Luca Ortis is a north London-based tattoo artist specialising in the traditional Japanese style of Horimono tattooing and is renowned for his striking full bodysuits. We caught up with him to chat about our exclusive NAAMA X Luca Ortis collaboration.
Have you always been into art?
Yes, absolutely. I was an only child and my parents were working a lot so I used drawing, painting and sculpting to occupy my time. I was always into photography and loved drawing, I just never thought it would be something I could make a living from.
How did you get into tattooing?
I was living in Chile at the time and doing lots of travelling around South America. My girlfriend bought a tattoo machine and I just started tattooing on anyone who would let me. Bizarrely they didn’t need much convincing - we were all young and stupid.
How did things progress from there?
When I returned to the UK, I spent more and more time tattooing. Little by little I made my way into the trade. I also got really into Japanese tattooing. I’d always been obsessed with its cinema and arts and I found it fascinating how the East and West have such polar opposite cultures in so many ways.
Tell us about the design you’ve commissioned for NAAMA.
This design is from Japanese mythology - it’s an interpretation of Raijin, god of thunder and lightning. Japan has absorbed many different religions over the years, so there’s lots of gods and they’re not necessarily good or bad. Raijin brings vital rains but can leave chaos and destruction in his wake.
What does your average day look like?
I run my studio by myself so I come into work and clean, set-up, deal with all of the admin it takes to run a business, and then I’ll see one or two customers a day. Today I worked five hours on one client. Some people are driven to get a tattoo done as soon as they physically can.
Do you love your job?
At a high level, it’s a great job. At a low level, it can be rubbish. The best thing about tattooing is the connection you make with people. It’s an amazing opportunity to meet people from different walks of life and hear their stories. If you’re curious about the world, it’s a fantastic job. Tattooing is also like show business - you have to entertain the client to distract them while tattooing their skin.
Walk us through the process of creating new body art with a client.
They’ll contact me through my website or my Instagram, and we’ll talk logistics (costs and time to get the tattoo done), then we’ll meet or zoom for a consultation. Sometimes what they want is not right as in Japanese tattooing there’s a lot of rules. It’s really all about the back and the body suit. You have parts of the design which represent seasons and one body suit should be one season. Once we’re all agreed, I’ll take a photo of their body part and that will be my base for sketching. I have the full drawing ready when they come in on the day. I don’t use stencils - I draw it straight onto their skin with marker pens as this is the traditional Japanese way and this works best.
One final question from us. What’s your view of tattoo removal?
It’s necessary. I don’t so much agree with the purists who value the permanence of tattoos. Nothing in this world is truly permanent.
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