Meet our Community Curators: Crystel Vasquez

To celebrate the opening of our newest exhibit Tattooed and Tenacious: Inked Women in California’s History, we will be highlighting the work of local female tattoo artists who helped curate the exhibit.

For today’s exhibit opening, we are highlighting local tattoo artist Crystel Vasquez. Crystel has been tattooing for about 12 years. Today she works in San Jose at Art of Tattoos.

How did you get involved with tattooing?

Crystel: I was 17 and still in high school and I had a cousin who had a friend that owned a tattoo shop. My cousin knew I loved to draw and thought I would be good at tattooing and should check out his friend’s shop. I didn’t really think much of it though, but one day when some friends and I were walking home from school we stopped by his shop. We were really just trying to be cool, hanging out in a tattoo shop, but as we were there the shop owner took a look at my sketches, and the next thing you know I’m an apprentice. I apprenticed for about two years, and really learned by watching and just going for it, with a lot of my friends letting me tattoo them.

You have been tattooing for almost 12 years now, do you feel like you have it mastered?

Crystel: I feel comfortable in the style that I like to do. I do a lot of traditional work and a lot of color work, I feel really comfortable doing stuff like that, but it’s kind of one of those things that you are always learning. Even though I feel comfortable where I’m at, I’m always trying to get better and learn new things that are a little out of my comfort zone.

Do you have a favorite style of tattoo?

Crystel: My favorite style would have to be traditional. I love the boldness of the lines, the vibrancy of the solid color and the way traditional tattoos hold so well in the long run.

Do you see more women getting tattooed then when you started?

Crystel: Oh yeah! I’d say about 80% of my clients are women. When women want something, they want it, and they are not going to stop until they get it.

Why do you think people continue to get tattooed?

Crystel: I think they have a story to tell. It’s a way to maybe cope with something that’s happened in their life; I probably get that the most. It’s also a way to remember someone. For me, when my Dad passed away, I got a tattoo to help remember him and I felt like if people are going to stop me and ask about it I want to be able to have a good story to tell them. It’s cool to remember someone in that type of way, to get stopped and be able to bring up someone you love.

Crystel Vasquez at work in tattoo studio

What do you enjoy most about tattooing?

Crystel: I enjoy hearing everyone’s stories the most. I work all day, from morning until night time. I spend more time in the shop then I do at home and I spend more time with my clients then with my family, so my clients become my friends and a lot them are a part of my family now, that’s my favorite part. I kind of wonder what it would be like if I wasn’t a tattoo artist; I wouldn’t meet so many cool people.

Follow Crystel on Instagram @littlebuddyink to see some of her work and stay tuned for more interviews with local women tattoo artists. Check out their work in our newest exhibit Tattooed & Tenacious: Inked Women in California’s History — opening today, March 20, at 12:00pm in the Leonard & David McKay Gallery at the Pasetta House in History Park.

Meet our Community Curators: Sam Rusk

To celebrate the opening of our newest exhibit Tattooed and Tenacious: Inked Women in California’s History, we will be highlighting the work of local female tattoo artists who helped curate the exhibit.

Today, we are highlighting Sam Rusk. Like many of our other artists, Sam has always been drawn to art. As a kid she was always drawing. She took art classes in high school, community college, and at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. She has worked as tattoo artist for about seven years and currently works at El Toro Body Shop in Morgan Hill.

Did you always see yourself becoming a tattoo artist?

Sam: As a kid I was drawn to anything involving the arts, I don’t think tattooing came in to my mind then though. As I got older, my parents got tattoos when I was about 12, and I thought that was the coolest thing I’d ever seen and became a little obsessed with tattooing. After high school I knew it was something I definitely wanted to pursue.

What was the first tattoo that you got?

Sam: I got a peacock feather on my forearm from Marty, the owner of El Toro. I had actually been working in his shop before I got any tattoos. I remember being really excited to get it. I’d had the image I wanted planned out. My grandma had this peacock that would chase me around on her property, so the tattoo reminds me what an influence she is and how special she is to me.

Do you have a favorite type or style of tattoo?

Sam: I really like Art Nouveau designs, with thick lines and thin lines together and bright colors and flowy designs. I also really enjoy the kind of traditional style of tattooing, but I think I tend to like a little bit of everything.

What changes have you seen in the tattooing field and culture?

Sam: I haven’t been tattooing a super long time, but it seems like tattoos have become more acceptable generally. I remember when I got out of high school, shows like L.A Ink were coming out and got really popular and made tattooing a really cool thing. Now, it seems like everyone has a tattoo, and you are kind of a rebel if you don’t have a tattoo.

Tattoo artist Sam Rusk at work

Is there a tattoo you’ve done that sticks out in your memory most?

Sam: Yeah, I did a really big sleeve for a client that took close to six months to finish. He already had a dragon on his arm that was a little messed up, so we fixed up and made a whole sleeve out of it with a dragon, koi fish, water, and other stuff. That was one of the first super big projects I got to work on consistently. He would come in every two weeks and I would work on it, so I think I learned a lot from that. It came out really nice and he was a very nice guy, so it was just a really cool six months of my life.

How do you think tattooing might change in the future?

Sam: I’m not sure, I think now it seems like it’s continuing to grow more popular. Tattoos are a permanent thing on your body — it’s not like a pair of shoes you can toss out. I think it’s something that’s always going to evolve, but I think people will always have some sort of tattoos or something to kind of mark themselves. I’m not sure what direction it might go in, but I think tattooing will always be a thing.

Stay tuned for more interviews with local women tattoo artists. Check out their work in our newest exhibit Tattooed & Tenacious: Inked Women in California’s History — opening Sunday, March 20, at 12:00pm in the Leonard & David McKay Gallery at the Pasetta House in History Park.

Meet our Community Curators: Tamiko Rast

To celebrate the opening of our newest exhibit Tattooed and Tenacious: Inked Women in California’s History, we will be highlighting the work of the some local female tattoo artists who helped curate the exhibit.

Today, we are highlighting Tamiko Rast. Tamiko has painted and been involved with art since childhood,
taking oil painting classes at age 10. At age 20, she started her own web design business, Rasteroids, with her brother. She started getting tattooed at 27 and knew that eventually she would become a tattoo artist. She has been tattooing now for about five years and works independently.

What was the first tattoo you did?

Tamiko: The first one I did was on my arm. I figured, ‘now’s the time,’ I’m going to try this out. Most tattooers do their legs first because it’s not visible, but I didn’t know what I wanted to put on my legs, and secondly, if I’m going to do this, then screw it, I’ll put it on my arm. I did an ‘x’ for my grandfather middle name, Fred Xavier Rast.

The first one I did on someone else was pretty nerve wracking. I added snowflakes to an existing snowflake tattoo. It turned out great, there were no problems with it all, but the first couple of years were just nerve wracking. You want to do a good job, but you are never happy because if even if it’s great and looks perfect, you’ll wonder, ‘could I have done it better?’

Tamiko Rast in her tattoo studio

How does you as an artist influence you as a tattooer?

Tamiko: I think with any kind of art, it depends on the canvas. As a tattoo artist that means you are working on skin and a living organism, as opposed to something that is non-living. To me, it just changes the dynamic of how you apply the art, and there are certain rules to it, but there are rules to any artistic medium. If you are working with clay there is a different procedure, or if you are working with canvas there is a different way to go about it, and tattooing is the same in that way.

How do you think tattooing has changed in recent years?

Tamiko: It’s very fluid. In the last five years, it’s changed a lot, but it really seems like it changes from year to year. Now there are more very skilled fine artists moving into the field and just taking to it like crazy. I was told by one person it takes 10 years to see if a tattooer is good, not anymore. You’ve got people coming in and after two years who are doing amazing work and it’s because they understand the fundamentals of color and mixing, and understand the canvas and application.

How do you think tattooing might change in the future?

Tamiko: I wonder if it tattooing might become something where people stop getting tattooed as frequently. I think there are ebbs and flows. Today, there’s a lot of people that get a ton of tattoos, and maybe in the future that will change. There will always be people that get tattoos, but maybe in 10 years, fewer people will be getting as many tattoos as they are today. We’ve seen tattooing go up and down before, but that’s not what it is about. It’s not a competition, it’s not a trend – if it is a trend then you are not doing it right and you are not doing it authentically for yourself.

Stay tuned for more interviews with local women tattoo artists. Check out their work in our newest exhibit Tattooed & Tenacious: Inked Women in California’s History – opening Sunday, March 20, at 12:00pm in the Leonard & David McKay Gallery at the Pasetta House in History Park.

Meet our Community Curators: Jazz Fuller

To celebrate the opening of our newest exhibit Tattooed and Tenacious: Inked Women in California’s History, we will be highlighting the work of the some local female tattoo artists who helped curate the exhibit.

Today, we are featuring local tattoo artist Jazz Fuller. Jazz has always enjoyed drawing and art, and was drawn to tattooing at a young age. After getting her first tattoo she fell in love with it. She has been tattooing for professionally for about three years and works Unlimited Ink Tattoo in San Jose and The Iron Sparrow Parlour in Morgan Hill.

What was the first tattoo that you got?

Jazz: The first tattoo that I got was Alpha and Omega symbols with a crucifix. Alpha and Omega are the first and last letter of the Greek alphabet, it kind of represents the beginning and the end and the ‘be all end all.’ With a first tattoo, the thoughts of “Oh my god, what am I going to connect to forever? What am I not going to regret?” almost drown you. You’re flooded with all these feelings of permanence, it’s important to let the experience unfold. I thought that this symbol was something I could back forever.

Do you remember the first tattoo that you did?

Jazz: Truthfully, my first experience making a tattoo for someone was pirate style on my buddy’s porch. With no training or understanding of the honor and practice of tattooing, I almost passed out from nervousness. I didn’t end up finishing it and the piece was the worst thing ever. I struggled like that for about a year, making the worst, ill-dignified experiments on my friends and self. Still drawn to tattooing; the longer it went on the more seriously I wanted to take it. From there I was able to apprentice, and that’s where all clarity with the trade of tattooing has come from. Tattooing is something that you’ll learn forever — you’ll never stop learning. There’s no be all and end all tattoo or shop, it’s a lifelong journey of cultivation; I don’t think of that as a daunting, but exciting.

Jazz Fuller parlor panorama

What is your relationship like with your clients?

Jazz: I really love people for their unique personal qualities, I want to experience everyone. I think a majority of what I have to offer — since there are so many other tattooers amazing or not, and such an over-saturation in the industry, especially in the last 10 years with the celebritizing of tattooers and bridges being crossed with tattooing and other facets of art — is my own interpretation of the art and the experience. I feel valid if I think this way. If I tattoo you, you are in so good with me, you are one of my people forever. It’s kind of like a religious experience in a lot of ways. That tattoo is a physical manifestation of the intangible things like your soul or spirit, and as a person it’s a way to connect those sort of things with your physical form and having the opportunity to be a part of that is so special to me; I’m totally humbled and in awe of it.

Jazz Fuller at work

Is there a tattoo you’ve done you are most proud of or that stands out for you?

Jazz: There’s definitely a type of tattoo that I like to do best. It doesn’t happen too often, but it’s more of an interpretive tattoo situation. These folks are not coming in with a specific idea, but a general idea that we interpret together. Trying to figure it out together, talking, and creating images that can promote that person’s feeling and represent that meaning for them. Someone has to be open and willing to step into the ring to get a tattoo like that, so those are really special to me.

Follow Jazz on Instagram @yung.miss to see some of her work and stay tuned for more interviews with local women tattoo artists. Check out their work in our newest exhibit Tattooed & Tenacious: Inked Women in California’s History – opening Sunday, March 20, at 12:00pm in the Leonard & David McKay Gallery at the Pasetta House in History Park.

Restoration Shop volunteers hard at work

Our volunteers at the Restoration Shop have been busy working on the Museum’s 1927 Model T Truck, getting it in good running order. So far they’ve rebuilt the starter, added a modern ignition switch, rewired the electrical system, and added a new one-gallon gas tank. Thank you to all the Restoration Shop volunteers for your fantastic work!

Travel through time at the first annual History San José Spring Tea!

The Greater Bay Area Costumers Guild is partnering with History San José to create a fun and fascinating experience for upcoming our Spring Tea. Guild members have researched and chosen vintage clothing to complement each of our beautiful historic homes in History Park. First, guests will enjoy a fabulous tea with sweet and savory creations by Satori Teas. The Renzel Room will be especially decorated for spring. Then guests are invited to explore the park and discover docents and costumed Guild members with stories of history and fashion in the homes. Don’t miss out on this one-of-a-kind event!

For tickets please contact Juanita Lara at jlara@historysanjose.org or call 408.287.2291.

Investigating History with History San José’s newest School Program – History Detectives!

History San José’s newest school program, History Detectives, brings together collections, curatorial, and education staff together to create a hands-on educational experience for students. The program takes place in History San José’s Collection Center, which houses over 500,000 artifacts pertaining to the history of San Jose and Santa Clara Valley. When students arrive they are given their very own ‘History Detective In-Training’ badges and are asked to solve a historic mystery.

history detectives in libraryStudents work in teams to investigate the life of Johnny Kirk, an elementary school age boy who grew up in Santa Clara Valley in the late 1800s. Students examine primary source documents and artifacts, such as letters and personal journals, from the History San José Collection to piece together the story of Johnny’s life.

History Detectives with painting
The program shows students how researchers learn about the past and how primary sources help influence our understanding of history. Students also compare the lives of late 19th-century San Jose residents to their own, discover the relationships between artifacts and the human activities they suggest, think critically about historic records, and learn how to make inferences based on information introduced by a primary source.

Examining artifacts at HSJTo learn more about History Detectives contact the HSJ Education department at 408.918.1040 or email education@historysanjose.org.

Meet our Community Curators: Shana Javier-Carrasco

To celebrate the opening of our newest exhibit Tattooed and Tenacious: Inked Women in California’s History, we will be highlighting the work of the some local female tattoo artists who helped curate the exhibit.

To get things started, we talked with Shana Javier-Carrasco, a tattoo artist who has been working in San Jose for over a decade. Shana didn’t see herself as a tattoo artist when she was younger, but always had a passion for artwork. She attended the Art Institute in San Francisco and studied Multimedia Arts and Animation. After graduating she worked as graphic designer, but found the work she was doing to be creatively constrictive. She eventually started working in a tattoo shop as ‘shop girl,’ but, after sharing her artwork with the shop owner, was able to become apprentice. She apprenticed for about a year and a half, became an additional artist in the shop, and worked there for about five years. She now works independently in San Jose and works as a guest artist in multiple shops in California. Here are some of the highlights from our talk with Shana:

Shana Javier-Carrasco

What was is it like the first time you tattooed someone?

Shana: It was nerve wracking. I didn’t know what to expect, would someone would jump out of the seat or if I’d be peeling their skin off. Other tattoo artists were around when I did my first one and they said, ‘just do it, you’re never going to learn until you put that needle in the skin’, and that’s exactly what happened – I made my mistakes and I learned from it.

What’s a tattoo that you’ve done that you are most proud of?

Shana: I would say it was this floral black and gray piece that I did maybe two or three years into my career. The client came from San Francisco to get it from me, so already that was a big compliment that someone out of town came to see me specifically. I put that tattoo in my portfolio and on Facebook and it got me so much more clientele and still continues to get me more clients. And when I’ve had other tattoo artists critique my portfolio that’s the one that seems to stand out the most, so I am very proud of that piece.

Shana Javier-Carrasco
Our exhibit looks at the history of women and tattoos in California. Do you see tattooing today as connected with that history?

Shana: I do, I got my own tattoos as a kind of rite of passage and that seems like a part of tattooing’s past that is continuing today. All my tattoos also have some sort of meaning, and my clients also get tattoos that have some kind of personal meaning to them, so I think whether its Native American women getting tattooed or old tattooed ladies, the idea that tattoos have personal meanings to people continues.

In your time working as a tattoo artist, have you seen any shifts of changes in the industry?

Shana: Absolutely, 10 years ago was about the time all the tattoo shows started coming out and it seemed like everyone was starting to get tattooed. I feel like I got into it right at the right time. Since I got started I feel like people are a lot more accepting of tattoos, but I still get those people that will stop you in the middle of the street and tell you ‘why would you do that’ or make rude comments.

Why do you think people get tattooed?

Shana: Because they want to make a statement – it may be they want to tell something about themselves without actually having to verbalize it, or maybe they want to start a conversation by showing a piece. It really varies from person to person, but I definitely think they want to remember something, kind of making a bookmark with that tattoo or a reminder of things that have happened to them.

Shana Javier-CarrascoFollow Shana on Instagram @melonstamp to see some of her work, and stay tuned for more interviews with local women tattoo artists. Check out their work in our newest exhibit Tattooed & Tenacious: Inked Women in California’s History opening Sunday, March 20, at 12:00pm in the Leonard & David McKay Gallery at the Pasetta House in History Park.

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