Tattoo Talk: An Interview with Liza Musselman

Liza1 Liza Musselman, 33, BluGod Tattoos and Piercings in Toronto, Canada

I was looking through my best friend’s Instagram account when I stumbled upon Liza’s profile and was blown away by the diversity of work. I’m in awe of the mastery she has over so many different styles. And I always get so excited when a tattooist is from my other city-love – Toronto. Today she’s sharing about her journey with tattooing and what inspires her.

How long have you been tattooing?
5 years

How old were you when got your first tattoo & what was it?
My first tattoo was the kanji character for “spirit” on my lower back. I got it with my fake ID when I was 17. I’ve thought about covering it up a couple times over the years, but in the end I kept it, as it’s really what “started it all” for me and tattoos.

Liza4Do you have a favourite tattoo of your own (ie. in your collection, not that you’ve tattooed)?
This is an incredibly difficult question to answer, as I love so many of my tattoos! I recently got a lower leg piece by the awesome Gary Dunn and it’s fast becoming one of my favourites. I don’t usually get tattoos with a lot of meaning behind them, but this tattoo is an ode to my childhood in rural Ontario, so it makes me smile a lot. Also it’s just a super rad piece of artwork!

Liza5How did you get started in tattooing? What was the journey that brought you from there to here?
It had been about a year since I’d dropped out of college, and I was still unsure as to what I wanted career-wise. I’d always loved getting tattoos, the vibe in tattoo studios, and had always thought that tattooing would be an awesome job. Eventually I decided to try and make it happen, and started looking for an apprenticeship. I had a pretty rough first few years in the industry, and considered giving up more than once, but I’m so glad I stuck with it. I feel lucky every day that I get to make my living putting my art on people’s bodies.

Liza3Did you have an artistic background before you started tattooing?
Yes, I’ve always been an artistic person. Ever since I was a little girl I loved all sorts of artistic activities, drawing especially. I attended the Ontario College of Art and Design for almost 4 years.  I took a wide variety of classes while I was there: figure drawing/painting, photography, metal fabrication, sculpture, ceramics, and jewelry making.

How have your thoughts about tattoos and being tattooed changed over time (if at all)?
I take getting tattooed more seriously than I used to; I think my tattoos through more than I did when I was younger. I appreciate the hard work and skill that goes into a tattoo more now that I do it myself, and therefore am more picky when it comes to who tattoos me.  However I find I now give tattooists a lot more freedom when designing my tattoos, as I know we do our best work when we have the most freedom.

Liza2How would you describe your style of tattooing?
I think I’m still figuring out what my style is! I feel I’ve been evolving a lot as a tattoo artist in the past year.  I love tattooing anything from nature, animals, plants, flowers, and also pretty ladies. Although I like working in black and grey a lot, I find myself drawn more to colour pieces lately. I really like big bold outlines and a more illustrative style.

Who or what influences your work?
I’m truly inspired by so many different tattooers, doing all different styles of tattoos, all over the world right now. I am blown away daily by the  talent that exists in the industry, and I’m constantly just trying to absorb as much visual information as I can!

Thanks, Liza! I’m looking forward to seeing more of the beautiful tattoos you create. It’s wonderful to find such a talented Canadian tattooist – and what could be more Canadian than a poutine tattoo!

Do you have a favourite of Liza’s tattoos? Are you planning any new ink soon?


7 Ways to Bust Out of a Slump.

flowersIt’s so easy to slip into a funk. They can come out of nowhere or creep up slowly when we’re making little, almost imperceptible choices that take us out of alignment with who we are and where we want to be going. Pretty soon life seems blasé instead of magical and even the smallest obstacle can feel like a major setback.

I was in this headspace not too long ago. I was feeling uninspired by my work, uncertain about my dreams, and too many days felt tinged with sadness. I think it’s important to feel our feelings, to accept or even embrace them, but I also know that unless we take action, we’re likely to remain stuck.

I’m not sure that you can jolt yourself out of the doldrums like some people would have us believe, but the things we do every day build up for a major impact. For me, it was like waking up one day to find the clouds had cleared. I felt refreshed, joyful, and completely inspired. In case you’re facing your own period of ennui, here are the slump-busting techniques I swear by.

roller-derbyMake gratitude a daily practice.
I won a Five-Minute Journal from the lovely Jessica and since then I’ve been spending a few minutes each morning listing things I’m grateful for, deciding how I can make the day awesome, and choosing an affirmation that reflects those intentions. Then I finish the day by reflecting on everything that made it amazing and one way I’d like to have made it even better. You don’t need a special book to start a gratitude practice – any old scrap of paper will do. The magic is in starting and finishing each day giving thanks for your life – especially when you’ve got the blues and it might be harder to find that silver lining.

Exercise daily.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my funk faded away one week into a 30-day yoga challenge. I tend to avoid exercise like the plague but I’ve been feeling so good since committing to a daily yoga practice, so perhaps there is something to that science stuff after all. My mind feels clearer, I have more energy, and my body feels amazing. Plus, exercise boosts your mood by increasing the feel-good chemicals in your brain.

Get it off your chest.
I’m willing to bet that a lot our slumps are caused because we’re holding something in. How we really feel. What we really want. Who we really are. If you’re upset with something someone’s done to you, tell them. If there’s a situation you want to change, talk to someone who can help you make it happen. Keeping things in breeds resentment and a niggling feeling of anxiety. Getting it off your chest can be scary, but I promise it won’t be as bad as you think and you’ll feel better about it in the end.

Accomplish Something.
When I’ve got the blues, I feel useless. My inner critic convinces me that I’m a terrible friend, bad at my job, and that I’ll never accomplish my dreams. Pretty soon it feels like I have a never ending to-do list, but that I can’t do anything. Ticking one small thing off your to-do list will create a sense of accomplishment and help you get over that downward spiral of negative thoughts.

disneySet yourself a challenge.
Similarly, committing to my 30 Day Yoga Challenge gave me a simple goal to work on each day. I feel proud after every practice. I pat myself on the back when I go to a class even though I was tired and really didn’t feel like it. Setting yourself a simple challenge shifts your focus to something positive and gives you something fun to work towards when you’re feeling uninspired.

Prioritise fun.
It’s easy tosap the joy out of your life when everything’s work-work-work all of the time. But life is for living and if you’re not careful, you’ll just be letting it slip away. Schedule fun into your diary. Choose one thing each day to do just for the bliss of it – it can be as simple as dancing wildly to your favourite song or eating a candy bar you loved as a little kid. But make time for the bigger just-for-fun things too. Save up for that circus class. Dye your hair a crazy colour. Book a trip to somewhere you’ve always wanted to go but never had a reason to visit.

Give selflessly.
In the middle of my funk came a #lovetober prompt that really lit me up: Perform a random act of kindness. I wrote a simple note and used glittery washi tape to stick it to a park bench with a £5 note. I felt so good, even though what I had done was quite small. It filled me with glee thinking about someone stumbling on this little surprise and made me want to do more good deeds (just like Cher!) When I’m going through a rough patch, I get really wrapped up in my own head and doing something for someone else takes me out of that space and makes me feel really good. It doesn’t have to cost any more money: give up your seat on the bus, help a friend move, assist someone who needs help crossing the street, donate clothes to a charity shop. Challenge yourself to perform a random act of kindness everyday for maximum impact.

So, what about you: how have you been feeling lately? Do you have any tried-and-tested techniques for getting out of a funk?

Live brightly,



Photographs via K. Patine, Flickr, and Disney.

Tattoo Talk: An Interview with Jacob Pederson

jacob1Jacob Pedersen, 38, Crooked Moon Tattoo in Helsingborg Sweden

I absolutely love Jacob’s work – it’s a beautiful combination of realism, fantasy, painterly lines, and collage. I’m so pleased to be sharing his interview today and I hope you love his tattoos as much as I do!

How long have you been tattooing?
I have been Tattooing 8 years

How old were you when got your first tattoo & what was it?
I was 17 and it was a tribal on my arm :)

jacob2Do you have a favourite tattoo of your own (ie. in your collection, not that you’ve tattooed)?
I think that my favorite is a abstract bug I have on my leg made by Gean Coffey from Tattoo culture in NYC.

How did you get started in tattooing?
I just happened to be at the right place at the right time and I got a really god apprenticeship in a well known studio. It was just to good to be true. But it was a big decision since I was 30 years old, and I had a good job already.

jacob3What was the journey that brought you from there to here?
My teacher “master” is a tattooist from the old school. He was hard on me and I learned a lot from him. But I soon started to dislike the way of just doing tribal tattoos and Chinese signs. And I even was thinking about quitting. Then my girlfriend introduced me to some artists she found on internet. It was Lionel Fahy, Peter Bobek, Volko and Simone and Musa. That gave me new inspiration to get better. 2 years later I started my own studio and today I’m really happy to say that I work with some of the best and most creative artists in Sweden.

Did you have an artistic background before you started tattooing?
I was a illustrator and I did some comics to. I worked for some magazines in Sweden.

jacob4How have your thoughts about tattoos and being tattooed changed over time (if at all)?
I think that the tattoos are getting better and better; the machines and needles are getting so good that we can almost make anything we want. Also the artists around the world are  former art students and more artistic.

How would you describe your style of tattooing?
My biggest influences are Volko and Simone, Musa and Nikko Hurtado.

jacob5Who or what influences your work?
I would call it realistic and graphic.

Thanks, Jacob! I’m so thankful to hear that your girlfriend introduced you to such inspiring artists, because your talents would have been wasted on tribal and Chinese symbols.

So, what do you think? Are you dreaming of a pilgrimage to Sweden for a piece of ink made by this talented man? To wet your whistle in the meantime, make sure you’re following him on Instagram.

Love, lotus flowers, & butterflies in your hair,

Adventures in Self-Love: Don’t Be Such a Drama Queen.

girl-fight-2I used to attract drama as if my life were a daytime soap opera.

I had a boss who sought out scandal and picked fights with people like it was her job.

I had a boyfriend who would scream “You never really loved me!” whenever things didn’t go his way.

I lost a personal and business relationship with someone and had my life devolve into the most dramatic episode I’ve ever experienced due to a silly incident that happened at my birthday party.

Whenever a friend was in crisis, I’d always get drawn into it to the point of being intimately involved.

I couldn’t understand why these things were always happening to me. I didn’t want my life to be like this.

Or did I?

Because, on some level, I was choosing all of this. I was addicted to the drama.

We might not like the anxiety, jealousy, anger, and frustration that come along with drama, but it sure is easy to get addicted to the rush.

Luckily recognizing the problem and realizing your part in it is the first step to overcoming it. To taking back your power, rather than letting your life constantly be blown up and down by whatever’s happening around you.

Drama is defined as “an exciting, emotional, or unexpected series of events or set of circumstances” – so it isn’t inherently bad.

But when we get hooked on the adrenaline, excitement, and attention that drama brings, we get attached to it and we find ways to manufacture drama – usually by creating or seeking out conflict. When life is flowing easily, we’ll find ways to make it difficult. We’ll see obstacles instead of seeking solutions. We’ll hold back our feelings and create tension in our lives. We’ll put up with treatment from other people that diminishes our self-worth. Pretty soon we’re anxious all of the time.

When we give into the drama our body enters a state of stress. The adrenaline and cortisol it produces changes our circadian rhythm, which can result in insomnia, a disrupted metabolism, weakened immune system, and memory decline. In other words, being a drama addict is pretty much the antithesis of loving yourself.

girl-fight-1I would never have thought of myself as a drama queen – I like to avoid conflicts and if I’m not careful, I slide easily into people-pleasing tendencies. But if we’re not being true to ourselves, we create internal conflict. We fuel resentments. We manufacture anxiety. And eventually, something’s going to snap.

Last spring I started to think about all of this really carefully. I had just broken it off with yet another guy who made me feel less than. I couldn’t help asking myself, “Why does this keep happening?” I thought about The Super Dramatic Episode of 2013. About who I chose to date. About how I react to stressful situations. There was only one conclusion I could come to: I was the common denominator. I was a drama queen.

I had recognized the problem and I dedicated myself to figuring out the solution. That day I wrote in my journal, “I’ll still relish excitement and adventure, but I’m committed to living a life free from unnecessary drama. I’m no longer willing to tolerate people who treat me unkindly or who make me feel unworthy. I will speak up about my needs and voice my feelings freely. When I find myself mentally dissolving into future-tripping or manufacturing drama for myself, I will recognize my power to choose a different thought. I’m no longer going to be a drama queen.”

Recovering from a drama addiction is an ongoing process and requires more perseverance than I’d originally anticipated, but by bringing awareness to the situation and committing to change, I’ve made huge strides. Here are my suggestions for going on a drama detox and living a more peaceful existence.

heart Set clear boundaries.
When we know what behaviour we will and won’t tolerate, it becomes easier to know when we need to stand up for ourselves, speak our truths, and make difficult decisions about who we allow into our lives. I’d recommend spending some quality time with a journal thinking this through. What negative patterns have you recognised in your life? What kinds of conflict tend to create drama in your life? What behaviour have you tolerated in the past even though you knew you deserved better? Brainstorm a list of ways you’ll recognise when your boundaries have been crossed and what you’ll do about it.

heart Be strict about who you spend your time with.
Like attracts like, so if we spend most of our time with people who crave and manifest drama, we’re bound to end up with more of it in our lives. Sometime we have to make difficult decisions about who we have close relationships with. If you recognise someone as adding more drama than they do value to your life it might be time to think about ending your relationship or limiting the amount of time you spend with them. If this is someone you have to be around, like a co-worker, be very clear about the boundaries you have with them. Limit your interactions to the workplace and keep your conversations focused on the job. This isn’t about being cruel to anyone; just recognising that the people we spend time with play a big part in shaping our lives, so it’s important to choose wisely.

girl-fight-3heart  Recognize your triggers.
Sometimes we’re addicted to drama because it feels like the norm in certain areas of our life, either as a result of how we were raised or the beliefs we’ve developed. For many of us, this manifests most strongly in our romantic lives or our relationships to work. If we grew up in a house where our parents were always yelling at one another, we may have unconsciously come to believe that this is what love looks like. As a result, even when we’re in a healthy relationship, we find ways to create drama and make ourselves unhappy with the situation. Luckily we have the option to choose new beliefs. In each of your trigger areas write down a healthier belief that’s infused with self-love. Maybe it’s “Romantic relationships are nurturing, affectionate, and mutually supportive.” When you find yourself creating your reality around an old belief, remind yourself of the new one and act on it instead.

heart Cultivate self-expression.
For someone who’s quite outspoken, I have a hard time expressing myself when I know it’s going to make me vulnerable. But by getting clear on my personal boundaries and identifying my triggers, I find it easier to articulate myself instead of staying silent, breeding resentment, and creating future drama. If you recognise the need to speak up with someone in your life, remember: it doesn’t have to be a major conflict. I find it best to let the person know ahead of time so that we can both be prepared for the conversation (and so I don’t weasel out of it). And the more I’ve been open and honest, the easier it’s become. And the more my life looks and feels the way I want it to, because I’m asking for what I need.

heart Choose a different thought.
So much of the drama we create is based only in our  thoughts – not in reality. And our thoughts are our own creations. There’s a powerful line in A Course in Miracles that says, “I can see this differently.” This simple phrase is an important reminder of the power we have to change our own minds. If you find yourself getting caught up in the drama of your thoughts, pause and remember that you can see the situation differently. Tell yourself, “I can see  love instead” and then choose a more peaceful, loving thought.

heart  Protect yourself.
Dramatic situations are going to arise. Conflicts are going to happen. But you don’t have to get caught up in them. Rather than letting your mind run away with you, find a way to pull yourself back to the present moment, rather than getting sucked in. Focus on your breath. Rub a crystal that you’ve got tucked in your pocket. Recite an affirmation. Find something that soothes you and use it to protect yourself.

This hasn’t been a clear, black and white process for me. It’s become very clear to me that romantic relationships and stressful work situations really trigger the drama addict in me. But by consistently applying the strategies above, I’m finding it easier to let go. To speak up. To look at things differently. And that’s a big step forward on my self-love journey.

What about you, do you find yourself getting caught up in drama or making situations more stressful for yourself?

Give up the drama, baby!




Photographs by Steven Meisel.

The Birthday List: Go to a morning rave.

morning-glory-1morning-glory-2morning-glory-3As a teenager, I was perfectly at home in the throes of mosh pits at punk rock shows or flailing my limbs around to ska music, but I didn’t get into raving. Techno has never been my style of music and it just wasn’t my scene. And these days it’s pretty rare for me to stay out all night dancing. I’ve come to relish small gatherings of my favourite people (preferably with champagne and lots of shimmying) and relaxing evenings by myself, so if I do stay up past my bedtime, it’s usually by accident – because I’m having so much fun, and not because I’ve gone looking for a party that never stops.

And I’m really not a morning person. I’d like to be and I’m trying, but my bed is so cosy and sometimes it’s hard to pry myself out of it.

So why on Earth would I want to go to a morning rave?

Because my birthday list is all about trying new things. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone. Growing. Expanding.

And it sounded like fun.

Morning raves swap the alcohol for coffee. Toss the drugs for green juice. But keep the wild dancing and glittery, neon-infused aesthetics. Except instead of partying until the wee hours of morning, you wake up in the wee hours to shake your buns before work.

On the last Wednesday of every month, Morning Glory descends on the Oval Space in East London. Known as “conscious raving,” the phenomenon seems to have started in London but there are now events across Europe and North America.

I had a day off in lieu last Wednesday, but instead of having a lie-in, I hopped reluctantly crawled out of bed  at 5:45, slipped on a tutu, donned a pair of Crown & Glory ears, smeared my face with glitter, and got ready to dance.

When I arrived, there was already a long queue out the door and the mix of people in work clothes, kids in Halloween costumes (coolest. parents. ever.), and partygoers in elaborate, glittery costumes instantly put a smile on my face. The Morning Glory unicorns were there to greet us, glitterfy faces, and make sure everyone was having a good time.

Once inside, I grabbed an Americano and joined the revelers while we all shimmied to the Ghostbusters’ theme song.

I hadn’t been able to find anyone to go with me, but it didn’t matter. I quickly met a group of women who gifted me with a pair of glasses that make light look like rainbows and pulled me into their ranks. And being on my own pushed me to meet new people and get comfortable twirling on my own.

I stayed for about an hour and a half. As the music changed from cheesy dance numbers to drum and bass I decided to make my way home and prepare for the rest of my day off.

Despite being up much earlier than normal, spending my morning surrounded by colourful, friendly, sober ravers perked me up. I found the whole experience really fun and uplifting. It would be an especially quirky way to start a work day and I’m looking forward to doing it again in the new year.

How about you, have you been to a morning rave? Would you ever?

With stars in my eyes,


Photographs by Nicole Latchana.
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