Tamiko Rast creating a tattoo

Meet our Community Curators: Tamiko Rast

To celebrate the opening of our newest exhibit Tattooed and Tenacious: Inked Women in California’s History, we will be highlighting the work of the some local female tattoo artists who helped curate the exhibit.

Today, we are highlighting Tamiko Rast. Tamiko has painted and been involved with art since childhood,
taking oil painting classes at age 10. At age 20, she started her own web design business, Rasteroids, with her brother. She started getting tattooed at 27 and knew that eventually she would become a tattoo artist. She has been tattooing now for about five years and works independently.

What was the first tattoo you did?

Tamiko: The first one I did was on my arm. I figured, ‘now’s the time,’ I’m going to try this out. Most tattooers do their legs first because it’s not visible, but I didn’t know what I wanted to put on my legs, and secondly, if I’m going to do this, then screw it, I’ll put it on my arm. I did an ‘x’ for my grandfather middle name, Fred Xavier Rast.

The first one I did on someone else was pretty nerve wracking. I added snowflakes to an existing snowflake tattoo. It turned out great, there were no problems with it all, but the first couple of years were just nerve wracking. You want to do a good job, but you are never happy because if even if it’s great and looks perfect, you’ll wonder, ‘could I have done it better?’

Tamiko Rast in her tattoo studio

How does you as an artist influence you as a tattooer?

Tamiko: I think with any kind of art, it depends on the canvas. As a tattoo artist that means you are working on skin and a living organism, as opposed to something that is non-living. To me, it just changes the dynamic of how you apply the art, and there are certain rules to it, but there are rules to any artistic medium. If you are working with clay there is a different procedure, or if you are working with canvas there is a different way to go about it, and tattooing is the same in that way.

How do you think tattooing has changed in recent years?

Tamiko: It’s very fluid. In the last five years, it’s changed a lot, but it really seems like it changes from year to year. Now there are more very skilled fine artists moving into the field and just taking to it like crazy. I was told by one person it takes 10 years to see if a tattooer is good, not anymore. You’ve got people coming in and after two years who are doing amazing work and it’s because they understand the fundamentals of color and mixing, and understand the canvas and application.

How do you think tattooing might change in the future?

Tamiko: I wonder if it tattooing might become something where people stop getting tattooed as frequently. I think there are ebbs and flows. Today, there’s a lot of people that get a ton of tattoos, and maybe in the future that will change. There will always be people that get tattoos, but maybe in 10 years, fewer people will be getting as many tattoos as they are today. We’ve seen tattooing go up and down before, but that’s not what it is about. It’s not a competition, it’s not a trend – if it is a trend then you are not doing it right and you are not doing it authentically for yourself.

Stay tuned for more interviews with local women tattoo artists. Check out their work in our newest exhibit Tattooed & Tenacious: Inked Women in California’s History – opening Sunday, March 20, at 12:00pm in the Leonard & David McKay Gallery at the Pasetta House in History Park.

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