pain along with their clients. As it turns out, it's about more than making their mark on somebody's skin — it's about being a conduit for that very personal experience.

Follow Nomi Chi (along with their other 117k followers) here.

Stream Art Hurts now on CBC Gem.


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 art history instructor and is always quite terrified of bees.