Natalie | Go Easy on the Soul

Photography:Penny Lane
Tattoo:Jed,Holdfast Tattoo (Perth, Western Australia)
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"In June of last year I made the decision to close my business of 7 years to be a full-time Mum. It was an absolutely gut-wrenching decision but after juggling both for almost two years and feeling constantly torn, something had to give.

My bricks-and-mortar baby would forever run a distant second to my flesh-and-blood baby, so I chose to let go of the business and take my life in the direction of calm simplicity. A huge change for me, and a time that I felt needed a permanent marker.

The words are my Dad's paraphrased version of theDesiderata. He says them quietly in my ear with every big, reassuring Dad hug that he gives. He is my ever-supportive voice of reason, always sharing his pearls of wisdom.

I was on a wait-list for my tattoo artist and got a call sooner than I'd expected. As I sat down to email the studio, it happened that all the type-tatt images I was about to send as examples had been penned by Neither Snow. Despite my appointment being in three days time, I figured I'd email Mara instead! 

From her train seat on her way to Boston she emailed and, working with the 15-hour time difference, was able to get my words ready for inking.

Mara did the most perfect job for this perfectionist. I wear my words proudly, their placement reminding me to 'go easy' twice a day - just after breakfast and just before bed as I brush my teeth!"

Deb | Be Bold

Photography:Mike Davis
Tattoo: James, Halo Tattoo(Syracuse, NY)
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"Early 2010, my husband and I found ourselves both self-employed. It was scary. It was stressful. We made the most of it by sacrificing a lot of our favorite things and the luxuries we had once believed to be necessary. It was a humbling experience.

The year I was to turn 40, I decided I wanted to do more. I had no idea what "more" meant but as if the universe was listening, I was offered the opportunity to teach design as an Assistant Professor in the Multimedia Photography & Design department at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Teaching. Seriously, never in a million years did I ever imagine.

"Be Bold" is a phrase I share with my students, my clients and during speaking engagements for independent creatives (mainly photographers). I encourage people to be bold, be awesome and be you. It's about allowing yourself to dream, overcome fears and give yourself permission to define what success means to you. My tattoo is a reminder for me to do the same."

Becky | Love

Photography: Amy,A&M Photography
Tattoo:Muriel Zao(Phoenix, AZ)
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"There has been a lot of loss in my life the past couple of years. The loss of my last grandparent; of a future with a man I was soon to call my husband; a business and livelihood I poured my heart and soul into; people whom I considered friends; my home; and the most impactful loss on my life, my best fur friend and my first foster pup, Delilah.

Delilah showed me that love isn't measured by the past, but by living in the present. She loved without prejudice. She loved without remembrance or distrust She loved with everything she had.

Looking back on the last few years the one clear thread that has bound my life together and stitched me into who I am at this very moment, was that of love. It is so easy to water down that word and the very strong meaning it holds.

I had desired to get a tattoo for quite some time. To me, love, was the perfect word. A reminder on how to live my life. On how to treat others. The word itself, being so simple yet so complex, encompasses who I am as a woman and my desire to live intentionally.

My business name isdesignedbylove. God designed me and gave me the gifts I have. God is love. 1 Corinthians 13 defines love as God intends. "Patient, kind, never boastful. Not easy to anger. Keeping no record of wrongs. Delighting in the truth. Always protects, trusts, hopes and always perseveres. Love NEVER fails."

Thank you Mara for taking this {very} dear and special word that I hold close to my heart and making it become a true piece of art that I get to wear for the rest of my life. Thank youAmyfor being there with me as my plus one to capture such special moment in my life. Thank youMurielfor taking me on as a client and making my art come to life. There was special care and much thought put into who would be the one to make this mark on me."

Jordan | Diriget Deus

Photography: Naomi
Tattoo:Stuart Archibold,The Family Business Tattoo(London)
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"The past year has marked a lot of positive changes in my life. This time last year I was in a job which was making me really unhappy and so I decided to take the plunge and have a complete change of career. Almost 12 months on and am a full time journalist and photographer and loving every moment! I also married the love of my life this summer and wanted something to mark this positive part of my life.

Diriget deus translates from Latin into 'God will direct' and is a nod back to my family's roots in Scotland when this was the clan motto on the Butters coat of arms."

Stephanie | La Vie en Rose

Photography:Denny Kim
Tattoo:Kim Durham
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"Four years ago, at the age of 21, I found out I had Extraskeletal Ewing’s Sarcoma, an extremely rare form of cancer which happened to be attached to a spinal nerve. I had just completed a difficult semester of pharmacy school, and a tumor removal surgery revealed cancerous tissue. The next year and a half would be filled with chemotherapy and radiation. To put things into perspective, every other treatment consisted of six days in a hospital with a continuous infusion of chemotherapy flowing into my body.

I have numerous scars on my body: nape of my neck (from the tumor removal), left upper chest area (port site to administer chemotherapy) and under my left arm (previous collapsed lung). I’ve had an incredible history of medical issues, including an additional spontaneous pneumothorax with pleural effusion, basically fluid in my lung cavity. Yet, after all of it, I tend to feel like it was fortunate these things happened to me because someone else may not be able to endure the pain.

I believe in la vie en rose, the French equivalent of “looking at life through rose-colored glasses.” There’s always a good side to events in one’s life, whether it be for your own good or someone else’s. The events that have happened in my life may not be ideal, but I know I am unique and stronger because of them. This tattoo means just that for me. I wanted to remind myself to maintain my innate positive outlook, and I wanted to put my own mark on my body. I also secretly insist I was meant to be Parisian, but that’s another story. La vie en rose reminds me that these marks are beautiful, they are unique. Some people wish they had interesting scars and marks on their body.. And, at the age of 26, I do - some by chance and one by choice."

Chon | Life is in the Details

Art Direction and photography:Design with Chon
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Jessica | So Let Us Sleep Outside Tonight

Photography:Mo Hines Photography
Tattoo: Robert Egbert,Slave to the Needle Tattoo(Seattle, WA)
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"Ten summers ago, mynow husband Derek and I took our first trip together to see the Dave Matthews Band play at the Gorge. "Heaven's ampitheatre," I like to call it, with immense views of plateaus and sky andColumbia River. It became a tradition for us, three days of music bliss every Labor Day weekend. Wenow haveour son Lennox in tow, who's 2, and I like to say he's beenmaking the tripeven before he was born (in my belly the first time around). He was born into this world with Dave Matthews Bandushering him in like a theme song or dramatic score to the story of our life. And I'm pretty sure he was conceived to it;)It's in his blood.

'One Sweet World'is a song that I came across only in the last few years, discovered at one of these shows.The violin intro to this song is so powerful. It catches my attention and draws me ineven on the darkest of days.This tattoo evolved over the course of manyyears and shows, and over the years I've evolved into this tattoo.

As I became a mom and motherhood became me, a line from this song began to resonatewith me on many levels. "So let us sleep outside tonight, lay down in our mother's arms, for here we can rest safely." It connects so many images and ideas of who I am in just a few words. I imagine laying in my mother's arms, as a child, outside in our backyardin theOregon countryside.Looking up at the stars on a summer night, and being completely at peace. It's dreamlike. I imagine me holding my newborn son, barely the length of my forearm, and cradling him so closely all those first months, each time he nursed or needed to be close to me.I'm now working as a Nurse in Labor and Delivery, and bear witness to women becoming mothers before my eyes, and have the rare opportunity to be a part of that incredible experience every day. There is no stronger bond than a mother to her child, and no safer place to be than in that Mama Bear's arms.I imagine alsoone of the more literal meanings of the song, which I think is really about this planet we live upon, holding us close, keeping us grounded, with our feet solidly planted in the soil. She keeps us safe and holds us close, and feeds our soul with sunshine and dirt and water.Each day a mother holds her child, her little piece of the earth. From dust to dust.The experience of motherhood is now imprinted on my arms, where I will continue to hold my babies and the babies of other mothers.

Thank you Mara for translating these ideas to art. It is more beautiful than I could have ever dreamed."

Project Wedding Poetry Shoot

​Photography: Eric McVey
Creative direction: Katelin Gallagher
Featured on: Project Wedding
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Catherine | Fideli Certa Merces

Photography: Andrew Thuss and Magwan Gyles
Tattoo: Tyson Ward,Passage Tattoo(Toronto)
Read more: Part I, Part II & Part III

"All healed up, and home from a week down in New England - a memorial for my grandmother at the Bridgewater Town House in New Hampshire (a wild looking building) and the internment of her ashes on the land she saved for our family - on top of a mountain - land that's been passed down for at least five or six generations. That's where I'm standing in these photos. It felt appropriate.

We gathered at our family cabin there en masse for a time and celebrated her in a lot of little ways - the women sitting in a circle and dividing her piles of costume jewelery and scarves and dresses among us, and tracing the family lineage as far as we could.My family loved the piece and continue to get compliments on it wherever I go - and tell the story of the whole thing proudly. I get comments in the weirdest of situations - most oddly from a security guard at a casino while I threw down roulette chips.

Most importantly - I love it, and it feels almost as if it's always been a part of me.

I've set up an annual donation to the Canadian Opera Company in her memory. Her nephews opened the memorial service with a duet on trumpet and stand-up bass - a sweetly arranged aria she particularly loved.

Thank you again for contributing such a big part to the end of this story.



Jose Villa | Mexico Workshop 2011

​Photography: Jose Villa
Design: Pitbulls & Posies
Creative direction: Jill LaFleur
Featured on: Oh So Beautiful Paper
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Mr. Boddington's Lookbook

Photography, paper & design:Mr. Boddington's
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One of my favorite collaborators is Mr. Boddington's. I'm honored to contribute to their seasonal lookbook.​

French's Point Shoot

​Photography:Corbin Gurkin Photography
Styling: Maine Seasons Events+Flora Fauna
Paper:Gus & Ruby Letterpress
Featured on: Style Me Pretty
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Jennifer & Jeremy

​Photography, design & printing: Parrott Design Studio
Creative direction:AaB Creates

Hannah & Young

​Photography: Neither Snow
Design: Curious & Company
Printing: Cleanwash Letterpress
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Satsuma Press | Birds of a Feather

​Photography, design & printing: Satsuma Press
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Lisa | Levi & Zoe

Photography:Lisa Warsham
Tattoo:Todd Wilson(Anderson, SC)
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"It's always been my dream to be a mother. I married the most wonderful man and we decided to start a family, only to find out that it wasn't going to be easy. The doctors told my husband and me that we would never be able to have children on our own. Our only option was IVF. We continued to pray for a child, but after so many let downs, we decided to make an appointment to start IVF. 
That morning, I woke up and decided to take one more test (just to make sure)... and it was positive. I was pregnant with our son, and we named him Levi, which means "joined together with God." 
When Levi was 5 months old, I was putting him to sleep for the night and praying over him, when I heard the Lord tell me, "Her name is Zoe." I had no idea what or who he was talking about, but I remembered thinking, "okay... well... good for her." Two months later I felt a little sick so I decided to take another pregnancy test... and it was positive. Again. Once we found out she was a girl, I told my husband about that night in Levi's room. His first question was, "What does Zoe mean?" So we looked it up. 
Zoe is Greek for "abundant life." It appears in John 10:10 - "The thief comes comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." The Lord is good. He wants us to have life with Levi, and abundant life with Zoe. 
I wanted this tattoo because it's my story, my heart.

I decided to place it on my ribs to symbolize how woman was made out of the rib of man, and I wanted to the tattoo to end with a needle piercing the mother's womb (so my tattoo artist added that for me) to symbolize Psalm 139:13-14 "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." 
That's my story. I adore my tattoo. Thank you with everything I am for capturing exactly what I wanted."

Once Wed Workshop

​Photography: Jemma Keech
Styling:Joy Thigpen
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Jenny & Andrew

​Photography: Tec Petaja
Styling & design: Jolene Sullivan
Featured on: Design*Sponge & Once Wed
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Kate & Glen

​Photography: Ryan Wilcox, You Look Nice Today
Printing & design: Kate
Drawing & illustration: Don Briggs
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Hal & Mira

​Photography: Love Me Do
Creative direction: Styled Creative
Featured on: Style Me Pretty
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Karl | Ginabella

Photography: Gina Benedetto
Tattoo: Gemma Pariente,Full Circle Tattoo (San Diego, CA)

"In celebration of our 10th anniversary, my husband Karl decided to get a tattoo to commemorate the occasion. He decided on his beloved name for me, gina bella. Even though our love began 10 years ago, it has never been stronger. We absolutely love spending every moment together, which is good since we also work together! Our life is a wonderful adventure, and we look forward to celebrating many more anniversaries together - maybe we'll mark each decade with another tattoo!"

Natasha Nicholson Photography Promo

​Photography, design & styling: Natasha Nicholson
Featured on: No Plastic Sleeves
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Rebecca | Be Still

Photography: Bruce,Love Made Visible
Tattoo: Manuela Gray,Wildfire Tattoos
(Cape Town, South Africa)
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"Psalm 46:10 : "Be still and know that I am God" & Exodus 14:14: "The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still"

These two small words are a reminder of God's faithfulness, provision and love in my life, a reassurance that I never have to worry and that I can trust Him with everything."

Jenet & Chris

​Photography: Jose Villa
Design & printing: PS Paper
Creative direction: Laurie Arons Special Events
Featured on: Once Wed
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Jessica | J'Adore

Photography: Jessica
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Katie & Josh

​Photography: A. Bryan Johnson
Printing & design: Simplesong Design
Creative direction: Ritzybee Events
Featured on: Southern Weddings
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Theresa & Elias: I am a Seabird

Photography:Theresa & Elias
Tattoo:Ashley Wollaston,Supergenius(Seattle)
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M. | Belaynesh

Brie & David

​Photography: Jose Villa
Featured on: Style Me Pretty
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Andrea | Spark

Photography: Andrea H.
Tattoo: Darek Darecki,GIAHI(Zurich)
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"There's a spark in you, you just got to ignite the light, and let it shine."

Cantadora Communications Branding

​Art direction, design & photography: Kymera Studio
Client: Cantadora Communications
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Rachel & Michael

​Photography & printing: Cleanwash Letterpress
Design: Rachel

Decal Baubles

​Photography: Jose Villa
Featured on: Green Wedding Shoes

Sarah & Michael

​Photography: Jose Villa
Printing & design: Copper Willow Press

Black Tabletop

Photography: Jose Villa

Daniel & Barbara

​Photography: Barbara Mouradian
Design: Dan Mouradian
Featured on: Oh So Beautiful Paper
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Mikkel | Explore

Heidi & Timothy

​Photography: Daniel Arnold
Featured on: Oh So Beautiful Paper
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Melanie & Michael

​Photography: David Murray Weddings
Design & printing: Paper Daisies
Featured on:Style Me Pretty
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Jess & Sam | I Love Him + I Love Her

Photography:Samuel Gatlyn
Tattoo:Ace Custom Tattoos(Charlotte, NC)
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​"My heart is so happy when I look down at my arm. I get little flutters of romantic artsy-ness.We did this because we're crazy and in love. It's one of my favorite things that we've ever done together and will always be a sweet memory of our friendship and the heart romance I share with this guy named Samuel. ;)"

Letters of Love

Sabine | Live Breathe No Fear

Tattoo:Wild at Heart(Munich)
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"A fewyears ago my first panic-attack struck me and to make a long story short: I ended up in a psychosomatic clinic to learn how to deal with the panic and how to trust again in my body, in my heart. Learning, that it's not necessary to maniacally observe the own heartbeat. And now, some years later, I can finally deal with that. This year was quite a good year, with loads of challenges and great adventures. I travelled to Latin America and Africa (and to those that know me in person: two years ago that would have been an impossible idea even to think about!!), my job is challenging but good, I feel healthy and strong, I love my life, my husband, my friends and family. It's not that the panic is gone forever, but I am stronger than the panic. and that's why I wanted to get inked again, with a kind of mantra:live&breathe. no fear.That should accompany me, visible for me, on my belly.

And then I somehow (via) stumbled upon Mara's blog and the first thing I saw wasthis lovely and adorable picture. And after that it was clear to me that I want "my" mantra in calligraphy, done by Mara. For me, the first (and also the second and third) sight was breathtaking! I loved to see the words written so beautifully! it took us some drafts and actually I changed some words (the first version has bee too long: live - love - think - breathe. no fear) - butI immediately fell in love with this piece of art!

But still: which tattoo artist? And Bastian,my husband, was not so keen on my idea. At the end, I letfortune decide. In OctoberI had some days off, was cruising in my quarter in Munich and passedWild at Heart. I showed Anna, the tattoo artist, the draft and asked if she can make it. And she could. Immediately afterwards, I was sure, that I would regret it ("I am 41, a grown-up, why do I need a tattoo?!"; "Oh my god, I got inked on my chubby belly... How will the tattoo look, after having lost weight?" [not so very likely...] etc.). But 2 days later, after the healing began and I could see the beauty, I loved it and I still do! In contrast to my tattoo on my shoulder, I can see this one every day and it reminds me of - and I know that sounds over dramatic - living and breathing! And of the most important: no fear! Thank you so much, Mara!"

Courtney | Hati

​Photography: Amber Moon &
Frances Iacuzzi
Tattoo: Iantz Houston (Los Angeles)

"I am a photographer and two years ago I traveled to Bali. It was a truly life changing trip and something our guide said to us really stuck to my bones. You may know this, but the word "hati" means "feel it" and instead of using the word caution over there, they say, "Hati, hati!" In other words, "Feel it, feel it." Instead of cautioning people to turn around and avoid the danger that lay ahead they say, "Go up to it, feel it, feel it to get to the other side." Last year I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis and have had several trips to the hospital. I really learned the meaning of this and had to truly feel the pain in order to get to the other side. I love having a constant reminder on the insides of my wrists to always feel it, to feel the fear and do it anyway."

Jess | Ubuntu

Photography: Jess' friend Mitch
Tattoo: Stephanie,Victims of Ink(Port Melbourne, Australia)
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"Being in my last semester at university studying Peace and Development, friends and family often ask me how I think I will cope everyday facing the realities of poverty or living in a the middle of a civil war and WHY I want to do it? They are always questions that I don't really know how to express an answer for. So in a way, I guess ubuntu is my 'why'...

Ubuntu is the essence of being human. It speaks of the fact that my humanity is caught up and is inextricably bound up in yours. You can't exist as a human being in isolation. I am human because I belong. It speaks about wholeness, about compassion. A person withubuntuis welcoming, hospitable, warm and generous. Such people are open and available to others, willing to be vulnerable, affirming of others, do not feel threatened that others are able and good, for they have a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that they belong in a greater whole. They know that they are diminished when others are humiliated, diminished when others are oppressed, diminished when others are treated as if they were less than who they are."

prev / next Back to Portfolio 5 Natalie | Go Easy on the Soul 3 Deb | Be Bold 2 Becky | Love 4 Jordan | Diriget Deus 2 Stephanie | La Vie en Rose 2 Chon | Life is in the Details 4 Jessica | So Let Us Sleep Outside Tonight 5 Project Wedding Poetry Shoot 3 Catherine | Fideli Certa Merces 3 Jose Villa | Mexico Workshop 2011 21 Mr. Boddington's Lookbook 6 French's Point Shoot 5 Jennifer & Jeremy 3 Hannah & Young 2 Satsuma Press | Birds of a Feather 3 Lisa | Levi & Zoe 7 Once Wed Workshop 3 Jenny & Andrew 2 Kate & Glen 9 Hal & Mira 3 Karl | Ginabella 3 Natasha Nicholson Photography Promo 3 Rebecca | Be Still 6 Jenet & Chris 2 Jessica | J'Adore 7 Katie & Josh 4 Theresa & Elias: I am a Seabird 4 M. | Belaynesh 4 Brie & David 2 Andrea | Spark 8 Cantadora Communications Branding 5 Rachel & Michael 4 Decal Baubles 4 Sarah & Michael 6 Black Tabletop 4 Daniel & Barbara 5 Mikkel | Explore 2 Heidi & Timothy 6 Melanie & Michael 2 Jess & Sam | I Love Him + I Love Her 2 Sabine | Live Breathe No Fear 5 Courtney | Hati 3 Jess | Ubuntu