Based in Vancouver, Canada, Crystal Osaurus is a self-taught tattoo artist who prides herself on hard work, determination, and helping her clients find peace within and without themselves. From what we gathered in our interview with her, she revels in the art, the evolution of the art, and the gaining respect of the art. Most days you can find her hard at work at I-Kandy Tattoo & Piercing. Our Danailya Reese had the chance to probe Crystal’s mind, so sit back and get an inside look at a tattoo artist’s mind.
Oh, and don’t forget to check out her beautiful work in the gallery above.
Let’s get the most generic portion of the interview out of the way…
What got you interested in the tattoo business?
I’ve always been interested in modifying my body and having my art as the main source of my income. I had just never thought tattooing would be something I would be able to do; I’ve always been super sensitive, and in this business, you need to have a tough skin. But in the end, the industry chose me, and it seems that as long as I keep trying to be better, it will continue to let me be a part of it.
How long did you apprentice and where?
I would like to say I apprenticed, but it didn’t work out that way. I started an apprenticeship on the island, but two months in my “mentor” jumped ship on the shop and I was left to learn on my own. It has been a stressful learning curve, and I have made mistakes, but persistence and hard work can get you anywhere.
How do you feel about apprenticeships?
I think apprenticeships are really important. I definitely believe it was a deficit to me to not have one. Apprenticeships allow you to learn from people who have made those mistakes, and who can show you how to avoid them. Instead of spending three years “figuring it out,” you get hands-on instruction on how to do it right the first time, which is huge for confidence and reputation. When you get a proper apprenticeship you do your first tattoo knowing you have the knowledge, theory, and time behind you.
What did your family and friends think about you getting into the tattoo business?
Honestly, my family and friends are the reason I didn’t quit in the first two years. They have been so supportive, whether or not they agree with tattoos. My friends let me learn on them, let me try out new techniques, helped me see things with different sets of eyes. My father lent me the money to get my equipment, even though he thinks tattoos are the worst thing you can do to your body (laughs). They helped me not be overly hard on myself, and they gave me constructive criticism when I needed a reality check. They are irreplaceable.
So, do you enjoy the job after all these years?
I love it. I am so blessed to be able to do art everyday, to help people make their outsides match their insides, to be a part of an industry that is always changing and getting better. I get to be inspired by artists all over the world.
What would you say is your favorite part of the job?
The best days are the days I fix a tattoo someone was unhappy with. Or cover scars that made them embarrassed. Or do a memorial tattoo that brings them to tears and helps begin their healing process. Pain has power, especially when you choose it.
Are there any famous artists, tattooists or not, that have influenced you down the path of your career?
Oh yes. Little Swastika, Corey Ferguson, Gerard Weisbeck, Xed the Head, Tomas Tomas, Marco Galdo, Michael E. Bennett [Childthepeacemaker], Dillin Forte. They are fabulous, fabulous artists, so creative and innovative and just plain amazing.
Have you personally met any famous tattoo artists?
If you mean “famous” as in Miami Ink, then no, but based on a pure talent level, then definitely yes.
What would you recommend to someone wishing to get into the tattoo business?
Be prepared. Have a solid portfolio. Research shops you like and find out what it takes to get an apprenticeship there. Realize that this job is seasonal, based on other people’s pocketbooks, and determined by your hard work and tenacity. Nobody gets rich in this job “just because.” They get rich because they have worked their asses off to be the best.
Can you tell me about the first tattoo you ever got? And if you remember who did it, and what it was, etc.?
(laughs) I got my first tattoo in my living room, and realized years later why that was a huge mistake. I remember exactly who did it, and have the scars to prove it. It was descending stars on both my inner arms.
What is your most memorable tattoo given and why?
My most memorable tattoo… hmm… A lot of my tattoos are very impulse and emotion driven, but the back of my right leg was kind of life changing for me. I had a hack job done (no, I didn’t listen from the first bad tattoo) on the whole back of my leg, and it was so bad I wouldn’t wear shorts or bathing suits. Jeans in the summer is not awesome. An old friend of mine who I was working with tattooed in a shop, and I asked her if we could do a blackout/pointillism/negative space piece… I cried when it was finished, because I didn’t have to hide a part of my body anymore.
Find out what part of the body Crystal won’t put ink on, at least not without some caveats…