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Hayley Moran: Spiritual leader 

One of the city's top tattoo artists is opening her own studio.

Hayley Moran tags one of the office mannequins with her art.

Melissa Oyler

Hayley Moran tags one of the office mannequins with her art.

Hayley Moran vividly remembers the first tattoo she gave someone. She spent nine hours meticulously eyeing every detail and making sure it looked right. She still loves it to this day and looks at it on a regular basis. After all, the tattoo is on her own foot.

"That's what I needed to do," Moran, 34, says. "If I want people to trust me tattooing them, I should trust myself. I love having that piece, too. It's sea turtles on my foot. I was super excited. Talk about a transformative moment — that was my dreams coming true through pain and healing."

For the last seven years, Moran has been tattooing at Fu's Custom Tattoo in NoDa (before that, she worked at Immortal Images); she's now ready to leap into opening her own shop. Instead of a stereotypical tattoo studio filled with "bad-ass dudes with bad attitudes," Moran is crafting her business around personal growth and self discovery. Haylo — Healing Arts Lounge, located at 1111 Central Ave., will feature tattoo artists, along with aestheticians and nutritionists. Moran also plans to host art and music events.

"Around my birthday last year, I saw some things being torn down in my life and new things coming up," Moran says. "I think the universe was showing me all these synchronistic things saying that it was the right time for a new building process. I have one other female tattoo artist and a cosmetic artist to do permanent makeup. It's going to build, but I want it to be more of an art experience. I see tattooing as a spiritual practice, too. We're not rebelling, we're discovering something. People come to me for a deeper level — not just to get a tiger on their arm."

Moran can recall the moment when she wanted to become a tattoo artist. Only 14 years old, her parents took her to a tattoo convention. The buzz in the air, literally, stirred excitement in the young artist.

"Here are all these cool, working artists. I met the nicest people who looked different and thought they might be scary, but they weren't," Moran says. "To see people making decisions to put art on their body and all of it, the energy in the room — it was powerful stuff."

Moran's amiable personality and talent have made her one of the city's top tattoo artists. She currently books appointments three or four months in advance, though she always makes time for consultations. (Along with playing guitar and ice skating. She's pretty good, too.)

"This is going to be the first time there's a tattoo studio where it's a loving environment that can help people grow," Moran says. "A lot of artists don't want to know your backstory. They don't want to help you think through your ideas, but I love doing that with people. I really enjoy creating for other people more than for myself."

Moran has been drawing since she can remember and has more tattoos than she can count — from the painterly/watercolor style art on her arms to the mandala-style pattern on the back of her head. ("It's an intricate web/flowering pattern radiating from a central source — specifically the 'sun' that the scarab is holding up. I later in life learned it radiates right at my throat chakra, which has proven to be in line with finding my voice in many ways.") Moran is ready to alter Charlotte's perspective of tattoo studios. She knows what it's like to be looked at in a new light after a simple transformation.

"When I got the front of my neck tattooed about seven years ago, I remember loving it and thinking it was perfect," she says. "I remember looking in the mirror the next day and thinking, 'Wow, I really did that shit!' People started talking to me and looking at my neck — not my boobs or my eyes. It took me a moment to get used to it."

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