It takes power to notice when something is missing in the world, and even more to become the one to create it. For tattooer Zhenjia “Tian” Du, that missing piece was a Chinese-owned tattoo shop in Houston. In 2019, he opened Horitian Tattoo and created an environment for new tattooers to find belonging in ways he had never been able to. Specializing in Japanese-style tattoos, Horitian Tattoo possesses a full roster of passionate artists committed to lifting each other up and striving for excellence. Du took a minute to chat with us about founding his shop and what makes it stand out among the rest.
Can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about who you are?
I graduated from an art school in China and have been in the tattoo industry for 14 years. Due to the lack of support for tattoo culture among Asians, I decided to come to Los Angeles in 2011. However, my first job was as a waiter in a Chinese restaurant. I persevered until one day, a customer from the United States came in and his tattoos caught my attention. I discovered he was a tattoo artist. He told me how to get licensed and the process of tattooing in the United States. Afterward, I moved to Houston to start my tattooing career.
When I arrived in the city, there wasn’t a single Chinese tattoo shop, not even a Chinese tattoo artist. I felt very lonely at that time, and I had to do everything by myself in my rented apartment. I was unwilling to ask for help from my family because I was born in a small village in China, and my parents are ordinary workers. I reduced my meals from three to two per day, eating packets of inexpensive instant noodles just to get by. But I never gave up; persevering was the only thing I could do.
Later, I took on part-time jobs painting murals, which allowed more people to get to know me. The number of clients seeking tattoos from me gradually increased, and eventually, I attracted many young people with dreams who wanted to learn tattooing. Finally, I had my own tattoo shop. I wanted a group of people with a passion for tattoos to work together, draw, tattoo and discuss techniques, no longer feeling lonely. When I was down and out, I didn’t receive encouragement or help, but in my shop, I am always willing to extend a helping hand to those who have gone through similar experiences.
How did you come up with the name for your shop?
“Hori” represents the Japanese traditional style of tattooing, and it is followed by my own name, “Tian.” Many tattoo artists specializing in Japanese traditional style use names like “horixxx.” I hope that everyone can accept and appreciate our Asian tattoo style and culture.
What’s the tattoo scene like in Houston?
Houston is well suited for tattoos because the city experiences very little cold weather, and people often expose more of their skin. Moreover, the people living here tend to be straightforward, open-minded, sincere and courageous. They are unafraid to express their individuality and attitude towards life.
Tell us about the journey of finding your tattoo style.
Before settling on a specific tattoo style, I experimented with various styles. However, in the end, I chose the Asian traditional style. Growing up in Asia, I was exposed to predominantly Asian-style tattoos and immersed in Asian culture. Therefore, this style has always been my greatest passion.
How would you describe the overall vibe and atmosphere of Horitian?
We maintain a clean and hygienic environment within our shop, and every tattoo artist takes their clients’ skin very seriously. We have talented tattoo artists from various places, each with their own expertise in different tattoo styles. Whatever style of tattoo our customers desire, we strive to create a perfect representation on their skin.
What makes Horitian stand out amongst other tattoo shops in the area?
The Horitian Tattoo studio stands out because it is one of the few local establishments that specialize in professional Japanese traditional style tattoos. Additionally, the tattoo artists in this studio excel in other style domains as well. Regardless of the style you desire, you can expect to receive exquisite artwork here.
What do you think brought all of the artists at Horitian Tattoo together?
Every tattoo artist here is extremely friendly and passionate about the art of tattooing. They are willing to dedicate their entire lives to the craft and hold themselves to high standards, constantly striving for improvement and innovation.
What’s coming up for Horitian Tattoo?
In the future, we will strive to bring you more exquisite artwork and expand our presence with additional branches, aiming to provide our customers with the best experience and service possible.