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 may be true that more exacting fine details can possibly be achieved by well accomplished tattoo artists with machines, 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.
Tebori tools can be made of either wood or metal and the needles come in a varying degree of sizes and configurations. Another reason why tebori tattooing can be just as fast or quicker than machines is the needles groupings.. an average needle group for a machine tattoo is 9-13 needles for coloring in, while with tebori they can be 11-42 needles while hurting much less at the same time, much more efficient and comfortable.
Horisumi has been trained in Japan by Japanese tebori master Horikashi and has brought the skills of tebori needle making, and hand poke traditional know how back to Australia where he practices the craft at Authentink Studio on a daily basis. At the moment Horisumi shades and colours his works by tebori and creates outlines by machine.
Consults for small one-point tattoos to full bodysuits by tebori on new clients are now available, please send an inquiry via the contact form for more information.
Visit the page of Horisumi here and view his portfolio
Visit Horisumi’s Personal Website here
What is tebori tattoo?
The traditional Japanese method of hand tattooing using a slender bamboo or metal tool with a needle grouping attached to the tip. The tattoo is made by rhythmically working the ink into the skin by using a gentle poking technique depending on whether lines, color or shading is being performed.
Does tebori hurt more than using a standard tattoo machine?
Most people say tebori hurts much less than a tattoo machine and is far less intense of a feeling despite looking more painful. The quiet nature of this style along with less skin trauma creates a relaxing tattoo experience and a great tattoo.
What are the benefits of a tebori tattoo?
With less pain comes less mental and physical straining, overall one feels relaxed after a tebori tattoo session, even a longer one that would normally leave you feeling drained and exhausted. The method of working by hand creates less skin trauma, less bleeding and less inflammation, causing the tattoo to heal faster and better and allowing the ink appear brighter due to minimal scarring or scabbing. The colours also heal richer and brighter because more ink is put in the skin and stays there during the process because of the lack of bleeding, in addition tebori needles are thicker than standard tattoo needles and allow more ink to saturate the skin with less effort thereby producing a more vibrant tattoo.
Does a tebori tattoo take longer or cost more than using a standard tattoo machine?
This is the question we get asked the most, yes, tebori tattoos can take longer depending on what is being tattooed, but not always. As an example a large simple tattoo being coloured in by hand, like a peony flower, can in fact be done quicker than a tattoo machine by a skilled artist but if it contains smaller details and tighter design areas they can be slower going when using the hand poke method, it really depends on the design, the skin, and the artist.
Backgrounds and background shading is slower by hand to be sure, as perfecting beautiful gradients from solid black to a soft light grey with hand ground sumi ink takes time and years of skill, alas the finished product, a shimmering cascade of dark and light silver greys is something to behold and cannot be reproduced by machine . The time difference between tebori and machine is akin to having a something made entirely by hand and the raw beauty and pride that brings or created in part by a machine, whether that’s worth the price difference is up to you, the client and it is definitely something to consider.
Will a tebori tattoo last longer than a regular tattoo?
All tattoos when done properly by a skilled artist using high quality supplies, that are healed correctly and kept out of the sun should last the lifetime of the wearer. The point of difference of a tebori tattoo done by a skilled artist is thus; the colours for starters, richer, more vibrant, deeper and more raw looking. Because the method of tebori tattooing the colour involves less bleeding and a thicker needle this allows much more ink to be put under the skin and keeping it there. The technique of tebori inserts the pigments into and under the skin in one motion, much more efficient than a tattoo machine which simply pokes the ink into skin, the difference is very noticeable and I dare say the longevity of the tebori tattoo colour will be brighter and more vibrant for longer.
What is a tebori hybrid tattoo?
This method of a so-called ‘tebori hybrid tattoo’ is when the tattoo outlines are done by machine for speed and precision whilst the colours and shading are done by tebori hand methd. This is the preferred style for most traditional artists around the world including Japan. It allows the clean and crisp lines that a tattoo machine can achieve, along with speed, to be wedded to the tradition, beauty and vibrancy of tebori hand tattooing, the perfect mix of old and new. Some traditional tattoo artists, including Horisumi, will tattoo the lines by hand on request in the understanding that it does take longer.
Is tebori the traditional Japanese way of getting a tattoo?
Yes, tebori is the original and traditional method of Japanese tattooing that dates back to the 17th century in Japan, it is a secretive and mysterious world of tattooing that has its own rituals and is not easy to penetrate, publicly available information about tebori tattooing is minimal and there is no way to learn without doing an apprenticeship under a master. It is still practiced today by craftsman in Japan and a few other countries.
Who in Australia does tebori tattooing?
Horisumi Kian Forreal is the leading practitioner of tebori tattoo in Australia as of this writing in 2020. There may be other tattoo artists in Australia that perform tebori as a part-time artistic pursuit but Horisumi is the only Japanese trained and traditionally named tattoo artist in Australia that works solely by hand full-time in Japanese style. Horisumi can be found at Authentink Studio in Sydney, Australia.
Horisumi tebori method is handmade everything;
–single use handmade needles for each client
–stainless steel tools that are autoclaved after each use or single use bamboo tebori sticks
–imported black Sumi sticks from Japan that is ground daily in the studio and has been used in tattooing for more than 300 years
–all colours are hand mixed pigments created in the studio by Horisumi using basic and natural ingredients that don’t contain any acrylics or resins or toxins.