A birthday gift from her brother opened the door to Rami Kintsugi’s tattooing career. Rami is more than a tattooist and business owner – she is a free-spirited, self-taught artist who connects individually with each of her clients. After growing up trying to find her place in the world, Rami found her calling through tattooing. She is now living out her dream as an artist, healer, and inspiration to others. Rami talked with us about what makes her work and herself unique, and how tattooing has allowed her to pursue what she really loves.
Hi Rami! To begin, could you give us a little background on yourself?
Hello! My name is Rami, pronounced like Amy (with an R). I grew up on an island off the Pacific Coast of Washington. Half of my family is in Japan, which is where I spent my childhood summers. I am married and I have two sons, who are ten and twelve. I’ve been tattooing for nearly four years now, which is the longest I have ever consistently kept at something. I suppose you could say I found my calling.
How would you describe yourself and your personality?
INTJ – previously an INFJ. I very much live up to the traits of my zodiac sign as well – free-spirited Sagittarius. I am very nurturing, empathetic, protective, independent, solution-oriented, results-driven, passionate, disciplined, and spiritual and aware of the self.
I think my personality draws curiosity from others. I don’t try to fit in or follow the crowd. I think I tried blending in as a child, to go unnoticed or just as an attempt to “fit in”, and it never worked out for me, so I learned to stand tall in my originality and celebrate my uniqueness.
I seek insight and awareness of myself and of the world around me, and I like to live my life in a way that inspires or heals others.
I see that you own your own tattoo studio – Kintsugi! Tell me a little about your business and how it began.
We first opened Kintsugi in August of 2019 – we’re coming up on our three year anniversary.
My younger brother and I started Kintsugi together. He is the mastermind behind the efficiency and organized fashion of our website and booking process. Without him, Kintsugi wouldn’t exist. 🙂
I have one other artist that works at the studio with me – she was my apprentice for the majority of last year and she now has her books open and is tattooing part time.
My clientele are incredible people who truly appreciate the arts. I feel like each one found me for a reason and I like to curate each session to be all that it can be for each of them.
Could you tell us about how and when you first got into tattooing, and what that experience has been like for you?
Several years ago, my brother gifted me a tattoo machine and supplies, after I’d randomly mentioned to him that I had an interest in learning to tattoo. So, I began to tattoo on my birthday, and I’d have to say it’s been the single most treasured birthday gift of my life.
I chose to be a self-taught artist, because there wasn’t a mentor that I was inspired enough by to learn from. Bang Bang is one of my inspirations, for sure. He is a renowned artist and a tattooing legend – self taught and running a tattoo empire in NY.
I typically embark on new quests – willing myself to believe that if another person could do it, then so could I. Tattooing began as a hobby, as I navigated the little information I was able to find in books, forums, videos, etc. online. As I learned and challenged myself more, my work improved noticeably as the months went on. I quit a job that paid next to nothing and dedicated myself to pursuing a career as a professional tattoo artist working full time about two years ago. It’s the best decision I have ever made in my life, because I pursued my dream with my brother by my side and it has brought me to this very moment. I am forever in awe of this gift I’ve been given, the support I’ve received, and the people I’ve connected with along the way.
Did you always know you wanted to be an artist? If not, what other career plans did you have?
I was always artistic – art classes and music lessons were “my thing” as a child and has continued on throughout my adulthood. I grew up wanting to be a veterinarian or a doctor. I felt that I had a calling to be a healer in some way. I also aspired to be a beautician, inspired by my grandmother in Japan who is a hairdresser. One day as a teenager, my father told me to pursue a prestigious career and said that was the only way I would be successful in life, so I decided to pursue a career in the corporate world and I began working on my business degree. It turns out that my soul can’t confine itself to corporate ideals, so I’m glad I didn’t force that upon myself for longer than I did. Pursue what you love, no matter what that is.
What is the culture like surrounding the tattooed community where you live? Do you find it to be more of a positive or negative vibe?
I think right now we are seeing a shift of acceptance towards the tattooed community. I have many first time clients and a lot of them are defying past (religious/personal) doctrines or familial/workplace pressures and opting to get a tattoo despite those reservations. Lately, I’ve been delighted upon seeing a few cashiers with hand tattoos in the community, as well as tattooing the hands of some of my own clients. It seems that we are moving in a better direction of positive outlook and inclusivity of tattooed people.
What style of tattoo is your specialty? What type of tattoo would someone specifically come to Kintsugi to get done?
I specialize in fineline (single needle), micro realism, ornamental, and Japanese-inspired tattoos. I attract clientele who are looking for tattoos that are on the opposite end of the spectrum of traditional tattoos. My work focuses on the detail and finesse of each piece, and every tattoo is custom designed for each client, based on the story they want to tell or the meaning they are hoping to embody, or simply because they are wanting to adorn themselves with something beautiful to love their skin/body just a little more than before.
It seems like you really make a connection with your clients and the art that you give them. What do you love most about being a tattoo artist?
That is my favorite part – that connection. I’m an empath, so I’m very in tune with the energy around me. I think that intuitive understanding of what each client needs/wants allows me to adjust each session to be comfortable/suitable for them as an individual. I see my clients as my community, as individuals who deserve to be seen and heard and celebrated for who they are, and I dedicate my energy and time to each and every one of them, for that reason. I love that my sessions are half art, half therapy. I am able to live out my calling as an artist and a healer in this profession, and that is what inspires me to do what I do.
Let’s talk about your own tattoos! What was your first tattoo, and what was the inspiration behind it?
My first tattoo is on my ribs – it’s written in Japanese and it says, “Sei, you are my heart”. I got that tattoo for my firstborn son, his middle name is Seina, the kanji that I chose for his Japanese name means “to become a star”. It isn’t the cleanest piece, but it will always be dear to my heart.
I’m in love with the beautiful collection of tattoos on your left arm. Could you tell us the story behind one or some of those tattoos, and what inspired you to get them?
Thank you. I did most of those myself, all but one. It shows my journey as a tattoo artist. The first tattoo I ever did (on real skin) is a symbol on my left arm. It’s a Viking rune that means “create your own reality”. And so I have.
I have some script on my arm that are more like reminders to myself – one is my Japanese grandmother’s handwriting and it says, “I am always rooting for you”. I also have script that says “rise above moments of flesh”, inspired by my affinity for stoicism, as well as another piece that says “let my life be a work of art”, a promise I made to myself.
Take us through your thought process when you decide to get a new tattoo. Where does the inspiration come from, how do you decide where, what, and when to get it?
I’m a pretty decisive person, always have been. I don’t think too long or hard about something when an idea peaks my interest. I know what I like and base what I want off of that. I know that if I love a concept and it speaks to my soul, then I likely won’t regret it. I choose placement based on the areas I have left to tattoo, at this point. From start to finish, when I decide I like/want something, that’s that. I stick with the decision and see to it that it happens.
What are some of your other passions and hobbies outside of the tattoo world? What kinds of challenges do you face balancing your personal and professional life?
Some of my other passions outside of tattooing include: playing the violin, playing guitar/singing, studying neuroscience and psychology, spending time with my family and nurturing a few close friendships, learning new things, reading books that provide new insights/understandings, spending time in nature, traveling, and bettering myself in every way that I possibly can.
I think I’ve gotten to a pretty good balance at this point, but I’m known to take from myself in order to give to others, and that will deplete me at times – physically, mentally, emotionally. Learning to set professional boundaries in order to honor my personal needs/home life, that was the hardest thing to learn and execute. I like to deliver in all that I do – I have extremely high standards for myself and at times that will catch up to me and cause burnout, if I’m not careful.
Could you leave us with one of your favorite quotes that you want to share with the world?
“Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.” – Paulo Coelho
Thank you Rami!
You can view more of Rami’s beautiful work on her Instagram @rami.kintsugi