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Mandala is the Sanskrit word for “circle”, and as a tattoo, is composed of shapes and symbols that radiate from the center outwards in a circular pattern. Like a circle, a mandala is meant to reflect balance, eternity, and perfection. For those who need a reminder in geometry, the distance from the centre of a circle to all points on it remains the same. The mandala is a unique design that emulates this sense of harmony.
You may recognize mandalas from religious sites like churches and prayer rooms. They have existed long before tattoos, in the artwork of Hindu, Buddhist and Christian religions. Ancient monks drew vivid and intricate mandalas on sand in temples. In Hinduism, a mandala is often embedded in the design of a room for prayer or meditation, because it is linked with focus. Buddhists also reserve a special place for mandalas in their meditation and rituals. The symbolism of balance in body and mind aligns with their beliefs and practices, as well as their reflections on eternity. Mandalas are also incorporated into the rose window designs of stained glass windows in Christian churches.
The blooming effect of a mandala tattoo also gives it the appearance of a flower. By combining floral and circular symbolism, a mandala can represent femininity and the blossoming of life. It may also represent a range of meanings from creation to growth and rebirth.
Mandala tattoos are undeniably mesmerizing. Their spiritual origins and substance give them even greater depth. This makes getting a mandala tattoo such an interesting prospect. It can mean so many different things to people, which means that your tattoo will always be special and unique.
According to Chronic Ink’s in-house expert, Alex, mandala tattoos are built on symmetry. He starts from a fixed point and draws the heart of the mandala. This core design can be based on an idea, or it can be an existing shape or image. Then he carefully constructs each layer surrounding it, taking into account the angle of rotation and number of points on the mandala.
Each person has a different vision of what elements they want to include in their mandala. This is what gives each mandala a unique meaning. Since a mandala is more of an abstract, individual design, artists spend time consulting with their clients to hear their ideas, and show them, or ask to see existing templates that they can build on together.
Tattooing a Mandala
Several online sources agree that the chest and back are the best places for larger mandalas, because their flat surfaces don’t distort the shape and details. While he agrees that this is a logical approach, Alex has a different opinion. He finds it an interesting challenge to fit the mandala to a specific body shape and certain silhouettes of their muscles. Using this approach, there are even more possibilities of making a mandala tattoo a personal statement. For example, one arm can have three possible areas for drawing the same mandala, and each one could turn out with a different look and feel. Similarly, the point of view that the mandala is drawn from, can influence the level of detail that it contains. Tattooed on a leg, the design will have less detail because you are looking down at it, and mainly capture its outline and depth. In contrast, a mandala tattoo on the back is drawn and seen from a straight point of view, and therefore has more room for details. When choosing where to place a mandala, it’s very important to not only look at the tattoo itself, but also consider how we see the whole body.
Tattooing such an intricate and meaningful design like the mandala requires more than the usual tools. When he began to design mandala tattoos, Alex used a ruler and a compass. Since then, he has improved his technique with computer programs, and the thermocopier, or stencil machine, which he considers essential. Tattooing has a built-in filter of imperfection because the result changes with the hand of the artist, and the skin of the person receiving it. Stenciling by hand can add another filter, which is why a machine proves to be essential. On top of precision, artists need to select their tools based on the effect they want to create. They can use multiple needles for the same tattoo, and combine textures such as in dotwork.
Inspirations and Trends in Mandala Tattoos
Since mandalas are found in many different cultures, there is no shortage of inspiration. They can come in floral or tribal patterns; single form or divided into two halves; circular, square or triangular shapes; and vivid colour, or black and white. Alex has noticed that henna art is a major source of inspiration. Flowers are also an enduring muse for mandala designs because they have a natural symmetry.
Mandala artwork has stood the test of time, and will continue to evolve. More than an instrument, tattooing gives the mandala new life by personalizing its design to the body of the wearer.
Miss Mo is a professional bookworm and overanalyst. She is fuelled by curiosity, spicy food, and the desire to understand and enrich life through words. To see more of her musings: http://hellomissmo.
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