Geoff Horn (Horisaru) – Hole In The Sky Tatto Parlor
Woodland Park, NJ
In 2011, I visited a brand new shop in Woodland Park, NJ called Hole In The Sky Tattoo Parlor owned by artist Geoff Horn. Since 2011, Horisaru’s shop has really flourished and his client list is through the roof. For some reason, I remember the one thing that really impressed me, besides Horisaru’s artwork, was the way he designed his shop. It had this warm and rustic feel to it. It felt like home! I’ve been following Horisaru on Facebook since my visit and his work amazes me every time I look at it. I love the Asian artwork, which is one of Horisaru’s specialties, and his colors and lines are second to no one.
I run into Horisaru often at tattoo conventions in the area, and he is one of the busiest artists at theses conventions; always booked. When you go to a convention and you see a busy artist that is a really good sign. It means their artwork is one of the best at the convention. Tattooing at conventions has earned Horisaru the opportunity to tattoo in 13 different countries and numerous states around the U.S. A mutual friend of ours, Jimmy Villari, has been getting a full back-piece done by Horisaru, which I’ve seen as it progressed, and it seriously might be some of the best tattoo work I’ve seen yet. This made it a no-brainer, and an honor, to make Horisaru from Hole In The Sky Tattoo Parlor this year’s Inked Out Artist of the Year.
I sat down with Horisaru for a quick 10-question interview to catch up and allow you to get to know this year’s Inked Out Artist of the Year. Here’s how it went.
We met when you first opened the Hole In The Sky back in 2011. Since then, we’ve run into each other at conventions every now and then. How has business been?
Man, business has been great. Being in such a hidden location it always blows my mind how steady it has been. I guess in this modern age, the Internet really gets the word out there; not to mention my clients who are always showing off their tattoos on line or at conventions for me. Every year I feel very fortunate that I am able to do such larger scale tattooing on a regular basis.
Back when you first opened, you were able to still take walk-ins. Is this still the case? Or are you booked until, like, forever?
I will still do walk-ins if I have a cancelation or if it is something I can do in between clients. With the shop being off the beaten path we do not get tons of walk-ins, so when we do I try to give it to Eric (Newman), so he has more of a full day. My typical day starts at eleven in the morning and I leave at nine or later at night. So, it’s hard to squeeze in more tattoos into my normal day.
I’m not as booked out as far as people think. I work a lot and do multiple appointments a day. Right now, I am booked for a month, maybe a month-and-a-half. I will never be one of these tattooers that “close their books,” and make people think they are way busier than they actually are. I want to tattoo as many people in my career as I possibly can, so if they are willing to wait a little bit, a person will always be able to make an appointment with me.
I have a few friends who are wearing your work and they look amazing! Do you feel you’ve grown as an artist? Tried any new styles? If so, which styles?
Thank you so much! I appreciate the kind words. Jimmy and Mel Villari (our mutual friends) are amongst my favorite clients. Progression as an artist is something you do not notice if you are working every single day. I have old clients reach out to me and tell me how nice my new stuff is and how much I’ve progressed, etc… I usually respond with “Thank you!! If I didn’t get better, I should have quit by now.” But all joking aside, I’m still in contact with clients I tattooed ten years ago and I’ll see their tattoos and think to myself how differently I would draw and layout things if I could do it over today.
As far as doing new styles, trying new things…one thing a lot of people do not know is I tattoo many styles. Primarily, I do traditional Japanese and American style, yes, but my week varies with many styles. I’m doing 11 appointments a week. Some of my favorite projects consist of works I do not tattoo often but really makes me think and makes me step out of my comfort zone. It’s important to remember this is a service industry and the customer comes first. If it was not for the customer, I would not be able to do what I do.
What styles do you really enjoy tattooing the most?
Like I was just saying, I love to tattoo many styles. As long as I feel confident doing a good tattoo for the client, I will never say no. No idea is a bad idea. With the proper thought put into an idea, everything is tattoo-able. But my favorite things to tattoo are large scale tattoos that will take up as much of the body as possible. Whether it is Japanese or American, I love the challenge to use all the space provided to create the most powerful and striking design I can create.
At the tattoo conventions I’ve seen you at, you were always busy. Has tattooing at conventions been beneficial to your business?
Tattooing at conventions has been a double-edged sword for me. In theory, you would think it would help bring in new clients, but in all honesty, the past few years it has not. I was fortunate to travel all over the world and do conventions in some major cities pre-Instagram. It helped me get known on a broader stage, but now tattooing in the “Internet generation,” I can have more people find me by Googling “tattoo artist New Jersey” faster than me spending thousands of dollars to travel to a foreign land or different state. But with that being said, I still love to do them and plan on going to Canada, Europe and Scandinavia in the coming months.
You’re best known for your large-scale Japanese pieces, but another thing I notice in your work is the colors. How do you get your clients to keep those colors so bright and vibrant?
That is a great question! To be honest, I am not even sure. When I tattoo I try to use as much black as I can. Most of the colors I prefer to use are on the “richer” side of the spectrum. That heavy, dark-to-light contrast is key. I honestly attribute my tattoos healing the way they do thanks to my special way I tell the client to heal the tattoo. To know the true secret you must get a tattoo from me. [Laughs]
I’m sure there are tattoo artists out there that will say they admire you as an artist. Who do you admire when it comes to tattoo artists?
Oh man! I could talk the eyes off of you about this question, but don’t worry I won’t! [Laughs] To me, the single most important tattooer is Don Ed Hardy. It is crazy to think how one man altered so much for the whole American tattoo industry. When Horihide came to visit Sailor Jerry, Ed got his back started and asked Horihide if he could come and study with him. Horihide agreed, making Ed the first American tattooer to go to Japan.
For years, Ed would stay and work in Japan for months at a time giving Japanese tattoos away in America, just so he could show people what else was out there. Not to mention, he cared about the industry as a whole. He would organize the best conventions and put out countless publications–not only showcasing his works, but the works of the world’s best tattoo artists. One of his books, Tattooing the Invisible Man, was a massive turning point for how I viewed tattoos. I would trace designs and read that book furiously in hopes that I could obtain some kind of visual info.
Has there ever been an instance where you had to turn a client away?
I don’t think so, but to be honest I should have turned a few people away. One in particular, I did at a convention in France in 2016. The guy was very drunk, possibly on drugs. He asked for a cover up of an old stick and poke tattoo he had. After 20 minutes of going back and forth, he took my marker and drew a shape on his arm, and said, “This, all black.” After asking if he was sure three times, he said, “Yes!” I proceeded to give him my first and only “amorphous blob.” Man, was that thing solid! After, he tried handing me his credit card, I had to explain to him it was cash only. Needless to say, he never came back with the cash. All good, however, I look at it as if I was being punished by the tattoo gods.
As an artist, what other mediums do you practice other than tattooing?
My only other medium is water color. I have been working on a split book of paintings with other artists from across the world titled, Yamato Damashii. It is very close to being done. I’m truly excited for it.
What does Geoff Horn do when he’s not tattooing?
I’ll be honest, tattooing is my life. I am completely obsessed with it. I am forever studying in one way, shape or form, but I have been doing more activities for myself. My wife and I like to travel together and spend what free time I have doing outdoor activities. I also practice Judo, the national sport of Japan. The physical activity is very good for my body.
Also, I have been practicing the art of bonsai. It is really fun learning how to make a living thing beautiful, as well as keeping it alive and happy. If I could, I would like to thank you, Tim, and The Aquarian for this honor. It means a lot to me that you have noticed my work. I would also like to thank all of my clients for their trust and support. Without you all, I would not be doing what I love. Tattooing has given me so much, and I feel so lucky to be a part of this.
And that it why it was a no-brainer to choose Horisaru as this year’s Inked Out Artist of the Year. Congratulations, Horisaru! For more info on Horisaru and his shop, Hole In The Sky Tattoo Parlor in Woodland Park, NJ, visit HoleInTheSkyTattoos.com.
Well, I’m off to check out my next tattoo spot! Who knows what state it will be in! If you have a tattoo shop that you want to suggest, please e-mail me the name of the place and whom I should ask for at firstname.lastname@example.org.