Josh Elsas spent the majority of his life on the big island of Hawaii and Oahu. His father had strong roots in Hawaii and identified with its culture, even when the military took him and his family away from their island paradise.
Although Guamanian by nationality, Josh identified with the traditions and legacy of the Hawaiians. Having lived in Hawaii most of his life, at age 17, he moved to the the mainland.
Living in Jacksonville, Florida for a while, Josh was shocked with the differences in mentality, language nuances, and stereotypes that existed in the Southern influenced city. Whereas Hawaiians embraced a sense of community, acceptance of others and appreciation for their "paradise", this felt more divisive, segregated and intolerant. Moving a year later to Tucson, Arizona, Josh again was troubled by the lack of friendliness of his peers.
From these early experiences was born the foundation of Island TAT, "Traditions All Together."
Art was a part of Josh's everyday family life, but it was simply a hobby when Josh was young. Family ties and pride of Chamorro traditions were a strong influence in his upbringing, with his grandmother the subject of one of his favorite early pieces. Josh was a natural artist, having only taken a handful of classes and with no formal training beyond high school. It wasn't until he started as a tattoo artist that he truly developed his signature style of Island TAT.
Josh's first tattoo was at the request of his father. One day, his dad handed him a homemade tattoo machine and told Josh to finish his tattoo by filling in the outline of a Guam seal. With no prior experience, Josh practiced on oranges, before feeling comfortable enough to actually honor his dad's request. This would be the first of hundreds of tattoos and the beginning of a successful new type of artistry for Josh.
When Josh was 18, he joined the Navy and moved to San Diego, where he became recognized for his flair for tattooing.
A fresh and unseen style, his trademark became the unique way; he fused authentic Polynesian symbols and icons in unconventional patterns and combinations.
Josh evolved his art through research and talking to experts who passed along to him the often undocumented and valuable information that is only handed down informally by word of mouth. He delved deeper into the specific meanings, legends and symbols of the Samoan, Hawaiian, Tahitian, Maori and Chamorro groups. Understanding that tattoo artists in Polynesian cultures were revered and selected to tell a story through their art, Josh respected their traditions and the authenticity of their designs.
Today, Josh's portfolio has hundreds of designs and is growing daily. Inspired by everyday aesthetics and motivated by shapes and movement, his art is moving powerfully and will continue to bring "traditions all together".