HER NEW MEDIUM
Family tattoo shop offers training ground for young artist
Raven Moon presenting a photo of the first tattoo she ever did on a client: a line drawing of a flower on Megan Brown’s ankle. Photography by Kalli Anderson
Raven Moon is an artist, fascinated and inspired by darkness.
She’s been creating art since about second grade, wearing all black since middle school and dabbling in a variety of media over the years.
Her books are her best friends and artistic inspiration — she discovered India ink in the illustrations of Lemony Snicket’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events” and now uses it to add a dark, crisp element to drawings and paintings. She gave up on pencil drawing, but adores gouache, the art of using opaque watercolors to paint, and took about a year to master drawing on an iPad.
But nothing compares to how Raven feels about her newest medium: tattoo ink, with the human body as her latest canvas.
Raven, 25, is an apprentice at Ritual Moon Tattoo on State Street in downtown Madison. Her husband, Abraxas Moon, 26, reads tarot cards at a sturdy wooden table in the corner of the store as the shop’s resident psychic. Her mother, Jaded Moon, is a renowned tattooist who travels to clients across the globe and specializes in inking where the sun doesn’t shine.
Settling down in a single brick-and-mortar store was never in Jaded’s career plan, and neither was having an apprentice. All of that changed when her oldest child, Raven, decided she wanted to learn the art and trade of tattooing.
Jaded primarily founded Ritual Moon as a space for her family to hone their crafts and support each other in a safe environment. As they explore and create a niche in their new home, the Moon family aspires to expand their trades further to bring a unique artistic and spiritual experience to downtown Madison.
Jaded always brought her children with her when she traveled — but training an apprentice on the road would have been impossible. She wants stability and success for her children and never suspected they would be interested in following in her footsteps.
“When the kids asked me about tattooing, I obviously have nothing negative to say, because I’ve always loved tattooing, and it’s been so good to me,” Jaded says. “But I’m like, ‘You should do real estate.’”
But Jaded knows firsthand the emotional benefits and expressive freedom that come along with the trade.
“There is almost no other profession in the world where you can be as weird as you are as a person, and people will be as accepting as anything to the things that you say,” Jaded says. “You can be whoever you are, and it’s accepted as a tattooer.”
Raven began her first apprenticeship in her hometown of Las Vegas under a family friend. She describes it as a very masculine space — a huge shift from the matriarchal household where she grew up.
“I just didn’t get along with them as well,” Raven says. “It just didn’t work out.”
Her mother wanted to ensure that Raven could learn in a healthy environment after her own rough start in the business. Jaded began tattooing at age 16 as a “street kid” and faced sexual harassment when she apprenticed under bikers. In order to protect her daughter and ensure Raven could flourish in her apprenticeship, Jaded settled down and set up shop.
“It was just time for her to learn in a place that was a good environment,” Jaded says. “I think the idea of the shop just came from the idea of our family and how close we are and how important it is for them to have a good space to work in.”
“We would really like to live up to our name, the ‘ritual’ part.”
— Abraxas Moon
Raven is not the only Moon training in the art of body modification in the family shop. Middle child Micah Moon, 21, is also a tattoo apprentice, and youngest brother Sequoia Moon, 19, is an aspiring piercer. Abraxas Moon, Raven’s husband, intended to begin his tattoo apprenticeship this summer but it was delayed by two separate hand injuries.
“She specifically opened the shop up for us, and it’s great,” Raven says. “It’s absolutely wonderful.”
An apprenticeship is an unpaid training program that usually lasts about two years, according to the Florida Tattoo Academy. Although an apprenticeship is not required to apply for a license in Wisconsin, working under a seasoned artist gives an aspiring tattooist the opportunity to not only learn the business, but develop as an artist.
While he waits for his hands to fully heal, Abraxas is mastering the scheduling and communications while developing his divination abilities as Ritual Moon’s resident psychic. He has been reading tarot since age 14 and is studying other forms of spiritual readings to perform at Ritual Moon, such as astrology and palmistry.
“We would really like to live up to our name, the ‘ritual’ part,” Abraxas says.
Raven is excited to expand her skill set and integrate spirituality into her tattooing.
In Las Vegas, she trained in a variety of spiritual practices, but now she strives to incorporate attunement into her tattooing via stick-and-poke tattoos, which are done with a single needle dipped in ink — the artwork is created one tiny dot at a time.
Attunement is a method of spiritual and emotional healing that uses strategies such as chakra work and body-tapping.
Both methods visualize maps of energy on the body to catch and remove blocks, and attunement does something similar. Raven describes it as rummaging through someone’s aura to feel for a “prick,” which indicates a spiritual block, then pulling it out.
“I’m getting energy going in a certain area and moving blocks of energy in your body,” Raven says. “I feel like the tattooing is really almost the same sort of thing.”
This fall Raven stepped into tattooing customers, and to complete her apprenticeship, she gave away 100 free tattoos. Megan Brown found herself as Raven’s first human canvas.
Brown, a 21-year-old from Sun Prairie, a Madison suburb, stumbled upon Ritual Moon because of a friend living nearby. She noticed that the shop had something extra to offer, an occult twist.
“Tattoo and tarot? Two of my favorite things,” Brown says.
She chose a line drawing of a flower and made an appointment, keeping her expectations low. When the date came, Brown made her way to the shop and was amazed at the curated interior.
“The shop has so much character,” Brown says. “You can tell they really care about it.”
Raven wasn’t nervous about the actual needle-in-skin part of her first foray into tattooing customers, but she was stressed about the human interaction part of it. Before any ink is used, Raven ensures that the tattoo is within her skill level, as well as being designed, stenciled and placed 100% correctly.
There are no do-overs when it comes to tattooing.
Abraxas Moon has been reading tarot cards for about a decade and is currently studying astrology. He will add it to the psychic services offered at Ritual Moon when he feels he’s truly mastered reading birth charts. Photography by Kalli Anderson
As Raven tattooed Brown’s ankle, Jaded stood behind her daughter to give helpful feedback and stepped in at the end to touch up the artwork. Brown was thrilled with how her tattoo turned out, especially considering the price point.
“My first thought was, ‘Are you frickin’ joking? This looks so good!’” Brown says. “I would 100% go back. I love the vibes. It was such a comfortable experience.”
Raven learns more with each tattoo, exuding nothing but confidence and optimism. While she is sure of her own artistic and technical abilities, Raven attributes some of her comfort in this new medium to her support system.
“I will say that my mother is teaching me, and so I’m fairly comfortable. I think if anybody else was teaching me, I wouldn’t be nearly as good,” Raven says. “Sometimes maybe I’d be more comfortable if somebody else was teaching me because maybe I wouldn’t care what they thought, but my mother is my best friend — and I care about what she thinks more than anybody else.”
Historically, cultures across the world have tattooed for artistic, spiritual and healing purposes, according to Raven and Abraxas. Ritual Moon plans to continue this tradition in its new home. Between Abraxas’s psychic studies, Jaded’s boundary-pushing art and Raven’s spiritual services, the Moon family is bringing a new element to the city.
“Hopefully Madison is open to that idea, and they’re accepting of the idea of having something that’s a little bit different,” Jaded says.
DAWN page photo credit: Raven Moon and her family love the location of their shop, especially the proximity to other artistic spaces such as the Orpheum Theater and the Overture Center. Photography by Kalli Anderson