When did you start painting?
We started in ’84. My friends were breakers and we saw style writing on things like the Jelly Bean album, and in the movies Breakin’, Beatstreet, Wild Style, Style Wars. Our first piece was with an air- brush and a can of compressed air. We climbed into a canal and tried to airbrush the word ‘fresh’ on raw concrete. People stopped to watch, no one thinking it was illegal. We got to the ‘R’ when the air ran out. It got us juiced enough to get spray paint and try it again. That was the beginning of a life-long love affair.
Where are you from?
I’m originally from Hawaii and lived in the Bay Area for much of my life.
How did you get your name?
Back in the day everyone was taking a word for their tag name, but I wanted a name. For a month I played with letters I liked until I came up with Estria. Years later a man told me estrîa, with the accent on the ‘I’, means stretch mark in Portuguese. He said the Latin root was ‘stria’ meaning to stretch. He said it was a good name, as in stretching your mind. After that I found it was esoteric, and I was sharing what few knew with the many.
Who has inspired you?
These days inspiration – in spirit, or divine guidance – requires meditation and connection to the ‘aina (land), kupuna (ancestors) and akua (the divine) before I create. In the ’80s, Crayone TWS inspired me to believe that I could paint anything with spray paint. Raevyn TWS taught me to explore anything and everything to invent new styles of lettering. Hawai‘i writers Bam, Slick and Katch have always been inspirations. There was no one to teach us back then. I learned a ton from Barron Storey on visual communication and techniques. I’m inspired by Hawaiian artists, Brook Kapukuniahi Parker, Carl F.K. Pao, Prime and others. Going to the YMCA as a teen taught me to envision a better world and how to work to make that happen. My family gave me an Asian work ethic.
How do you come up with ideas?
I pay attention to everything. Meditation and martial arts are great. Dreams do a lot for me. And I research a lot! Painting with others is good for sharing ideas. Graffiti is very collaborative and you learn from others. Studying geniuses and masters in other fields and cultures is very good too. Having fun and being in a playful, stress-free state is good for the idea flow. Basically, I feel like a gate and the ideas flow through me, from the universe/divine.
Why do you paint the Samurai Women? How did that start?
The Samurai Women are inspired by my mother and grandmother, who are strong women themselves.These women are not victims or mere objects of sexual desire. They are shot callers of mixed ethnicity. They may be cute, sexy, and definitely confident and strong.
What do you feel you contributed to the whole California graffiti Scene that got you noticed?
I got good at techniques early on, thanks to Slick and Crayone. I was known for my characters. That was an easy way to stand out from so many people rocking dope letters. I began to explore color in a way that no one else in the bay area did. I also tried to do everything from realism to cartoon, simple to wildstyle. I always tried to rock productions to stand out.
Do you work quickly in the blackbook and on the wall or are you a slow burner?
I enjoy both sketching on paper and freestyling on the wall. I like seeing how fast I can paint something, and at other times I’ll spend days perfecting one thing.
Should style writing always/sometimes/never be political?
Writing is always political because it liberates spaces. Now that writing is in its ‘30s and ‘40s, and we have better paints, we can use the art to change the way people see things.
Why do you work with youth?
I was raised that way, that you give back, and you give to the youth because that is our future.
Why is it important to create murals for the community?
When you paint for the community you speak on issues that impact us. You can shift the social consciousness on these issues. You can empower and galvanize people. You literally can save lives. You can bring beauty and joy to an otherwise bleak space. A friend of mine says you should always leave things better than when you found them. Art builds relationships and community pride.
Why do you live in Hawai‘i?
Um, seriously? My family is there, and there is much for me to do and learn.
What do you want people to know about your work?
It’s fun and it’s always changing. As I grow, my work improves. I paint less for myself and more in the service of others now, and it has been super transformative. Itʻs made me address and change many things in myself.