Available in : Vietnamese
Camille Ink is a tattoo artist from the North West of France, who found herself in Ho Chi Minh City, sharing her passion for tattooing. Her life has always been split between art and travel. She left France at 18 to live in Ireland, learned English, then studied graphic design in Barcelona and worked as a freelancer for several years. She kept on traveling: Europe, America, Africa… and now Saigon. Camille discovered her real passion for studying tattooing at Bangkok Ink Studio in 2014.
From then on, she decided to make it her trade. Camille didn’t have traditional roots; her mum entered into a relationship with her husband’s sister. This could have been an issue to most people, but Camille’s father was also gay and each of their own relationships flourished. After 10 years together as man and wife, they decided to have a child and raised this child, Camille, as three parents. In the 80s this may have raised eyebrows, even in a cosmopolitan city, but in a small French town, it was definitely looked upon as something different.
While most of us have been scarred one way or another by bullying, Camille seems to shrugs this off and possesses self-confidence in herself that obviously comes from her parents. They were completely open and honest with Camille from a young age so none of this was unusual to her. Despite being bullied for having a “gay dad” as a childish insult, she never revealed to her bullies that this was in fact true. Her family also ignited her passion for travel. This started with sponsoring a child in Cambodia, that became Camille’s penpal growing up. Her parents promised when she graduated they would take her to Cambodia to meet her. True to their word, at 17 they visited Cambodia and Vietnam. “It was a big shock for me because I was very privileged and I hadn’t realized it before. I would cry every day at seeing the poverty and children affected by war,” adds Camille. With the fuse lit for travel, at 19 she went to India. It was as liberating as you would expect, without revealing details, “I was reckless”. She recommends it as a great way to lose weight, losing 10 kilos due to sickness! Camille’s opinion on food poisoning is that “tourist restaurants are more dangerous than street food”. In contrast to India, when she studied in Ireland she came back to France more than 10 kilos heavier,” my mum didn’t even recognize me!”
Her travels brought her to U.S., where she worked in Humboldt County, for California legalized marijuana industry for medical use. Set in the isolated far north of California, it was stunningly beautiful with mountains, forests, and wild animals, and also the setting for the Netflix show ‘Murder Mountain’. When you think of marijuana you may think of stoner farmers, but ‘Murder Mountain’ shows this is not the case. Heavily armed, and competitive, the residents make Humboldt Country almost lawless. This is in part due to its remoteness. We definitely recommend watching the show to get an idea of the contrast between beauty and danger!
“For me, I didn’t see any of what was on the TV show, it was a beautiful place and it was like living with family. But it was a lot of work. 15 hours a day! My hand got so painful, eventually, I broke a tendon. I couldn’t use my hand for 6 months. Then I realized I had to stop. I couldn’t be a tattoo artist without a hand!” Now, at only 34 she has arthritis in that hand. The initial plan was to open a chocolate and tattoo shop with her then-boyfriend, but after they broke up he decided to leave, and she decided to stay and open her studio in Thao Dien, Saigon.
Her business has flourished and she has carved out a strong reputation. She reveals a trade secret of hers, “if I don’t like the tattoo a customer wants and I don’t want to do it, maybe I will tell them I am too busy. It’ll give them some time to think about it!” Being a tattoo artist she is surprisingly not covered in visible tattoos herself. This is due to her other job, as a model, actress, and extra. Like many expats here, she is usually typecast as a doctor or scientist, “because I look smart when I have glass on. Which doesn’t mean that I am!” Camille laughs, “now that I have put on some weight I don’t get the model jobs, I get mother, teacher, doctor, the scientist…” She was even cast as an alien in an ad for the English language center, VUS.
Today due to Covid she has now been away from France for three years and misses her family a lot. Like many people throughout the world, it has been a tough year. While deciding to leave the country she has fallen in love and called her home for over 5 years was difficult, but she knows that leaving Vietnam is the right decision for now even if she plans to come back here next October. Many Expats in Saigon are now faced with this choice. Should they stay in lockdown, wait it out and hope for a vaccine, or move back home sooner than expected and get the vaccine and a semblance of normal life – whatever normal is now?…
Available in : Vietnamese