“My jam is flowers, I flow with them” said Rebeka. And, in looking around her studio at the myriad of her designs displayed on the walls, I would have to agree. Her artwork is masterful and stunning. Rebeka is a highly respected, sought after tattoo artist and flowers are her specialty.
Rebeka greeted me with a wide toothy smile, breezy and confident, as she unlocked the door of her tattoo studio, Brass & Briar Studios, located on Spring Street in downtown Portland, Maine and proudly invited me in. The warm, welcoming studio occupies one half of a historic home from the early 1800s. The wood floors and artful, detailed moldings give this away.
After a tour of the studio, we settled in to her room in the back and I asked her how she came to love flowers. Rebeka grew up surrounded by flowers. Her grandmother was a farmer and had an enormous garden plot reserved exclusively for flowers. Rebeka recalls busloads of avid gardeners coming to see the vibrant and varied floral expanse. Her grandmother adored flowers of all sorts and variety and even created her own hybrid breeds. Rebeka spent hours in and among these gardens, she remembers flowers in vases all over the house all the time in the summers. So when Rebeka turned eighteen and wanted a tattoo, it was obvious that one of her first would be a flower; a necklace piece featuring elegant red roses, one fully unfurled blossom centered between her clavicles. And when Rebeka herself began learning the art of tattooing, the obvious subject for her work was flowers.
Twice a year Rebeka announces that her “books are open” for appointments and within a few days, she is completely booked out for six months. She completes thirty to forty tattoos every month, for an average price tag of $600 each. Most of her clients are women, most of her clients are repeats who come back for more and more tattoos, most of her clients have Rebeka work her magic on their bodies trusting her to intuitively bestow the perfect flower adornment.
Flowers have always been a mainstay in the world of tattoos but now due to the fashion floral trend there is even more of a tattoo flower buzz. Roses, lilies and Japanese cherry blossoms have always been popular but Rebeka is now doing more daisies, sunflowers, dahlias, lupines, poppies and her favorite, peonies. A major frustration for Rebeka as an artist is that she cannot master the one flower her grandmother loved best: Queen Anne’s lace.
As I drove home, I reflected on all Rebeka shared with me about her work, her life, her love of flowers and the connection she has found to them through her art (too much to share here in this brief blog!). It struck me that it was kind of perfect that the only flower she can’t seem to capture two-dimensionally is her grandmother’s favorite, Queen Anne’s lace. That flower will forever be a bit elusive yet, in so being, the one flower held apart, always as a reminder of where the love began.