Entering Earth Altar Studio in Eagle Rock, you’ll think you’re in a day spa long before you notice the tattooing equipment. You won’t hear the buzzing of tattoo machines or see flash on the wall, but you’ll be offered some imported raw water in the tearoom and have an opportunity to check out the assortment of crystals in the lobby.
In fact, if no one there is actually physically being tattooed there at the time, you may never realize it’s a tattoo shop at all. That’s exactly how owner Justine Serebrin wants it.
Serebrin is a healer first and a tattooer second. Although she initially got her start in tattooing, learning through a traditional apprenticeship, the spiritual tattooer knew that wasn’t what she wanted to do in the long run. Even the idea to become a tattoo artist came to her in an unconventional way.
“While I was meditating, I had a vision where I saw myself doing a tattoo,” Serebrin says. “We were sitting on a wood floor looking out over the ocean, and the sun was shining in. I was doing this tattoo on this woman’s back. I didn’t know how to tattoo at the time, but the tattoo was somehow healing her. It was kind of sacred.”
Inspired by the vision she had while meditating, Serebrin completed her apprenticeship and then branched out on her own. For several years, Serebrin tattooed out of a private, 100-square-foot studio where she began contemplating how she could put her own spin on tattooing. But the art school graduate still wasn’t sold on tattooing as a career — it was just a trade that allowed her to continue pursuing the types of art she was really keen on.
“I kept pushing tattooing to the side so I could focus on my art and my painting and all of these other things, but tattooing was the one thing that was really supporting me financially,” Serebrin says. “I decided to put all of my eggs in that basket about two years ago, and I opened the Tattoo Spa. I was kind of surprised that no one had really done it in that way. I thought since I had that vision of it 10 years ago, maybe it was me who was supposed to do it.”
Over the past several months, Serebrin has closed the Tattoo Spa and rebranded her artistic home under the Earth Alter Studio banner. Rather than focusing on standard styles of tattooing, Serebrin has moved on to what she calls “intuitive tattooing.”
In essence, the artist sits down with her client on the studio’s ornate back patio and discusses what they want out of their tattoo — not necessarily the design but the meaning and intention behind it. Serebrin’s preferred method of getting to know her clients — assuming they’re willing to partake — is through her homemade oracle cards. With the reading and consultation complete, Serebrin moves on to her unique take on tattoo preparation.
“We figure out what they want to do, and then they pick out a crystal,” Serebrin says. “I’ll clean the crystal off and attach a needle to it, and that’s what I use to do a part of the tattoo. It’s a little bit of stick-and-poke with a little bit of traditional machine tattooing. The color of the ink they choose has intention and meaning behind that too, I infuse the ink with intention, because just like if you talk to water it’ll crystalize a certain way, I do that with the ink so every part of the experience has intention to it.”
Of course, not everyone who walks into Earth Altar Studio is going to want an intuitive tattoo. Anyone is welcome to receive the spalike treatment for a tattoo in Eagle Rock, as Serebrin brought on talented newcomer Melissa Martell to handle more of the traditional and blackwork tattooing styles. The two finally held their grand opening party for the studio just a few weeks ago.
“We just had our grand opening, so I can finally dive into this work,” Serebrin says. “I want to focus on the intuitive tattooing and also doing areola reconstruction for breast cancer survivors. They both mean a lot to me, and I think there’s a demand for it.”