Working with Kevin was a total dream and privilege. He commissioned four tattoos, the most I've ever done for any client. The first time I saw these photos I gasped with astonishment. What a privilege to be granted so much real estate! The translation of the first tattoo, in Gaelic, is, roughly, "I will love you until the end of time." My gratitude to Kevin, Nex and Erich. 

Why does anyone get a tattoo, really? 

I can't say the reasons I've chosen to decorate my skin with images and words. There's no eloquent story of change or struggle or growth that led me to my first tattoo some (nearly!) twenty years ago. It just felt like something I needed. And I've continued this vague pursuit of self as I've added tattoos and tattooed over tattoos. 

Each is intensely personal. Each is a story. An element of me. They speak of my frailties and failures, my successes and loves. They are totems of fatherhood, heritage, the people most important to me.

The expression of these things – these deeply meaningful, particular things – through Mara’s designs are elegant and striking and seem at once foreign and perfectly at home on my body. They are too beautiful for me but are mine and mine alone. They are an idealized representation of thought that is yet unexpected. A cherished surprise. A fortunate, emotional reminder of the things that make me who I am.

Why does anyone get a tattoo, really? To express their feelings as eloquently as Mara’s art is perhaps reason enough.

Tattoo by Nex (Chicago, IL). Photographs by Erich Schrempp.


I'm especially grateful every time I have the chance to work with a client that is honoring their children. Here's Katherine's story:  

My story is very simple. I am blessed with two beautiful little boys which are my world. I wanted their names on me somewhere to be able to see at any given moment that's why I choose my forearm. As soon as I saw Mara's work I knew with out a doubt in my mind I needed her calligraphy on me!! I could not be happier with the way it turned out and am proud to wear the most meaningful things to me on my arm every day!

Thank you to tattoo artist Kevin Sherritt (Alberta, Canada) and Genia Aasen of Divine Edge Photography. 


Hello there! I'm happy to share this latest tattoo story from Kathleen. The phrase reminds me of this article I read in the New York Times about how serendipity is one quality that, in some ways, protects us during these difficult transitions. 

Two years ago I moved to Zurich, Switzerland with my husband who is getting his master's degree here. We quit our jobs, put our life in storage, and came to this foreign place with nothing more than our two suitcases.

Expecto Patronum is Latin for "I await for a protector." Over the past twelve years and specifically during this transition, my husband has protected me through some really difficult life events.  Expecto Patronum represents my memories growing up with my him as a major Harry Potter fan and serves as a symbol of support and protection.

Many thanks to Kathleen and tattoo artist Jose Flores (Indianapolis, IN).


One of the best parts of collaborations is learning new words. This was the case with Natalie and sophrosyne, or the opposite of hubris. What a gift to meditate on this word in the new year. 

I first stumbled across the word “sophrosyne” about two years ago, defined as “a healthy state of mind characterized by self control, moderation, and a deep awareness of oneself, resulting in true happiness.” And that was it - I couldn’t stop thinking about it. 
There are traces of sophrosyne’s etymology woven through content from all over the world. While there is no direct translation for it in English, there are entire books and philosophies devoted to dissecting it. In Greek myth, sophrosyne was one of the “eduaimonia” or good spirits that escaped from Pandora’s box when she opened it. Aristotle described that this good spirit enabled one to “live well and do well.” The Greeks believed you had to work to achieve sophrosyne in your life by striving to be safe, sound, and whole through integrity and humility. Socrates saw this spirit as emphasizing all passions of the soul with balance and harmony.  As the opposite of hubris (arrogantly believing you are equal to the gods), those with sophrosyne humble themselves before God. Over time Catholic scholars adopted this theory and invested in the meaning even further, illustrating that sophrosyne is about striving toward the imitation of or a sense of union with God. 
Sophrosyne resonates with me so deeply because my parents raised my two sisters and me to have innate self-respect, but simultaneously taught us that we are not the center of the universe. As a result, I’ve become a bit stubbornly self-assured. I know what I want and am willing to work very hard to achieve it. 

These past few years, however, have been more challenging for me than I ever could have anticipated. On more than one occasion I have compromised that self-respect I always strive for. It often felt that no matter what I did, nothing was working out the way I had hoped or planned - that I had no control over my own life. I felt out of place in my own skin; unsettled and irritated and unfulfilled. So I turned to sophrosyne, allowing myself to trust that I will find what I need (even if it’s not what I want). 
Mara’s calligraphy, with its graceful and fluid movement, is truly a work of art; I knew right away that if I was going to have something imprinted onto my body forever, it was going to be her pen that would do it. 
What I love most about tattoos is their permanence; they cannot be lost or stolen. This was years in the making and I’m obsessed with how it all turned out. Now that it’s done I feel as if I’ve always had it, that it’s always been a part of me, its rich complexity motivating me daily. 
Sophrosyne is a strictly divine gift, not simply a human attitude. I can’t achieve it on my own, but now it is etched into my skin reminding me to stay humble and hustle hard - trust and self-acceptance will follow.

Tattoo by Steve at Saint Sabrina's (Minneapolis, MN). Photographs by Elyse Rethlake


It was a treat to collaborate with Susan Hutchinson, of the blog Fleurishing, for this tattoo honoring her twins, Henry and Marie. Here's more from Susan about the significance: 

This tattoo represents many things to me, including my identity, my love story and…my children. The number three (trois, in French) has always been significant in my life, but only became evident to me when I met my husband. Suddenly, it was like the pieces of my own personal puzzle were finally coming together. Fast forward (three) years, and I was pregnant with twins. My body became a sanctuary for two human beings to grow and thrive in. Three of us, as one. While we no longer share my body, my beautiful children, Henry et Marie, will always be a part of me, until the day I die. They are my greatest gift.

Thank you to Susan for sharing (you can read more on her blog), tattoo artist Mike Ski (Philadelphia, PA) , and photographer Ashley Ludaescher

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.