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.
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.