I love love love books,” said tattoo artist and illustrator Wiji Lacsamana.
Her mother says she started reading at age three and, according to Wiji, she never stopped. Dreams of working on her own book took seed in high school, after she read “The Catcher in the Rye.” She would begin chapters but leave them unfinished. Wiji said, “It was like my words struggled to catch up with these images in my mind. Later on I thought that maybe I wasn’t much of a writer as much as I was a visual person, and so the dream to create a book took a pause.”
But enjoying “Home,” a book by Carson Ellis (her favorite illustrator), and also Yumi Sakugawa’s “Your Illustrated Guide to Becoming One with the Universe” changed that. Wiji said, “‘Home’ is a big, beautifully illustrated book that contains only phrases or a sentence for each spread and I thought, ‘Hmm, I could do that!’ I could say most of what I want through my drawings, and the words could quietly accompany the drawings.”
She said, “There was something inside me that wanted to come out… I wanted, sort of, to talk about the things I’ve learned about life so far. I want these things to be a reminder to myself—sometimes out of nowhere I think of these things that would’ve been awesome to know while I was struggling. I also want these lessons to talk to the people who might need it. I wanted to relay them in a simple way, something that my 3-year-old would understand, and would be simple reminders to people my age or older.”
Wiji, one of the country’s most sought-after tattoo artists (her schedule for 2018 is already full), is no stranger to hearing about other people’s struggles. “I come across so many clients trying to make sense of what life has been giving them, and we talk about ways to best deal with them, and things that no longer serve the evolving versions of themselves.”
Her vision was “to create a book that will empower, hopefully enlighten, and ultimately make the reader a little bit happier.”
She achieves it with “Tiny Universe”—a book filled with beautiful illustrations and a message that resonates in a world that’s obsessed with the external.
“We never really own anything. Or anyone,” the book begins.
“Tiny Universe” is a book but it’s also an experience, an exploration, “an invitation to go inward and marvel at the wonderful world within you.”
We talked to Wiji about “Tiny Universe,” her process and good vibes.
The artwork and words in “Tiny Universe” go together beautifully—which came first?
Thank you! I started with the illustration of a girl lying down, and I told myself to just draw it without overthinking it. And what I drew was a girl at rest, and you can see inside her the moments in her life that were pivotal to change… It was a tiny universe inside of her. I drew every time a tattoo client canceled on me, and when my 3-year-old son was taking his afternoon siesta. I would draw on the floor beside our bed while my son was asleep, or on the kitchen table. The drawings came easier to me, the words, as simple as they are, took me a long time to figure out. I am so lucky to be surrounded by talented and gracious friends who were very helpful in editing my words. I asked the help of my friends Chinggay Labrador, Zee Perez, Kuki Ulpindo… They all helped me be more concise, or more poetic where it needed to be, or where to stay silent.
Can you talk about your decision to infuse the book with reiki and good vibes?
I studied reiki as an added service to my tattoo clients, and also to be of immediate service to my family when they need it. A huge percentage of my tattoo clients get tattoos done because they are going through big changes in their lives, and I love that tattoos heal them somehow, but I also wanted to be able to heal their energies more, if they want me to. And I realized why not just spread these healing energies into everything I do? We could all use all the good energy we can take in from the world right now.
Why did you decide to publish independently?
Well, because first of all I don’t even know how to approach publishing houses as an “author”—I’ve only ever been an illustrator for books. Also, I didn’t even really know how the book was going to turn out—I was making it up as I went along the process. Then when I was almost done with the book, I couldn’t wait anymore, I knew I had to do it right away and by myself. I like the process of producing something, looking for suppliers, choosing papers, I enjoy these kinds of things a lot.
What would you like your readers to take away from the book?
Oh so many things but the first of which is to own, to embrace yourself and the life you have—never compare your life to anyone else’s, each of our lives is ultimately unique and built for our own version of growth. Second, to be mindful about the energies we surround our lives with. Surround yourself with people and experiences that nourish you and, in turn, try to be a nourishing energy for those you love as well. Also, if the love we share is true, then we never really lose the core of anyone in our lives—everything is energy. We lose pieces of ourselves in people we love sometimes, but we are somehow never incomplete because we inhale the pieces they transmit to us. We are all connected!
But I would also love to know what insights any of the readers might’ve gotten from the book! I’ve received various messages from readers, a lot of them with new, interesting perspectives that I didn’t think was in there! And I love that how they understand the book is a reflection of where they are in their lives at the moment.
In a world that’s so focused on everything that’s external, why is it important to go inward?
Because this is where you find the real you, your strengths, weaknesses, and the space where you plant seeds to become the best possible version of you. This space inside you is the only thing you ever really have for the rest of this life, this is the only place you can really change anything at all.
Would you say yes to people who want to get images from the book tattooed?
I would love to so much! It’ll make me giddy and maybe even cry.
What advice would you like to give people who’d like to bring more good energy into their lives and into the world?
To bring in good energy, you have to be able to make space for it in you, and you also have to be able to generate good energy outwards. Good news is, we all already have all that good energy in us! The more good energy you give out into the world, the more space you’ll have to take in.
Do you have plans of writing more books? What else can fans of your work expect from you?
I would love to create more books! Most definitely. But I really want to create something that will mean so much to me, and I will create a book again if there is more that I have to say with as much conviction as I have for “Tiny Universe.” I haven’t had an exhibit in ages, and I miss just painting. I’ve said this the past few years and I haven’t gotten around to doing it, but I hope I can next year: I want to plan an exhibit again. I have some possible collaborations in the works, too, but details of which I can’t divulge just yet.
“Tiny Universe” is available online via http://wijilacsamana.com for P695.