We always keep reiterating that tattoos are much more than just body art. It’s much more than art, for that matter. But, to explain the same is quite a challenge because to really understand the emotional power of tattoos, one needs to gets tattooed.

Meet Laila Soininen, a Swedish lady, formerly married to a tattoo artist, has been associated with the tattooing scene for the longest time now, and a lover of our culture and traditions. Laila has been travelling to Nepal for about two years, and the Nepali cuture and mythological history has inspired her so much that she now has quite a few tattoos to show for that.

Image Credit: Laila Soininen

Couple of months back, something special happened in Laila’s life. She got Shiva and Parvati inked on her back, from two different artists, as the ultimate symbolism of love. After a few days of getting the Shiva, she accidentally met one of India’s top tattoo artists, Rishabh Narang at the recently held Nepal Tattoo Convention 2016. They started talking, she ended up getting the most beautiful Parvati portrait from him, and at the end of it all, she was left overwhelmed.

Image Credit: Laila Soininen

Yes, someone who has spent the majority of her life around tattoos got overwhelmed after getting a tattoo. This is what happened, in her own words…

“My first time in Nepal was in 2014. Since then, I have spent a lot of time here, and I have fallen in love with their culture, the people… This country made me so comfortable right from the beginning that I felt at home here, and that feeling has never died. I spent most of 2015 here, even during the earthquake. And experiencing that earthquake effected me deeply.

I started thinking about life, what am I doing, where am I heading. Coming from  Sweden, and right from my childhood to that moment, I had never faced the wrath of nature in that magnitude. I actually thought that this is going to be it; I am ready, you know. And from that, you know, Nepal means a lot, it does…

Image credit: Laila Soininen

I have been traveling back and forth ever since then. So, I had gone to Pokhra sometime back, and that’s where I got my Shiva tattoo. I have always been fascinated by the mythology of this part of the world.

After the Shiva tattoo, I was kinda thinking like, ‘Oh! Next time I’ll be back again. I’ll just go home and work some as I always do and I’ll be back again. And, I have always wanted Nepali artists to do these tattoos of mine, as they have always lived this culture. They tattoo with a lot of feelings and for me tattoo is about feelings.

So, on the first night of the convention, we went to this dinner with the Indian guys and a lot of different kind of people. There, I met Rishabh Narang of Immortal Tattoos, and we started to talk and… I don’t know something happened; we just sort of connected in a way that… wow!

Laila (second from right) with Rishabh (fourth from left) and other attendees of the Nepal Tattoo Convention 2016. Image Credit: Shyam Sudhakar

So, I asked him if he wanted to do it and we decided to get on with it. We sat down and I said what I wanted, just the vision of how it should look and I don’t want the western way of doing the gods. I want the Indian, the Nepali way of doing it, more traditionally. He showed me what he came up with and I said, ‘Yeah! Let’s go for it.’ But you know I didn’t see it…

For four and a half hours into the tattoo, and I didn’t see it. I just heard people saying good stuff about it and saying that I need to go on stage, this is amazing and I kept thinking what are they talking about! It’s a tattoo, yes, but it sounded way more than that and you know we were in a rush. He didn’t even let me smoke! He actually walked with me and kept drying and taping it. Everybody was asking me if I had seen it. I just kept thinking I don’t wanna see it because I am nervous. This is actually not me, I am not a stage person. I don’t do tattoos for others. I do them for me, because they mean something to me, but I also knew that to him, it meant a lot.

I keep thinking wow, how did I pick him.

Having been in and around tattooing for so long, I knew that to be a good artist you need to be seen, your work needs to be seen and for his sake I said yes, okay I will go up. I’ve been a part of this business for many years and my former husband, he was a tattoo artist, he is a tattoo artist. I mean I have lived in this for many years but I’ve never participated in a convention.

I have been to conventions, but I never participated that way. I don’t have tattoos from any convention, this is the first time. Even if I met a lot of great artists, this is the first time and going on stage and I was really nervous, I hadn’t eaten, not smoking. After I came down from the stage, Alex asked me, ‘Do you wanna see I what you got, now?’ because I could understand that this is SOMETHING.

The moment Alex showed me the picture of the tattoo on his phone, I was… overwhelmed. He really got me! I think that is the feeling. He really got me, what I wanted to have. I mean look at her eye, it’s love… It’s love for her husband and on the other side Shiva’s quite stern so, Parvati is looking at him with this loving gaze. Yeah, that was the feeling.

He really nailed every little, single piece of it. I keep thinking wow, how did I pick him.”

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