Zhuo Dan Ting and Joshua Thompson: Bringing Shanghai Tattoo to Historic Folsom

The world-renowned Shanghai tattoo artist made the move to bring her artistry to Folsom.

Zhuo Dan Ting and Joshua Thompson in their newly renovated studio—it used to be a real estate office.

Zhuo Dan Ting and Joshua Thompson in their newly renovated studio—it used to be a real estate office.


Zhuo Dan Ting has a knack for getting under people’s skin. Specifically, under the epidermis and above the dermis. Ting—known in the biz as Ms. Ting—deals in ink and its directed application into permanent, highly portable works of art. Tattoos. Ting has been drawing her entire life, first put needle to flesh canvas in 2001 and founded Shanghai Tattoo in Shanghai, China in 2007. It’s still running with a team of artists. Now, she and her husband, Joshua Thompson, have set up a second location—on Sutter Street in Historic Folsom.

Limiting herself to no more than one tattoo a day, the artist specializes in photo-realistic portraiture and traditional Chinese art. We sat down with Ting and Thompson and talked about the move to Folsom along with some of their history.

Are you still involved in running the Shanghai shop?

Thompson: Yeah, we’re running it still. We’re running everything, as much as we can do from a distance, and we have a full team over there running the in-house operation. I’m actually talking to someone just now about booking a tattoo in Shanghai.

How did you end up here?

Thompson: We’ve been looking for about two years now, for [a place in] California. We were originally looking at downtown Sacramento … My uncle lives in Folsom, and he saw a property that was coming up for availability. We came down here and saw Sutter Street, and we were like, “Holy crap!”

How did you two meet?

Thompson: We were just friends on Facebook, I was basically her fan. I found out she was coming to San Francisco on vacation, it was her first time in America, and I was like, “… Let me show you around!” Basically, she ended up hitting me up. I was like, “OK, cool!” From there, we hung out 10 days in a row, she went back to China. I was like, “Well … I want to visit you in China.” And it pretty much worked out like that. Pretty crazy.

What kind of tattoos do you have?

Ting: I have all [kinds] of tattoos, but all of different styles. I’m not like all my customers. They want some tattoo they plan for a long time. Most of the time, I just sit on a chair first, I decide I want a tattoo today.

What kind of qualities do you look for in artists?

Ting: Of course we need to look for good artists. Better do all kinds of styles, too, not [everybody’s] the same.

Thompson: Ting’s more into realism, as you can see. All the tattoos on the wall, Ting’s done. She does a lot of black and grey to color realism and Asian traditional. But we’d like to find other artists, eventually have a full house of artists, all doing different art from each other.

Who’s your favorite artist?

Ting: I have a lot of favorite artists, but one of them on top is Paul Booth, living in New York. He’s really good—I love his style. And actually, I got a tattoo from him.

Are you doing different tattoos here?

Ting: Same. Same. Because in Shanghai, most of my customers are foreigners, actually.

What was it about tattoos that spoke to you?

Ting: Since I saw it, I just feel like it’s something related to art, related to drawing, that I’m interested in.

But why not paint, or … ?

Ting: Because that’s too normal. In those days, in China, I never ever heard of tattooing. Drawing on people’s skin? And painting, drawing, that’s always happening in life. It’s not special. Those days, when you see tattoos, it’s very different.