Arts in Context

South Austin artist crafts modern tattoos from ancient Japanese technique

South Austin artist crafts new tattoos from ancient Japanese technique

Editor's note: CultureMap is proud to present the latest installment in our partnership with KLRU's documentary series Arts In Context. The series explores the process of creation and what it's like to be a working artist in the Austin area. You can watch more stories at

Since 2004, Luar Martinez aka Horimaru Kan has owned and operated Ancient Ink Tattoo, an assuming parlor tucked away on an increasingly busy stretch of South First Street. For years, fans have flocked to Ancient Ink to be tattooed by Martinez, who combines his Mexican heritage and Japanese and American educations to create his own unique art style.

Born in Yucatán, Mexico, Martinez originally came to the U.S. to broaden his tattoo education, but fell in love with martial arts in the process. His hobby led him to Japan, where he learned the ancient art of Tebori, a tattooing technique that uses multiple needles at the end of the long rod to drive ink into the skin. 

"It's more relaxed," Martinez says, "and somehow, it's a little more Zen-like. The machine isn't buzzing like crazy, and it's just more in rhythm." 

Today, tattoo fans from across the globe travel to South Austin to be forever inked by the artist, who melds Japanese and Mayan imagery into his work.

"I like all kinds of culture," he says. "But Mayan culture ... is pretty similar to Japanese culture. Some of the mythologies and folktales and stuff like that. There is a lot of relation."

KLRU-TV, Austin PBS is dedicated to telling stories that entertain, inspire, and change our lives. KLRU highlights what makes Austin unique — whether music, arts, or public issues — by creating and distributing award-winning original content. KLRU produces several series including Austin City Limits, Arts In Context, Central Texas Gardener, Decibel, and Overheard with Evan Smith. As a nonprofit educational organization, KLRU also prepares children to succeed in school and creates lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Ancient Ink Luar Martinez
Martinez traveled back and forth to Japan to learn the art of Tebori.  Courtesy of KLRU Arts in Context