Braddah Wills Kaai
“I love tattooing, I truly love tattooing,” Braddah Wills Ka’ai says.
Wills, as his friends call him, is the founder and owner of Hawaii Tattoo Collective in Haleiwa.
Born and raised on the North Shore of Oahu, Wills draws on his native Hawaiian heritage and culture to create contemporary Polynesian style tattoos for his clients.
He sees his tattooing as an opportunity to learn more about his culture and his culture’s beliefs, and to help perpetuate the culture. Wills gets special pleasure out of explaining the components of the tattoo to his clients, so they can understand their tattoo and its meanings well.
Wills is the kind of artist whose nature forces him to create. Tattooing gives him that artistic outlet and the ability to make a living. But it took 10 years after he was first exposed to tattooing as a young adult to give up a steady job and try to make a living as a tattoo artist. He learned his craft from Sulu'ape Riccy Boy at Polynesian Tattoo Factory in Haleiwa and and worked there until it closed and was replaced by Will's Hawaii Tattoo Collective.
He is grateful to the artists who have gone before him and paved the way for today’s artists. “Tattooing saved my life as far as an artist,” he says. “Tattooing helps me provide for my family, so tattooing to me is everything."
Wills has lived all his life on the North Shore, and he loves the ocean. As an accomplished surfer and lifelong waterman, he mastered surfing big waves, but sharks is another matter. Sharks are beyond our control. "We grew up with stories about sharks and respecting sharks and not being afraid of sharks," he says. "But you have to understand that you are in their territory when you're in the ocean."
Wills based the tattoo design for our Leiomano messenger bag on the fierce strength of sharks and the courage it takes to be out in the ocean.
Get in touch with him at Instagram @bwills_htc or (808) 772-4447.