Greetings, 2017! Sharing this tattoo story from Devin seemed appropriate for the start of the new year as we prepare for what is to come, come what may. 

"This is a quote from an Andrea Gibson poem. If you've never heard of her she's one of the most wonderful spoken word poets out there. Many of their poems have moved me during hard times of self-identity and coming to terms with who I am in many ways. Here's an excerpt from the end of 'Dive.'"

life doesn’t rhyme

still life is poetry
not math
all the world’s a stage
but the stage is a meditation mat

you tilt your head back
you breathe
when your heart is broken you plant seeds in the cracks
and you pray for rain
and you teach your sons and daughters
there are sharks in the water
but the only way to survive
is to breathe deep
and dive

Thank you to Devin for sharing his story; to tattoo artist Nina Dinh in Toronto; and to photographer Amber Patrick.




Every tattoo collaboration and subsequent story is special but there are some that are, for me, unforgettable. Natalie's is one. Last summer, en route to Provincetown, I got her email while on a train to Boston. Between jolts on the train tracks I managed to send her photos of the designs from my phone, and the final file when I reached my destination. That was the summer of calligraphy by land and by sea. Natalie just sent along the photos and I couldn't be more pleased with how it turned out. I'm so moved by her story (and her dad's sweet words of wisdom). Perhaps it's because I'm at that age, but the anxiety-inducing conversation around "having it all" seems to be inescapable these days. It's nice to be inspired by people like Natalie who have chosen, instead, to have enough. 

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 the Desiderata. 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!

Thanks to Jed at Holdfast Tattoo in Perth, Western Australia for interpreting the work so well, and to photographer Penny Lane for the stunning photos. And most of all, to Natalie. 


Lauren sent along these snaps of her final tattoo honoring her two children. I think the location of this tattoo -- on an abdomen -- is a first. I love the way it turned out. Here's Lauren's moving story, which may resonate with many women: 

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.

Thank you to Lauren and tattoo artist Todd Wilson (Anderson, SC) and photographer Lisa Warsham. As always, you can find images of my portfolio of tattoos here.


Just about any time someone proposes calligraphy on fabric I'm game. Which means this shoot featuring poetry for Project Wedding was just up my alley. Verses appeared on the ceremony backdrop, napkins and vows. Check out the entire shoot here. Thanks so much, Project Wedding! 

Photo by Erich McVey; Design + Florals by Petalos; Venue: Historic Deepwood Estate; Dress by Lazaro; Chair and Table Setting Rentals by West Coast Event Production; Model: Nicole from Option Model & Media; Creative Direction by Katelin Gallagher


I've been wanting to share photos of this tattoo since Jordan instagrammed them right after he got inked. The wait is over! As I reflect on the dozens of tattoos I've created, what strikes me is that nearly all of my clients are motivated to mark the most optimistic thing we can hope for in life: there was darkness and then came the light. It's an honor to be called into service in my clients' lives when that light appears. Jordan writes: 

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.

Photographs were taken by my wife, Naomi. The tattoo was done by Stuart Archibald at The Family Business in Exmouth Market, London.

Thanks so much Jordan, Naomi and Stuart! 


When I am approached to contribute to editorial shoots it's the team that makes all of the difference. And who could have dreamed up a better one: photographer and frequent collaborator Jose Villa and designers Rosemary Hattenbach and Nicole Sillapere for this shoot at Manka's Inverness Lodge. In keeping with my goal to play around with "calligraphy on anything" this year, I created iron on names for the place settings and this transparent scrim with the most ever so subtle ring of beige poetry. You can make the iron on transfers at home using these and an inkjet printer (a tip: white/light colors like what we did are printed on an industrial printer. Go for darker hues at home).The muted neutrals and bright explosion of magenta is such a killer color combination. You can find many more photos and learn more about the incredible setting over at Pacific Weddings. Thanks to this talented team and the many other contributers for including me.

{Photos courtesy of Jose Villa}


The other day after a visit to the Boboli Gardens, I was wandering around the Palazzo Pitti neighborhood when I happened upon the store &CO. Overflowing with vintage furniture and posters and books, handmade leather goods, ceramics, pillows, and little corners of delight (two above), it was clearly the work of someone with a special, gifted eye. There was beautiful, familiar calligraphy everywhere, on many of the products. It was overwhelming. "Who is responsible for...all of this?!" I asked. And there she was, Betty Soldi: designer, calligrapher and proprietor of &CO with her husband Matteo. And then, inevitably, we started the mile a minute yammering that only comes when you get two calligraphers in a room together. Betty is totally magical, and I can only attribute this, in part, to the fact that she comes from two centuries of Florentine firework makers. (Read all about her amazing life here.)

I am so excited to introduce you to Betty's work. She's penned for the top of the top: Hermès, Mont Blanc, Giorgio Armani. I feel like an overeager teenager, but I can't wait to collaborate with and get to know this kindred spirit. 

COLLABORATION WITH: Jess and Stephanie

Every once in a while a client will commission a tattoo of a word that I've never heard of. I'm embarrassed to say that such was the case with Jess and ubuntu. (Although once I was keyed into the word, it appeared everywhere). I enjoyed falling down the rabbit hole of exploring the word's infinite meanings and watching this TED talk by Chris Abani about the topic. Of the idea he says: "there is no way for us to be human without other people." Jess writes: 

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 with ubuntu is 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.
It is uplifting for me to think about all of the places Jess will go in her life-- places of unimaginable poverty, suffering, and hope -- and she will transport this idea of ubuntu, on her body, to the world that awaits her. It inspires me to do the same.
Many thanks to Jess and Stephanie at Victims of Ink in Port Melbourne. As a reminder, you can see a portfolio of tattoos over here
{Photos by Jess' friend Mitch}


Have you seen Mr. Boddington's new collections? Weddings. Social stationery. Birth certificates. I mean really. It looks like they've added hundreds of items to their inventory, and every one is thoughtfully designed and charming. I want to wallpaper my house in the sailboat pattern above. It was a delight, as always, to contribute some calligraphy to their product shots, as did so many other colleagues. I can't believe how much the company has grown since I first started working with them. Thanks to Jessie and Laura and the rest of the crew for including me + brava!



Becky just sent along these photos and her tattoo story. It was a treat to work with her and meditate on the meaning of this word she chose throughout the process. 

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 is designedbylove. 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 you Amy for being there with me as my plus one to capture such special moment in my life. Thank you Muriel for 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.
Thank you to all, and especially to Becky for sharing these heartfelt words.