I came across this post by Robert on tumblr and, with his permission, am reposting it here on OV. This is a great primer on the whys/hows of using symbols; don’t just stop with mandalas/hex signs… look into the deeper meaning behind the designs and you’ll get much more out of them.
Robert Ryan tattoos at Electric Tattoo in Bradley Beach, NJ.
Mandala Sheet 2012. Robert Ryan Electric Tattoo -2012
Lately many people have asked me how I started painting and tattooing these images. For me it began with “Hex” signs of the Pennsylvania Dutch that I had seen as a child at my Grandfathers farm, Later in my teenage years I began to study the Vedanta, (Vedic Hymns) I began to notice similar patterns used in the Hindu tradition known as the Yantra. Then seeing them in Tibetan Buddhist mandalas , Then again in the Islamic tradition in the decoration and structural designs of the Mosque. Finally as I began my tattoo apprenticeship I started finding many traditional tattoo designs that had mutated from compass roses into these emblematic star and flower clusters. This thread runs deep. Early on in my career I saw a tattoo that Brooklyn tattoo master Mike Perfetto did on NYC bar owner Deb Parker which incorporated Pennsylvania dutch folk flowers and traditional swallows I was floored!
Later that same year I met tattooer Daniel Higgs and was blown away that he was also using this powerful visual element in his own work. From that point I was convinced. I began working with many different patterns from various cultures and time periods. This study was so important to my life because it brought me to an understanding of sacred geometry which I believe is the formulaic system of all living things. Now these images has become very popular in modern tattooing which was inevitable, They resonate on so many levels with artists and collectors . Its refreshing to see but sadly I have noticed many tattooers using them carelessly, arbitrarily adding them to the long laundry list of designs to make things “mystical” or weird for weirds sake. The shame of it is that we can all benefit from the proper use of these symbols, Tattooer and client alike.
Study of the mandala can be employed for focusing the minds attention, a spiritual teaching tool to establish sacred space, and as an aid for meditation and trance induction. Most importantly mandalas can teach us balance to create wholeness in our lives . These images should be pursued with respect and reverence for it’s development and purpose . I think it is important to note the works of Tattooers like Thomas Hooper, Jondix, Tomas Tomas, Xed Le Head, Steve Byrne, Chad Koeplinger, Tom Yak , Greg Christiansan as well as many who have taken the time and effort to properly understand and apply these designs with incredible results. When manifested with the correct amount of love these talismans may bring endless joy to many. -RR