Twelfth House Skin Studio redefines ink experience

Mary Stella Mangina, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Florence-born body artist Piper Natalia Akers has been a proponent for creativity since she was a kid and a skilled tattoo artist for the majority of her adult life. After spending time getting her artistic bearings through travel and self-discovery, as well as working at a Sheffield-based tattoo studio called Noble Sparrow, Akers opened her own tattoo parlor, Twelfth House Skin Studio. Her shop, now two years old, is based in North Florence.


Specializing in mandalas and floral illustrations, Akers brings a pointedly feminine touch to her art. Her designs have been a staple of the Shoals area since 2017. Her fine lines and swirling strokes set her designs apart from those of other artists.


In addition to Akers’ contributions to skin artistry in northwestern Alabama, she has made a name for herself as a muralist. She paints each commission with passion and precision. 


“When I first got into [tattooing], I was dead set on doing it in the same style as my paintings, but the more I did it, the more it evolved into something that was cleaner, with finer lines,” Akers said. “I always have a sense of direction when it comes to giving a tattoo.”


Inside Akers’ Studio, Twelfth House Skin Studio, are walls decorated with soft-glowing fairy lights and shelves adorned with oddities, including decorative skulls, formaldehyde jars and jagged crystals. Also adding to the overall esotericism of Akers’ gallery is her commendable collection of framed Playboy magazine covers.


According to Akers’ astrological birth chart, when she was born, several planets were rotating in the twelfth house. She feels that the cosmos at the instant of her birth played a significant role in her natural dispositions. The Twelfth House is the house of karma, which Akers repeatedly looks to for guidance. The period of time in her life at which she opened her studio was one of tremendous change. Because she sensed that many of the changes she was undergoing were karmic, she decided to name her workshop Twelfth House Skin Studio.


According to astrological practices, all material objects in the Milky Way galaxy belong to specific spatial subdivisions, or houses. In total, there are 12 houses, all of which take into account people’s times and places of birth to embody different features of their everyday lives. They are believed by astrologers to provide insight into the triumphs and hardships people will experience in their lifetimes.


The exact meaning of the houses is determined by stargazers who look to individuals’ circumstances of birth to locate the house wherein the planets were rotating on their birthdays.


Astrologers hold that the astrological houses through which heavenly bodies were passing at the moments of their births have a part in the chronology of their experiences and overall nature of their consciousnesses.


As far as position goes, the twelfth house rests beyond the brink of the horizon. Due to its distance from Earthly beings, it is viewed as a medium through which unseen substances move. According to prophets, all the world’s innermost thoughts, dreams and feelings reside in the twelfth house. Therefore, someone who was born while celestial mass was heavily concentrated in said house are destined to be in touch with their emotions and perceptive in connection to others’ emotions.


Modern astrology and female empowerment tend to intertwine. Their correlation is rooted in the fact that a collection of astrological points were named for powerful mythological women.


Akers uses her natal chart as a means of feminine self-actualization. As reported by a 2009 Gallup poll, American women are twice as likely as their male counterparts to visit fortune tellers and palm readers. Statistically speaking, women drove astrology’s gradual prevalence in mainstream popular culture.


Similar to astrology, body art has served as a tool for women to embrace their individuality for decades. Despite this reality, the art of tattooing is a typically male-dominated profession.


“Getting a tattoo from someone can feel very intimate,” Akers said. “It’s such an up-close-and-personal experience. When I was younger, I hated going into tattoo shops. They were always these environments that were masculine, heavy and toxic. The tattoo artists would respond to my ideas with condescending tones.”


Akers aims to push back against the oppressive masculinity of the body inking. She supports women in the business by gravitating towards female artists for her own etchings.


“I have been going to an amazing woman in Atlanta named Savannah Colleen for most of my tattoos,” Akers said. “She tattooed my whole back. I aspire to be like her.” 


Colleen, like Akers, is fond of imaginative, fine-lined tattoos with beginnings in supernatural doctrines.


In the midst of an American political climate that leaves women fearing for the agency they have over their bodies, it is important that they remain in charge of the ways they physically express themselves.


Who better to help them display the claim they lay to their personal anatomy than other women?