Tiffany is a writer interested in sharing stories concerning the human experience, artistic dedication and social / environmental justice. As a young girl growing up on the coast of North Carolina...
Sacred Lotus Tattoo—the name alone invokes a certain feeling.
The Leicester Highway shopping center this unsuspecting tattoo shop is nestled within certainly doesn’t beckon you at first glance. The natural décor with touches of bamboo and geishas adorning the wall, the gentle drumming and instrumental music gently filling the air and of course the artist and creator of the space soft-spoken and gracious, altogether create an atmosphere and culture that isn’t one you would call traditional in the world of tattoo. The walls aren’t filled with pages of skulls and dagger flash or half-naked mermaids and biker babes. The website doesn’t boast flames and circus cats but an all-seeing eye transfixed in the center of an ornate lotus flower. It gives you the feeling of respect, references middle-eastern and primitive culture, and the work shows strong ties to nature, animals and spirit.
The shop is the now one-year-old baby of Kimi Leger, 32 and a Rhode Island native. A painter by trade, she was sketching in a café one afternoon when Brandon Neureuther, owner of Aacross the Skin Tattoo off Patton Avenue, asked if he could take a closer look at her work. He then offered her a formal apprenticeship with him, which she graciously accepted. “I was so excited to learn and absorb everything from him. He was very thorough on the medical side of things. And we just dove right in, soldering needles for the shop, and for me, really learning how to draw in this style,” Leger said of learning under Neureuther.
This isn’t the first embodiment of a shop or studio for Leger in Asheville either. A tattoo artist since 2004, she shared space with friends in a small café and community art space many may remember, dubbed ‘Hyphen Coffeehouse’. The eclectic space was a culmination of art forms — a coffee roaster, yoga studio, tattoo studio and art gallery and graced Asheville for around a year off of Patton Avenue. Leger recalls the aesthetic and the fun, eclectic culture as a unique learning experience for her. It helped her to go on to create and solidify a space for her as an artist with Sacred Lotus where she works collaboratively with other artists and has an apprentice of her own.
“I’ve been apprenticing Jessica (Guillory) now for about a year and a half and it’s been a great experience,” says Leger. “We obviously have a very different style of shop too so she’s coming in as a fine artist and automatically working on custom pieces whereas at shops I apprenticed in we did a lot of traditional flash and there was a high turnover with smaller pieces. Nearly all of our work is custom here.”
With the style of the shop and the nature of the work deviating from traditional flash, Leger acknowledges the history and culture of tattoo artistry and evolution until now. The amount and variety of ink colors alone is simply amazing in comparison to what was available when she was learning and of course before her time. She recalls mixing colors and what is possible now with skin tones and neutrals and magentas and everything in-between.
“Now you can buy equipment on eBay and there are YouTube videos teaching you style and technique. While the only real way to learn is through an apprenticeship, it’s amazing what’s out there and how it has helped us become so diverse as artists.”
As an artist living in the birthplace of Paul Rogers, the inventor of the coil tattoo machine and one of the first to help solidify traditional style, Leger acknowledges his contributions to the art. Her kids even went to school with his granddaughter who recently moved from Asheville. In acknowledging and respecting the traditional style and form, Leger lights up talking about the innovation and the progress that has been made in tattooing as an art form over the last 10 years.
“I think as much as the traditional styles need to be protected for what they are, it’s also amazing to push that forward and see what people are able to do on skin around the world,” she said.
With the growth and innovation of social media and online sharing platforms happening alongside this growth in the industry, Leger is in awe of the ability to look at daily work from artists around the world. Similar to other art forms, she recalls when you were only exposed to what you could find in magazines. Alongside fellow artists and tattooers as inspiration, she also says her clients are a constant source of motivation. She enjoys each unique person’s story and therefore the ideas they bring to the table and the challenge that interpreting and creating from that for them, presents each time.
“It’s really important for me to take the time to understand the person and their idea and really just give it the space it deserves in sitting with them to get that information,” Leger gently says. “There’s nothing wrong with picking out a piece of flash if it speaks to you. It doesn’t matter how big or small either. Every tattoo and persona and story deserves the same undivided attention. And then it’s up to me to create the best interpretation of that for them that I can.”
Her work certainly speaks for itself, ranging from detailed grey scale sacred geometry to spiritual interpretations of animals and nature. As a child she was fascinated with nature and studying life on a cellular level and still finds a reverence for the natural world around her, which inspires her as human, and her work as an artist. She mentions Japan as a source of inspiration and one where the underground tattoo scene is still so alive that she would like to visit one day as well.
“I love doing geometric work because I feel that combining these shapes that nature is made up of fit the human composition really well. It’s like adding from one life form to another. It fits and flows with the body really well. I’m just fascinated with these building blocks of nature and biology overall.”
To see more of Kimi’s entrancing geometric and nature-inspired pieces as well as Jessica’s work and the four other artists at Sacred Lotus Tattoo, visit their website at http://www.sacredlotustattoo.com/
“I feel extremely blessed to be in Asheville to grow as an artist and continue to learn here. It’s just an oasis of creativity. There are so many talented artists and tattooers here. I feel really lucky to be a part of this community. Asheville is just a nurturing place to be an artist and has been a really positive place for me to develop as an artist.”