Tucked away in a corner of Panama City is a rather odd and exuberant tattoo parlor named Honolulu. The shop offers a style of traditional American ink pioneered in Hawaii by Norman Keith Collins (aka Sailor Jerry) and is styled to look like a treehouse. The shop owner chose the design because she wanted to create a quirky, fun atmosphere for her clients. Now, it seems fitting, as the shop’s most noteworthy artist is an 11-year-old named Ezrah.
Tattoo shops are often off-limits to kids — few step through the door, let alone press needle to skin. But walk into Honolulu on any day and you may see Ezrah, tattoo machine in hand, filling in a client’s freshly-outlined design or practicing his lines on a grapefruit. Thanks to shop owner Ali Garcia, some social media love, and a gung-ho clientele, Ezrah’s become a bit of a local celebrity.
“We have been very fortunate to have line ups of people volunteering to have tattoos by him,” says Wynter Rosen, Ezrah’s mother. “Every client he has tattooed has been really happy and amazed.”
Ezrah’s uncommon hobby began with an unlikely get-together. Wynter and her husband, both artists, by run a creative household and, on occasion, Wynter gathers friends for a group tattooing night. (“It’s a fun day and different from a traditional “wine and cheese” night,” she says). Ezrah, who’s always had a knack for drawing, showed great interest in the process. Honolulu owner Ali Garcia, one of the guests, asked him if he’d like to try. “He was surprised yet very excited and I offered up my arm, like a good Mother,” says Wynter.
Ezrah took to it so Ali offered him an apprenticeship.“It is a rare occasion that someone puts their heart and soul into teaching a child something of this gravity and see’s the potential they have,” Wynter says of Ali. “She is having him draw and paint daily and he is really enjoying the learning process and the knowledge behind it. He is well aware he is apprenticing, learning, and has all the abilities to be a great tattoo artist with practice.”
So far, Ezrah’s successfully completed roughly 20 tattoos and regularly fills in color on already outlined designs. Wynter says her son is getting better by the day. He has a soft spot for old-school tattoo designs— particularly sharks — and a passion for the newfound art.
Wynter wasn’t shocked by any of this. She describes Ezrah as an “old soul” and says her son always plunges wholeheartedly into whatever he pursues. He’s practiced the martial art Hapkido since he was 2-and-a-half years old and is almost ready for his black belt. He plays piano and drums “effortlessly” and has acted in three large-scale theater productions. He also draws and paints every day and is a fearless trampoliner.
Still, she’s never seen him take to something quite as passionately as he has to tattooing. And she’s happy to see her son’s passion and talent intersect — and that he’ll have a skill set that will serve him well.
“It’s beautiful to see him flourish like this,” she says. But there’s an added bonus. “We also understand the freedom that comes along with being the best at your trade. As I slugged it out behind the bar to support myself through school he will not have any limitations. He will be able to tattoo or teach because he is learning this all at 11 years old. This is truly a gift.”