Introduction to me and my skin marking practice
My journey with tattoos started early with and obsession and fascination with the physical permanent transformation of our bodies by inserting ink as early as I can remember. As a young person I didn't have actors, actresses, athletes or musicians's posters on my bedroom walls, it was tattoo models, tattoo artists, oh and one Bruce Lee poster.
My first tattoo was in the late 90's and I have kept getting tattooed since then. It was in 2006 when I came across a pamphlet on a tattoo studio waiting room table that outlined my ancestral tattooing practices entitled, "Tattooing Face and Body Painting of the Thompson Indians," that I became aware of my ancestors tattooing. A few years later I started my professional tattoo apprenticeship in a small town tattoo shop in central British Columbia, Canada. I currently work in Nova Scotia, Canada.
Tattoo styles I am cofortable and confident in
Nlaka’pamux Blackwork (more about this below)
Nlaka'pamux Blackwork is a manifestation of ancestral knowledge, professional experience, and creative intuition.
Nlaka'pamux Blackwork is my own distinctive style created as a way of sharing my Nlaka’pamux ancestors designs symbols and motifs with my clients from all communities, cultures, ethnicities and walks of life. The designs, patterns and motifs and their interpretations found in this style are distinctive and unique to Nlaka’pamux and Interior Salish peoples. The fact that I am Nlaka’pamux gives me the right and responsibility to share my ancestral visual language with whoever I chose to share it with. It also gives the rights, relationship and responsibility to my clients to wear these marks and to share their stories. During the consultation process information about each individual is offered, including their life's journey, dreams, hopes, aspirations and the reason they wish to receive their marks.
From the things shared with me during this process I design a skin marking that is tailored to the wearers story from my understanding of my ancestral visual language, this is a guided intuitive practice. It is a ceremony that operates on a multitude of levels which changes and develops with the wearers understanding, needs, and development as a human being.
Nlaka'pamux Blackwork uses an ancestral understanding of the power of color to support the wearers life’s journey, and when the design calls for it, red and black may be included.
Non-symbolic blackwork tattooing is a bold and striking style characterized by the use of solid black ink to create a variety of designs, ranging from abstract and geometric patterns to intricate illustrative or tribal motifs. This style emphasizes the contrast between black ink and uninked skin, employing negative space effectively to enhance the design's visual impact. Blackwork can cover large areas of the body with solid black sections, detailed line work, or dot work to create texture and depth. Originally inspired by ancient and indigenous body art, modern blackwork also incorporates contemporary artistic expressions, making it versatile and adaptable to individual preferences. Artists specializing in blackwork must possess a deep understanding of form, composition, and skin as a canvas to create tattoos that are not only visually stunning but also harmonious with the body's contours. Blackwork tattoos appeal to those seeking a powerful, often symbolic statement, with their bold simplicity and timeless aesthetic. In this style I exclusively uses only black to the exclusion of all colors, as a way of telling the story of the individuals life journey represented through intense black patterns that complement and flow with the wearers natural skin tones. It is the flow, non-symbolic black shapes and the relationship between the positive skin tone and negative space of the black that transforms the wearers external and internal relationship with their bodies, and souls.
Blackout tattoos are a dramatic and bold choice within the tattoo community, characterized by large areas of the skin covered entirely in black ink. This style can be used to make a striking visual statement, to cover up existing tattoos, or as a canvas for future white ink designs over the black base. The appeal of blackout tattoos lies in their simplicity and the stark contrast they create against untouched skin, highlighting the body's natural lines or creating new shapes and silhouettes. Despite their apparent simplicity, blackout tattoos require a high level of skill and patience from the artist, as achieving an even, saturated black area over large portions of skin is technically challenging. This style has gained popularity for its modern, edgy look and the unique way it interacts with the body's form, offering a distinct and minimalist aesthetic that stands out in the diverse world of tattoo art. I have used blackout on arms, legs and large sections of the wearers to transform the wearers relationship with their mental, emotional spiritual and physical selves. Many times this is utilized as an alternative to cover-ups or laser tattoo removal. Many times blackout is used in combination with Nlaka'pamux Blackwork and Non-Symbolic Abstract Blackwork.
Blast over tattoos are a creative and innovative approach in the tattoo world, where new designs are tattooed over existing ones without completely covering them up. This technique allows for the original tattoo to still be partially visible beneath the new layer, creating a layered effect that adds depth and complexity to the artwork. Artists often use bold, dark lines and patterns in the blast over to ensure the new design stands out while still allowing elements of the underlying tattoo to peek through. This style is particularly popular among those looking to refresh or reinvent their older tattoos, adding a new narrative or aesthetic dimension without erasing the past. Blast over tattoos require a skilled artist who can balance the visibility of both the old and new tattoos, crafting a cohesive piece that harmoniously blends the two layers. This approach offers a unique way to evolve one's body art, symbolizing growth, change, and the continuous journey of self-expression. Blast overs can allow for the taking on of a Nlaka'pamux Blackwork or Non-symbolic Abstract Blackwork piece without completely covering your old tattoos and allows your tattoos to grow with you.
Black and Grey Tattoos
Black and grey is a tattoo style that utilizes various shades of black ink to create different gradients and contrasts, resulting in a spectrum that ranges from dark black to lighter shades, mimicking a monochromatic photograph. This technique, also known as grayscale tattooing, often incorporates diluted black ink to achieve softer shades and smoother transitions between light and dark areas. Black and grey tattoos are known for their depth, realism, and ability to capture fine details, making them suitable for portrait work, nature scenes, religious themes, and realistic depictions of objects or people. Originating from the Chicano communities of East LA during the 1970s, this style has become popular worldwide, admired for its timeless aesthetic and the skill required to create nuanced, lifelike images solely with shades of black and grey.
Fine line Tattoos
Fine line tattoos are characterized by their delicate and precise lines, often created using a single needle or a very fine group of needles. This style is known for its subtlety, intricacy, and detailed work that focuses on the artistry of thin, crisp lines without the use of shading or color. Fine line tattoos can range from minimalist designs, such as geometric patterns, small symbols, and lettering, to more complex and detailed imagery like portraits and botanical illustrations. Popularized in the late 20th century, this tattoo style appeals to those seeking a more understated or elegant aesthetic. Fine line tattoos require a high level of precision and skill from the tattoo artist, as the focus on thin lines leaves little room for error. The result is a sophisticated, often dainty piece of art that can convey a sense of elegance and simplicity
Ornamental tattoos are renowned for their intricate designs and decorative patterns, drawing inspiration from artistic and cultural traditions such as geometric shapes, mandalas, lace motifs, and filigree work. This style beautifully enhances the body's contours with elaborate or simple embellishments, often resembling detailed craftsmanship found in jewelry and historical artifacts. Whether executed in black and grey or incorporating colors, ornamental tattoos demand high precision and skill from the artist, making them a popular choice for those seeking elegance and personal significance in their body art. The versatility of this style allows for stunning customization, making each piece uniquely reflective of the wearer's taste.
Color and Watercolor Tattoos
Color tattoos are vibrant artworks that utilize a wide range of colors to create striking and dynamic images on the skin. Unlike black and grey tattoos, which rely on shades of black for contrast, color tattoos can encompass the entire spectrum to bring designs to life with depth, realism, or whimsical vibrancy. This style can be applied to a variety of tattoo genres, from traditional and neo-traditional to realism, abstract, and pop culture-inspired designs, allowing for a broad expression of creativity and personal significance. Artists skilled in color tattooing master the art of blending, shading, and color theory to achieve vivid results that can either be bold and bright or soft and subtle. The use of color not only enhances the visual impact of the tattoo but can also add layers of meaning, emotion, or symbolism to the piece. Color tattoos are popular among those wishing to make a bold statement or capture the full vibrancy of their chosen design, making each tattoo a unique and personal piece of art.
Watercolor tattoos stand out for their vibrant, flowing aesthetic that mimics the look of watercolor paintings on the skin. Characterized by a spectrum of colors blending seamlessly, these tattoos often lack the bold outlines traditionally found in other tattoo styles, resulting in a softer, more ethereal appearance. The technique achieves gradients, splashes, and strokes of color that can vary from subtle washes to vivid hues, creating a sense of movement and spontaneity. Watercolor tattoos can depict a wide range of subjects, from abstract designs and landscapes to more recognizable forms like flowers and animals, often overlaid or integrated with more defined structures for contrast. This style requires a skilled artist familiar with the nuances of color blending and shading to ensure longevity and prevent the colors from becoming indistinct over time. Watercolor tattoos appeal to those looking for a unique, artistic expression that captures the fluidity and dynamic qualities of watercolor art on their skin.
Intentional Tattooing for Transformation
In a world that is dominated by technology, hustle, bustle, and busyness this process is one that forces you to slow down and connect or re-connect with your core self. It is a time and space to sit with another human being who has your well being center most during the time we spend together, a place to experience the pain, triumph and power that is held within. To often we try to eliminate discomfort, pain and difficult things from our everyday experiences, this practice is about forcing ourselves to experience those things we have been running from. My work is about unapologetically having a physical human experience in a world dominated by augmented reality, artificial intelligence and algorithms.
Nlaka'pamux is the name my Indigenous community collectively gives to ourselves as Indigenous peoples who call home the territory that spans the Nicola, Thompson, Fraser and Stein Rivers.
Nlaka'pamnux Blackwork is a contemporary ceremony created to assist you in building a better relationship with yourself, it is a journey that supports your sense of belonging deep within the core of your being.
In the broadest sense a ceremony is a process that is created to build a fuller relationship with something. This skin marking ceremony has been created for you to build a better relationship with yourself. It is a form of bodywork that supports your growth as a human being and is only part of your health and healing journey.
Nlaka'pamux Blackwork is open to all, Indigenous and non-Indigenous people willing to take this journey.
My Journey to Nlaka'pamux Blackwork
In 2010 I began my journey into the world of my ancestors tattooing practices, and began searching for all I could find about the reasons we marked our skin, what the designs are, the tools and technology we used and began to dream about what these practices mean for today's world.
My ancestors marked their skin for a multitude of reasons, each one an equally spiritual act intended to guide and influence the wearers life path. The first reason was solely for adornment, beautification and to make oneself more attractive. Secondly we marked our skin to show our love, care and commitment to our life partners, and as a prayer for a lasting union. We also marked our skin connected to our journey's into the spirit world to find our guardians. We marked ourselves to ensure a successful healthy life, as a from of protection, to record an important event, as a sacrifice to show courage and an offering and prayer for a desired successful outcome. We also marked our skin as a preventative measure against weakness and premature old age. Our skin marking practices are connected to dreaming and our guardians. We marked ourselves as a medicinal practice to cure sickness and ward off death. Finally it is recorded that we marked our identities on our skin to show who we are, what we are skilled at and where we get our power from.
After over a decade of observation, research and ancestral guidance I have intentionally transformed my skin marking practice over the past five years so that it aligns with the original principles, intentions, and process of my ancestors.
As an ancestral skin marker and transformative blackworker I offer Nlaka'pamux blackwork as an embodied artistic technology for beautification, guidance, connection, protection, and healing. Nlaka'pamux blackwork is my gift to any and all human beings who need, desire and make the commitment to the work that it takes to enter into communion with this ancient practice.
Nlaka'pamux Blackwork: A Transformational Journey
In 2019 I began the process of developing a contemporary customary practice of skin marking (tattooing) that is rooted in my ancestors visual language, worldview and my understanding and development of ceremonies that celebrate and enhance the lives of all human beings willing to take the ceremonial journey of Nlaka'pamux Blackwork. I am translating Nlaka’pamux visual language into the creation of Nlaka’pamux tattoo bodysuits, full sleeves, back and chest pieces. This is an exploration of how our visual language can be stretched to fit the curvature and movement of the human form. The result is an innovation through the creation of a contemporary interpretation of Nlaka’pamux tattooing that mixes aesthetics from historic Japanese and contemporary tribal and blackwork tattooing genres. The creation of Nlaka’pamux Blackwork as an innovation and evolution of Nlaka’pamux tattooing is an answer to the question; how do I share this ancestral, cultural embodied artistic practice with those who are not Nlaka’pamux?
These tattoos are for Nlaka’pamux and non-Nlaka’pamux, Indigenous and non-Indigenous collaborators. I say collaborators because taking on a big tattoo takes commitment and is a journey we go on together. Your life story, wishes and dreams for the future will be taken into account in the creation of your Nlaka’pamux Blackwork tattoo. Designs and motifs will be used in the transformation of your body into a work of Nlaka’pamux art, as a prayer, a declaration, and an embodiment of our ancestor’s resilience.
The Cost of Your Journey
In ancestral times the receiving of a ceremonial and customary mark required the recipient to go on a journey, to sacrifice in some way and in some cases to pay a significant price to receive their marks. Today you may be required to journey to me to receive your mark, it may require the putting off of spending money and the sacrifice of material possessions or experiences in order to receive your marks. When the time is right and everything aligns we will be able to meet and begin the ceremony that has been set for you.
Who can get this type of tattoo?
· You must be 18 years of age or older
· Open to Non-Indigenous and Indigenous peoples
What is the Process?
Nlaka'pamux Blackwork is a contemporary customary skin marking practice, making it different from other forms of tattooing . In this form of skin marking your tattoo is developed as I review your consultation form and come to understand who you are. This will determine what might be appropriate for you to wear according to my understanding of your life's journey, hopes, and aspirations, so make sure you give me as much information as you deem appropriate and sufficient. Each pattern will be chosen for you based on my guided intuitive creative process, this work requires your trust in the process.
I will carefully read your initial consultation form and if necessary I may request a brief in person or virtual conversation to explore any questions in order to find clarity in terms of the appropriate designs to be included in your tattoo. Once I have a clear vision I will begin to develop your design and once it is created you will have the ability to agree to receive it or not. I generally do not share designs beforehand, if you require to see a design beforehand a full day rate non-refundable deposit will be requested.
This process is part of the contemporary customary skin marking practice that I have come to understand as a spiritual pathway to healing and understanding self. It is an intuitive practice that has developed as I have worked with clients and collaborators, through conversations with elders and knowledge keepers from many communities and ancestral guidance. It has transformed and will continue to transform as I continue along this journey. This process, this ceremony is developed, strengthened and evolves through processes of observation and experience.
Available Nlaka'pamux Blackwork Designs
Available designs can be reserved with a $200 non-refundable deposit, and are open to any person from all communities, cultures, ethnicities and walks of life. Many times the designs contained in available designs end up fitting with the wearers life story. Every transformative blackwork piece whether a custom design or an available design ultimately becomes an expression of your soul.
What will happen on the day of your appointment?
On the day of tattooing you will arrive at our agreed upon time, we will sit down together and have a conversation about what to expect for the day, what my plans are and goals. We will take some time to prepare for the tattooing session which will include a variety of ceremonial elements appropriate for your session. You will receive a thorough informed consent email at least one week before your first session with all instructions for this part of the process.
We will tattoo each day for as long as we are reasonably able. The acquiring of a large tattoo will at times test your pain threshold, I believe this is part of the experience. I will closely and constantly monitor your well being through out the process and make sure you are doing, ok. I feel it will be important to try and push yourself throughout this process, however acknowledge that each of us has a different pain threshold and will honor your willingness and consent to continue through the pain.
The larger design elements and framework will be drawn directly onto your skin using sharpie markers, and tattoo pens, and more intricate designs, patterns and motifs will be applied using stencils. The final design drawn on your body may be slightly modified from the agreed upon initial sketch to allow for optimal fit and flow with your body. Once it is drawn on I will ask you to look at the design in the mirror and ask for your consent to proceed to tattooing.
The process of receiving large tattoos including full sleeves, backpeices, torso suits and bodysuits can be a long, painful process that will require your full participation as artistic collaborator, and client which includes, commitment to appointments, aftercare of your tattoo and patience with the process. Your comfort and personal safety will be considered at every point in the process of receiving your Transformative Blackwork tattoo.
I always do my best to create the mark that you require to assist you in your life's journey, it is important to trust the process and understand that the end result will be beautiful, sometimes the journey there can seem rough and difficult. With this in mind it is important to understand these marks are not just tattoos, their perfection comes from the journey and transformation you go through, not just the end result.