She’s Inked from the Neck Down, and Every Tat has a Story
Written By: Rina Magsombol Finnish Tattoo Artist Sara Fabel Shares the Story Behind her Ink Sara Fabel
Photographed By: Gil Cope
The Expert: Sara Fabel, Tattoo Artist
What started with only two black stars on her back perpetuated into a “skanvas” masterpiece. Tattooed from neck to feet, Sara Fabel, a Finnish-American tattoo artist, former actress and full-time mommy to her cat Dawn, has land-loped to the U.K., gallivanted along the coast of Africa and combed through Asia, Europe and Australia. Now, anchored in Costa Mesa, she puts the needle to work at OC’s tattoo shop Outer Limits.
Fabel has worked at Victims of Ink in Melbourne and Tatuata in Helsinki, tattooing a vast array of patrons, including many veterans. Beneath her sundry, medieval-inspired tattoos that effortlessly evoke curiosity is a gal who enjoys the simple things in life: hiking, clay shooting, snorkeling and delighting in her own fortress of solitude. Garnering social media acclaim, Fabel’s priorities recently adjusted, she is no longer acting and modeling, but prioritizing her sovereign passion for art.
Question: What compelled you toward the world of tattooing?
Sara Fabel: I saw my first tattoo when I was 8 years old and I thought it was the most beautiful thing ever. I just knew I wanted to be heavily tattooed. I used to be an art teacher doing graphic design but I missed working with people, so I decided to go with a new way of making art. I became a tattoo artist.
Q: How would you describe your tattoos?
SF: I am inspired by medieval-style woodcut illustrations—like old, antique Victorian, Edwardian-etching illustrations. I have one from Albrecht Durer who is an old medieval woodcut cover. You can’t use different shades of gray or anything like that. Everything is 100 percent black, but how you place it in the image, creates the illusion of depth and shade.
Q: What have you learned from tattoos that others may fail to notice?
SF: Tattoos can be so much more than pretty pictures on skin. They can be psychological stepping stones in your life. For me, it feels like my body, personality and who I am as a person is more protected with the more tattoos I have. I feel happier, calmer, secure and safe. Churches used to have gargoyles to brigade evil away from the sacred place and I feel the same way—my tattoos are my gargoyles. With my clients, they feel the same way; they have something permanent on their skin that no one can take away, and that means no one can challenge who they are as a person and what they have gone through.
Q: Tell us about your childhood. What did you always want to be when you grow up?
SF: I was really quiet and heavily bullied as a child. I didn’t really have friends and all the free time I had I spent drawing. When I was growing up, I was interested in law and medicine. I did study a little bit of that and I realized it would constrict me too much. So, I got a degree in art education and became a teacher in primary schools.
Q: Tell us about your most cherished tattoo.
SF: My favorite is by the artist Albrecht Durer. It’s taken from one of his works. It’s not the full piece, but it is a part of one of his illustrations. It’s the Whore of Babylon riding the seven-headed beast, and I actually like the beast because it has the biggest and fluffiest paws! I love the feet because they are so fluffy! I tattooed that on myself about six years ago. It’s on my leg, from my ankle almost to my shins.
Q: How about the piece on your elbows. What’s the story there?
SF: It’s a three-quarter sleeve. On the left arm, I have a winged lion with a crest and an eagle headed griffin on my right arm with a scepter. These were my designs. The left one with the lion is there to protect and he has a protection shield. The one on the right has a scepter.
Q: Any heartfelt stories you’ve had with a client that you’d like to share?
SF: I feel like 50 percent of my clients like pretty tattoos and the other 50 percent are really meaningful and symbolize something to them: a lot of veterans have heartbreaking war stories—a lot of people who’ve lost their loved ones or lost their cat. I do a lot of cat-related tattoos. I call them “cattoos.”
Tattoo Matrix: One of Fabel’s most noticeable tattoos is the one on her neck and chest, which comprises four different pieces: There lies a symbol on her solar plexus with a quote that says, “The night is darkest before the dawn.” Above that is a text reading, “misanthropic, ” and on top of that is a triangle and an eye, with wings.
Yin and Yang: Fabel’s tattoos appear ominous, dark and eerie. This runs in stark contrast to Fabel herself who is a fun, charismatic cat-lover! She enjoys spending her past time with her cat, Dawn, as well as hobbies like camping to hiking.
Outer Limits Tattoo
2981 Bristol St Ste B4
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
A R T I S T /// Spotlight: The Story Behind the Epic Designs of Costa Mesa Tattoo Artist Sara Fabel. (Hint: Check Out These Unreal Designs)