Western North Carolina Woman

the divine miss k
by sandi tomlin-sutker

It’s been a long and winding road for Miss Kitty (as Kitty Brown is affectionately known); from her early tattooing as “punk rock hobby” 12 ½ years ago in Baltimore to the deeply spiritual/psychological and personal approach to tattoo she has today. She and her clients have a deep investment in the process and the product. Kitty considers tattooing an act of empowerment and a tool for the expression of intrinsic experiences.

Kitty Brown is a trained artist, graduating from the Maryland Institute College of Art. While she has a portfolio of tattoo designs available for those that want them, her preference is to work with each person, discussing what the tattoo will mean to them, in order to create a image that becomes a talisman.

In Kitty’s view “choosing a tattoo to express our individuality, as a rite of passage or as a symbol of our evolving consciousness can be a powerful way of affirming our personal evolution.”

Even more than an individual psychological experience, she practices tattoo as a potentially transformative spiritual experience. By approaching the process as ritual, Kitty feels we have an “opportunity to explore our psychology in three dimensions and involve our sense of theater, aesthetics and symbolism as well as providing a powerful focus for spiritual energy.”

For an artist, tattooing might seem a bit limited; after all, “the canvas tells you what to do” Kitty laughs. But she has found ways to expand her own artistic creativity and support that of other local artists: at her design and retail space at 51 N. Lexington Avenue in downtown Asheville, she and her partners offer gallery spaces to well-known and budding artists. Kitty also has a show of her own tattoo work each year—on the living canvas of bodies! Last year she sent out the word that her show was “Gods and Goddesses”; this year’s theme is “What is Sexy?” and she hopes all sorts of bodies will show up to represent the myriad ways humans perceive sexiness.

She knows that beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder: some of her most satisfying moments have been creating tattoos for women who’ve had mastectomies. When a woman looks in the mirror and marvels, “I feel beautiful again!” Kitty knows the possibility for transformation has become manifest.

A brief history of the art of Tattooing:A mummified Egyptian princess from about 2500 BC is the first historical evidence of tattooing, although the practice is thought to be much older. By 1500 BC it was the norm for women to have tattoos of small geometric patterns representing the Goddess Bes who was associated with home life and having fun. The term itself comes from the Polynesian word “ta” which means to strike or mark. The main use of tattooing was spiritual and cultural – warding off evil spirits, identifying one’s tribe, marking major passages in life and death.

In 1769 Captain Cook’s first voyage to Tahiti led to the tradition of tattooing for British Navy men; the art of tattooing flourished in England, even gaining royal sanction in 1862 when the Prince of Wales, on a visit to the Holy Land, had the Jerusalem Cross tattooed on his arm.

In 1870 a German immigrant, Martin Hildebrandt, opened the first tattoo parlor in the U.S. His first customers were Civil War soldiers.

The current popularity and interest in tattooing began in the 1980’s and is growing at a rapid pace – becoming ever more socially acceptable.

A story of one person's search for the perfect tattoo artist.

Deanne H. had gotten a beautiful tattoo from Kitty and is preparing to receive another one soon. I asked her to describe the meaning of the experience:

"My tattoo was definitely a spiritual experience. When I moved to NC, I needed to let go of many things, and many things required me to BE BOLD, or at least act as if. One of my first “other-directed” experiences was meeting a Native American elder in Black Mountain who came up to me and asked if I knew my animal totem? He said the Hummingbird danced all around me and was inviting me into its experience of life.
Known for their endless energy and unlimited capacity for joy, hummingbird medicine was to be the guiding energy as I walked into this new life in the mountains. Although I had never seen a real hummingbird before that experience, immediately they started appearing in my life, in all forms from many people who knew nothing about my connection to them.

When it came time for me to let go of my identity of 11 years and resign from Public Education, I was totally scared and had no idea what I was going to do, who I was going to be next! And then the inspiration found its way to my chattering ego-mind...I am going to get a tattoo to mark this momentus turning point. One that most clearly illuminated not what I was letting go of in fear, but what I was making room for, with gratitude. I knew I wanted to permanently imprint myself with joy.

I found a picture of the exact hummingbird—the Magnificent Hummer—whose colors represented this rite of passage. I carried it with me to many tattoo parlors in Asheville before finding someone with the right energy to be part of this magical endeavor. Then when I found Kitty—an artist of inspiration and intuitive creativity—getting that little bird onto my body was a collaboration of clear intention and divine assistance. For me, it was not about the finished product so much as following through on guidance for me to be bold in my joy and permanently own the nature of my spirit. As a result of that guidance, I have a beautiful tattoo and a connection with Kitty that has continued almost 3 years later. We have recently been discussing my next tattoo...so this adventure continues."

Kitty can now be reached at Liquid Dragon: 828-251-8815; liquiddragontattoo.com.

Western North Carolina Woman
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Celebrating the Spirit of Place in Western North Carolina