The second: Because your perception is the only one I can see through...For all the people in the room I'm alone without you...I need your insight to feel light...I'm okay but not whole without you...You're air I breathe even when you're not there.

"I don't want to think that she killed herself, but I could see it," Hibbard says. "They were so dramatically, radically off the map of what other people do and think."

Tara Schinn walked into Breckenridge Body Art for the first time in March 2007. A Virginia resident, Schinn came frequently to Colorado for skiing vacations and business trips related to the IT security firm she owns with her husband. An abiding interest in tattoos — an integral part of an online, alter-ego pinup persona she'd cultivated known as Betty Mystique — had brought her to Kauri Tiyme's new shop.

Tara Schinn, who had several tattoo sessions with Kauri, says her friend "did not want to die like this."
Tara Schinn, who had several tattoo sessions with Kauri, says her friend "did not want to die like this."
Kim Kosnar, who had "girl talks" with Kauri weeks before her death, says her friend gave no hint of being suicidal.
Kim Kosnar, who had "girl talks" with Kauri weeks before her death, says her friend gave no hint of being suicidal.

Schinn spent six hours that day with Tiyme, who gave her a half-sleeve of cherry blossoms caressed by wind and snow. She was delighted by the work — so delicate, whispery and feminine, almost Japanese in style, yet amazingly vibrant — and even more so by the company. "It was just a magical experience," Schinn remembers. "We bonded quickly. We talked about cats, makeup, Dr. Who, being a vegan versus a vegetarian, the relationship we had with our moms."

Schinn was back over Labor Day weekend for another session, then several more in 2008. In all, she had five pieces done by Kauri. Her husband came in for five sessions of his own. People stopped them on the street to admire the work and marvel at the color. Schinn resolved that no artist but Kauri Tiyme would ever work on her again.

Other clients felt the same way. Kauri and Keenu had taken the plunge, opening their own shop in Breckenridge — some say they sold the land in Sedona to raise funds for the venture — with the expectation that they would be able to attract a younger, hipper clientele. The resort town wasn't Hollywood, but it wasn't Bakersfield, either. Kauri hoped to find customers more in tune with her art, as well as more varied work for Keenu, beyond the usual teenage girls getting their first nose rings.

Breckenridge Body Art did end up attracting a loyal core of repeat customers — mostly locals, but some regular visitors like Schinn, too. Yet after several months, Kauri began to get restless again. Even Breckenridge was somewhat limiting, she decided. And there was something else, too — a growing frustration with Keenu.

Schinn picked up on the different atmosphere in the shop when she visited last June. Kauri talked excitedly about this warehouse she was going to rent in Denver, where she would continue her tattoo work, open an art gallery, host live music and much more. "Breckenridge is cool, but I don't get to do the art I want to do here," she said.

Keenu was even quieter than usual, Schinn remembers, and went out for smokes often. The tension in the studio was palpable. Kauri waited until he was out of hearing range, then whispered to her, "We're not together anymore."

After almost a decade of being with Keenu, Kauri had filed for divorce in May. She soon had a new boyfriend, Peter Ausan, guitarist for Darker Days Tomorrow, and a new circle of friends in Denver connected with the band or the underground scene. She told them all the same thing: She was ready for a change.

"The impression she gave was that Keenu was not motivated and ill-suited to be with her," says Cora Reed.

"She described him as kind of a slacker," adds Kim Kosnar. "The only time he did anything was when she pushed him to do it."

Yet Kauri's move to Denver was far from a clean break. When Schinn visited her at the warehouse in August, she found her friend stressing over the move, selling her condo in Breckenridge, dealing with a new operator of the shop up there — and still negotiating the breakup with Keenu.

"I asked her how it was going with Keenu, and she said, 'He's a good guy, and I'm sorry it's over, in a way, but he's having a hard time letting go,'" Schinn says. "She said he was going to come down to the new studio and do piercings. She was trying to be nice and extend a hand to him. But I think he saw her friendship as a way for them to get back together."

Kosnar says Kauri paid the rent on Keenu's apartment when he followed her to Denver. He had no car, little work other than what she found for him, and called her frequently — a sore point in her new relationship with Ausan. "Peter told me Keenu would call Kauri, get her to come over for one reason or another, and then he'd try to make a move on her every time," Schinn says. "It was driving her crazy."

Kauri told Schinn that she was planning to train Keenu to do tattoos and set him up in Breckenridge on his own, that she had no intention of bringing him back into her life for long. Most of her energy seemed to be going toward launching the new business. She worked long hours and seemed to eat almost nothing except popcorn.

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15 comments
Cliff
Cliff

Kauri was a friend of mine. I have old letters and stories of her time in Tucson. She and Jay later visited me in Northern California when her Grandfather died and we spent time on the Lost Coast. There is a deeper longer story of deaths ... strange ritual deaths ... that were around her going all the way back to the '80's. She was always scared that "they" would find her ... to the point of paranoia. Her interests in the occult and psychedelic drug use led her down some very dark roads many of you know little of, but there were other murders (two I know of intimately). There were also wars, tattoo wars, going on in Tucson that she was affected by, with bombings and shootings ... she was not a willing participant. I'm sad to hear of her passing, as are many of her other old friends here in Tucson. RIP Kauri

Iris
Iris

Wow, I knew Kauri back in the 80's when we were just two young women hanging out together. Reading this makes me very sad. We sure had some good times, didn't we? Rest in peace Kauri.

Jery
Jery

Kauri did not 'go' by the name McPhillips, she married Jay McPhillips in 1994 in a private ceremony at the Enchangted Dragon Tattoo Studios in Tucson Az. People who slam a person "after" they are dead usually won't have ANYTHING said when they go. Kauri was a kind and kindred soul with visionary thoughts, a sharp wit and could recognize "crap" at a glance. Probably why some of these people are slamming her, she recognized them.

Jerry
Jerry

Have read the comments and I lived with Kauri for 14 months. Sorry you didn't get any James, only guys who knew her that hated her were the ones she dumped or never got any in the first place. Call you so you can play phone soldier, go turn some tricks and shut your face. Funny, don't see your name in any ink rags. She was spotlighted many times however. Man that jealousy can be harsh.

Jerry
Jerry

I knew Kauri since 1994, lived with her and her then husband in Tucson, she was Kauri McPhillips and worked for the Enchanted Dragon studios there for Glen Tackett. No I lived with her for 14 months and she did not want to go out like this.

Anne
Anne

Jim, How dare you talk about Kauri that way? Her art was not garbage and she was no liar.

james birkbeck
james birkbeck

i would encourage the writer of this article to print some of the fine literary musings kauri wrote and post an open challenge for a reputable scientist to interpret her nonsensical gibberish.the stone cold fact is the bitch was crazy,but just cause she died everyone wants to seem sympathetic and all full of the warm fuzzies for her.she wasnt shit in life ,so why should she be deified just cause she murdered. the only shame is that she didnt get the proper psychological help she so needed.i wonder why all her suppposed friends were so absent in that department.

Margaret
Margaret

It's not that Kauri was a lair, james, it's just that you're too stupid to know what she's talking about.And yes, I did know her, worked with her for years in different locations.

james birkbeck
james birkbeck

to those of you who were offended by what i had to say,my only question to you is did YOU know her.thought not ,because if you did and you were sane,you would probably share my lackluster sentiments.and to the retard who "is going to teach me a lesson"i live in virginia beach,va.if you feeling that assbent then feel free to contact me at 716 348 1223.i hope your your rightousness pays off,and by the way ,FUCK YOU!

 The
The

james birkbeck how dare you... seems like your the liar! where do you live again? I'll teach ya a thing or two about talking crap !

ouroboros
ouroboros

you tipped the scales, speaking ill of the dead.

james birkbeck
james birkbeck

i knew kauri very personally.we dated for a while when she lived in buffalo nyabout ten years ago.she actually got me into the tattoo business.one thing about kauri is she was a liar on the worst level.she was actually one those people who were so sick she believed her own lies.she would publically declare some total nonsense and the mere fact that she stated it somehow made it true to her.she was a very disturbed person who needed alot of help.she just drifted from town to town and used people around her,quite sad really.and speaking as a respected artist in the tattoo community,her work was garbage.her reputation was based soley on being freaky not so much as talent or skill in her craft.man that girl was nuttier than squirrel turds.

Rx
Rx

After reading this piece, I clicked for another page. But no, this was all there was to it: A somewhat tedious roadmap of a couple of scary-disturbed individuals hitting the end of the line in a Denver hotel, in an odd kind of way, not much different than the way the had lived. It's a sad story, but not terribly remarkable. I am left with two questions: Why was this story written? And why, with all her soul-searching and "voracious reading," did she evidentally never question her "racing thoughts" and instability? The article seems to glorify these traits, which are more than just quirky behavior than a series of acts pointing less to exceptional artistic ability and more to, say Bipolar I.

Krystof
Krystof

The word "Kauri" translates into "Tree", ironically, Kauri was the tree, those of us that she tattooed were the branches, and the tattoos themselves are the leaves. Many leaves take on many different shapes and colors, some almost incomplete in structure but still beautiful none the less. Thank you Kauri for the brief time you touched our loves. Until we meet again my friend.Love, Krystof, Lesley and Deanna

Lauren
Lauren

I am absolutely shocked. I was randomly scanning the website and decided to open this article....this woman did my tattoo in Northampton, Mass about 6 years ago! For the life of me I never remembered her name, but I do remember her stud implants and her love for physics (and her grandfather's supposed work on the Manhattan Project). The color on my tattoo is still the best I have ever seen and it has made it impossible for me to find another tattoo artist. I'll never be able to accept anything less than her absolutely gorgeous work. I am so sorry to hear about her death. She was an amazing artist and will always be remembered.

 
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