Walter Sky’s ethos extends far beyond the minimalist kit itself. In fact, one could say it all began with Nathan Andersen’s lifelong quest for an essential skin—which manifested itself quite literally at first. A devotee to Everett Ruess’ linoleum landscape prints, Nathan began his search for a tattoo artist to relay this same artistic story on his left arm. And that’s when he came across the ever-prolific Lisa Orth, an artist based out of Seattle renowned for translating natural themes into otherworldly etchings on skin.
While extremely selective with choosing clients, Lisa eventually read Nathan’s proposal and knew she had to embark upon this artistic and spiritual journey with him. And while she completed his full sleeve over a two year period, her work wasn’t done there. The two decided to collaborate on Walter Sky’s first limited edition hat in an effort to bring a sense of natural spirituality into other people’s lives. As such, we decided to sit down with Lisa to get a thorough peek inside her process and how art—as well as the relationships we consequently form—can undoubtedly shape our lives.
Tell us about the first design featured in your Walter Sky collaboration.
This first design—the Lisa Orth Collab Hat—encapsulates the dynamic energy behind the work that Nathan and I have accomplished together so far. I wanted to capture the energetic counterplay between the power of the sun and the grounding earth energy of the mountains, one giving way to the other and the interplay between.
Beyond your artwork itself, how do you see your role in your client’s lives? How do you serve them?
Trust is so intrinsic in the work that I do. As with Nathan, most of my clients hand over just a loose idea or concept, giving me full creative freedom and trusting me to come up with artwork to fulfill their vision. Beyond that, my role is both artist and intuitive—I strive to create a safe space and dialogue. I hope to serve the people I work with in so many ways, including providing them with a permanent connection to the spirit and energy of the earth.
I hope that every person I work with has had the opportunity to connect with me personally in addition to the artwork. When they think about the experience they had with me it’s so important that every element of our time together is positive and connects them to a higher place energetically. I get to make deep connections with people on a level that’s pretty unprecedented when working with someone you’ve just met. Great friendships can develop and expand outward from that place.
We caught wind of how you prep for a tattoo and it sounds truly unique. Tell us about your pre-tattoo process.
When I open my books for appointments I accept proposals for ideas, which can be a pretty daunting process to go over. Last time I received over 300 proposals in under an hour! Before going over everyone’s ideas, I go into a meditative space where I ground myself and open myself to setting an intention to connect with the energy of the people who I should work with. While I’m reading over proposals I pay attention to certain signs: Am I having any unusual physical or emotional sensations? Do I have any images popping in my head when I read a particular idea?
Sometimes I will get a fully formed picture (in my mind’s eye) of my artwork for a piece someone is describing. Whenever that happens, I know for certain I need to take on that work with that person. It’s almost as if I’m seeing into the future and linking up to seeing a vision of the finished piece. That is the exact thing that happened when I read over Nathan’s proposal for his arm sleeve.
Does a tattoo narrow one’s identity or expand upon it?
I believe if a tattoo is done correctly—with the right artwork, intent and spirit—it serves to expand our consciousness, who we are and what we connect to.
What have you learned about people while tattooing over the past 11 years?
I’ve learned that we’re basically all the same. Despite our outer differences, we all have the same hopes, dreams and fears. We all want love, we all want to be happy, we all want to do work that feels significant, and we’re all afraid to a certain extent. If we could just realize that these things that scare us, these unknown factors and circumstances, are made up of people just like us, we’d realize the world can be open and accepting if we just have trust and can open ourselves up to it without fear.