Artist Spotlight: Elle Festin, Spiritual Journey Tattoo
Editor's note: I've been a big fan of the work of the Tatak Ng Apat Na Alon Tribe, a group made up of largely young Filipino-Americans seeking to revive the tattoo traditions of their ancestors. One of the founders of the Tribe, tattooist Elle Festin, opened Spiritual Journey Tattoo last year, which offers traditional, hand-poked Filipino tattoos in addition to being a full service studio of all tattoo genres. For more info on Tatak Ng Apat Na Alon and Elle's work, here's Tribe member Tina Astudillo-Ash's guest blog.
By Tina Astudillo-Ash
In the past few years, Tatak Ng Apat Na Alon (Mark of the Four Waves) Tribe has been blessed with continued momentum in their efforts to revive indigenous Filipino tattoos. The Tribe's family has grown throughout the United States, especially in California, as more people have reached out to get in touch with their Filipino roots through tattooing.
The growing interest in the Tribe's work has allowed tattooist Elle Festin to continue to hone his skills at hand-poked tattoos. Elle utilizes several different hand-made tools, which he has been able to model after indigenous tools.
In 2008, the Tribe's work was further validated when Elle and other Tribe members including Zel Mayo and Jyroe (Jose Jimenez) traveled to the Philippines to participate in the Cordillera Festival and meet Whang Od, one of the last Kalinga tattooists in the world. Whang Od questioned and tested Elle extensively about his tattoos and the motifs behind the patterns. She was satisfied with his responses and she realized the Tribe was sincere in its efforts to revive the art form. Whang Od had confidence in Elle's skill and knowledge, and she invited him to tattoo her. Elle obliged, applying a simple yet beautiful centipede design on her upper back. Elle would later remark that even at over 90 years old, Whang Od did not flinch when getting tattooed. Elle also had the opportunity to meet Whang Od's apprentice, her grand-niece. Although still very young, her apprentice was eager to learn and continue the sacred tradition. An encouraging sign tattooing will continue to flourish in Kalinga culture.
In 2011, Elle opened the Tribe's official tattoo studio, Spiritual Journey Tattoo & Tribal Gallery. The art found throughout the shop and applied on the walls pay homage to many indigenous cultures and their tattoo traditions. The shop also has a special room reserved only for applying tattoos by the traditional methods. Although a great majority of clients are seeking Filipino tattoos, the artists also do traditional American, Polynesian, color and black and grey tattoos.
The opening of Spiritual Journey Tattoo has resulted in more positive exposure for the Tribe and Filipino tattooing. In recent years, Filipino tattoos have gained well-earned respect from other tattooing cultures. [Support and encouragement have always been given by respected artists like Aisea Toetu'u, Po'oino Yrondi, Orly Locquiao and Gilles Lovisa.] It is a testament to the significant impact of the beauty of Filipino tattoos. Perhaps the most important result of this is reflected in the growing number of older Filipino tattoo clients -- those who always wanted to be tattooed but avoided getting them because they did not want to be associated with the negative stigma surrounding tattoos.
Through Spiritual Journey Tattoo & Tribal Gallery, the Tribe continues to educate the community about indigenous-style Filipino tattoos, as well as offer other traditional work and contemporary tattoo art.
Spiritual Journey Tattoo & Tribal Gallery is located at 7159 Katella Avenue in Stanton, CA.