Sometimes the old ways are the best ways and Tebori is one example of that. Many people perceive tebori to be more a painful and a slower tattooing process compared to modern machines but the opposite is actually true. Hand poke work in the tebori style is much less painful, causes less bleeding and is less traumatic to the skin than machines and the tattoos done in this fashion tend to heal quicker and with less scabbing.
Tebori has a rich history and tradition in Japan and up until the last 40 years or so all tattooing was done by hand in Japan, from bodysuit to small one-point flower and much of it still is. Most of the traditional artists today in Japan still make all their tattoos by hand when it comes to colouring and black shading while utilising modern machines for making clean solid lines. While there are a few dedicated artisans that also create their lines by hand it is not often seen and seems to be a dying art unfortunately.
The Japanese tradition of hand poke tebori tattooing is associated with the Japanese craft of woodblock carving and woodblock printing as craftsmen of both tattooing and carving are called ‘Horishi’, or carvers. Tebori means to ‘hand carve’, the skin being tattooed not unlike a wood block in preparation for making a print. Accordingly it is thought that many woodblock printmakers and carvers from the old Edo Japanese were also tattoo artists in their spare time as the skill sets required for both had a lot of overlap, Kuniyoshi being a prime example of a famous Edo era artist thought to have been a horishi.
While it has been said that more fine details can be achieved by well accomplished tattoo artists with machines, this isn’t necessarily true, with time and patience anything that can be done by machine can be accomplished by hand, and tebori offers a much more saturated colour look in the skin, a very different and unique feel of the artwork compared to machine work and it has true to tradition authenticity, also the time required for hand made tattooing is comparable to a machine when performed by a skilled tebori tattoo artist.
Horisumi has been trained in Japan by Japanese tebori master Horikashi and has brought the secrets of tebori needle making, hand poke irezumi and traditional mindset, artistic composition and skills back to Australia where he practices the craft at Authentink Studio on a daily basis. Horisumi shades and colours all of his work by tebori and creates outlines by machine which he finds to be the ideal compromise between tradition and progress.
The pigments, inks and materials that Horisumi uses are all imported from overseas and are mixed by hand in his colour lab creating his signature tattoo ink colours and tones. The rich blacks and shades of black that Horisumi uses are all made from premium sumi sticks imported from Japan, and are ground and mixed by hand as well.
The imported high grade Japanese steel needles that are utilised to make the highly specialised Tebori hand poke tools are single use and disposable. All of his equipment, supplies, needles, ink and tools are of the highest quality, have been tried and tested for generations by Japanese tattoo masters and are solely utilised for his work, no expense or effort has been spared.