Putting prayers on people’s skin

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Photos by Lauryn Hottinger

Tattooer Jennifer Moore combines artistry and spirituality

“I put prayers on people’s skin,” says Jennifer Moore. “Everybody that is coming to me to get a tattoo is coming because they are looking to make a deliberate, conscious mark on their body that affirms what matters to them.”

Moore is a tattooer at Sanctuary Tattoo in Portland, a tattoo shop she founded and co-owns. She helps people express their emotions, dreams and memories through the art of tattoo. And she does it with a unique blend of artistry and spirituality. “Most people who come to me are on some kind of path of personal development or spiritual growth,” she says.

“Jen’s work is an organic collaboration of intuition, client desire and passion,” says Melissa Rivera, shop manager for Sanctuary Tattoo. Rivera and Moore work together, but Moore also designed and executed one of Rivera’s many tattoos.

“I chose (Jen) for this specific piece because getting tattooed is extremely therapeutic for me, and I was going through a transitional time,” says Rivera. “Jen tattoos with intent and offers intuitive support to her clients during a session, which acts as a dose of holistic healing for those who sit in her chair.”

Moore has long been interested in decorating her body. Growing up in Massachusetts, she would mix food coloring into baby powder to create makeup and paint her friends faces. After attending art school, she worked as an intuitive and offered psychic readings, which ultimately led her to graduate school where she earned her Master of Arts in Psychology and Religion from Andover Newton Theological School in 1997.

During a festival where Moore taught healing classes, she met a tattoo artist and her interest in the profession was piqued. By the summer of 1999, Moore and Chris Dingwell opened Sanctuary Tattoo in Portland where she honed her skills. Since then, she has combined her artistic prowess, intuitive nature and background in psychology and religion to create a unique tattooing experience for all her clients.

Moore approaches tattooing with a colorful, ornamental and decorative style. She considers placement to be as crucial as its design. While she works with clients to develop the best tattoo, she readily admits her work tends toward whimsical and fun, drawing from botanicals and Victorian illustrations. She works from photographs sometimes, but the final product has an illustrated quality.

“I’ve always been more fascinated by beauty than ugliness,” says Moore. “All of my work has a sweetness, almost a magical essence to it.”

This style is what attracted Kait Pressey to Moore when she was ready to execute a new tattoo idea.

“I always had this idea for a tattoo,” says Pressey,​ who already had some ink on her skin. She was drawn to Moore because, “she is very deeply spiritual and really focused on how tattooing is not just an art, but a form of healing as well.”

Since that first tattoo Pressey hired Moore to do—a halved pomegranate fruit with seeds spilling out placed at the base of her spine—she has continued to be a canvas for Moore’s art.

“The hardest piece she worked on was for my heart chakra, which is on my chest. It is a dove surrounded by a circle of roses,” says Pressey. “I was going through a particularly difficult time in my life. In a sense, I think sometimes you have to wound yourself in order to heal. It is kind of like breaking and resetting a bone that didn’t heal right.”

Pressey admits Moore’s artistic and spiritual style isn’t for everyone. However, Pressey says nobody else will ever tattoo her.

“I wouldn’t let anybody else touch me. She is one of the most, if not the most, authentic people I know. I admire her a great deal.”

Through her work, Moore has developed a number of long-term relationships with her clients.

“I know when people make the decision to put a message on their body that is affirming their capacity to change,” says Moore. “I’ve watched them grow from thinking about putting this little thing on their body to seeing these goddesses walking around in the world standing in their power. It’s really amazing to be able to help somebody claim their truth.”

For more information about Jennifer Moore’s work, visit medicinetattooing.com or to learn more about her intuitive mentoring, visit modernmedicinelady.com.

Emma Bouthillette is a Biddeford, Maine native whose first book “Biddeford: A Brief History” is scheduled for a June release through Arcadia Publishing. When she is not working or writing, she’s either enjoying a good book or walking Miss Savvy, her Pembroke Welsh Corgi. For more information about Emma, visit www.emmabouthillette.com.