My first hand poke tattoo

In June 2018, my Festival Bride Tribe planned an unreal hen-do at Meadows in the Mountains, Bulgaria. This is when I met Ink & Earth, as one of my bridesmaids spontaneously decided to have a Hand poke tattoo on the back of her arm, hand poke style. Such a delicate and intricate tattoo technique, my bridesmaid, someone who has quite a few tattoos, said she didn’t feel any pain whatsoever and actually “could’ve fallen asleep”! It didn’t bleed or scab over and healed pretty much straight away. It looked amazing! A beautiful portrait of the meadows amongst the mountains in Bulgaria.

I had been looking at getting a tattoo for many years but never came across anything I really liked. I was worried having a tattoo would look heavy on my pale (and interesting, as my mum says) skin. After seeing my bridesmaids tattoo healed, I knew if I was ever going to have a tattoo, it would be hand poke style.

Ink & Earth is originally from Portsmouth, studied Art at Cornwall university and is now travelling the world putting a stamp on people across Southeast Asia. I realised straight away after seeing my bridesmaids beautiful tattoo that I would really love for Ink & Earth to be my first tattooist, the only problem being; Ink & Earth was never in one place for long!

When we made the biggest decision of our lives to go travelling to Asia after our wedding (you can see our wedding here), I saw it as a sign that it was my time to have a hand poke tattoo and I contacted Ink & Earth in the hope that our paths might cross. Lucky for me, our paths would cross in Thailand, (check out where we ventured to after my tattoo here) approximately two months into our trip! Once we confirmed a date I was asked a few questions so my hand poke tattoo could be designed based on what inspires me.

I believed my hand poke tattoo should represent a time in my life, which it certainly has. The most amazing year of my life; marrying my best friend after 12 years, deciding to go travelling and leaving my job of 11 years.

I wanted the design to be inspired by zodiacs and the universe; the sun, moon, stars. Dot work & mandala artwork is something I’ve always admired, as I prefer symbolism to more traditional imagery, animals for example. It had to be timeless rather than follow current tattoo trends.

Ink & Earth designs all artwork by hand, and no tattoo is ever drawn the same, which was important to me. I didn’t really have time to worry or be nervous about having a tattoo for the first time as we were busy country hopping and soaking up different cultures and experiences. Ink & Earth is super laid back and didn’t start designing my hand poke tattoo until the day before the appointment. I received my first draft design which was beautiful but was more floral than I had envisaged. I communicated this back to Ink & Earth and a few hours later I received a second design based on my feedback, a shaded mandala dotwork design… I instantly fell in love and knew it was the one! We agreed to make any tweaks in person, but it was pretty much perfect.

“The mandala is an archetypal image whose occurrence is attested throughout the ages. It signifies the wholeness of the self. This circular image represents the wholeness of the psychic ground or, to put it in mythic terms, the divinity incarnate the humankind.”

I jumped in a Rickshaw after lunch on 27th January 2019. I met Ink & Earth at a Coffee Shop and walked a few minutes to the studio. As I arrived I noticed sage was burning which purifies the energy and air in any room, releasing negative ions, which is linked to putting people into a positive mood. I love the smell. Hanging from the roof were Nepalese prayer flags and tie dye throws over the tattoo bed, with a display of Ink & Earth designs stuck on the wall. Some amazing artwork that had been created and my mandala was soon to be added to a stunning collection.

Ink & Earth had printed out a few different sizes of my mandala tattoo. The largest mandala looked best placed against my upper abdomen. We made minor alterations to the design and I laid down, super excited to have my first ever tattoo, hand poke style.

Ink & Earth only uses vegan products and was using a black vegan Japanese ink for my hand poke tattoo. There was no sign of a tattoo gun, only a series of needles laid out on the table. Using the hand-poke technique to create the dotwork, I could hear my skin pop as the needle pierced the skin, which didn’t swell or bleed throughout the entire session.

After two hours, a friend popped in with vegan cake from the Italian lady at the bakery down the road. Chocolate cake and coconut cake, it couldn’t have come at a better time, some sugary goodness is exactly what my body needed. The coconut one was my favourite!

We didn’t stop talking throughout the session. We chatted about music, home, travelling, festivals, work… and it turned out we are both Virgos! I knew it, I just had an inkling and it kinda opened a can of worms as we then went on to natter about horoscopes, personality traits and analysed ourselves… typical Virgos I guess!

Four solid hours later and Ink & Earth was finishing up. The perfectionist that Ink & Earth is, had me standing up, laying down, moving around the studio in different lights then continued the finishing touches whilst I was standing… what a talent! My tattoo was a little sore towards the end but nothing to shout about.

4 hours later…

As we left the studio, Ink & Earth ordered a Grab (Asian Taxi App) and waited with me until it arrived before whizzing off on a scooter without any shoes on waving goodbye. We had an awesome afternoon together, like we’d known each other years. My tattoo didn’t scab over and after five days I was able to show it off. I absolutely love it, I feel like it’s been a part of my body for years. I’ll definitely be tracking Ink & Earth down again on our travels for another amazing piece of artwork. I guess it’s true what they say… once you have one tattoo, you just keep going back for more!

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