This is Why Your Next Tattoo Session Should Come With Tarot Cards

image courtesy of Earth Altar

Justine Serebin, master reiki healer and owner of Earth Altar Studio in the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles, makes people beautiful: She paints on gorgeous tattoos (coupled with tarot cards and intuitive energy readings) and even provides cosmetic tattoos (like eyebrow microblading, which is the process of adding feathery semi-permanent ink strokes to your arches to enhance their shape and fullness).

There are also piercings, laser hair removal, and micropigmentation to add natural-looking freckles. But this is no space of vanity — you’re more likely to leave Earth Altar cosmically at peace than ready to show off your new art on Instagram, and that’s what makes customers go crazy about this place. We talked to Serebin about how she’s incorporated her beliefs into her business and how she always maintains health, wellness, and beauty all in one sacred space.

EcoSalon: Tell us about Earth Altar Studio! How does it offer something different to the healthy, conscious customer? What is the ultimate benefit for your customer?

Justine Serebin: Most people who walk in to our studio don’t realize we do tattoos because the space looks light, bright, and airy. Succulents, crystals and sage bundles line the waiting room. It smells good, feels peaceful, and has fun music playing. We offer tea and raw foraged water to everyone and strive to make everyone feel at home here. We are your one-stop shop for all things tattoo, and body enhancement and wellness. We are artists, professionals, have medical backgrounds, and have a full-bodied understanding of how all tattooing procedures work. We tailor our services to each client to bring out the best and most beautiful results. We offer laser hair removal by our RN Cheryllynn Ponce and full-body piercing by licensed medical professional Mickey. Taylor Epstein is our yoga, reiki, and meditation specialist who is also an RN. We have a microblading specialist and cosmetic tattooer, Vickie Chiang, and a few tattoo artists, Melissa Martell and Taylor Eacuello, both of whom I have taught to tattoo. We also have tattoo artist and comic book artist, Zachariah Roane, who has about 10 years’ experience. We are pretty much a female-run shop and are here to help, create, and make the most impossible dreams you can think of, a reality.

ES: What inspired you to combine the metaphysical with the art of tattooing?

JS: Truly, they both go hand in hand to me — right from the beginning. It started with one of my first visions when I was learning to meditate ten years ago. I saw myself sitting on a beautiful wood-floored studio overlooking the ocean. I was tattooing a woman’s back and something about it was healing her. At that time, I didn’t know really anything around tattooing or healing. It felt like it was my calling and I’ve spent the last ten years chasing this vision, trying to put all the pieces together.

ES: Why was it important to you to incorporate crystals into a space that involves cosmetic procedures? How can someone incorporate them in their own lives?

JS: Crystals and stones are like little fairy helpers that we can keep in our pockets. Who doesn’t want a little fairy helper to hold your hand when your getting your lip color tattooed on? Just joking, but kinda not! Crystals can be healing, energizing, peaceful and you can actually program them to “work” for you. If you are feeling nervous and are filled with anxiety, grab some clear quartz, clear with sage, and program your deepest intention into the crystal, whisper your wish into it, and hold it close to you. Trust, believe, and have fun with it. To me they are beautiful, and they make my giddy and so happy to be around so I filled my shop with them.

ES: Tell us about what reiki healing is and how it’s helped your customers during the tattoo decision-making and creation process.

JS: Reiki is an ancient form of feeling, seeing, and moving energy throughout the body, cultivating it, and checking in with the subtle body to heal, feel better, and become more energized and empowered. It is a healing modality that may be used before, during, or after a session or treatment to bring a sense of balance and wellbeing. Some procedures like acupuncture can activate places in the body where we store old emotional wounds, blocks, or just plain fear. If we notice these subtle bursts of energy coming to the surface, reiki is recommended to help soothe, ease, and clear the heavy stuff that comes up. Reiki can be used during a consultation appointment as a way to prepare for your procedure, mental and emotionally, whether it’s cosmetic, medical, or a custom tattoo. The intuitive tattoos are a more elaborate, intensive version of regular reiki but use the basic principles to heal and transmute energy.

ES: For many people, the tattoo process goes something like this: They find a photo or symbol of something that’s meaningful to them, take it to an artist, and get it tattooed on. Do you find anything missing from this typical tattooing process?

JS: Well, there’s nothing wrong with this method, and we do accommodate tattoos like this — although our artists believe that original designs that are customized are best because we don’t want to steal artwork from other artists from the Internet, especially Instagram and Pinterest. It’s such a small community and we really want every artist to do their best work and thrive.

Personally, my style, strength, and passion for tattooing is abstract symbolism representative of meaningful intention to activate awakening, transformation, and personal evolution. Sometimes, one may know that they want a meaningful tattoo but don’t know what design they want. That’s the little sweet spot where my work fits in. I feel like each intuitive design I tattoo is essentially a gift, a very unique code that only they know the true meaning of. Anyone who looks at it may appreciate its shape, structure, and colors but the true power is hidden and safe, kept secret just for the wearer to know and contemplate and use as a power symbol.

ES: Why do you think people sometimes remove or regret their tattoos? Is it the lack of intention? Not clearing the negativity?

JS: I find that most are disappointed because they didn’t feel safe to communicate with their artist about the artwork prior to getting tattooed. This is so important to me and I always practice the clearest communication possible prior to starting a tattoo. I double and triple check with my clients to make sure they are sure and happy with the artwork; if not, we alter it or postpone our appointment. It rarely happens, but it’s always the safer option. I think the other reason people remove tattoos is because they rush into it. Impulsiveness with something so permanent can lead to a negative experience, which it why we are primarily an appointment-only shop. Intentional living is at our core and that takes a little time to sit with and create inside of ourselves.

ES: How does the intuitive Tarot card reading guide or inform the tattooing process?

JS: The cards I created are like a thermometer reading or window through which I can see a clean view into what my client is going through. It opens deep, honest conversation, and draws out and brings light to areas of their life that they may be withholding, withdrawing, or unconscious of. Through our collaborative exploration of deciphering the meaning of the cards I begin to see imagery, visions, and energy blocks that need activation. Then I begin to see and create a visual language through symbols on a specific area of the body. The design is drawn with a single use pen so that my client can view the intuitive image and edit with me to their liking. Then the actual tattoo process begins.

ES: Why is sage such an important part of your sacred intuitive tattoos?

JS: Sage is a powerful cleansing herb that we use to clean our studio with daily. I also use it to clean each crystal or stone before we program them with intentions for the tattoo process. I attach one of my needles to a saged, medically cleaned, and cosmically charged crystal to tattoo with, as I don’t want any stale vibes to be transferred into my clients energy field.

ES: Your business also offers cosmetic tattooing, like microblading and adding beauty marks. How do you think outer appearance affects people on the inside?

JS: We, our souls, live inside of this Earth form, our bodies. It is dense and difficult for us to dwell in, and often there is deep disconnect between our bodies and souls. I believe our souls are grand, expansive, glittery, iridescent, magical, and angelic. To be as limited as we are as humans (and not flying cosmic balls of magic light dust) with our thinning hair, or hair overgrowth, skin problems, and discolorations, blah blah blah, we do have these forms for a reason, and I believe that reason is to create! To create anything we desire, to be, look, and feel anyway we want to. Our services like cosmetic and medical tattooing and laser hair removal make life easier in many ways for us to free ourselves from this limited, imperfect form. The procedures simplify our daily tasks, minimize our routines, and help make room in our lives and minds for the things that truly matter to us. Imagine how much time you could save if you didn’t have to do your makeup in the morning, or shave your body hair, you could use that time to dream a little longer, or create something, or do something you love! These services, even regular custom tattoos, help bring the inner soul self closer to the skin surface, hence making our bodies our Earth Altars.

ES: How do you incorporate the concept—and implementation—of wellness into your business?

JS: The foundation of Earth Altar Studio is rooted in the desire to be a sacred, cosmic vortex of love, healing, creativity, and transformation. The details of the studio bring this to life: Our water is raw and foraged from Opal Springs, Oregon, and our teas are organic loose-leaf blends with intention and herbal healing qualities. The studio uses recycled and biodegradable products wherever possible and we try to keep our footprint as low as possible. We have yoga mats and a trampoline in the patio to keep our artists’ blood flowing and invite our guests to enjoy their tea in our outdoor space to connect with the elements before their sessions. Every detail, event, and procedure has intention and love behind it.

ES: What daily habits do you have to ensure there is health and wellness in your life?

JS: My daily ritual is always evolving. It is a practice of focusing and feeling for the highest vibration. Meditating and evoking visions of the dreamiest life imaginable. Soaking in the joy helps me feel calm and happy throughout the day and ready to take on the challenges of running the business and taking good care of my clients.

ES: What’s your average morning like?

JS: My mornings begin when I place my feet on the ground, sending love to my body and gratitude to my life. I make lemon tea and soak in the sun. Then yoga, self reiki, reading, and journaling. It’s extremely important to me to be as balanced and grounded as possible before I step foot in the studio. These little rituals I do daily help me to be a clear and focused channel for my intuitive work.

ES: What’s your favorite wellness food and beverage?

JS: I love smoothie bowls! They can be such beautiful works of art — colorful and so rich with flavor and nourishing ingredients.

ES: What’s the best piece of health or wellness advice you’ve ever received? From who?

JS: My soul sister and our yoga/reiki specialist Taylor Epstein told me the other day to ask daily for divine intervention and guidance in all that I do and in each word I speak. To allow for a moment of pause and reflection before responding to a question and allow the divine, higher self to speak through me, always. This concept is so powerful and the ultimate practice of intentional mindfulness for me.

ES: What are the words you live by?

JS: Follow your bliss, trust your intuition, and believe that you can manifest anything you desire!

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Sarah Ban

Sarah is a beauty & wellness writer and editor based in Los Angeles. Her editorial work has been featured in publications such as NYLON. She also works with like-minded brands (e.g. skin care and supplement companies) to help them infuse journalism into their content marketing strategy.