Cork tattoo and healing space has 'spa-like' atmosphere

NICOLA DEPUIS talks to the owner of a tattoo parlour with a spa-like atmosphere in Cobh, about the ethos of the business
Cork tattoo and healing space has 'spa-like' atmosphere

Tattoo artist Phoebe O’Regan o f Awen tattoo studio and healing space in Cobh, pictured with Melanie O’Driscoll, on the right.

HAVE you ever wanted to get a tattoo, but felt uncomfortable about entering the traditionally butch, busy tattoo studio, where strangers frequently come and go, loud phones ring, heavy doors slam, and privacy isn’t always a main concern?

Tattoo artist Phoebe O’Regan understood this predicament, and so last July, she opened Awen, a tattoo and healing space in Cobh.

The first of its kind in the country, Phoebe describes Awen as having ‘more of a spa-like atmosphere than a typical tattoo shop atmosphere,’ which she believes is not for everyone.

“I was thinking a lot about people who want to get memorial tattoos, who want to get tattoos when they’re recovering from trauma, and want to mark the end of that trauma,” says 29-year-old Phoebe, “deeply personal tattoos that should be done in a gentle, calm, healing space.

“We’ve all had those experiences. They’re very very common. I have so many women here, especially in their thirties and forties, and they don’t feel comfortable in other tattoo shops. But when they come here, they feel at home, they feel welcome. When you come in, it’s your space, it’s private, it’s really relaxing. People say they love the energy here.”

Brought up in the Shandon area, Phoebe developed her love of illustration and tattooing while living in Cambodia and Japan.

“I started taking illustration seriously when I left Ireland. I felt like in Ireland I wasn’t allowed to call myself an artist because I didn’t have an art degree,” says Phoebe.

“When I went travelling, I realised I am an artist. I was just drawing all the time. So I started taking it seriously and people started asking me to draw things for them for gifts, commissions, and murals. The tattoo work evolved from this.

“Before this, Phoebe had worked her way around Asia teaching English, which, she admits, altered her natural Cork accent.

“It definitely made me speak more clearly. Everyone said I spoke really fast before I left Ireland.” But that’s not all that changed during her travels.

“I came back to Ireland for a visa run. It was supposed to be a holiday before I started working in a kindergarten in China, but I found that my relationship with Ireland had really healed. I just had this whole new lease of life here. I didn’t want to leave again.”

Awen Tattoo Parlour, Cobh.
Awen Tattoo Parlour, Cobh.

Wanting a slower seaside pace of life, Phoebe chose Cobh as her new home town, a place she also had a sentimental connection with, as her grandparents would bring her to Cobh on day-trips often as a child. With lockdown in full force, Phoebe, who loves being busy, started loads of online courses, and came across Kilkenny-based Brand Coach Hilary Hughes.

“Her aim is to help female entrepreneurs set up really strong foundations for their business. I’d never done anything like that before,” says Phoebe.

“I didnt even know what branding was. I ended up in this group of Irish women trying to make their own businesses and I just got caught up in that whole world.”

While developing her branding and business skills, Phoebe found the phrase ‘tattoo and healing space’ kept popping into her head during meditation.

“I didn’t know if it was a crazy idea, but I just knew I wanted to create a spiritual tattoo shop.”

Following her intuition, when Phoebe came across a former bakery in Cobh that was for lease, she decided to go for it. It was also around this time that Phoebe met healer, Melanie O Driscoll, who has been offering healing work in Cobh for many years.

One of the tatoos by Awen Tattoo Parlour, Cobh.
One of the tatoos by Awen Tattoo Parlour, Cobh.

“I saw what Mel was doing in Cobh. Then I knew there was a market for that kind of stuff here,’ says Phoebe.

“I met with her and convinced her to give it a go, working here. So she’s a real integral part of the whole thing.”

Melanie, who is training as an interfaith minister, offers sound healing, meditation and intuitive readings in Awen.

Once local tattoo artist, Emma Jones, and yogi Hannah O’Hara also joined the team, Awen opened its ‘sanctuary by the seaside’ on Harbour Row after two months of redecorating.

“Harbour Row used to be the main shopping street in Cobh,” says Phoebe.

“Until the 1980s it would have been very busy and bustling. So we want to bring it back a bit. Our two neighbours do gorgeous work – Cobh Nails & Beauty, and DKH Hair Studio. We’re really passionate about being part of the Cobh community.

“I love Cobh. I want to really uplift the local community and I just love the idea of people travelling to Cobh to get a tattoo, and seeing how lovely Cobh is.”

As well as tattoos, self love packages, retreats, sound healing, yoga, meditation and intuitive readings, Awen also has a small shop section where visitors can buy crystals and incense amongst other items. Two of Awen’s suppliers are local teenagers who make jewellery, bath bombs and vegan tattoo balm.

Some of the crystals on sale at Awen Tattoo Parlour, Cobh.
Some of the crystals on sale at Awen Tattoo Parlour, Cobh.

“There are great young entrepreneurs in Cobh, so we love stocking them. We also have a group of teenagers who call every Saturday to buy crystals. They call Awen ‘The Crystals Shop’.”

Saturday is the only day the shop is open to the public as for every other day, bookings are appointment only.

The women of Awen also host retreats at Cobh Community Centre.

Phoebe says: “We have so many ideas for what’s ahead. Our mission statement is to promote self-love, self-care and inclusivity through tattooing and everything else that we’re doing. We want to spread healing and make it more accessible. This is definitely the beginning.”

To find out more about Awen, contact 085 267 3742 or email awencobh@gmail.com

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