The ancient Buddhists never meditated to the alt-rock of the Pixies or the frenetic electronic trance of Shpongle. The ancient Buddhists also never met Kimi Leger.
At Sacred Lotus, the shop she named after Buddhism’s floral symbol of purity and enlightenment, the tattoo artist manages to combine a modern soundtrack with body art to yield a low-stress experience for her clients.
“We really strive to make people feel comfortable and create a peaceful vibe while they’re getting their tattoo,” she says. “Sometimes we’ll have harder music playing, but the actual energy in the shop feels very relaxed.”
The tunes also serve as a source of inspiration for Leger — before opening the shop, she did live-painting work for prominent electronic-dance-music acts such as Pretty Lights, The Glitch Mob, and Emancipator. Improvising new pieces under flashing lights and the roar of a crowd gave her an artistic energy she still channels at Sacred Lotus, especially when certain songs come over the speakers.
Most of her tattoo work involves some level of improvisation as she collaborates with her patrons. Before her needle ever touches skin, she’ll talk with clients about their initial ideas for a piece — and then dig for the deeper motivation behind them. “You can usually find the meaning in what they’re wanting to express and interpret it in a more artistic way,” she explains.
The practical concerns of the medium can cause changes to the initial plan, as well. “No two projects are ever the same, because every body shape is different,” Leger says. “The biggest challenge with living skin is that it’s always going to continue aging, so all of your designing has to be done with that in mind.”
But the artist relishes the challenge. Leger’s style embraces how natural and mathematical patterns play on the shape of the human body. Many of her pieces combine the larger motif of an animal, such as a bear or dragon, with tightly packed arrangements of smaller elements like scales or feathers. Other works build up the biological from the geometric, overlapping circles and triangles to suggest blooming flowers.
Leger and the other artists at Sacred Lotus focus on custom work instead of predesigned “flash” or copies of other tattoos. But maintaining that integrity becomes challenging in the age of social media. “I saw a comic the other day where a girl was talking to Picasso. She told him, ‘I love your style so much — will you paint me a Van Gogh?’ That’s how it feels when people see your portfolio online, then bring you a tattoo idea in a completely different style.”
Instead, Leger encourages prospective tattoo-ees to find an artist they love and trust in their expression. “The collaboration is the most rewarding part,” she says. “You see their face light up when they see their idea interpreted on their skin, and they’re so excited that they get to keep this piece of art forever.”
Sacred Lotus Tattoo, 328 New Leicester Hwy. Suite 140, Asheville. For details, call 828-552-3177 or visit sacredlotustattoo.com.