The art of tattooing and spirituality have long been intertwined. There are many subsects of tattooing that believe the practice to be more of a spiritual journey than a way to adorn one’s body. Yantra tattooing, a style which hand pokes sacred script on the skin, originated in southwestern China, and is believed to offer protection to the person it is tattooed upon. So it’s somewhat surprising that spirituality and tattoo shops have never crossed paths in the western hemisphere. That is, until Earth Altar Studio was founded.
In the smaller neighborhood of Eagle Rock, California, one of Los Angeles’ many suburbs, lies Earth Altar studio, a tattoo shop founded on the notion that tattoos should carry more than just a symbolic meaning, they should also carry intention and good energy with them. Founded in October of 2016, Earth Altar is the meditative brain child of Justine Serebrin. Serebrin, a fine artist by schooling and tattoo artist by trade, says that the idea came to her in a vision during one of her many meditation sessions. Creating her own inspired take on the requisite consultation, Serebrin instead questions what her clients want out of their tattoo, both physically and spiritually. In lieu of conferring with her clients about the tattoo's overall aesthetic, she opts for a spiritual reading.
Serebrin says that years ago, before opening her own studio, she would offer her clients oracle card readings. "Tattooing is a very intimate process, [that] tends to create an instant bond," Serebrin says. "The oracle cards have been a seamless way to open dialogue and make the experience more authentic and rich.” Using her own hand painted deck of cards, Serebrin creates an open dialogue with her clients. “[The cards] are rooted in the chakra system and [I use] them as a thermometer to gauge where clients are in their life," Serebrin continues. "This helps open a deeper dialogue so [I] can tap in and create something truly original and representative of their true self.”
Next, she directs her client to pick a crystal which she uses to partially tattoo their chosen design. In doing so, it is believed that the healing properties of the crystal will transcend the tattoo and set a general intention. Serebrin says that she helps guide her clients to a crystal that calls to them, or one that promotes healing, activates awakenings, or alleviates pain and stress. Crystal in hand, she sets about poking the initial portion of their design, and later finishes it with a standard tattoo machine.
While Earth Altar isn’t exactly your “standard” tattoo shop, Serebrin’s ideology of tattooing as a spiritual practice isn’t a new concept, as it’s long been celebrated throughout different cultures, and it seems her clients are catching on to the practice. Serebrin says, “I try to make every step of the process special and intentional enveloping the mind, body spirit into one magical tattoo ceremony. The tattoo is a symbol of transformation for me. Once you are tattooed you will never be the same and I strongly believe that the energy around the experience becomes part of you too.”