Tagged: Identity

Embroidery artist Jessica So Ren Tang

Here, 25-year-old embroidery artist and warehouse production worker  Jessica So Ren Tang, from San Francisco, tells us all about her beautiful hand-stitched pieces and the inspiration behind them…

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“As a child I knew I wanted a career in the arts. Throughout school I learned and experimented with various mediums, I started embroidering and playing with fabric and thread in my senior year of college in preparation for my senior exhibition. I graduated with a BA in Studio Art at Mills College in Oakland, CA.”

“I had semester-long assignment which involved playing with different materials and. for one of the experiments. I made a cup noodle container. I quickly found that styrofoam was a poor sewing material, so I began to replicate a cup noodle container with fabric instead. I enjoyed the softness and texture of embroidery in my sculpture pieces and I continued looking for other objects to replicate. I was more interested in sculpture but disliked the bulk clay and similar mediums had.


“I continued to embroider because I loved the flexibility it gave me, as well as its rich history of being women’s work. In the future I want to explore more fibre art and sculpture and keep pushing my skills in fabric and thread.

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“I draw inspiration from memories of my childhood and my experiences of being an Asian American woman. For my object series, I look for items that I have bought or used that have Asian/American significance and use. Specifically, I look for Asian snacks and containers that I have used or seen in my childhood. Replicating objects in fibre is my way of exploring my Asian American identity – it is a way for me to replicate the duality of being too Chinese to be American and too western to be really Chinese.


“Initially, it was not my intention for my pieces to have connections with tattoo art. Replacing the skin of suggestively posed Asian women was intended to obscure the girl’s identity, in an attempt to address this Asian American dual identity experience. the girls’ facial markers are removed but replaced with an Asian pattern, still retaining an Asian identity but non-specific to her ethnicity. But the style of pattern on the girl has specific origins to an Asian culture. I look for a variety of Asian patterns but so far they are mainly of Japanese and Chinese origins. Although I am looking to expand to different Asian patterns in my future pieces.

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“My girl series was inspired by Ikenaga Yasunari’s paintings of women and textile patterned clothing. The female forms help to emphasise the feminine medium that is embroidery, but it is also a familiar image that I express myself through. I create a little piece of myself through each girl, in the hopes of creating a tangible object that encompasses my Asian American experiences.

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“The colours in the patterns help to highlight a figure but to pull back and flatten – sort of like a silent wallflower girl. The facelessness of the women is to suggest a general Asian identity without pinpointing a specific nationality. Extending the pattern to the entire body was more aesthetically cohesive and balanced. Having the pattern on just the face drew too much attention to the head when I wanted the entire figure to be emphasised.

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“My object series, depending on the size and complexity, range from a week to a little over a month to be finished. Each mini girl takes about 50 hours of stitching and 100 hours for the larger girl pieces, as everything is stitched by hand.

“My works are currently not for sale for a variety of reasons. I still have a small body of work due to how long it takes me to complete one piece and exhibiting would be difficult if I started selling, I’m still attached to my pieces and I’m hard pressed to let them go, and I don’t have much free time outside of my day job and selling would take me away from working on my art. Of course, many of these reasons will eventually be solved and I do plan on selling my work.”


View more of Jessica’s work on Instagram: @jessicasorentang

Things&Ink The Identity Issue Review

Editorial assistant Rosalie Woodward reviews the Identity Issue out now. Purchase your copy here


Peacocks in Afghanistan – Page 18

Photo by Heather Shuker

Tattoo artist Axa Shireen talks to us about  growing up between suburban Manchester and dangerously enchanting Afghanistan and how art has always been a driving force, steering her towards new worlds, whether these be tattooing or love. The sense of her own identity comes from not constraining herself with boundaries, but embracing it all…

Her interview is accompanied with stunning images of ornate sarees, intricate henna and a peacock stealing a sneaky glance at beautiful Axa covered in glittering finery.


Laura Jane Grace – Page 57

Photo by Heather Shuker

Our music editor Jen Adamson interviews Laura Jane Grace from Against Me!, formally Tom Gables, about her struggle to show the world who she really is.  Laura explains how her song lyrics allowed her to explore and release her inner self, allowing her to cross the lines of socially defined gender boundaries.  Laura has many crow tattoos, these important birds have perhaps given her the wings she needed in order to be free…


Tattooing in Prison – Page 34 and New York Prisoner – Page 38

Ever wondered how inmates tattoo each other when tattooing is prohibited in prisons? What do they use for ink? How do they make a machine? The men behind their crimes are revealed in their honest discussion of prison life. In jail, tattoos become even more important, playing the part of a bargaining tool as well as a seemingly simple way to pass the hours.  This was one aspect of the prisoners’ lives that the officers could not control and they weren’t going to give up.


Meet the Customers – Page 26

Photo by Heather Shuker

Meet tattooist Dominique Holmes and her customers, in The Royal Albert pub (where we did the photo shoot), why not follow their lead and crack out the vino! Unique relationships are built when people are regularly tattooed by the same artist, way more so than if they had stepped off the street for a bit of flash.  Dom and her customers alike explore how tattoos add to their sense of identity and how both their friendships and art have evolved.

To read these articles in full purchase your copy of The Identity Issue here

Tattoo hide and seek with my grandparents

I got my first tattoo when I was 18. My boyfriend was getting some script to begin his Japanese sleeve and I had always loved the idea of having a tattoo. I jumped in feet first, literally, having a floral henna design on my foot. The pain was enough for me to wait three years until I got another tattoo, contrary to a friend who said it had merely felt like a scratch. Ever since I have been covering and attempting to hide my tattoos from my Grandparents. I’m not ashamed or anything like that, I just cannot be bothered to listen to the disappointing lecture that I’m sure will ensue. This will be similar to the ones concerning my A-levels and wishes to travel.

Maybe I’m wrong but I have heard their disapproving remarks before when faced with tattooed women. They are certainly traditional, perhaps a prudish couple- I have never seen them hold hands, god forbid kiss! I am the only member of my family who is tattooed, bar one uncle who has a small tattoo of his football team’s logo. The outrage and disbelief that this tiny piece of ink caused was enough for me to purposely cover my own spreading collection. My Grandma turns eighty this weekend and I have been on a desperate search to find a long sleeved maxi dress, so that the dinner remains a celebration of her birthday and not a discussion about my life choices.

I’m sure my grandparents are not alone in their feelings, during their time they have seen tattoos growing in popularity. Perhaps they recognise them as a sign of time spent in prison, or hanging around sailors at dockyards, and possibly prostitution. I’m speculating here, I have never dared to ask them directly their opinion on the tattooed community, but from their past comments concerning tramp stamps I am not willing to take the risk of bearing all just yet. Surprisingly though during a recent visit with my friend to her Grandparents, I was encouraged to show off my legs. Her grandma was enthralled by the colourful designs that I have acquired. She even joked that her husband’s legs would be much improved with a nice tattoo. Her delight may be due to the fact that I am not her granddaughter, who has no tattoos. I am someone else’s family; she has not seen my immaculate skin as a baby being transformed into living art! My Grandparents are not a deterrent, I have many tattoos planned, but I almost enjoy finding new clothes to wear to hide them, as well as having a sneaky piece of ink visible to see if they catch me out!

I can’t believe that I am the only one who makes every effort to cover their ink, or are you lucky and your grandparents approve of your tattoos? Do your grandparents have more tattoos than you?