The Tale Of The First Tattoo

What would prompt you to get inked for the first time in your life? For Güneş Mutlu Mavituncalılar, it was a spiritual epiphany that needed to materialize in the form of an intricate tattoo design. The founder and creative director of globally acclaimed bag label Mehry Mu opens up about her inaugural tattoo experience in Los Angeles.

April 4, 2024

Tattoos, to me, have always felt like something I needed to start getting in my 20s or avoid forever. I’m in the latter group. And being in the non-inked band has always felt conclusive.
Last year, during a tete-a-tete with one of my favorite people ever, I realized that my rigid way of thinking about tattoos (and possibly everything else) did not align with the ephemeral nature of life. Güneş Mutlu Mavituncalılar, founder and creative director of Mehry Mu, has told me that it felt like it was finally time to get her first tattoo. She was going through something cathartic, and she was in dire need of materializing this moving mental moment in the form of a tattoo. And so she did. Almost a year after she got inked in Los Angeles by Dr. Woo, Mavituncalılar opens her heart to Wonderflaw about this very personal decision.

Getting a tattoo seems to come with an expiration date. If (like me) you don’t get one until a certain age, you automatically need to embrace the “I have no tattoos, I’m all natural” personality. Yet, you got your first ink job done at 42. What prompted this decision?

Until the day I decided to get inked, I had no interest in tattoos whatsoever. It wasn’t even a contemplation point for me. I have been expressing myself through my work in a rather expressive field for years, so the sentimental part about getting tattoos was off the table in that sense. I was always so into my connection to my jewelry, bags, and art, and my writing did it just fine for me.


Leo, my brother from another mother, suddenly died at the end of the summer of 2021. I grieved heavily for the next 6 months. One day, while taking a walk, I experienced a supernatural moment with him. There were two porcupines involved in the moment, which I won’t get more into. But be warned that some super real supernatural things happened, and the gist of it is that I was instantly like, ‘I have to get a f*cking porcupine tattoo now.’ It felt like it would relieve my grief and seal that supernatural moment, which meant magic exists. Then, I started the journey of finding my tattoo. Because I wasn’t getting inked with a porcupine design!


Güneş Mutlu Mavituncalılar admits to having no previous interest in tattoos.



How did you decide on your first tattoo design, and where did you choose to have it on your body?

So, the research part took a good year. Deciding on the design did not happen until the last day, and it was a super intense process. I would not have gone ahead if I was not more than a hundred percent at peace with it. As someone who has established existence and found peace in the creative realm, I love the ever-flowing/evolving and non-permanent nature of my creative processes. However, the permanence that comes along with a tattoo was a totally new concept to me. (Later, once I got inked, I realized that tattoo people defy that feeling by continuing and evolving with more and more tattoos.)

Until the morning I got inked, I wanted the tattoo inside my upper arm. I wanted to be super demure and private about it. But the morning of the whole deal, I was like, ‘You are in LA, getting inked by one of the best and unapproachable tattoo artists in the world, and the design is aligned with your view of the world, and you wanna hide it?’ ‘You brat!’ After telling myself off, I decided it should be on the inside of my lower arm, and I left my hotel room to meet my tattoo.


How did you pick Dr. Woo? How does his vision mesh with your sense of personal style?

When I decided to get inked, I started looking for artists in my hometown, Istanbul. I emailed an artist whose work I liked. I was both surprised and unsurprised to see how shallow he was. Liking his work wasn’t the only criterion for me. I also needed the artist to get why I was getting inked. (OK, maybe I am not the ideal tattoo client! Sorry!!)

It was simply because I was on a spiritual quest, and I wasn’t going for it just because of the tattoo’s appearance. I don’t think he cared about the situation, which is totally fine, and I moved on.

So later on, one night, I was obsessing over my tattoo again, on who would make it and what it would be. It finally occurred to me that I should Google some famous people with tattoos. I googled Brooklyn Beckham and came across Dr. Woo. I still don’t know if he ever tattooed him, but the algorithm liked the two together, which is the first time I heard about him. I simply loved his work as I specifically love anything galactic. I loved the grace of his slim needle technique and how he interpreted and depicted beautiful universes with his flair.

The first question that came to my mind was, ‘How the hell am I going to get an appointment with him now?’

I saw his 1 million-something follower IG, and he was following two people I know. It was like the ‘I’ve been to dinner with them with less than four people around’ level I know. So I wrote to one of the two, and she was super sweet and said, ‘Of course, here’s how you connect with him.’

So then the process of getting the appointment kicked off. I was in Istanbul; Woo was based in LA; however, he was traveling constantly. Meanwhile, I was supposed to have a business meeting in LA, and the meeting date was tied to other factors.
Long story short, I eventually set a date for my business meeting in LA for December ‘22, and at that moment, I still did not have an appointment with Woo. More importantly, I still did not know what tattoo I was getting. So I thought, ‘OK, well, it’ll happen when it’ll happen’… ‘At least I am talking to his team now’.

Meanwhile, for the last year or so, I have been reading Carl Jung. Leo and I were fans, but Leo was a pro. So I was looking to connect the dots and find my tattoo and honestly going a little crazy, as nothing was feeling right.

After months of heavy reading, I boarded my LA flight with a pocketbook on Jung (I know! Best intel is always in the dummy versions!) I still had no appointment with Woo or idea for a tattoo design. As I was reading the book, I came to a section about yin and yang, and boom, I had my tattoo idea. Now get ready for major goosebumps. I take my phone out to text Woo’s team to see if there’s any possibility of seeing him. What do I see? An email from them saying Woo will be in town at so and so day and hour! Was that meant to be, or what?

Fast forward to the appointment.

‘During’ was pretty cool. I went alone, as at that point, I was starting to feel like the character in The Alchemist. This was a walk, and I was walking alone.

Woo turned out to be a super nice person, and the whole session felt cathartic and therapeutic for me. Getting inked didn’t hurt; I guess it has something to do with it being a slim needle technique.


When it comes to beauty, you tend to opt for a more natural-leaning outlook with the products you use and the procedures you get in terms of the results. Yet with this tattoo, you’ve chosen to get something visually permanent on your body that is perhaps unlike anything you’ve ever done. How does this shift feel?

Honestly, my yin yang by Dr. Woo feels like an extension of me—a part of me—like my right pinkie, my left eye, my heart—I swear to God. Sometimes, I forget I have it, and the most beautiful part is I don’t feel startled when I catch a glimpse of it. I just feel good about it and smile—every and every time.

The symbol and the way it was interpreted are so aligned with me. Not only did it bring closure to my deep grieving process, but it also opened a door for me, where I know that every night has a dawn, and the night is starry and chaotic yet terribly beautiful. And the night turns into the day and the day into the night.. and so goes the whole story, round and round and round.


Are there any more tattoos in the future?

Definitely not for now. But something in my gut tells me there will be.