Meet Manon: Tattooist, Mum & Surfer
Updated: Dec 9, 2022
Dot work tattoo artist Manon of ZM Freespirit talks to us of her life as a surfer, business owner and mother. How she's carved herself a life on her own terms, able to live in a Portuguese surf town and work on her tattoo designs which she uniquely creates for each client.
Tell us where you’re from originally and where you live now ?
Hello, my name is Manon, I am French, born in Bretagne.
I spent my childhood on a sailing boat between the Canary Islands and Africa.
After 6 years studying in Paris, I went back on a trip to live in Spain. Now since 2017, I have been living in Aljezur, a small town on the west coast of southern Portugal.
What brought you to Aljezur in Portugal?
What brought me to Aljezur was a burnout, a questioning of why I was in Tenerife and the decision to leave everything behind and go live in my little Opel Corsa while traveling the Atlantic coast of southern Spain to Brittany. The idea was to see if I could find a place more suited to who I am. And 12 days after my departure I passed through Aljezur and this space gave me what I needed at that moment and allowed me to grow in the direction I was looking to go.
From your Instagram account we can see you are a very talented tattoo artist. How did you get into tattooing? Are you formally trained or did you start practicing on friends ?
I am one of those people who likes to be organized but who prefers to follow her inner compass, rather than planning everything. After getting my license as a graphic designer, I decided to go to Spain to give French lessons in public schools rather than accepting a great job as a graphic designer in Paris. After a year as a freelancer, I realized that I was too ashamed to do a sketch in front of my clients. So I took a remote art license in order to unlock myself. That same year I moved to Tenerife in the Canary Islands. At the same time as giving French lessons, running my business as a freelance graphic designer, learning to surf/skate/speak Italian, I was also doing my art lessons remotely. Then one afternoon, a tattoo artist saw me drawing and every day for 7 months he gave me advice and trained me without me really realizing it. A week before my art exams, he left and left me a little box with a tattoo machine in it. Once the surprise passed, the boys from the tattoo shop showed me how to tattoo myself. I fell in love, I did my exams and resigned my license, I was no longer ashamed to draw and I knew that I had found the art that would allow me to express myself in the direction that makes me vibrate. Subsequently I worked in tattoo studios to learn the technique and opened my first private studio.
Did you intentionally choose a career that you can do anywhere in the world?
Yes definitely! I started traveling when I was a month and a half old, so the idea of being sedentary and doing a job with paid holidays and a 9/5 schedule never appealed to me. I studied applied languages in economics and a professional license as a graphic designer, so the idea has always been to be able to work from anywhere in the world. The tattooing came to me during my time in the Canary Islands and made that even more possible.
Do you find it stressful making something permanent on peoples bodies?
I'm a complete perfectionist, and the tattoo remains a design that you do by hand on someone's body, so it will never be perfect. This aspect was the hardest for me to accept at the beginning. However, being someone who is very much into personal development and the impact that a moment, a reflection can change in our life, I consider tattooing as a therapy that leaves a scar that we have chosen. And if everything is done in full awareness and in harmony with ourselves, I have no fear of tattooing it on your skin because even if it's not as perfect as my level of perfectionism demands, I know it will remain a talisman unique and full of energy to help you the rest of your life. And that's why I do this job.
Do you have any tattoos you regret?
Yes, I regret the tattoos I did in a tourist tattoo studio where the most important thing was the money and not the meaning or how they were done.
I regret the tattoos I did "because it's my job" when I had a little voice inside me saying that the person will regret it one day.
Every day I learn to say no to be more in harmony with my work and my principles! Today I'm the first to tell my clients when they shouldn't get a tattoo or should take more time to think about it.
Have you tattooed yourself ?
The first time I held a tattoo machine was to tattoo a flower on my ankle. And that's the day I fell in love with tattooing, the impact it has on someone's life, the technique and the responsibilities it brings. I have since stopped counting how many times I have tattooed myself. I have just 3 tattoos that I didn't tattoo on myself, I just drew them.
What’s your cure if your struggling to be creative?
Sometimes people ask me if it's not more difficult to make unique tattoos for each client than to just offer designs that I create according to my own inspiration.
It's actually more complicated, but that's precisely what makes me more creative. Because it is my client's story, it's their energy and their intention that inspires me to create.
So in general when I get stuck on a design, on a project for lack of creativity, I move on to another, by working on a different story, it stimulates my creativity.
And if not, I just stop, I take a break and go surfing or skateboarding, or I share a simple moment with my son and my creative soul will take over!
How would you describe your tattoo style and how you differentiate from other tattoo artists?
My style of tattooing is "fine lines", "dotwork"... A lot of us do this style.
What differentiates me from others is my approach via a spiritual side and personal development. My sensitivity and my energy work.
You live a in beautiful surf town, do you find living by the ocean influences your art work ?
Sure ! I am a surfer and I have always lived in contact with the sea. It is an inspiration and a space of well-being and connection with myself.
What is your favourite design you have created?
I don't think I have a favorite design.
Each project comes into my life at a time when it will echo my own story and touch me deeply at that moment. Then I continue to evolve and another project arrives just as different as it is touching and I will once again be passionate about my work.
You are now a mother as well as a tattooist, how do you find juggling your career with being a mum ?
F***ING INTENSE !
I didn't stop. I continued with custom designs and each time tattooing was complicated. I resumed tattooing two months after giving birth.
Today, I've been a mom for more than a year and a half, and my right arm is very sore... my body is telling me to stop.
So what can I say... Being an artist/business woman and a full-time mum (no day care for us) is one of the most intense and transformative experiences I've ever had.
I have been questioning my work a lot lately and I am undergoing a major transformation in order to be more in harmony with myself, my creative energy and my life as a mom.
I don't know where this will take me, but I'll let you know!
My only advice would be "be tolerant and gentle with yourself!". Because we tend to put pressure on ourselves or feel guilty.
You are the best of moms in your imperfections and your love, and the best of professionals in your honesty and authenticity.
What advice do you have for anyone planning on getting a tattoo ?
Take the time to feel it in your skin and in your soul.
Whether it's for months or a few minutes.
You must feel that thrill of gratitude. To feel that it is already there and that your soul is in agreement.
Do it to make yourself feel good, to give you confidence, to remind you who you are, to give you strength, to keep moving forward in your life.
Do it for you!
What plans do you have for the future for your career and your family ?
For now, continue our quiet life in Aljezur.
Allowing the little one to grow up in a healthy atmosphere. My companion and I are each growing in our own professional lives.
And every day we create a more welcoming space that is in harmony with ourselves.
So for the future we will continue to enjoy the present moment simply by following our inspiration and the opportunities that arise.
If someone would like a design created by you, or would like to combine a Portugal surf trip with getting a tattoo what do you need to realise a design ?
As I said before, I am rethinking the way I work. I always plan to offer custom designs that you can get tattooed by your tattoo artist, and the tattoos directly with me. However, I plan to add a lot more energy work with live or remote reiki sessions and personal development consultations through numerology for example. In short, i want to use all the knowledge I have accumulated over many years to heal and develop myself and to offer this to my clients. But all that is still in the making. So the easiest way is to see where I am at directly on my website when it calls you.
For the moment what I'm asking is this :
✧ If you already know where you want it on your body and more or less the size... Knowing that each part of the body has a special energy, try to feel where this future tattoo belongs or when you will need to see it.
✧ What is the intention of this new tattoo?
✧ What is the story of the design, its meaning, and its energy?
✧ What are the elements you want on it? Elements that have a strong meaning for you, translating you a special energy.
✧ Some of your inspirations – illustrations, pictures, tattoos... – anything that inspire you about your tattoo project.
It goes without saying, please respect Manon's artwork featured in this blog and don't copy it.