Hori Isra Takjo
I was born in Manzanillo, a small city port on the south-east coast of Cuba. As a young boy, I grew up watching sea-men and petty criminals in my neighbourhood sitting together drinking rum, playing dominoes and being tattooed using a bottle of indian ink and a few needles tied to the end of a stick! I'd always enjoyed drawing as a child so I was keen to give tattooing a try and around the age of fifteen I snook upstairs to my room and began tattooing myself. That was the beginning, and it wasn't long before I had people knocking on my parent's door asking for a big Santa Barbara (Cuban Patron Saint of Protection) to be tattooed on their back!
It was around this time, that I made it into the Art Academy Jose Juaquin Tejada in Santiago de Cuba to complete my general education and study the equivalent of 'A level' Art. Tattooing was prohibited by the Cuban Government due to it's connection with the criminal underworld but I continued to tattoo in my spare time with my home-made machine (made from an old American shaver motor) and managed to support myself throughout my time at the Academy. After graduating, I moved to Habana to study a further five years at the Higher Institute of Art (ISA) and I was lucky enough to be taught by some of the best Artist and Art Critics in Cuba at the time. It was here where my interest in Oriental Philosophy began and it became the main source of inspiration for my art. By now, I was tattooing part-time at the underground Tattoo Studio of Junior Perez Carvajal and had progressed to tattooing with my first 'proper' machine. In 2004 after exhibiting my paintings in Germany and the UK, I left Cuba and came to live in England. Over the next few years I continued to paint in my spare time, but my tattooing had to take a 'back seat' while I found work and established myself in a new country. Throughout this time my interest in the 'East' deepened, I joined various martial art classes and studied Japanese philosophy, art and literature. I was particularly inspired by the work of Horiyoshi III and in 2011 made the decision to take up tattooing professionally and open up my own studio 'Irezumi Art', specialising in Oriental style tattoo.
All of my work is custom made for each individual. When designing, I prefer to remain truthful to the traditional meanings of Japanese tattoo symbolism.I believe this is more important than designing purely just an appealing image and a nice composition. For me, this is the essence of Irezumi.
The majority of my work these days is done with machines but I still occasionally use Tebori (traditional hand inserted method). I like to reserve this way of working for signing large pieces upon completion and for clients who have a genuine interest and understanding of Tebori.