Story By Yahnilet Colon and Photos By David Rosario
Spend an hour with the fellas at Ocho Placas and it becomes obvious why the tattoo shop radiates creative vibes. The four artists’ personalities are reflected on the Eighth Street shop’s walls, lined with encased hand paintings, masks and drawings. Religious symbols easily find their place alongside women’s figures, but there isn’t even a hint of the typical frames with tattoo designs found at other Miami spots. That’s exactly how owner Jose Carrera wants it far from typical.
I got tired of seeing the same thing,” said Carrera, 35, who opened Ocho Placas on SW 8th Street and 62nd Avenue five years ago. [Here] it’s not just cool-looking tats, there’s a lot of intelligence. Along with John Vale, Jaksin and apprentice Javier Betancourt, Carrera focuses on custom work. What I like doing is picking (someone’s) brain,” Carrera said.
Each of the guys draws from various inspirations, including music and mysticism when working on tattoo designs, as well as other artwork. Each of the guys have a preferences when working on tats, including realism and black and gray work for Jaksin or a wide array of crazy-ass colors for Carrera, who often stays booked a month in advance. The guys also do three-dimensional work and graffiti styles. You bring them any idea and they’ll work with it. Jaksin, 30, who’s been with Ocho for three years, said the main objective is to have people leave with something original.
Maintaining a fresh perspective and outlet of ideas doesn’t come easy, however. The Ocho Placas artists pride themselves on maintaining close ties to the Miami art scene by recently opening Gallery 138, at 2633A NW 20th St., in January. The gallery hosts a show once a month featuring local artists, including the Ocho guys. Miami is a huge hub for art,” said Vale, 30, citing the gallery as one example of ways to stay inspired. In this shop, we’re always studying.
Get into a conversation about the history of tattoos and prepare for a lesson on symbolism and the civilizations that have embraced the art form for generations. It’s not just about books, but also about appreciating art firsthand. The Ocho artists travel to participate in different shows in addition to hosting their own. They also look into different forms of media for artistic insight. Carrera said upcoming plans include participating in various conventions, including a Fort Lauderdale art show with Polynesian themes in June, the South Florida Tattoo Expo in August and the Jacksonville Tattoo Expo in September.
The originality at the shop drew in the latest member of the crew, Betancourt, 20, an apprentice for a over year who’s first tattoo was on himself. I need somewhat of a challenge,” he said. And the custom shop is definitely the place to expect that.
I just don’t settle for okay-looking tats,” Carrera said. I keep pushing.
Note: This article was originally published in 305 Magazine’s Issue 03.