Kira Murillo, a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes from Fort Hall, Idaho, loves spending time with her friends and family. Like many natives, she enjoys a good powwow and she definitely knows a thing or two about fancy footwork as a Jingle Dress dancer and certified Zumba instructor that volunteers her services for the tribe’s fitness program. She is also a multidisciplinary artist with her own clothing line, Kira’s Designs. In addition to the T-shirts and Hoodies that feature her artwork, her line includes beautiful, hand painted Parfleche purses, belts and cuffs.

But at 21 years old, Kira is quite literally leaving her mark on the world as an amazing up and coming tattoo artist. For many indigenous people, tattoo practices have significant cultural value and tattoos were given as rites of passage, as signs of status and to signify family, clan and tribal affiliation. While most tattoos today are largely more personal and decorative than culturally significant, Kira takes great pride and joy in being able to incorporate her native culture within her designs. She is one of many native tattoo artists whose skills are not only providing another medium for artists to showcase their talents, but helping to revitalize tribal tattoo practices while removing the stigma surrounding body modification.

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Kira Murillo is pictured 3rd from the Left

First off, how many tattoos do you have and what is your favorite?
I have 17 tattoos, two of which I did myself (for practice). I can’t say that I really have a favorite one. They are like children, you have to love them all.

When did you decided that you wanted to be an artist, designer and tattoo artist?
I’ve always had an interest in art from a very young age. I started making my own outfits as a teenager and selling paintings & crafts when I was about 16 years old. I decided around that time that I wanted to become a tattoo artist. This was, also, about the time I got my first tattoo and became obsessed with the TV reality show, L.A. Ink.

I bought my first tattoo starter kit when I was 18 years old and my sister, Mia, trusted me enough to volunteer as my first victim. My Mom saw a reality TV show called “Tattoo School” on TLC and began researching it. She asked if I wanted to try to go there someday. The course was two weeks and cost around five thousand dollars, so we began saving and fund-raising so that I could go. Our community was for the most part very supportive and I wouldn’t have been able to make it there without all of their support and encouragement.

The very next year I was off to New York to train as a tattooer at the Tattoo Learning Center. Shortly after, I was approached by Titus Ponzo, Owner of Ponzook Tattooz, about working in his shop. Titus is also a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes as well as all the current artists in the shop. I’ve done it ever since.

As a multidisciplinary artist, what medium do you enjoy more?
I enjoy it all and I feel that each medium influences the other in some ways.

Who or what influences you?
Doubters and negativity influence me the most because it makes me want to try that much harder to prove them wrong.

I am influenced by all other artists that I’m exposed to. I’m constantly learning and know that there will always be more to gain from others. I’ve learned so much from the artists that I’ve worked with so far such as; Titus Ponzo, Owner of Ponzook Tattooz; Mario Gonzalez, Integrity Ink Tattooer; Douglas Broncho, Ponzook Tattooer, and especially Lisa Fasulo, Owner of the Tattoo Learning Centers.

My Momager/Business Partner is also one of my biggest influences. She’s the crack behind the whip. She keeps me in check and helps me with the business end of all of this. Love you, Mom.

If you had to describe your art and design aesthetic in one word, what word would you use?
DOPE!

What’s your favorite part about being a tattoo artist?
Free Tattoos! No really, it’s the trust that someone has in me to express my art with something that will be a part of them forever.

What are some of your favorite moments or accomplishments of your career so far?
Being asked to do this interview. I feel it is a big accomplishment because it’s yet another way to reach out to our Native communities. Establishing my apparel line and website are some of my more recent accomplishments and I’m working at growing that part of my business everyday.

What do you hope to accomplish through your art?
The feeling that anything is possible and I believe that if you have a talent you should share it with the world. If you can use your talents to be self-sustaining, then that’s just an added bonus.

What advice would you give to those wanting to do what you do?
Don’t let anything or anyone hold you back. You make your own happiness.

About The Author

Johnnie Jae
Founder

Johnnie Jae is of the Otoe-Missouria and Choctaw tribes of Oklahoma. She is the managing partner of Native Max Magazine, founder of A Tribe Called Geek, and contributor to Native News Online. She is the manager and producer for the Success Native Style Radio Network, where she hosts the Indigenous Flame and A Tribe Called Geek radio shows. She is also a founding board member of Not Your Mascots.

Known as the “Brown Ball of Fury,” Jae seamlessly shifts from humor and pop culture to advocacy and digital media, which has made her a much-sought after speaker and commentator. Her work has been discussed in many media outlets, such as Indian Country Today, ATPN, CBC, USA Today, BBC, Global Post, Women’s E-News, Takepart.com and Upworthy. She has been a guest on several radio shows, including Native America Calling, Native Trailblazers, BBC World Have Your Say and ICI Radio.

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