Ask an Insider: Celebrity Tattoo Artist Dr. Woo on the Items that Spark Inspiration and Keep Him Grounded

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From sound engineers and screenwriters to celebrity makeup artists and stylists, Variety’s series “Ask an Insider” asks top professionals within the entertainment industry to share their must-have essentials, for work, and for play. In this installment, celebrity tattoo artist Dr. Woo — who has inked A-list stars such as Justin Bieber, Zoe Kravitz and Miley Cyrus — shares the products he uses everyday, while working in his studio and traveling across the country to see clients.

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You’ve likely seen Dr. Woo’s work before on red carpets or in fabulous late-night, hot spots. The celebrity tattoo artist, who got his start in Los Angeles’s tattoo shop Shamrok before moving into his own private space called Hideaway at Studio X, has inked some of the biggest names in Hollywood. Olivia Wilde’s kids’ names scrawled on her forearms; three miniature dragons on Emilia Clarke’s wrists; a playful jar of vegemite on Miley Cyrus’s upper arm — they’re all courtesy of Dr. Woo’s signature single need tattoo technique, which alongside his fine lines, shading and incredible detail, has made him one of the most sought after tattoo artists in the world.

His A-list clientele (and notorious two-year long waiting list) is also why Dr. Woo is constantly on the road, traveling to see clients and partnering with brands who are eager to infuse the illustrator’s distinct artistic perspective into their own products. His latest collaboration is with D’USSE Cognac, who just released the D’USSE XO x Dr. Woo Glass Set, featuring Dr. Woo’s original artwork. The set, which includes a 10 year-old bottle of Cognac and two limited-edition tulip glasses, was unveiled during Miami Art Week on Dec. 2 and was made available to shop on D’USSE’s site the following day for $280.

The glasses feature the same geometric constellation designs that he’s become known for in the tattoo world (Olivia Wilde touts a Woo galaxy on one of her arms). “Geometric shapes are the touch points of how I interpret meaning,” he tells Variety from the beach in Miami the day of the launch. “I like using that as a pathway to tell the story visually and doing it kind of manifested itself the more I practiced. The more people were drawn to it and the more I got to practice and produce those types of drawings kind of gave me the visual identity.”

Although he says the design process for the D’USSE glasses was similar to that for his tattoos, he does revel in the freedom of his art not being permanently inked on someone’s skin. “For tattoos, the story is as much the skin that it goes onto, so the story is partly mine and partly theirs. But with projects like these, I think I have a little bit more creative freedom in my impression and the way that my design speaks, because sometimes [with tattoos] it can be something completely different than what I’m actually into. So with these type of projects, I do like to give them a little bit more of a voice.”

To celebrate the launch of the new set, Dr. Woo put on a party with the Cognac brand at the Miami Beach Edition hotel during the last weekend of Art Basel, featuring a surprise performance by A$AP Ferg. Before the beachside party, Variety spoke to Dr. Woo about the items that spark inspiration for him in the studio and keep him grounded while he’s on the road.

Kuumba Incense

“I always have Melatonin, which I rely on since I’m always in a different place at different times and it helps keep me grounded. But I also burn Kuumba incense in my hotel rooms to keep a sense of a calm that kind of reminds me of the studio. My favorite scent is the one I collaborated with them for. My studio Hideaway @ Suite X is the base and it’s made from a few of my own favorite smells and ingredients as once I started traveling heavily and living out of my suitcase, I wanted a consistent smell to keep in my routine.”

Kuumba Original Stick Incense $11.53

Beats Studio 3 Headphones (51% Off)

“I like to listen to calm music [while working], maybe like mellower indie-like rock. And then if there’s a band I like, I try to find a radio station that suggests newer bands I’ve never heard of just to kind of keep it in the mood but also still learn and get introduced to newer music. I like Beats headphones because of all the companies out there, I know they have spent the most time, money and research to make the best headphones.”

Beats Studio 3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones $349.95 $169.99

Moleskin Notebook

“l aways have a little Moleskin notebook and a mechanical Micron pencil that I always use. Aside from that, I honestly just need a sturdy desk and make myself available, like turn my phone off. Because I’ve been doing this for so long and I’m constantly on the go, I try not to make too many rituals because if I’m out of my comfort zone, I don’t want to feel like I’m not able to produce.”

Moleskine Classic Notebook $18.89

Dr. Woo Revitalizing Body Moisturizer

“I just really love using the moisturizer on my face. It’s fragrance free, there’s barely any ingredients in it. It’s pure, clean and simple. But the hydration — we use the color lock technology so the hydration holds in — and I feel like it makes me look younger. I put it on every morning after the shower because that’s when I feel like my face is the driest.”

Dr. Woo Revitalizing Body Moisturizer $40

D’USSÉ XO Cognac x Dr. Woo Tulip Glass Set

“Different occasions call for different spirits, but I love cognac because it’s great for going out and staying in. My favorite is D’USSE XO, the brand’s ten year aged Cognac, because it’s really rich and complex but still balanced, and my favorite way to enjoy it is neat or on the rocks. I love the ritual of it.”

D’USSÉ XO Cognac x Dr. Woo Tulip Glass Set $280

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