Gaia: Tell us a bit about yourself. Background, upbringing, interests….
Alyssa: Oof, where to start… well, I was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta. I am a biracial adoptee and grew up pretty disconnected from my culture. So much of who I am today comes from a long journey of searching for my own identity and finding myself slowly over time. I grew up pretty religious, going to church every Sunday. So faith and ritual has always been a part of my life, in some way. I also grew up dancing competitively and playing the piano. This has kind of bled into my work now; I am inspired by capturing movement, or complementing the flow of the body. My mum is a teacher and homeschooled my two sisters and I. She imparted a love of reading and a deep curiosity for life onto me. I’ve always had a deep love for animals that has continued throughout my life; they ground me and make me feel whole. I ride horses in my free time, and I love being out in nature. I’ve been tattooing for 4 years now, almost 5 this summer. I’ve always been creative, but tattooing has really helped me harness my creativity and it’s taken on a whole life of its own now.
Gaia: What made you decide to become a tattoo artist? What is your favourite part about tattooing?
Alyssa: The short answer to this is that I wanted to do something meaningful with my art. I had gone to school for graphic design and worked in advertising for a couple years, then freelanced doing illustration work. I wasn’t feeling creatively fulfilled by any of these jobs and eventually quit everything to become a Barista while trying to find myself as an artist. You know, like any self respecting millennial would do. Haha. Once I got in the habit of drawing for myself every day, everything slowly started to fall into place. I started to see a style emerge. I wasn’t really thinking about being a Tattoo Artist, I was just focused on showing up for my creative self. One day, leading up to my 30th birthday, I was sitting in my apartment in Calgary just looking at all my art on the walls. I think I finally got an insight into how other people might see my art - it was just a glimmer but it was enough to make me realize that I was being selfish by hoarding it all. Even though I didn’t think it was ready for the world to see, maybe someone out there was ready to receive it. My close friend Sara had always been encouraging me to take up tattooing, so I decided I’d give it a shot and if it didn’t work out, it wasn’t meant to be. Needless to say, I’m so grateful it did work out.
My favourite part about tattooing… hmm so many things. Although I’m a bit of an introvert, I love meeting new people and honestly tattooing is my most preferred way to do so. So many of my close friends now started out as clients. I find it so much easier to chat with someone when I’m working, and people seem to really open up when they are in the strange pain warp space of receiving a tattoo. My mentor Corson Hayes says when you open their skin, you also open their hearts. And I’ve really found this to be true. It’s a very sacred exchange between the tattooer and tattooed, and I feel I am only at the precipice of understanding how healing this modality can be. I guess that’s another thing I love about tattooing - I am constantly learning, constantly evolving my practice. And, really nothing beats seeing my tattoos out in the wild. I love running into clients and seeing my work out there, just living it’s best life. It feels pretty surreal. I’m still not used to how insane it is that people are letting me put my art on them permanently… and I don’t ever want to be used to it, honestly.
Gaia: Fairy Toots is the cutest name for your tattooing practice. Do you have an affinity for folklore & mythology? Does that influence your tattoo work?
Alyssa: Haha, thank you! I wanted a name that was lighthearted; I don’t want to be taken too seriously. Yes, I do love folklore and mythology, even more as I get older. I grew up on Disney movies and fairy tales and I have never stop being obsessed with these things. I am a mega Disney nerd. My style is actually quite inspired by Disney, as I’m sure you can see now that I’ve said that! Asides from Disney though, I am very drawn to folklore as of late. Particularly Greek and Celtic, and I’ve been diving more into Chinese and Vietnamese folklore lately. I am half Vietnamese and half Scottish, so I’ve been feeling called to bring this influence into my work. This is a relatively new undertaking so stay tuned to see how (if?) it develops.
Gaia: What is the most challenging thing about being a tattoo artist?
Alyssa: I hold a lot of boundaries around how I work, so usually my difficulties aren’t with clients or even creating the art itself. For me, the toughest thing about being a tattoo artist is actually the physical demand. It might not look it, but tattooing is pretty physically draining. It’s pretty brutal for my posture; I can feel myself shrivelling more and more into a shrimp each day. We have a saying that goes “clean lines, curved spines”… my body really suffers in an attempt to create those crispy lines. It’s worth it though, right…?
Gaia: Is there a God, Goddess or archetype that you identify with, and why?
Alyssa: Yes! As you know, I’m always in the store looking for Persephone related items. I love Persephone. She only came to me recently, within the past couple of years or so. My middle sister passed in 2020, and I think it was around that time that Persephone started to come up for me. My sister was born at the Spring Equinox, and she passed at the Fall Equinox. Persephone comes up from the underworld in the Springtime, and she goes back at the Fall Equinox. I have found a lot of comfort in her archetype since my sister's passing, and I really identify with her. I love that she first is the pure flower maiden, and then when she goes down into the underworld, she finds this power within herself and becomes Queen of the shadow realm. She has really taught me to go into my grief and my shadows, and own them, and love them. This is where my power is. But, she doesn’t stay in that dark place; she returns to the above and spring blossoms again upon her arrival. I love this duality, how she can hold both parts of herself with love and they can exist together. She has inspired a lot of my art, especially my recent “High Priestess” hoodies.
Gaia: Are there any other personal spiritual practices you have? Do you mind sharing about them?
Alyssa: I practice tarot, although I do so in a more intuitive and less structured way. My tarot deck is the Shadowscapes deck by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and Barbara Moore. I love this deck because it is inspired by both Celtic and Asian art, so it really resonates with me. I also like to do little rituals on the Greater Sabbats - I usually do alone or with my partner, but this year it’s a goal of mine to do more rituals with friends. I used to meditate a lot, but have fallen out of a regular practice. I’m also just starting to get into evolutionary astrology, which feels like it is about to be a huge obsession of mine. I love trying to read my friends charts! Also, therapy. I know therapy is maybe considered less of a spiritual practice, but I truly believe that the two should go hand in hand.
Gaia: I would agree with you that therapy is a spiritual practice :D I think that therapy is probably one of the more underrated forms of spiritual practice, personally :) We see spiritual practice as something more abstract, more fantastical, but anything that helps us become more whole is spiritual. On that note, are there any spiritual philosophies, beliefs or paths you are drawn to that you would like to learn more about?
Alyssa: I first started down my spiritual path with Buddhism, as many do. I still incorporate a lot of Buddhist philosophies in my life, but lately I am most drawn to Witchcraft. I just love how personal witchcraft is, and the connection to the cycles of nature also feels really important to me. I’m interested in Taoism, but it can feel a little too abstract for me at times.
Gaia: How do you think you have grown as a person in the last year?
Alyssa: I feel like each year I get to know myself better, and as an adoptee, that’s always been a struggle for me. I’ve learned to really feel through my dark and gloomy parts, and show up authentically in my relationships. Of course this is still a work in progress, but I’m getting better at it. I’ve also been getting more comfortable with setting boundaries; speaking up when I’m hurt, and advocating for myself. This is scary as heck, but my inner child is so happy that I’m finally listening to her.
Gaia: What is one thing you would like to grow about yourself in 2023?
Alyssa: For 2023 I am calling in sexual liberation and empowerment! What a big ask! But I’ve really been feeling lately like our true creative power lies in our sexuality.
Gaia: What is your sun sign and do you feel you relate to it? If you know what your moon and ascendant signs are, do you feel like they reflect in your personality?
Alyssa: This usually surprises people due to my quiet disposition, but my sun is in Aries. I do actually feel like I relate to it, although maybe not in the traditional way. My moon is in Virgo, and my rising is in Leo. I have a lot of earth in my chart, which is what most folks seem to feel from me on first impression. My Virgo moon and Aries sun seem to make me obsessed with growth; Virgo is happy to put in the effort towards change and Aries is unafraid of leading the way into the scary places. I think my Leo rising shows through my work; this is where I express myself creatively. Or, get me in the right mood on a night out on the town, and the Leo and Aries really come through.
Gaia: Where can we find more information about accessing your services?
Alyssa: Instagram is the best place to see what I’m up to creatively - my Instagram is @fairy.toots. If you don’t have Instagram but are still interested in my work, you can email me at email@example.com.
Gaia: What would be in your shopping bag at Gaia Rising?
Alyssa: A Persephone idol please! I’m always looking for new seasonal things for my altar, too. Altar decor is my favourite! I usually buy gifts for friends from Gaia Rising, so it varies. Oracle cards, tarot decks, big pointy crystals!, books, candles. Thank you for your amazing store - it is my favourite stop on Baker :)