My First Hand Poke Tattoo: Mystical Dotwork by Ink & Earth

My First Hand Poke Tattoo: Mystical Dotwork by Ink & Earth

During a trip to Asia, I was able to meet the tattoo artist Ink and Earth to receive an incredibly special 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 was introduced to the work of Ink and Earth , as one of my bridesmaids spontaneously decided to have a tattoo on the back of her arm done in the hand poke technique. Such a delicate and intricate tattoo style, 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! It was 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 that having a tattoo would look heavy on my pale skin. After seeing my bridesmaids piece healed, I knew if I was ever going to have one, it would be a hand poke tattoo.

Ink & Earth is originally from Portsmouth. They studied art at Cornwall University and are now traveling the world putting a stamp on people across Southeast Asia with their non electric tattooing approach. I realized 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 is never in one place for too long!

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

I believed my piece should represent a special time in my life , and it certainly has. I wanted it to always remind me of the most amazing year I’ve experienced so far: I married my best friend of 12 years and we decided to go traveling, so I would be leaving my job of 11 years.

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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 abstract symbolism to more traditional imagery such as animals. It had to be timeless rather than follow current tattoo trends. The mandala, for example, is immortal. “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.” Not only does the work they create engage and empower through symbolism, but they design all artwork by hand, and no tattoo is ever drawn the same, which is 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 started designing the tattoo 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.

I jumped in a rickshaw after lunch on January, 27th 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. Purifying the energy and air in any room, I love the smell. There were also Nepalese prayer flags hanging from the roof and tie dye throws over the bed with a display of their artwork decorating the wall. There were some amazing pieces 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 receive my first ever tattoo.

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 machine, only a series of needles laid out on the table. Using the hand-poke technique to create the dotwork tattoo, 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, we took a break, and 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!

We didn’t stop talking throughout the session. We chatted about music, home, traveling, 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 chat about horoscopes, personality traits and analyzed ourselves… typical Virgos, I guess!

Four hours later and Ink & Earth was finishing up. Perfectionist that they are, I was standing up, lying down, moving around the studio in different lights to make sure my piece was perfect, they then continued the finishing touches whilst I was standing…what a talent! My skin was a little sore towards the end but nothing to lament.

As we left the studio, Ink & Earth ordered me a car with Grab, an Asian Taxi App, and waited with me until it arrived. Afterwards they whizzed off on a scooter without any shoes on waving goodbye! We had an awesome afternoon together, like we’d known each other for 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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