This year’s Great British Tattoo Show back in May, was really memorable for me because I had a unique tattoo experience…
I’ve been to a handful of conventions over the last few years and the truth is that I take something different away from all of them. Sometimes it’s discovering a new style, or group of artists, grabbing a fashion bargain or just meeting a new person.
The gifts you take away from a tattoo convention can come in many different shapes and sizes, and this year, at The Great British Tattoo Show 2015, I took away something pretty unique.
After five hours of pottering around London’s stunning Alexandra Palace, nicking freebies and drinking my body weight in Brothers cider, I took a moment outside to watch the sun begin to set over the dusty London skyline in the distance.
I’d made the decision not to get a tattoo today and to just absorb the convention atmosphere as much as I could.
I retreated inside for one last lap, and was drawn instantly to the far corner of the room where there seemed to be a crowd of people gathering around an artist working late into the night.
I was soon to discover that this artist was Emma Garrard, who works at Living Art Collective in Bournemouth. She was spending the weekend tattooing using a flash sheet of symbols.
“This year I thought I would try something different,” says Emma to me when I have the chance to interview her a few days later. “Instead of working on one or two large pieces, I spent the weekend tattooing ‘good luck’ or ‘blessing’ tattoos for those who want them.”
So there I was, making my way towards Emma’s table with my own personal intent. At any one time I can have various tattoo ideas and questions rolling around in my head. Over the last month or so two, one of these had been: how can I incorporate the four elements into a non-naff looking tattoo?
As I made my way through the crowd around Emma’s table, four symbols instantly jumped off the sheet in front of me – right at the top, there they were, the elements: Earth, Air, Fire, Water. Something came over me and straight away, with no thought at all I said I promised to return with cash. In no time at all I was sitting in the chair preparing to get my very first finger tattoos.
“I was tattooing a selection of quite traditional symbols,” Emma clarifies. “Unalomes, which symbolise the path to enlightenment, Buddhist symbols such as ohms and swastikas, spiritual symbols including chakras, alchemy and finally runes. I tried to provide a variety from different cultures and beliefs. I feel it is important not to commit to a particular religious belief, as the whole purpose is for an individual to make a choice that they attach their own intention to, without an influence from myself.”
If you’re the sort of person who has the desire to ink ancient symbols on your body, you’re likely to believe in strong forces, meaningful collisions and serendipitous events. Meaning, you don’t want just any tattoo artist putting such strong symbols on your body, it needs to be someone who shares the same values as you, someone who gets it. Seeing that me and Emma shared this understanding of symbols, meant I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have her tattoo them on me.
For Emma, symbols are tools. “They channel and focus my attention and energy into things I need or hold a strong connect to. They remind me of my own inner truths. They are a form of language that has been used for generations.”
Indeed, getting a symbol tattooed on your body because you believe in its power is an interesting concept. I’d spent the whole day surrounded by epic artworks, internationally-renowned artists, bleeding limbs, loud music and flashing lights – yet here I was… tucked away in the corner at Emma’s booth, after-hours, quietly looking at tiny and intricate, yet powerful symbols and found myself feeling completely detached from the rest of the convention and its vibe.
And I guess each person getting tattooed around the room felt the same. We each had our own special moment, and all of those moments dotted around like gems in this huge glistening venue. Those award-winning, colourful, detailed tattoos are powerful, of course they are, but so were these little magical ones.
As well as taking away my four element symbols, Emma was giving every single client of the day a special wish box. A small silver carton containing all the things I’d need to take the positive energy of my tattoos away from the day, and release it into the wider world.
“With every ‘blessing’ tattoo came a wish kit.,” says Emma. “The idea is to take some time and think about the things you want in your life and plant your wishes into the ground. This then spiritually connects you to the ground, the earth and the elements.”
I have been to many conventions before and taken away sweets, stickers, business cards, leaflets, posters, keyrings. But I’d never had this before – a unique gift to empower me to make change and attract positivity.
I was taking away a box of instructions that I had to believe in… and my tattoo was the same. All tattoos are our own magic gifts – we believe they have power, so they do.
By taking the silver box away I guess Emma was hoping for us to get something out of our tattoo experience that every single person should. I was leaving with an enhanced belief in the symbols on my hands and so an enhanced belief in my own abilities and power to change my future.
“Tattoos are a useful tool for anyone that is going through a phase of personal transformation or growth. It’s good to take time to evaluate what is important to us and where we would like to direct ourselves,” says Emma.
“If people take just one thing away from getting a tattoo it should be to become aware of the incredible power each person has to make a positive influence in their own lives. As a collective we have the power to build the world we want to see.”
Getting a tattoo is clearly a transformation, it’s a summoning of power, it’s taking away a special experience in which two people share similar or complimentary energies.
I think if we could give each other little gifts like that all the time, the world would be a better place.
Words: Beccy Rimmer