Betty Soldi + Retrouvius Calligraphy Workshop in London

Last month I had the privilege to co-teach a calligraphy workshop with Betty Soldi, my dear friend and muse, at Retrouvius in London. Retrouvius is a magical architectural salvage and design firm. Their showroom filled with microscopes, butterfly boxes, antique French lights, and church pews could not have been more atmospheric or beautiful. It was an unforgettable evening. I am unspeakably grateful to Betty, Matteo and &Co; Adam, Maria, Nick, and the entire Retrouvius team; and photographer Anna Ambrosi, who captured the spirit in the room perfectly; and our sponsors, Mount Street Printers and Lamy.

You can find many more stunning photos on the workshop page. Betty and I are dreaming up a summer calligraphy retreat in Europe next year. Sign up on the workshops page if you'd like to learn more!


Hello and happy fall! I was glad to receive this latest tattoo story from Crystal, who chose Dante's phrase, "A great flame follows a little spark."

Mara's beautiful calligraphy was the best way to represent the elegance of Dante's work. To me this phrase serves as a gentle reminder and encouragement that essentially, small steps lead to bigger ones. Whether it's personal goals or anything else, the hardest part is just getting started and having the will not to give up on our dreams, because I believe that this life is the only one we are gifted with.

Thank you to Crystal, and her tattoo artist Chris Wellard in Toronto.

Collaboration with Sandra, Wenco & Maik


The inner arm has become the favorite location for of my tattoo commissions, but Sandra's definitely takes up the most real estate. I love the way it turned out. The size really captures the thick and thin lines. I'll let her tell you more about the significance.

On that special day, after years and years searching for the perfect handwriting, the perfect word or text and the perfect placement, I found Mara, and I felt like: This is it. And finally, there came this one word to my mind, to be placed on my forearm. 

The word: Ujjayi. The meaning: "victorious breathing" in Yoga practices, a combination of the two Sanskrit words ut (for "up") and jayi (for "victory, conquest, success"). It’s special kind of breath, a method of Pranayama, where the lungs are completely expanded. It should help to hold the asanas (all these body knots) long and longer, to get enough energy, to purely feel your own strength. I started Yoga two years ago, and really love what it does to and with me. And because of being Gemini, which is a sign of air, I wanted something like "breath", "breathing", but not in German or English. So: Ujjayi should it be, to remind me of breathing and going on and perhaps flying away...

Thank you to Sandra for sharing her story, to her tattoo artist Wenco Kubis (Ettlingen, Germany // Zum Stecher Tattoo & Piercing Manufaktur) and to photographer Maik Burbulla. (PS: Speaking of Pranayama, have you seen this video of B.K. Iyengar practicing?)


Collaboration with Ashley and Chris

Hello! I have a backlog of tattoo stories to share. This one comes from Ashley who writes of hers:

A lovemark is something you leave behind when doing any act of kindness. It's about taking the time to love life and those who are in it. It's often the little things that leave the biggest mark.

What a nice way to end the week. Here's to leaving lovemarks everywhere we go. Thanks to Ashley (who I've come to think of as Rapunzel) for sharing, and to tattoo artist Chris Wellard in Toronto. 


Every once in a while I'll be asked to calligraph song lyrics for tattoo clients. Nadya's story, and the choice behind this song, is so moving.  There have been times my yoga teacher has played "To Build a Home" during savasana. And so the image of both me and Nadya, separated by thousands of miles, lying on the floor and listening to the same song (through speakers or in our heads) and processing it through our difference life experience made it all the more special. 

Close introspection usually comes when one choses a tattoo, something permanent that will resonate with you all your days. When I first heard the song, To Build A Home by The Cinematic Orchestra, it came drifting into my head as I was laying on the floor in Savasana at a yoga studio. I was moved by this beautifully haunting song and as it lingered in my head for days afterward, I realized I needed a closer listen. 

My husband had just been diagnosed with cancer and we were in the depths of hell. As our family learned to cope with this new world, the phrase from this song --"I built a home for you, for me" spoke to me. They seemed to be the words that represented me and my position in our lives. Our home was our cocoon away from the world -- and I provided the comfort & stability we needed to weather the storm. In our home lived hope and strength, positivity, love and most importantly, laughter. 

In the midst of treatment I would drive and listen to this song with the volume cranked. On the overwhelming days when the hurt was new and raw I would cry, but as time passed, tears turned to reflection and with it a kind of peace. It is a wonderfully poetic view of life. The very fact that we truly did build our home was a just a wonderful coincidence. 

Life is not fair, it just is. Things happen and how we react and cope with the events that shape our lives are what make us who we are. Of this I am constantly reminded, when I look down at this beautifully scripted affirmation on my arm. Thank you Patrick Watson for writing these powerful words, and thank you Mara for working with me to transform them into something uniquely me.

Thanks to Nadya for sharing her story, to tattoo artist Jamie "Grazzhopper" Lindsey (Toronto), and to photographer Pete Nema.

Here's the song should you care to take a listen and bawl your eyes out.


I'm so honored to share this latest tattoo story, my latest Gratitude Giveaway (for new readers: ever month I give away a commission to a client whose story moves me). It seemed appropriate to share this story on the heels of Mother's Day. Thank you to Leila, her father, and her family for modeling how to love so deeply. 

Dear Mara,

I’m so happy to send you the result of our collaboration on the "I carry your heart" tattoo. I can’t thank you enough for your beautiful design, and for your generosity of spirit in gifting it to me. I tried to capture the story behind the tattoo below.

My father is a 72 year old retired professor and has multiple sclerosis. He raised my sister and I as a single father, and did such a good job of it, that I count him as one of my best friends and greatest inspirations. My father lives with me and my husband and so his presence is a constant that we have all come to cherish. As he ages, I have been thinking more and more about how I will deal with his absence after he dies; and in all honesty, all I can come up with is “not well.” 

Growing up, it was not uncommon in our household to discuss the big questions in life, such as "what happens after you die?" My father, who taught comparative religious studies, would reply "no one knows what happens for sure, but anytime you need me just think of our conversations and you will know what I would say to you, I'll always be there in that way." I would protest (especially when I was younger) that this wasn't enough and I needed him to be around forever. He would smile and say that he would prefer that too, but no matter what we will always have a relationship.

I just turned forty and recently had my second child, and wanted to mark these occasions with something meaningful and permanent. It was important to choose something that would remind me of the enormous love and joy my family brings and how we are all part of one another. For some reason, I looked up at my wall, where I have a painting of e.e. cumming's poem "I carry your heart." Of course! That is what was read at my wedding, what I read every day on my wall, and what perfectly captures the feeling of being deeply connected.

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

When I started to look at script for my tattoo, I noticed that every tattoo I was drawn to came from your designs. I love the elegant, graceful, and modern quality in your work and am honored that you generously gifted me this gorgeous design. Thank you Mara, you hold a special place in my heart!


Thank you to Nick Vargus of F/U Tattoo in Santa Cruz, CA and Yvonna Kramer for the photos.


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What a pleasure it is to share Megan's story. I'm always moved by tattoos that originate from literature and poetry.

‘World enough and time’ is quote from the poem To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell. It is a poem that is huge in its comprehension of time, and space, and love. It sums up the idea that time is racing past, taking everything with it, which is a feeling I’ve had ever since I was a little girl. This poem is also featured in my favorite novel, The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. It is used as a toast throughout the novel: ‘to world enough and time.’

The idea of time racing past, myself powerless to stop it, has plagued me for a while. When my aunt passed away a couple of years ago, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I would never have enough time. On the other hand, I kept telling myself, that life has given me a wonderful gift: the world and time, if I am brave enough to embrace it.

I love that this tattoo captures these two beliefs so perfectly. The first being that time will keep moving no matter what I do. That’s life. Then again, I’ve been given the most beautiful, glorious gift imaginable, the ability to see the world; and use the time I have here to love, go on adventures, seek new wonders, and experience all that this great world has to offer.

Now I have my own personal ‘carpe diem’ mantra with me forever

Reading Megan's story brought to mind two references in my own life about this feeling of time passing. The first is INXS's Not Enough Time, a song that's been on repeat lately. And the second is a quote from Renaissance polymath Girolamo Cardano, as quoted in Nancy Siraisi's book: "The studious man should always have at hand a clock and a mirror. A clock since in such confusion and mass of things it is necessary for him to to keep track of time...; a mirror to observe the changing conditions of his body." A clock, a mirror, the world enough, and time.

Thank you to Megan, photographer James Bean, and to tattoo artist Dr. Woo in Los Angeles. 



Emily just sent along these pretty photos of two tattoos she commissioned to honor her grandmother. One of my favorite parts of these collaborations is discovering new words, music, or poems I was previously unfamiliar with. Such is the case with "Georgy Girl." The lyrics are awfully moving. Here's Emily...

After a lot of contemplation, I have decided that my next tattoo would be dedicated to my grandmother. 

To preface the significance, I would like to mention that I am an identical twin. Our lives are so intertwine that many of our memories are shared; I do not have my of my own. 

One memory that I hold dear to my heart dates back to my early childhood. As a young girl my grandmother would sporadical hum/sing the song "Georgy Girl" by The Seekers. Till this day, I am unaware of the exact significane, but she would only sing this song to me. Nobody else. 

My grandmother is not doing very well due to multiple strokes over the past few months. All motor function has been lost and I would love to show that I got this tattoo for her. As we sing the song "Georgy Girl" my grandmother's eyes still light up. Full of love.

Thank you to Emily for sharing her story, to tattoo artist Roger Egbert in Seattle, and to Emily's sister Sarah for the photos.



I love working with clients to commemorate triumphs that never would have occurred to me. Katie's story fits that bill. Reading her story I was reminded of all of all the friends I had who had moved to New York after college. There was a fierce tenacity and commitment to making it a city that was often times impossible to survive in. 

Memento mori means remember we are just mortals. This tattoo reminds me to always depend on God. It also to commemorates what I have learned from the four years of living in New York. and the possibility of what humans can achieve. We are merely humans and have limits to what we can do. Trying to survive in New York, many of us overlook and break these restraints and limits to go after dreams and goals, and many succeed to overcome these impossibles. 

Now I have New York with me forever.

Thanks so much to Katie, for sharing her story, to tattoo artist Felix from White Rabbit Tattoo, and to photographer Mia Yen.