One of the great pleasures of this year’s London Tattoo Convention 2010 was the chance to catch up with tattoo aficionado favorite Shige of Yokohama’s Yellow Blaze tattoo studio. On the first day of the convention he busied himself with the outline of a sleeve that would take him a full 8 hours work (yes he was still working at around 10PM!) but here on the second day we find him adding some floral flourishes to a magnificent Hanya mask chest piece. The main mask itself had been mostly shaded previously and the very first thing that struck me was the innovative take that Shige had managed to take on such a common Japanese tattooing motif.
The legend in action:
Here we find Shige drawing on the guides for shading the flowers by hand having set up his colours. In the background you can just see no less that 4 shades of red ready and waiting – this would be joined later by a further seven colours that would all be going into the petals. If you have ever wondered how Shige gets his colours just so right, the answer comes here in that he selects them from a massive range of subtle gradients, as opposed to fading a single colour.
Having drawn on his guides and refining them until he was satisfied he readies his gun and starts to put a small amount of ink onto the skin, but does not actually tattoing until he is sure that he has got it just right. It is a painstaking process with Shige adjusting his light every few seconds, wiping the area clean, trying a different line, wiping it before finally committing the colour by tattooing.
You really could feel the customer had had a pretty full day of tattooing even at this point. 4 hours in and there was a huge amount left to do, he was starting to get the shakes and as anyone who has had their chest and stomach tattooed will testify – this is a really rough area. Nether the less neither the customer nor Shige took a break and there was not a flinch to be had. It is a testament to the dedication you would have to have to get a tattoo from Shige, that having finally got your appointment and put the (quite considerable) money aside, that the actual process of the tattoo which would normally be the most difficult to bear becomes something you can take in your stride considering the reward at the end.
In the time we watched Shige you could see the tattoo start to take shape albeit very very very slowly. It may be something of a disappointment to some that Shige does not have some kind of magic touch, he just plans, takes his time and never rushes. Of course it helps to have the right amount of pressure with the gun and the raw artistic talent and eye for proportion, but the patience to put this into action (and in a convention environment no-less) is what makes his work so amazing. It would have been nice to have stayed with him for a bit longer, but I felt that we had entruded in his work long enough. Regardless it was a real pleasure to watch someone so clearly at the top of their game at work and I felt enormous jealousy for the wincing man who would be able to look at that beautiful piece for the rest of his life.
On the other hand it will be our pleasure to see him at work next month at the King of Tattoo convention in Daikanyama. There it will be interesting to see what he is working on then, not to mention that he is going to be painting and chatting with Horiyoshi III on stage. The idea of those two iconic forces meeting has got to be as good as it gets for most fans of Japanese tattoos – can’t wait!