East Van tattoo artist turns traumatic scars into healing art

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This crow is part of a sleeve design involving justice for sexual assault survivors that belongs to Kiera James Anderson, a PhD student, activist and survivor. (Auberon Wolf)

East Vancouver tattoo artist Auberon Wolf is helping clients overcome past traumas, by designing unique tattoos around scars.

Wolf – who identifies as a queer femme and uses the pronoun ‘they/them’ – was first inspired to start tattooing two and a half years ago, after getting their own tattoos based around self-harm scars.

“Each of them made me feel like a more whole version of myself,” Wolf told Vancity Buzz.

“The experience itself healed, and the freedom I felt every day afterwards seeing beautiful art, rather than memories of pain, planted the seeds of where my work would take me.”

Getting the tattoos (from fellow artists Crystal, Jude Le Tronik, Dave Seguyn and Tammy) was transformative, as Wolf’s ability to offer more as a tattoo artist became clear.

“I could bring my whole lived experience to supporting vulnerable folks overcoming their hurts, challenges and traumas through art,” Wolf said.

“I felt that what I might lack in artistic skill, I could make up for in the spirit of serving others with heart.”

‘Being that warrior’

Currently, Wolf is working on a sleeve for SFU visiting scholar Kiera James Anderson, holding a forest silhouette, mountains and a murder of crows flying up into the sky.

“One of the aspects of empowerment and healing held in that piece is around the strength of being a survivor,” said Wolf.

“[Anderson] does incredible academic and personal work around supporting and fighting for survivors’ justice, and this is a badge of being that warrior.”

Wolf is also excited for an upcoming piece of a blue crystal, that will cover a physical abuse scar on another client.

“[It will] symbolize and honour that person’s voice and truth…I love tattoos that affirm our strengths, our fierceness.”

Auberon Wolf tattooing a client (Auberon Wolf)

Auberon Wolf tattooing a client (Auberon Wolf)

Wolf doesn’t just tattoo people with physical scars – anyone can come to them.

“I think that hurts to be healed come in many forms, and I don’t think it requires trauma to want to empower yourself through ink,” they said.

Initially, Wolf sits down with potential clients for a consultation to discuss the imagery, meaning, style and art of the tattoo – and why they want it.

“They are welcome to share as little or as much as they want,” says Wolf, who still struggles with mental illness.

From pain to joy

This tattoo is a work in progress, that is both scar cover up and memorial piece. (Auberon Wolf)

This tattoo is a work in progress, that is both scar cover up and memorial piece. (Auberon Wolf)

While Wolf’s tattoo artistry is certainly helping clients heal, it is also helping Wolf heal.

“Alone at night, I cry from the joy that what has been painful for me can be something useful and gentle to others – and that I finally feel like who I am and what I’m doing makes sense,” says Wolf.

“My clients inspire me with their resilience and brilliance. Beyond inspiration, they affect as much positive change to my life as I bring to theirs.

“Every person who sits down with me leaves me changed, and that feels good.”

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Jenni Sheppard Staff writer at Vancity Buzz. Happy Vancouverite. Traveller, snowboarder, film fan, feminist, geek, curler.
@jenni_sheppard

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