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Samson Harp - Pacific Rootz Tattoo

Posted by NĀ KOA

Samson Harp

Samson Harps’ history with tattooing goes way back.  He got his first tattoo at the age of 9.  At 12, he built his own tattoo machines from scrap pieces he found and started tattooing his friends. Today, Samson is the highly respected owner of Pacific Rootz Tatoo in Maui. 
As a kanaka maoli (of Hawaiian lineage), his allegiance is to the cultural significance of Hawaiian and modern Polynesian tattoo art evolved naturally. 
In addition to machine work, he is one of only a handful of artists around the world who use the traditional kakau tools (also known as tatau, or hand-tapping) to place Hawaiian motifs on select clients – only those that have the right mindset for the ancient method and tattoo motifs.   
His early life was rough.  He was in foster care and group homes from the age of 9 and incarcerated from age 12 to 16.  At 16, he was turned out on the streets, sleeping wherever he could – old couches in junk yards, parks, beaches, stairwells.  He started tattooing to feed himself “without stealing or hurting someone.”  Once he got work in tattoo shops, his clients had no idea that he wasn’t yet old enough to legally work as a tattoo artist.
Art had been his savior from an early age.  “It was my escape, being the most consistent thing that brought me happiness as a child.”  
Once he was a young adult, with a tattoo shop of his own, he applied himself to helping troubled youth. He has trained a number of young tattoo artists over the years. Any artist who apprentices with Samson has to be a gifted artist, but in addition, he took on some apprentices to make a positive impact on their troubled life.
Samson is also active in helping troubled youth, for example through the Queen Lili’uokalani Children’s center. 
Samson created the Polynesian tattoo art for a trifold wallet and a billfold wallet.