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Emily watching as Tuigmala Andy customises her sleeve.
Tuigamala Andy drawing up Emily's tattoo.

The beauty of this tattoo studio is you never know who is going to walk through the door. The conversation you could have with complete strangers and the worlds that are stuck in your mind long after they’ve gone as if they were super glued to your frontal lobe.

It was like any other day. Andy, doing what he does best, was drawing up a beautiful (hugely understated) shoulder piece. The design was made up of a range of motifs that then flowed down toward the client's elbow intertwined around two peonies. Close up the piece resembled the woven metaphorical fala mats with its intricate details but from afar it was breathtaking artwork.

Curious as always, wanting to understand the reason behind the piece, I then found out the client’s name was Emily, or Emz for short. In her own words, she described the piece in relationship to life. “Sometimes life can be hard, so much can happen, man. But when you take a step back and really look at it, life is beautiful. It’s remembering that it’s just a bad day, not a bad life.” Such a simple way to put it that showed so much depth behind it. Truly words to live life by.

Mixed Samona, Maori, Mehindi sleeve on Emily.
Sneak peek and progress of Emily's Tattoo

As the day progressed and as Emily's’ arm grew in detail so did the depth of the conversations we carried. From diving head first into her beautiful perspective of life, she then continued into another series of valleys of anecdotes. I wouldn’t necessarily call it an interview because only one major question was posed that then let loose into an open discussion of sorts to pass the time. The question? “What would you tell your younger 21-year-old self from what you know now?” A very brief question that seemed to take her aback for a moment. “Honestly, I would just tell her to trust herself, man... there is a specific type of wisdom that you can only gain through age and actually experiencing life. I am so much happier as a 32-year-old now than I ever was as at 21 because I just don’t give a sh*t about what people think. Even in the last four years since I last saw Andy (Tuigamala) so much has happened. I’ve learned so much.”

She lay there for a brief minute before leaving me with a golden nugget filled with heartwarming advice “Enjoy your 20s because before you know it’s over, it goes by so fast. Experience as much as can and just trust yourself.” In truth, life is constantly happening and at times it can all become overwhelming. But when you choose to take a step back and evaluate everything you’ve managed to achieve thus far it is truly a masterpiece of artistry once you learn to trust yourself.



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