Working at Soul Signature Tattoo since
I founded Soul Signature Tattoo along with Joel Albanez and Lucky Olelo in 2005.
In the 1990s I was part of the generation that started the “New Tribal” era, which is the foundation of modern Polynesian tattoo. We mixed different art forms such as Asian, illustration and graffiti with different tribal designs from the Pacific Islands.
“Style” is actually a difficult concept for me to nail down since it is my passion to keep exploring and pushing the boundaries. Every tattoo is an opportunity for me to find new ways to work with the client’s energy, and in that respect every person who wears my art is also wearing an expression of my artistic journey at that particular point in time.
Who are you? What is your background?
I was born and raised in Hawaii in a Tongan immigrant community, and I have a Hawaiian/Filipino from my mother’s side. My brother and I started working as landscapers from a very early age. Tongans are very industrious and we learned how to take care of ourselves and make our own opportunities, which is something a lot of the younger generations seem to be missing out on these days.
How did you get into tattooing?
At around 14 years old I started using homemade tattoo machines to tattoo gang members. Searching for designs led me to the library where I discovered lithographs of the original Tongan Tatau which completely changed my life, which is the subject of a documentary I am working on. In my early 20s, I met Tahitian tattooist Fredrick "Pooino" Yorandi and anthropologist Tricia Allen who were both Polynesian tattooist. Through the help and guidance of Tricia Allen I attended my first tattoo convention in Toronto Canada in 1997 and never looked back.
What interests you the most in tattooing?
Tattooing started as a hobby, became a full-time career, and then morphed into a quest to help people reconnect to their cultural heritage using artistic expression. One of the most inspiring things about tattooing was traveling and meeting people from so many different cultures and walks of life. These people give me inspiration on a daily basis so that I can keep pushing forward with my art.
What is your favorite line of the humane body?
Every time I tattoo an individual, that piece becomes his favorite piece because no matter what the body part it is always a unique opportunity to manifest something that has never existed before.
How do you keep yourself inspired?
I wake up every day looking for inspiration, because as an artist that is my job. I exercise to keep a healthy body, mind and spirit. I take classes that are offered by different artists that teaches different mediums of art as such oil painting, pallet knife and photography. I challenge myself. I also dedicate myself to spending a lot of time with elders.
Do you have any specific hobbies besides work/tattooing?
I do A LOT of other things besides tattooing such as farming, carving, capoeira, martial arts, etc. I also cook a mean huli huli chicken using my own secret recipe, but too bad I rarely have enough time to make it.