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. 

COLLABORATION WITH: NADYA, JAMIE & PETE

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.

COLLABORATION WITH: LEILA, NICK & YVONNE

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!

Gratefully,
Leila

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

COLLABORATION WITH: MEGAN, DR. WOO & JAMES

DSC_0187 (1).jpg
DSC_0214 (2).jpg

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. 

COLLABORATION WITH: EMILY, ROGER & SARAH

ashmore_georgy_girl.png
ashmore_H.png

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.

COLLABORATION WITH: KATIE, FELIX & MIA

DSC_4730.JPG

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. 

BIRTHDAY GIFT TO YOU & COLLABORATION WITH JESSICA VALENTI

sorella.jpg

Hello dear readers, 

Three events conspired to bring you this blog post.

The first event is that I had the honor of collaborating with Jessica Valenti, a writer I have long admired.  Jessica commissioned the tattoo above in honor of her daughter. She writes:

My daughter was born under pretty precarious circumstances - I was 28 weeks pregnant when I developed severe pre-eclampsia and HELLP syndrome. We had to deliver by emergency c-section to save my life, and my daughter - Layla Sorella Valenti-Golis - was born weighing just 2 pounds. 

We came up with her name in the midst of a lot of confusion and fear, but I wanted 'Sorella' both as a nod to my feminism (it means sister in Italian) and to honor my own sister, Vanessa. 

Layla spent two months in the NICU and continued to have prematurity-related health issues for the first two years of her life. When she turned 3 this past August - healthier and happier than ever - I wanted to get the tattoo to commemorate all my family has been through, and all Layla has overcome. She is truly a wonderful, smart, funny kid and I feel lucky every day to have her in my life.

So I was getting ready to post Jessica's story when is started to think back on all of the incredible women I have worked with on tattoos. Like Jessica they've commemorated transformative, difficult, life-changing experiences. There is Deb who took the leap and overcame her professional fears, Natalie who mustered the courage to start her own business, Stephanie who overcame cancer, Catherine who memorialized her remarkable, in spiring grandmother, Lisa who conceived despite being told she couldn't, Sabine who conquered her fear of heights, Courtney who inked a reminder to walk towards what scares us, not away from it,  Claire who honored the passing of a friend who saved her marriage. Karen who left her job as a corporate lawyer to defend the rights of prisoners on death row. The list goes on. And on. Not to mention the remarkable men who have honored incredible women in their lives, like Sam and Karl.

The final event that brought me to this post is that I turned 34 this weekend. It has been a blessing and honor to work with every brave, inspiring client who has crossed my path. And I wanted to mark the occasion and give thanks. So, inspired by Jessica and all of the like-minded sorelle (and fratelli), I'm offering 10% tattoo orders (just mention the promo code SISTER when you contact me), and I'm donating 10% of proceeds from these commissions to Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc. now through February 10. Thank you to Jessica, my muse and collaborator! 

{Tattoo by Stephanie Tamez, Saved Tattoo, Brooklyn, NY. Photo by Vanessa Valenti}

COLLABORATION WITH: KATELIN, FLICKA & PHILA

IMG_5449.jpg
IMG_5575.jpg
IMG_5531-original warm.jpg
IMG_5568.jpg

Katelin just sent along photos from our collaboration.  My yoga practice has deepend these last months (thanks to this wonderful studio in Portland).  I remember at the very beginning of my practice teachers would talk about setting intentions and it sounded like they were speaking Greek. But now, it makes a lot more sense. Katelin's story explains how powerful this can be. So much so she had the intention inked. 

The literal translation of Jai Ma is: hail to the mother. The interpretation of this Sanskrit mantra that most resonates with me most, however, is: the love is so strong. In essence, it refers to the deepest, most selfless, and radical kind of love that I can imagine. In the Buddhist tradition they say it's like the kind of love a mother has for her only child, however, instead of reserving this magnitude of love for just those who are close to or alike us, it's meant to be extended far and wide. It's the ultimate mission: love unbounded for all, and the subsequent presence in the world that follows. 

I was in a relationship some time ago with a woman who lived, slept, and breathed this. She didn't talk about it, she just gave. heart wide open. Her love was big. Not just for me, but for everyone that crossed her path. Boundaries of self extended to include other in utter compassion and kindness. The love limitations of a hardened ego- barely existent, in fact, none that I could see. At the time, I couldn't commit to her in a lifelong kind of way, although our bond and connection was of the cosmic kind. The following separation was emotionally crushing for more than a dozen reasons, but amidst the heartbreak, a deep well of love remained. My only refuge during this time was a vow of the heart, to try to embody the beauty that she represented for me. 

So… on my wrist I tattooed the mantra 'Jai Ma' as a lifelong reminder to let my guard down and let fiercely open-hearted love exist in the spaces within, without, and in between 'the silky oscillation between me and we,' as poet Mo Lohaus puts it. The wrist was the perfect place.. as a yogi, every time I practice sun salutations, I lift my hands overhead, look upwards, and am reminded why I practice, my very reason for existing. This gorgeous piece of art is dedicated to my Heart Teachers, my Mom, all the mothers and brothers, sons and daughters, sisters and fathers, and to my future self: the mother I one day hope to be.

Thanks so much for sharing, Katelin. And thank you to tattoo artist Flicka and Phil Manijak the photographer. 

COLLABORATION WITH: MEGHAN, DAN & ANDRA

meghan_20131122_0308.jpg
meghan_20131122_0304.jpg
meghan_20131122_0307.jpg

Excited to share the latest tattoo story with you, one honoring an adored son. It was such a pleasure to work with Meghan. I'll let her tell you more:

My children are my world and the reason I feel so blessed in life. I have always been drawn to the story and meaning of tattoos and knew that I wanted to put my children's "stories" in ink. Seven years ago I took my toddler to draw her own name so that I could have it inked and forever a reminder of our story & bond with each other. With the birth of my son in 2011, I knew that I wanted to also get his name in a tattoo but I was determined to make it different. I wanted something unique, beautiful and personal. Calligraphy was the only way to go because of the simplicity yet flow & beauty of the writing. I searched for almost two years before I found Mara and instantly knew that this was the answer. To me the tattoo reminds me of the pure beauty of having a child - it's something that I will cherish for the rest of my life!

Thanks so much to Meghan, Dan of Tattoos by Danny, and Andra Edwards of Andmade Photography. (Also, how great is Meghan's jewelry?!)