Traditional Japanese-style Tebori tattoo artists visit Calgary

Visitors at the Calgary Tattoo and Art Festival got a look at a different kind of tattoo artistry this year – traditional Japanese work.

The demonstration was offered by Bushido, a Calgary tattoo shop that is run by Horihyo a.k.a. Doug Fink. He specializes in the art of Tebori which is the traditional style of Japanese tattoos.

He earned that title from Master Ryuden who works in Tokyo. Horihyo had worked for more than 15 years as a western tattoo artist but began learning from Master Ryuden three years ago.

Horihyo is a member of the family name Ryugendo. There are two other members of this tattoo family, Horisuzu and Horisora who work in Portland, Oregon at the Horisuzu Studio. Bushido and Ryugendo shareded booths beside one another during the festival.

Master Ryuden visits the Horisuzu Studio twice a year and has attended the Calgary Tattoo and Art Festival for the past three years.

“Master Ryuden is usually booked at least one year in advance at the shop,” Horisora said.

Horisora has been with the family for the past three years. Half of that time he spent apprenticing and has since started tattooing.

“It’s less of a job and more of a craft,” he said in an interview.

“Most people don’t know that this technique is still used so there is always quite a bit of interest from the public.

“It’s stressful when you first begin but it also pushes you to do the best you ever done.”

Tebori tattoos use different pens from western tattoo machine pens. The needle is handled manually by the artists to infuse ink into the skin. The tebori artist creates gradients by using a varying needle depth to create rich or lighter lines.

The average machine shading needle uses 7-12 points where as a tebori needle uses 45 points that is layered twice in a ‘slight concave shape.’ This allows a tebori artist to ‘manipulate the needle’ to cover smaller areas.

“Western tattoos use about six different solutions to make a gradient whereas tebori tattoo will typically use only three solutions as well as pressure to create a gradient,” Horisora said.

“Most people don’t know that this technique is still used so there is always quite a bit of interest from the public.

“It’s stressful when you first begin but it also pushes you to do the best you ever done.”

About Jenn Gardiner 4 Articles
As a writing and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Jenn Gardiner is working as a reporter for The Press during the 2014-2015 academic year.

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