Creative, Sweet

Capilli Tupou

Posted by Creative, Sweet

Tattoo culture is a big part of BurgerFuel’s DNA, with a lot of our brand and instore creative designed with flash tattoos and tattoo parlour influences. We have been lucky to catch up with one of Auckland’s stand out tattooers, his traditional bold, surrealist works are instantly recognisable and his dedication to the craft continues to innovate and inspire. We sit down with Capilli Tupou to hear more about his journey as a tattoo artist.


Haser: Thank you for joining us, for those that are first time observers of your work, can you tell us who you are and where you’re from?

Capilli: I’m Capilli Tupou, I’m Samoan and Māori, Ngapuhi and Te Rarawa from the Hokianga, but I was born in Auckland - I grew up in Manurewa, South Auckland, but I’ve lived in Central for about 15 years now.

Respect to the north. I first remember meeting you in 2005 at an mini art competition in West Auckland, and the next time I saw you again in 2009 you were tattooing. When did you start tattooing, and what got you into it?

I started tattooing in 2008, when I was in Brisbane. I had always been into art and drawing, and I met a friend that was doing an apprenticeship and I realised that maybe I could make art a career through learning to tattoo. 

I’m glad you stuck at it, I’m personally a big fan of your work and I have enjoyed watching the evolution and innovation over the years. I find you have a very unique style of tattooing/illustrating, what’s the inspiration behind it?

The base of it is American / European traditional tattooing that was popular around the late 1800s, early 1900s, and my own style has just developed over time with the influence of different references that inspire me. 

Nice stuff. You’ve been tattooing for a long time and operating at a very high level, are you comfortable yet or is there plenty more in the tank?

I think there’s plenty more in the tank. I’m always trying to pull inspiration from new sources to constantly grow - I think once you relax you can slip, and I think you have to keep evolving, especially in tattooing. 

Glad to hear, I’m a big fan of artists that continue to evolve and innovate, motivates me to do the same. You’ve taken some amazing artists under your wing, who was around for you when you came up?

Originally I was self-taught, but Stefan Sinclair at Two Hands Tattoo gave me my first opportunity to work at a proper studio, and after that Dean and Dan at Sacred Tattoo, and I’m forever grateful for those opportunities. Style wise, I learnt a lot from working overseas with like minded artists around the world. 

They still continue to be legends in the scene. Speaking of around the world, I know a lot of creatives become inspired after travelling, obviously COVID-19 has made it really difficult to travel, but were you able to get many stamps in your passport or are you hoping to head abroad at some point?

I’ve been pretty lucky with travelling - tattooing has taken me all over the world. Before COVID-19 I was away every month or so, so being at home for so long has been a blessing in a way, but I’m definitely looking forward to travelling again when we can. 

Travelling is a healing process for the mind, I can’t wait to travel again. Now that you are predominantly based in Auckland, has that allowed you to work on anything or focus on something?

Tattooing pays the bills and keeps me pretty busy, but I’m always working on different things on the side - there’s always a bunch of unfinished paintings and other hobbies that I’m into. 

I always look forward to seeing them. Most artist’s I know work to their own schedule, what’s an average day for you?

I’m up at the crack of dawn to get my fix of exercise, then to work at Destruction Gully on High Street, I get home around 6 and do the family thing, then maybe draw for an hour or so, then I’m asleep by around 10 so I can do it all over again. 

I like that structure, I’m up early as well but I also stay up too late, so I’m currently working on killing the phone and lights a little earlier. 

When art isn’t at the forefront, what else do you do to occupy your time? And does that inspire the process or do you prefer to keep your art and life separate?

I don’t think it’s possible to separate it - when I’m not doing art I’m usually thinking about it, or finding inspiration in whatever I’m doing. 

Speaking of inspiration, who is currently on your inspiration feed?

I’m always watching what my friends overseas are doing with their tattooing - James McKenna, Dan Octoriver, Stuart Cripwell to name a few. But I’m mostly looking at other art forms for inspiration, things outside of tattooing. 

Great, I just checked out those artists and I can see why they’d be on your list.

What’s your future looking like, where would you like to see yourself?

Just continuing to evolve as an artist and staying busy. 

Admirable, and what advice would you give your younger artist self?

That you can make a career out of art, and there’s so many different options, you’ve just got to find your niche. 

It took me a long time to find my niche, but the journey and exploration along the way was just as crucial.

Curve ball question, BurgerFuel has a large fleet of classic vehicles, what’s your dream machine?

It would have to be a 64 Chevy Impala SS RagTop. 

I just wanna throw up a West Side thinking about that car. Last but not least, favourite burger from the Fuel?

My go to order is a Burnout with Spud Fries, aioli and L&P. 


Thanks a lot for your time Capilli, if you would like to see more of Capilli's work you can follow him on the grams or visit his website.