By Takahiro "Horitaka" Kitamura
A few words with Professor Eric Jones...
HT: How do you feel about Vietnamese bars?
EJ: How do I feel about Vietnamese bars? Since you were the first to show me, it has a soft spot in my heart. It might be hard in other places...
HT: That's what she said! Well, it's just part of being on the road...
EJ: For sure, being open to whatever your friends show you, or entertain you with -not having a closed mind! Not that tattoo artists get too creative in the evening with their thinking.
HT: Tell us the plan for this current road trip.
EJ: Basically, it is stemming from the last couple of years of doing conventions and becoming closer to certain people in the industry as far as friendships. Having been given the invites to come work at certain shops, but not having the time because of conventions. Being that I'm at this place in my life, now that I'm single, and I lack the duties that other people have as far as children, parenting... I decided to take this trip and link it with all these shops.
HT: Okay ladies, you heard him, SINGLE! What shops? This blog should post in a few days, where and when?
EJ: I've already done Sink or Swim in Grover Beach, today will be the final day at State of Grace, next will be Four Star Tattoo in Santa Fe, then Rock of Ages in Austin, Elm Street in Dallas, Cobra Custom in Massachusetts and ending with New York Adorned.
HT: I know you've ridden your bike cross-country, what do you like about being on the road by yourself?
EJ: Its a good time of reflection, it could be called a form of meditation, being able to silence all the noise of a regular shop and experiencing new sights and sounds that otherwise would be sacrificed due to the simplicity of a flight.
HT: Wouldn't it be easier just to go to a tattoo school?
EJ: Is this a real question? I still buy into the old school mentality of learning from the elders before me.
HT: What else should we talk about?
EJ: I could ask you questions, being that you have State of Grace and house two Japanese artists, do you feel that you have an edge over the rest of the community? There are a lot of American artists, like say Mike Rubendall, trying to capture the Japanese art.
HT: I think "edge" is the wrong word. When we opened State of Grace the mission statement was to build a shop around traditional Japanese tattooing, so of course bringing over two actual highly skilled Japanese tattooers was a goal. I think we do have a certain sense of authenticity, but I don't think it is over anyone, we are sharing it. It's funny you mention Mike, he has been coming in (and crushing it) and getting his whole front done by Horitomo. But yeah, there aren't many Japanese nationals working in the US, Shinji in New York is the other shining example and I think it's nice that these guys are sharing their culture over here. And it's cool they are hand poking.
EJ: With Tomo's constant work on paper and study of painting, does that have a direct correlation with his tattooing and his understanding of it?
HT: Absolutely, the thing with any type of art, the more you draw and paint the better you get at it. Also, add to that the necessity of reading and studying the old stories and texts in order to really articulate Japanese culture through tattooing. It's not an easy thing to do, and Horitomo himself will tell you, you can't learn it all. I know he wants to study more, still tattoo, but balance it with study time. Horitomo wants to become as close to an expert on Japanese tattooing as is possible. In my mind he is the best Japanese tattooer in the world.
EJ: Ok, I have one more nerd question, being an outsider looking in at the Bay Area, it was always a mecca for tattooers, especially in the late 90s , when I moved to New York, it seemed like the East Coast had taken over, what is the current state of tattooing in the Bay Area.
HT: Wow, good question. First, I agree, thanks to Ed Hardy and a bunch of his cohorts, the Bay Area has and still is a beehive of activity, and home to some of the best tattooers in the world. I think New York had its resurgence and now it feels like everything has evened out. There are good tattooers everywhere... like Texas for example, you got a bunch of people killing it. I do think there is something to be said for cities like Frisco, New York, London and the artists that are attracted to those places... the Bay is doing great, and they have an amazing convention every October, wink-wink.
EJ: That's good!
HT: Can I have this interview back?
EJ: Yes, Mr. K says yes.
HT: Oh yeah, what kind of dogs do you have?
EJ: Two pugs, 11 years old.
HT: I think your questions were better than mine, now I have to think of something intelligent to say... Damn you Jonesy! What now... What's the plan?
EJ: I'm looking for a new location to work with a new crew of people, similar to one that I've been blessed with in the past where my education has furthered itself. I think that's always at the core of my tattooing, to have selfish intentions and learn from others.
HT: You do have a very defined style and identity that you project, how much of this is intentional or natural?
EJ: I think I'm coming of age, at 33, it's starting to become who I am. Throughout my 20s, certain experiences have grafted themselves upon me and now I'm becoming comfortable with who I am. But then again the evolution never stops...
For more words of wisdom check out Eric's blog or catch him on the road.
Horitaka (Taki) can be found at:
State of Grace Tattoo
221 Jackson Street
San Jose, CA 95112
Phone: (408) 441-7770
Hours: 11am – 7pm
Closed on Tuesday