Joe Larralde: Polynesian Tattooing in the Pacific Northwest

By Joe Larralde
Polynesian tattooing is alive and well here in the Pacific Northwest. Washington and Oregon have long been a hub for Hawaiian and other people of Pacific-island descent. Portland in particular has a large and ever growing population, and fortunately for me they are seeking out their roots when choosing their tattoos…

The tattoos show pride and respect for their descendants. I spent a better part of my career tattooing in Maui and even before my apprenticeship have been drawn to the beauty and striking effect Polynesian tattoos have on both the people who wear them and the curious onlookers.

Tattooers who know the motifs and have studied and tattooed in the islands can tell you there is a spiritual connection between them and the customer.

It begins with drawing on the skin and allowing the tattoo to come to fruition throughout the process. I feel as though the tattoo is already in them and I am there to bring it to the surface.

I am always surprised how unique each tattoo and individual experience is. Unless my customer is from the islands most of my tattoos are more of a blend of motifs from all over the Pacific.

They are more stylized, showing a respect for the beauty of the truly traditional motifs. This style has been gaining popularity both here on the mainland and in Europe and I’m proud to be one of the tattooers that is getting the work out there.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss Polynesian tattoos stop into Art Work Rebels or visit our website: and send me an e-mail. [divider]

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