It is with huge pleasure that I can announce that I have been given a formal Japanese tattooing title, and will now be using the name Horihebi. The name is derived from hori (彫) or ‘to engrave or carve’ and hebi (へび) ‘snake’. All Japanese tattoo masters are traditionally called ‘hori’ then named after a flower, animal or something related to tattooing. My studio being called Snake and Tiger, Horihebe seems especially fitting.
I was delighted when my good friend Alex KŌSEI Reinke, aka Horikitsune of Holy Fox Tattoo suggested that I be given a formal name in the tradition of Japanese master tattoo artists. Alex apprenticed under the famous Horiyoshi of Yokohama. He designed and completed my own Japanese irezumi body suit, and over the years I have been a frequent guest artist at Holy Fox Studio, developing and perfecting my own Japanese tattooing. Alex’s support and guidance has been invaluable, and to now be honoured by receiving a hori title designed by him gives me immense pride.
If you’re reading this blog, and it’s the first time you’ve heard of Japanese tattoo titles, they have a very long tradition in Japan. It can only be (authentically) given to you by a master tattooist. Only a few Western artists have been honoured with the distinction. It’s earned through years of dedication to the art, apprenticing under a master and of course specialising in Japanese style tattooing, which itself hasn’t changed in centuries. Traditional Japanese tattooing rose to popularity in the Edo period, between 1600-1800. Tattooists were seen as craftsmen, and just like any other craftsman or artist, there was a tradition of signing your work with a name or formal title given by your master. Look at any Japanese tattoo from 100 years ago, and compare to one of mine from recent months, and you’ll see the same classic themes, symbolism, bold lines and palette of ink colours.
I have no master in a Japanese sense. Of course I completed an apprenticeship but not in Japan. But the traditional style, and the culture and country of Japan itself, are passions of mine. I’ve visited many times, spent countless hours reading and researching tattoo history, building my knowledge of the art as much as my skill. I strive to follow tradition as faithfully as I can, and always with respect. All that said, I would never dream of awarding myself a hori name, although some Western tattooists do. Alex is not my master, he is my friend, but as a master himself, his suggestion of a title means a lot to me. And whilst it doesn’t make me a better tattooist (only years of dedication can do that!), it does add more authenticity to my work. To my knowledge, I am the only hori in the UK outside London, and only a few across the whole of Europe. I will carry the title proudly for the rest of my career and beyond.