Friday, December 15, 2006

This is a picture of the work completed last Sunday. The water being churned up around the koi is now completely shaded. At some point soon, Horizakura will need to begin outlining again since we are only a session or two away from finishing the black and gray shading in the previously outlined area. At the end of my last session he spent some type sketching out the outline for my right shoulder and arm, so I suppose that's where he will start next. I have another session scheduled next week so I should be posting new pictures in about a week and a half.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Here are the pics of last week's work. It's is not quite healed yet, but it's getting there. The background just above my knee is now completed, I anticipate the rest of my right leg will be completed during the next session. When we first started to connect the new background to the old, I was a little concerned as the new area was noticeably darker. Over the past month or so however the color has mellowed out and now it matches the back of my leg perfectly. I'm still wondering if this will be that case when we start connecting areas that are 3 or 4 years apart.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Horizakura is back in action! Yesterday was his first day back, and I was there for my ink fix. I will post pics in a few days, when my skin is not so swollen and red. Did I mention the pelvic area is not a fun place to get tattooed yet?

Until then, I leave you with this Christmas gift idea for the little 'uns.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Bad news: Horizakura broke his collarbone and is out of commision for the month! Let's all wish him a complete and speedy recovery. Of course this means I won't have any tattoo updates for a little while, I'd say at least 3-4 weeks.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The work pictured here was done on 10/5/2006. In this session we continued the shading on my right thigh, as you can see the rocks at the bottom edge of the design have been completely shaded. I wasn't quite sure how they would turn out but I think they look great.

Is it strange to say "we" continued the shading? Even though I have given Horizakura pretty much complete creative control, somehow I feel as if I played some part in the creation of this tattoo. Perhaps it's just wishful thinking. Others have made similar comments. Once someone asked me why I chose to undergo such extensive tattoo work, and I jokingly replied "Everyone's got a hobby" - to which she responded under her breath, "More like someone else's hobby.."
Another friend once asked if Shinji ever requested that I let his friends tattoo me, sort of like a "guest appearance" on my skin. That struck me as an absurd question. Why would he ask such a thing?I can only guess that he perceives me as having surrendered my skin completely to the whims of others; a living canvas who cared little what ended up painted on him.

Perhaps I do surrender something each time I go in for a session. But I still believe that because this act of surrender is what enables the creative process to begin and continue, it is in fact my small way of actively taking part in that process. As strange as it may sound, it takes a significant amount of energy and will to surrender in this way. I believe that energy and will is exactly where a tattoo derives much of it's ability to amaze.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

I came across this story on CNN today, about a convicted child molester and murderer who had a tattoo forcibly applied to his forehead in prison. "Katie" was the name of the young girl he killed. The full story can be found here. Prison justice can be brutal, and child molesters rank at the very bottom of the prison hierarchy. This reminds me of some of the prison tattoos detailed in the fascinating book "Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia". As a mark of shame, nothing can surpass the tattoo - it is the permanent Scarlet Letter. In a very similar way, tattooing was used in Japan during the Tokugawa period as a form of punishment. To quote from "Japanese Tattooing from the Past to the Present" by Mieko Yamada:

"Crimes such as extortion, swindling and fraud were punished by tattooing. The criminals were tattooed with a black ring around an arm for each offense, or with a Japanese character on the forehead."

To many this custom marks the beginning of the poor reputation wearers of tattoos face in society. Yamada goes on to say:

"The tattoo became a mark of punishment, used by the authorities to ostracize the outlaws from society. While the purpose of this penalty was to identify criminals and repeat offenders, tattooing as punishment became a vicious circle. The tattooed criminals were ostracized by society throughout their whole lives. Some of them abandoned all hope, and sank to a level of despair and a cycle of crimes. Consequently, the penal system formed a solitary minority group, called eta class, the social outcasts. For this reason, ordinary people became afraid of tattooed people. The people with the penal tattoos often used the records incised on the skin for illicit purposes. They hardly rebuilt their trust in society. Some of them abandoned themselves to despair and repeated crimes. This phenomenon made other people feel frightened and they came to see any tattooed person as a criminal or evil. Therefore, showing tattoos was perceived as a threat to society."

From what I have been told, the association between tattoos and criminals has decreased in recent years, and now many young Japanese proudly display their Western-style tattoos. But there are still many places in Japan where showing a tattoo would be considered completely inappropriate, especially the larger, traditionally styled tattoos which have been strongly connected to criminal organizations for years.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

I picked up a book the other day with pictures of tattoos by Horikazu (I think it's called "Horikazu's World" but since I can't read kanji I can't be sure) and I definitely recommend grabbing a copy - that is, if you don't mind the high price, usually around $200-$250 USD! Horikazu has been tattooing for over 40 years and his work is highly regarded. I believe some of his work is also featured in the book "A History of Japanese Body Suit Tattooing" by Mark Poysden and Marco Bratt. I don't own that book though, so I can't verify. Anyway, this book is great; it's filled with high-quality images of his detail-laden and colorful work.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Those of you near Montreal, Canada should try to get out to the tattoo convention this weekend. Horizakura and Horimasa will be there along with too many other great artists to name. More info can be found on this site (in French and English).

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Here are the pics. I had to keep the lighting low to avoid glare from the A&D ointment, so the pictures are not as sharp as they could be - sorry. This session was a departure from the norm. In the past, Shinji was very strict about following a certain order: first outline, then background and black shading, then color. This session he decided to do some shading even though the outline is only about 1/4 complete. I wasn't quite sure if this reflected a change in his thinking or had more to do with the availability of his gear. At any rate, tebori was a nice change of pace. The work was concentrated on the bottom right portion of my thigh. As you can see, the new background on the front is starting to be joined to the background on my back. Shinji also did some shading in the water at the top of my thigh and thickened up the lines which form the rock on the left side of my right thigh. I am surprised at the uniformity and crispness of the line he created in the rocks, I imagine this is quite difficult to do by hand.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Just got back from another session, will post pics soon. I had the pleasure of meeting Horimasa while I was at the shop, who is in town for a few weeks. Horimasa is another one of Horitoshi's students, and I believe he will be working out of the well-known Starlight Tattoo in New Jersey while he is here.

Horimasa, hope you enjoy your time on the East Coast!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A friend sent me this link, along with a note which read "I think I found the perfect coffee table for you!"

Monday, September 11, 2006

Here are some pics from the second outlining session, completed yesterday. At this rate, I imagine it will take approximately 6-7 sessions total to complete the outline. Notice the outcrop of rock near my armpit and on the bottom of my thigh. The rest is crashing water and backgroud. You can also start to see the right boundary take shape near my center-line.
I dragged myself to the appointment even though I felt awful. Tired, hungry and with a headache is not the way to walk into a tattoo parlor. Amazingly, I felt much better during the actual process than I did last time. Still, I was glad that we finished a little ahead of schedule and I could get out of there and into bed.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

After months of waiting, we finally started work on my tattoo again. It's been a long time since I felt the stink of a tattoo gun, and I had almost forgotten it's distinctive touch. The motor's vibrations spread out in waves from the area of impact like an earthquake emanating from the depths of an inky black fault line. The electric tattoo gun has a bite that a hand-driven needle doesn't, but this is offset slightly by the calming buzzing sensation. The front of my torso is an area which has never been tattoo, and different areas respond in their own ways. On my side over the ribs, and the pelvic area on top of the bone - these areas are not particularly pleasant to tattoo. The rest of it isn't so bad really, nothing nearly as bad as having your backside tattooed. The plan is to make this koi white with a shock of red or orange on it's head, something like the Tancho or Kohaku koi varieties. We won't start the outline on the left side of my body until the right side is complete. I'm realizing that photographing the front of my torso presents it's own challenges; namely, that I can deal with baring my ass online but full frontal nudity is a bit much. For now I've resorted to using a none-too-subtle black bar to hide my "naughty bits". Hopefully I can come up with something a bit more subtle without sacrificing visibility.
It's a little scary starting this project, even with the previous experience under my belt. But with something like this, the only way to begin is by jumping in with both feet. And I've certainly done that..

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Apologies for the lack of updates, but there hasn't been much to report. We are scheduled to start the next phase of work on 8/23/06, and I anticipate more frequent updates after that. It sounds like we are leaning towards a simpler design, for the most part incorporating just water, maple leaves and koi. We had discussed working in yokai of some sort, but it just didn't feel right.

Check out this website for a fascinating look at one man's munewari style tattoo by Horiyoshi III. The design is packed with mythical imagery and detailed explanations are given for each item. And of course, Horiyoshi's artwork is as wonderful as ever.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Happy Birthday New York Adorned! Surviving 10 years in the tattoo and piercing industry is a feat in and of itself, but New York Adorned has done more than just get by - they have been recognized time and time again as one of the finest shops in New York. They have an incredible roster of tattoo artists and a great selection of custom jewelry, and I've always found the staff to be friendly and knowledgeable. Here's to 10 more years.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

From the CNN website: ATLANTA, Georgia (AP) -- A worrisome superbug seen in prisoners and athletes is also showing up in people who get illegal tattoos, federal health officials said Thursday.

Forty-four tattoo customers in Ohio, Kentucky and Vermont developed skin infections caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Complete article text here.

Well, that'll learn ya to get tattooed at unlicensed spots. It brings back not-so-fond memories of my first two tattoos. The first was by my own hand, done with a needle and India ink. The second was done by some crackhead biker in his basement on my back, behind my left shoulder. Of course, both of those look incredibly crude. It's quite unfortunate that the one on my back is still visible underneath by current piece. I absolutely regret them. But what can you do - I've moved on. Tattoos are for life! I guess you don't think about those things so much at 16. At least I didn't get a nasty infection, or hepatitis or something.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

I thought you might get a laugh out of this postcard my roommate sent me from Germany, where he proposes a novel explanation for my upcoming move out of our loft. The only other people who might be accused of harboring strange sexual fetishes more often than the Germans are the Japanese - I suppose that makes them unsurprising collaborators in bringing this unusual bit imagery to my doorstep.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

I met with Shinji today to begin fleshing out the details of the next phase. We entertained the idea of working a goldfish into the tattoo. It fits the river scene and is a subtle pun on the main theme (Kintaro is literally, "Golden Boy"). But after some discussion we decided it wasn't really a traditional design element and opted for more koi. Then there was the matter of how many koi. Shinji explained that only some numbers of koi would make for a good design and that 1,2,3,5 and 7 were all good numbers. We settled on 7. With 2 koi already on my back, that leaves 5 for the front. Perhaps a rock will be jutting out from one of the lower edges. We discussed other items which might fit into the scene. Definitely more maple leaves. A frog? A turtle? Kappa or crabs? As we spoke, Shinji began working on a sketch of the layout in his sketchbook. He also spent some time sketching directly on my skin with a brush-tip marker. He took some photos for reference and we were done. I scheduled a few appointments in August to begin the outlining work, but I will be stopping by the studio for more discussions with him and to see preliminary sketches.

The real question left for me is the length of the sleeves. Today when I spoke with Shinji, we decided on shichibu, or "seven tenths" style, which would extend approximately 2-4 inches past my elbow (as illustrated in my last post on munewari style). Shinji and I both think this length looks best. The only problem is, it is difficult to conceal. It would absolutely be visible when wearing my usual casual clothes (t-shirt), and would probably be visible through a white long sleeve shirt - making it a potential issue at work. So my practical side is forcing me to reevaluate. Decisions, decisions. I may need to buy a few more blue shirts for work.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

So what is munewari? Munewari (literally "chest dividing") is a tattoo style which covers the front of the torso while leaving the center of the chest untouched. The grey areas in the illustration to the left represent tattoo. The shape is meant to conceal the tattoo when traditional clothing such as a kimono is worn. As a matter of practicality, I confess the shape has become an anachronism. You're not likely to see many folks in kimono outside of the rare formal occasion. But the style is unique to Japanese tattoo and I think quite stunning visually, which no doubt has contributed to it's longevity - it is still a commonly tattooed style. This shape will connect to the border of my existing back piece - imagine my current tattoo "growing" around the sides of my torso and towards the middle of my chest. Note the shout out in the picture to one of my favorite anime movies...I couldn't resist.

Munewari style broadly defines the outlines of the tattoo on the torso, but there are many options which still need to be considered. Will there be sleeves, and it so, how long will they be? What length and shape will the tattoo take on the legs? In what style will the border of the background be drawn? More on those things as they come into focus.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

After 34 sessions or approximately 80 hours of tattoo work, Shinji and I have finally finished my back piece. I hope I speak for us both when I say I'm incredibly pleased with the results. I have nothing but respect and admiration for Shinji, gained not only by my growing appreciation of his craft but by his professional and friendly demeanor which have made these two years an enjoyable experience. Three "banzai" cheers for Horizakura!

Over the past two years I've been surprised by my own perseverance. Back when I started I wasn't so sure that I would be able to finish. Perhaps the tattoo itself bestows the properties of strength and perseverance, acting as a talisman of sorts. Kintoki is strong but gentle, and the koi graceful even while struggling upstream. I will certainly need these qualities as I prepare to start another large project with Shinji.

It's too early in the planning stage to share many details at this point, but as the name of this blog suggests I do intend for the next portion to be munewari style. For those of you who don't know what that is, please stop back by in a few days for an explanation.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Hi folks, welcome to my new blog. The topic will be my continuing exploration of traditional style Japanese tattoo (usually refered to as horimono or irezumi). The first two years of my tattoo experience were covered in my personal blog, Metaken. As I'm about to begin another phase of tattooing, I thought this would be a good time to start a new blog which could be more focused topically. I hope you enjoy.

Site feed link is .