Alright so first off thanks for taking the time to do this interview, can you give us a brief history of how you got started in graffiti? Where does the name ITSE come from?
Thank you for having me. I’ve always been a big fan of Bombing Science.
I started writing graffiti when I was 18 years old. I had recently experienced a somewhat traumatic event when my family home burnt down. The name ITSE is a tribute to my cat that died in the house fire. Her name was Itsy Bitsy. As a teenager that was extremely unhappy with herself and fighting the concept of becoming an adult. Graffiti gave me a way out of the shitty reality I was living in. It gave me to opportunity to look at myself and the world around me through new eyes. I knew once I started there was no looking back.
Do you make a full time living off of graffiti? If so can you tell us what that first gig was like and how you landed it?
Unfortunately not, I’m a full time Cake Decorator/Pastry Chef so my day job isn’t so bad.
You have a post where you say you took a nail from what looks like a train yard as a reminder to live life on your own terms and not for others. I’m curious what was the story behind this photo? What was going on at this point in your life and what made you say fuck it and save nothing for the swim back? How has it worked out for you?
So the quote you are referring to was:
“This date nail I will keep forever and look at to remember the time I decided to ditch all responsibilities and really live my life. Live for yourself and what you love.” I was a couple of months out of a long term failed relationship. I was fed up with my job at the time and feeling like I was glued down by responsibilities. So I got rid of pretty much everything I owned except what could fit in my car and I hit the road heading west.
Just driving cross county with out a time line or set schedule was the most free I’ve ever felt. I made some amazing friends while I was on the road that took me on some unforgettable adventures. That specific day in question was a especially memorable. I went to this “secretly famous” benching spot out in the middle of the desert. Before I left I pulled up a date nail from a old train bridge out there.
For the first time I truly felt the stars align inside myself. I felt I was exactly where I should be in life. After living on the road for several months reality kinda kicked in. Obviously I need some source of steady reliable income. So I ended up settling down for a while in the Midwest and overall I’m pretty happy. But I would love to get a sleeper van and travel for a couple of years while I’m still young.
I dont get the chance to interview a lot of women in graffiti, mostly its dudes. What has been your experience in the graffiti scene, I assume its like any other area of art where people dont care as long as the work is good right? Who are some of your favorite women graffiti artists if any?
Yeah, There are not that many females that actually get out there and do it. When I first started writing graffiti I feel like it was a lot harder for me being a female. Especially because where I come from is a very racist and sexist part of the country.(Birmingham,AL) There are not a lot of graffiti writers to begin with in Alabama.
So to be a chick writer trying to come up in that setting was even harder. I felt like I was trying to enter some kids club house with a no girls allowed sign on it. Back then I felt like the only reason guys wanted to show me what was up or take me out painting was to eventually get laid or something to that degree. I mean realistically speaking what’s the point in taking some toy chick painting with you?
Now a days I feel like my gender benefits me more than it hinders me. I get acknowledged by some of the best writers that truly inspire me. I guess I’ll never know if I’d receive the same amount of acknowledgement from those people if I was a guy putting in the same amount of work I am now. But either way I’ll take it. Some of my top female graffiti writers would be MUSA71, MEME, MARS, KSRA and MERLOT.
You seem like most of your work is on trains, I’m curious why that is? Do you have any interesting train experiences to share? Do you carry a knife just incase a homeless guy wants to get cute?
Like I mentioned prior I’m from a smaller town that doesn’t have much graffiti. At least not enough graffiti to catch my eye and spark a interest. I moved into a new apartment when I was 18 that was right beside the main line. So I started seeing trains all the time.
I was instantly hooked on graffiti when I saw it on the trains. I was curious as to how, where and why the graffiti was there. The trains bring so much adventure to everything for me. From literally walking out of a person’s house and painting trains in their back yard to hiking for hours to a remote location. Painting trains is an experience that I live for. As far as danger levels go I stay pretty aware of my surroundings. It would be a shocker if someone was able to sneak up on me before I knew they where there. I do carry a police baton in my painting bag and I’ve picked up a railroad spike or two in moments where I felt shit might go down.
Do you like collaborating with others or do you prefer doing your own thing? What has been your favorite collaboration?
I really enjoy collaborating with others on pieces. It’s a rather unique bonding experience. I enjoy being challenged by other people’s ideas or concepts.
It’s very rewarding to step back and high five someone on achieving a team effort. In general it makes it all seem more meaningful because someone else is out there giving a fuck about getting the project done with you. I would have to say me and VALUE HM have had some really great times collaborating. My favorite collab would be our Ringling Brothers Circus Trains we hunted down and painted.
For graffiti writers that are looking to break out of their old habits and learn new techniques, what do you recommend? Do you have any specific exercise that you do to make sure you are challenging yourself daily to keep growing?
I think that is a really great question that we all struggle with. I would recommend doing exchanges with other writers. Get some ideas that are outside of your minds comprehension of what your letters look like and then draw off of those as well.
Also trying color schemes that are out of your comfort zone. I have some friends that haven’t used black in any of their pieces for years because they wanted to push themselves to try other color combos and black outlines were restricting them from thinking outside the box.
When you started this who were the people who inspired you and who inspires you today? We just got into 2019, Looking back on 2018 do you feel like you’ve accomplished everything you’ve wanted to or do you think there is still a lot left to be accomplished?
Let’s see when I first started writing I was inspired by people like MBER, VIPER, AREK, JASE, HYBRID, HEAT, Mayhem crew, TA, YME, and MFK.
Today some of my top writers/crews are BACON, KWEST, KEEP6, VOGEY, HINDUE, SOFLES, MAST, EMIT, EAST, KICK, VIRUS, Heavy Metal crew, MSK, AWR, and TGE to name a few. I still feel like I have so much left to accomplish it’s not even funny. I’m not sure if I’ll ever hit a point where I feel like I’ve “made it” or achieved everything. I try to surround myself with highly motivated people. We push one another to achieve bigger and better things.
What is the life/work balance like for you these days?
I uphold a high amount of integrity in my work. For example if I have a wedding cake to deliver Saturday morning. I will not go out Friday night. It’s too risky for people who are depending on me. Otherwise I make my own schedule for work. So I work when I want to and can wake up whenever I want. I feel pretty free to stay out late painting whenever. I can schedule trips and plan my work around it.
What is your favorite music to listen to when you paint?
Some of my favorite bands are Circa Survive, Slayer, The Wonder Years, The Story So Far, Black Sabbath, Fleetwood Mac, Knocked Loose,Brand New, and I like some EDM.
Any special thanks or shoutouts you would like to give? Where can people follow you?
Well if you have made it this far through reading my interview I’d like to thank you for your time. I’d like to thank everyone who has ever welcomed me into their home while I’ve been on the road or taken me out to paint.
The hospitality I’ve experienced over the years has been quite impressive. I’d like to thanks VALUE HM for being my ride or die over the past year. Special thanks to my Going Nowhere|GNK family who’s always pushing me to be better. My Instagram handle is @its_itse if you want to follow my progression.