Exotic Eye Tattoo has been open for a year and a half in the beautiful state of Hawaii. A single artist operation, Rachel Gonzalez. 35, provides a wide array of tattoo styles for her clients. From Black and grey, pointilism, to pinups, polynesian, color realism and sacred geometry, she is a jack of all trades. Centrally located in Wailuku, Maui, Exotic Eye Tattoo is in prime location, attracting tourists and serious collectors alike. Private, appointment only and intimate, Rachel gives her clients a comfortable and unique experience every step of the way. Read her interview below:
Hey Rachel, tell us a little about yourself; where were you born, what do you like to do outside of tattooing?
I grew up in New York, New Jersey. I own Body Alive Yoga and Movement Studio, which is next door to Exotic Eye, where I teach and practice several times a week. I enjoy fire spinning, gardening, painting and sculpting.
Sounds like you like to stay busy. How long have you been tattooing, what inspired you to start?
I’ve been tattooing for 11 years, started on the big island of Hawaii. I’ve always been an artist and tattooing gave me a new medium to work with. My background is in Polynesian Tribal, Realism with a splash of Kitsch. I prefer to do Sacred Geometry pattern work with influences from Indian and Asian art as well as botanical elements.
How did you realize that you wanted to pursue tattooing as a career?
Starting with a visual arts background and began to study yoga around the same time, as these worlds started to merge I began to see how the body can be an amazing canvas to express peoples visions.
Describe your relationship with your clientele…
I go out of my way to make them feel comfortable, work closely with them to perfect their design and make them feel at home with honest and open communication that keeps you laughing.
How would you describe your tattoo work to somebody that has never seen it?
Multidimensional, high detail, layers of imagery that range from sacred geometry to nature inﬂuence to Polynesian, crisp lines, classic pin up art...
Whats your take on flash vs. custom tattooing? Is flash dead or does it have a place in the industry?
Flash is a great for reference, a handy tool. I personally dont have it up on the walls in my shop because I prefer to do more custom work. If a client comes to me with flash, i will definitely do it for them but am happy to work with them to individualize it so it is unique to them. I also think flash is a great way for artists to showcase their work to other shops.
Do you feel that tattoo culture has gone mainstream with so many reality TV shows on these days? If so, is this a bad thing?
Tattoos have definitely gone mainstream, however there are always ways to create new and innovate pieces.Tattoos going mainstream isn't necessarily a bad thing, I think it has brought more awareness to the meaning, skill and creativity of the art of tattooing.
Do you have a particularly memorable tattoo experience? Anything stand out above the rest? What’s your wildest tattoo experience?
Doing a full sleeve a my Yoga teacher Eddie Modestini, which was a collection of yoga inspired images from ancient times in India for his 60 birthday. I incorporated his only other tattoo which which was a 1” Om that was done by Lyle Tuttle in the 1960s. My wildest tattoo story has to be tattooing “What the fuck are you looking at Dicknose?” in typewriter font on a mans hand. It was in my first year of tattooing and my boss required me to do everything that walked through the door. He was a walk-in in a three piece suit, who waited six hours for the piece.
Do you think any tattoo artist can do a cover up or is it something that requires proper and specific training to execute properly?
Yes anyone can, but it definitely helps to know the tricks and skills so that it looks aesthetically pleasing and doesn't look like one sticker stuck on top of another.
What is your advice for somebody looking to get their first tattoo? What about an artist looking to break into the industry?
Do your research: what you want, what you like and who tattoos in that style. Make sure you feel comfortable communicating with your artist and have lots of examples of what you are looking for. Artists should draw everything that they see; practice, practice, practice. Watch other people, get lots of tattoo and get tattooed by people who’s work you admire.
What are your goals as a tattoo artist? Both long term and immediate...
I would like to continue to merge my two loves of Tattooing and Yoga with the development of my new project Yoga for Tattoo Artists which is a DVD soon to be released that are sequences speciﬁcally design to balance the impact of sitting at a desk and working with a client in sometimes physically and mentally challenging ways. The sequences I have designed (short samples of these will soon be available on my Youtube channel) are super easy to follow and even do right in your shop. In the short term, I’d like to continue to do large transformational pieces for clients symbolizing the different stages in their lives and marking memorable experiences/times for them.
Any last words on how your work has affected your clients lives?
I spend a signiﬁcant amount of time with each client in order to incorporate all the images and symbols that they see in the vision of each piece. I feel that through this process the client then gets a piece that is not only deeply symbolic for them but leaves room to grow and expand as they have new things they want to add and incorporate.
Wonderful! Thank you Rachel. Clearly driven, passionate, and uniquely talented, Rachel Gonzalez continues to persevere in a cut throat industry, and for the right reasons too. Check out Exotic Eye Tattoo at 1995 Main St. Unit 2E Wailuku, HI.