Ko Whakamārama tōku Waka
Ko Tararua tōku Maunga
Ko Manawatu tōku Awa
Ko Rangitane tōku Iwi
Ko Ngati Rangitēpaia tōku Hapu
Ko Te Rangimārie tōku Marae
Ko Shane Coley tōku ingoa
Ko Rangiotu ko Te Papaioea ahau
Kei Tai Koura tōku kāinga
Born in Palmerston North, Manawatu, Aotearoa/New Zealand. Tattooing since 1987. I opened my first shop in Wellington on Cuba Street. In the early days I was educated and received knowledge from two Master Carvers and Ta Moko artists, Tom Bishop and Rawiri. I have also had the pleasure and inspiring experiences of working with Ta Moko artists Inia Taylor III (Moko Ink), Tommy Downs, Mike E, Gordon Toi and the House of Natives. Internationally I have worked alongside some of the worlds most talented tattoo artists at ‘Into You’ (London), ‘Tokyo Hardcore’ (Japan) and ‘Saved Tattoo’ (Brooklyn, NYC).
I feel a deep spiritual connection with what I do, Maori tattoo/Ta moko. I started to become aware of its spiritual presence and importance many years ago. That what I was doing had a significant effect and purpose with the people I was working on. I started noticing in some cases that once I had completed a piece on my clients, they would have an uncontrollable outpouring of emotion, an opening up, an emotional release, crying, laughing, a letting go. Releasing a deep emotional sound. To the individual, some would find this embarrassing, and not understanding what was happening would apologise. I would reassure them, to let it come, or let it go.
What I could hear, see, feel happening was an opening up, a healing, and I knew there was a reconnection happening, a feeling of them connecting to the Mauri- the force, the energy, the life, the source of emotions.
I felt there was something bigger going on here. Occasionally I would hear back from my clients. They would explain about how a change had occurred, a shift in their lives, whether it be a healing of some kind, emotional. A letting go of unwanted or unneeded emotional baggage. Also a feeling of connection, and calm. A move forward.
Over the years I paid more attention to what was going on. Letting go of myself and opening up to the energy. Previously I would draw the design up for the person beforehand, but this didn’t always feel right. I began to realize I needed them there present. That the energy flowed better that way. I learnt that once I stood next to them, and let go and opened up, that the flow of energy coming up from them into the universe and down to me, and through me, was where the design they needed was coming from. I began to listen, and let it happen.
This process was letting me know what ‘Their’ design is through them, and the universe. Almost like I am downloading the design already created for them. It wasn’t coming from me anymore, this persons design is already created. I am just delivering it, or bringing it to the surface. It is their story, their life, their energy. Therefore the design already exists.
Sometimes in the days or nights before certain clients, I will have dreams giving me what images or symbols need to be included in their design. Or an image or idea will spontaneously appear in my head during the day letting me know that this needs to be included. Afterwards when I am explaining the design to them, the receiver will let me know that those specific things have important relevance to them, whether ancestral, emotional, or a life event.
I would like to share a memorable event that happened while tattooing a friend/client a couple of years back.
The night before the tattoo I had some images appear in my head. I knew these needed to be included in this persons design. Along with his family members and story, an albatross (Toroa) needed to be included. After I had drawn the design on, I was explaining to him the story, the korero, of his design and which sections represented who and what. When I pointed out the representation of the albatross he stopped me with amazement and began to tell me a story of something that had happened a few days earlier.
He was driving with his son in the car and a giant albatross landed in front of them and just stood there. They got out of the car to have a closer look and to show his son the albatross. A meeting with the albatross. And for a while they all just stood there looking at one another. He explained it was a very eerie experience. A contact. A guardian. An ancestor. Whatever had happened felt very significant.
We then proceeded to start the tattoo. As I had travelled to Wellington to do this tattoo, we were at his home. Set up in the lounge in front of some bay windows. It was a cloudy overcast Wellington day outside, and had been all day. As I got to the point of tattooing the section representing his son ‘Ra’, the clouds parted and the sun shone through with overwhelming energy and brilliance. It shone upon us for the entire time I tattooed his son onto him, warming us and bathing us in pure light. As soon as I had finished that section the clouds closed over the sun again. Ra is also the maori name for the sun.
As we progressed through the tattoo there came a moment when there was a noise behind us and something dropped. We were the only ones in the house. I continued to tattoo. I felt a presence behind me approach and felt someone standing behind me, looking over my shoulder. Whenever I would glimpse back I would almost see somebody but no-one was there. All I could hear in my head was... ‘It’s his uncle, it’s his uncle, everything is good’.
I didn’t mention anything and we completed the tattoo.
That night I couldn’t sleep, and kept thinking about what had happened. I felt he had to know. We arranged to meet for coffee the next morning.
We began talking about the tattoo and I asked him if there was anyone he was particularly close to while growing up. He looked at me and said, “Yes, my uncle.” Simultaneously we both spoke saying, “But he has past away now.” He sat there looking at me stunned and I said, “Yesterday when we were tattooing, that noise we heard, that was your uncle. He stood behind me watching over us. He was giving us his approval.” Emotion welled up in him and he expressed his appreciation and thanks, and was so happy hear this. It meant so much to him to know this.
This story is one of the many things that have occurred during my life of tattooing. I hold those moments very respectfully.
When I think about it, everything has an energy or a vibration. Everything vibrates at a certain frequency. Trees, plants, people. Even images and words evoke a certain vibration. This is why symbols have been so important over the eons, because they vibrate a certain energy triggering a certain cause or effect, an effect in reality. Applying these images and symbols, these lines, I believe invokes a certain vibrational change or balance. Channelling it from the universe or bringing it to the surface, either way, I believe tattooing has a profound effect on the wearer. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Lets bring to tattooing a knowledge and an understanding the ancients believed and worked with. It is time to bring back the Old Ways, from a time that has been forgotten in most areas of the World and a practice that had Spiritual Connection, Ceremony, Healing and a way of Balancing the Energies that make us what and who we are on this journey we take in this lifetime. Many Tattooers around the world are now beginning to embrace the ways of the ancients and incorporating a Spiritual aspect in their work. This is uplifting and a blessing to know this is happening. In a world of superficial consumerism and distractions keeping us from truly connecting with ourselves and our relationship, or “Creationship", with the People and World around us, it is time to help balance these energies that connect us to Spirit, Heart, Mother Earth and the Universe.
I believe the Ancients understood that tattooing served a much deeper purpose than just applying an image to the skin. We understand that Lines and Shape create Energy, Everything is Energy, which is Consciousness. Creating a Shape is creating Energy which is creating a Consciousness in the Design. When two Energy Systems are in Resonance they exchange Energy and Information.This is where a very important aspect lays with You and your Tattoo.
The importance of Placement, Intention, Ceremony and Blessings are key here also. There is a reason these important aspects were infused into the practice of Tattooing and are just as important now. Apart from some Indigenous cultures around the world who have held on to some of these understandings, the practice of Tattooing in this way has practically been lost and access to this way of tattooing for most people is few and far between. I believe humanity and Mother Earth are going through an important shift in these days and many are seeking this kind of Ancient understanding not just in their lives but also in the way they receive their Tattoo.
I also recognise my Celtic and Viking heritage and acknowledge connection to my ancestors and guardians. Bringing the ancient ways and knowledge of healing, protection, ceremony and ritual into this approach to tattooing is incredibly beneficial.
This practice of Spiritual Tattooing is open to anyone and any style, it is not cultural or religion specific and can be applied and experienced by any one and any style. Although a lot of my work you see is Maori or Polynesian based, this is because of where I am from and a knowledge, understanding and experience I share in these styles. The process, ceremony and intention surrounding receiving your tattoo is provided for any one who believes that receiving their tattoo is an important spiritual, healing and meaningful experience and can be done in any style that resonates with them. Discussion can be had around the reasons and intentions of getting the tattoo and can be facilitated and infused into the development, process and energy of the design and the ceremony during the receiving of the tattoo.
The amazing way this form of tattoo experience can transform ones life is truly incredible and I have full belief and confidence that everyone benefits from receiving their tattoo in this way. Aside from the benefits and the peaceful, relaxed and meditative experience of receiving your tattoo this way I also can combine Energy Healing into the session. My Energy Healing modality and can be infused into your tattoo session to provide another level of healing and energy balancing.
Ancestor Tattoo is a combination I have put together involving energy healing. This type of healing works on all levels, physically, emotionally, mentally, genetically and spiritually. It works by removing blockages in your energy signature that can cause all sorts of imbalances on these levels. It works well for assisting one to move through any blockages that are causing one to be stuck in their life and feeling like they can't move forward. I started combining Energy Healing with tattooing because through my tattooing career I noticed my clients were experiencing healing in certain aspects of their lives. I discovered I had a natural healing ability and this was why I was working close to people. I combined it also because I understand lines and tattoos provide us with a form of healing through their vibrational properties. This modality is a wonderful way to connect to your tattoo on a spiritual level. Whilst the process for everyone may vary a little, the end result is a shifting of blocks in ones energy allowing healing, growth, and awakening parts of yourself, enabling you to move into a greater version of you.