Cultivating Creativity in Tattoos and Beyond

At Paper Crane Studio, we’re fortunate in that we come to work each day to do something we’re passionate about: Tattooing is our job, but it’s also our art, one that we’re dedicated to both as professionals and as people.

If you’re a creative type, you know that it’s easy for one passion to bleed into another: If you’re a muralist who loves the outdoors, for example, you probably find yourself painting a lot of breathtaking vistas, perhaps inspired by ones you’ve seen in the real world.

The same is true for our artists. You can see Mikey Vigilante’s love of Japanese mythology come through in both his tattoos and his paintings—and if you stop by our Instagram or Facebook, you can see our artists’ individual personalities and esoteric interests forming a theme in much of their work.

Today on the blog we’re talking to Tan Vo about the intersection of two of his passions: tattooing and gardening.

A Natural Inclination

“I’ve had an affinity towards nature my whole life,” Tan tells us of how he got interested in garden. “Along with my impulse to collect things, that was the catalyst for my hobby today.”

And collect he does: Tan has an Instagram account dedicated solely to his orchids, succulents, and carnivorous plants. In his artistic photos and detailed descriptions, you can get a feel for his love, knowledge, and a wonderful depth of curiosity—all qualities that in turn make him a stellar artist.

Drawing is another passion that Tan has always had a natural inclination toward. His sketches—especially those of flowers—reflect his reverence for the natural world. “The first images I tried to create as a tattoo apprentice were of flowers,” he explains. Flowers were familiar to Tan, significantly more so than traditional tattoo imagery, which he didn’t have a real opportunity to ingest growing up. Chrysanthemums became the first object of his tattoo sketches because of their dynamic petals: “They seemed the hardest to draw.”

Tending Tattoo Gardens  

The meanings associated with plants are rich and varied, from Victorian “talking bouquets” and the language of flowers to the medicinal or ritualistic properties of herbs. Plants have been and continue to be used to express emotions, treat illnesses, enhance spiritual/religious practices, mark significant occasions—we could go on endlessly. (And hey, sometimes they’re just used to make a room or yard look pretty—and that’s great, too!)

Take Tan’s three favorite flowers to tattoo: Chrysanthemums symbolize joy and optimism; peonies are used to attract good luck and prosperity; and roses can be used medicinally to treat headaches or induce sleep!

Plants also have extremely personal meanings. You might know nothing about the symbolism or properties of petunias, but perhaps they were a favorite of your grandmother’s. The significance you attach to a specific plant makes it tattoo-worthy.

“People come in with meanings for most of their tattoos,” Tan says, meanings that are both personal and traditional. “It’s my job to focus on the aesthetics and how to create the best looking image for you.”

So don’t worry: Tan isn’t going to suggest tulips over tiger lilies if you come in with a tattoo in mind.

But there are times when he might suggest altering your choice: With regard to the human anatomy, there are a lot of unique challenges and opportunities when it comes to placement. The right piece positioned the right way can make a huge difference in the final outcome of your tattoo. “The challenge is learning composition and scale relative to the body,” Tan explains on this subject. “What looks good where, how much skin to leave open—that sort of thing.”

We’ve talked in past blogs about the fact that a good tattoo artist will help you to choose the best size and placement for your piece, and Tan is no exception to that rule. “But I always try to accommodate your vision so long as it keeps the integrity of our work,” he adds: You can trust him to work with you to design a piece that is perfectly placed and properly sized. “After that, you can do anything with flowers.”

A Little Patch of Heaven

“When I’m not tattooing, I like to grow plants,” Tan says. “When I say like, I mean love.”

Tattooing is a demanding discipline, one that requires an intense level of focus and energy. “It’s hard not to take it home and everywhere else with you,” Tan explains. And although his passions for plants and tattoos overlap, the energies involved contrast in important ways: “With my greenhouses, I can feel like I am somewhere else and completely disengage. It’s a separate ritual that I’m able to throw myself into.”

But even so, at the end of the day, Tan gets the same kind of joy from gardening that he does from tattooing: “The satisfaction of raising healthy plants is similar to knocking out a great tattoo.”

Let Your Tattoo Vision Grow

Whatever plant-based piece you have in mind, Tan will be happy to put both his artistic and botanical skills to use. He’s equally fond of color and black-and-grey floral pieces, and he’s adept at incorporating leafy elements into designs in both traditional and unexpected ways. Whether you’re coming in for a simple rose or your fifteenth floral tattoo, he wants you to feel totally at ease: “It’s our job to make it look good,” he explains—and at Paper Crane, that means creating an authentic piece of art that you’ll be proud of for years to come.

If we’ve planted the seed in your mind for a new tattoo, drop us a line at!

Recent Posts

See All

Pinterest and Instagram have made a huge impact on the tattoo industry. As certain designs or styles become trendy, we see an increase in requests for those particular pieces. When clients are open to