ARTIST COLLABORATION: CRYSTAL ALEXANDRIA
Keep reading to learn more about her artistic process...
Baggins Blog (BB): Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who is Crystal Alexandria? What gets you up in the morning?
Crystal Alexandria (CA): Coffee haha. Coffee is the answer.
But really…what a question. I’m an Artist and a Nurturer, through and through. My life is generally about creating, finding beautiful things, exploring, and trying to make the lives of those around me better. Those are the things that make life really worth living.
BB: How did you get started as an artist (both tattoo and watercolour)?
CA: Both the answers are "a girl", haha.
About 8 years ago I was dating a girl on the island and had just moved over. I was painting houses and laying floors when she came home and said “I want to date a tattoo artist. You are going to become one or we are breaking up.” So, I figured it out. I started an apprenticeship, but after my sterilization training and a couple of small kanji symbols, the girl teaching me skipped town. I still had space in the shop, so I ended up teaching myself the rest.
As for watercolours, my current girlfriend was working out of town for long periods last year, sometimes 6 weeks at a time. I missed her terribly, and think she is the most beautiful woman ever, so I decided to try painting her face with watercolours. It turned out I was pretty good at it!
BB: When creating your art, what do you draw from for inspiration? Is there anything that you find really integral to your work?
CA: Honestly, I’m inspired by everything. I can never really focus on one thing. “Boredom” is the thing really integral to my work. And “Passion”. When I’m bored, I passionately try something challenging haha. Actually though. Boredom is what pushes me hardest.
BB: What do you love most about creating art and tattooing?
CA: My two favourite things about tattooing:
First, getting to create art every day in an environment where I can actually be myself. I can wear yoga pants (and do) daily if I like. I can be shy or loud or inappropriate by other people's standards. I can have real conversations that would be ‘too personal’ in my other vocations. And how humbling is it that people like my art enough to let me permanently (permanently!) change their bodies? What an honour.
Second, the people. I’d say this one is actually more important than the art. I grew up with zero friends. I was bullied for years and had no social skills. I learned very quickly that you cant tattoo people if you are shy you have to engage. You have to let walls down. You have to trust like they are trusting you. And in doing that, I have become a real person. I open up to customers like they open up to me. I make friends with them, we share our triumphs and our failures. We hang out, outside of the shop, doing things like eating burritos on a bench in Gastown. I have had conversations with people that I never would have met because of tattooing. I’ve grown attached to people who at a different time in my life, I would never have spoken to, or, they would have judged my appearance and written me off. Tattooing allows barriers to be broken, and first impressions to be proven wrong.
BB: Let’s get real for a minute. Being an artist is a struggle (especially in an expensive city like Vancouver), what keeps you going when things get tough? Do you have a mantra or anything that you do to keep yourself on track and driven?
CA: My girlfriend is super inspiring and supportive, and really kicks my butt (in a good way!) when I’m down. I’m also obsessed with the beach and the mountains, so I spend as much time near the ocean or hiking as I can.
BB: What’s the most inspiring thing anyone has ever said to you, personally or about being an artist?
CA: I don’t think I could pick one thing. Every time I get an email from a customer with a kind word or a compliment, I put them in a folder that I have kept since I started doing this. I remember the way people make me feel, the way our energy bounced off each other. Those things inspire me.
BB: What do you feel like the role of an artist is in society as a whole?
CA: Our job is to create beauty amongst the chaos. Always.
BB: Is there a piece of art or a tattoo that you’re most proud of? What made this work/experience stand out?
CA: Oh gosh…it’s always changing, as I’m always pushing myself. I’d say every piece is my favourite in some way or the other: because I tried something new and succeeded, or changed up my colour palette, or pulled off a whole back outline in 5 hours…Every tattoo is special. I’m proud of them all.
BB: If you could tattoo anyone, living or dead, who would you choose?
CA: My mother. She passed away 4 years ago, and we had a falling out a few years earlier. She never got to see me tattoo, and she would have loved it.
BB: Let’s talk music! Who are you listening to right now? Is there a genre of music that you prefer to listen to when you’re creating art or tattooing?
CA: Haha, I am the iPod that keeps you guessing! My personal preferred music is Black Metal. I find it super soothing but most people don’t like screaming haha. I’m currently obsessed with the bands Apati and MGLA. When I’m drawing I’m listening to metal or watching documentaries. My iPod has metal, pop, country, musicals... When I’m tattooing, however, I’ll listen to a large array of music. Sometimes what my coworkers want, sometimes the client—a couple of weeks ago I was tattooing a lovely gentleman who had a tattoo from the musical Rent, which is my all-time favourite. So we listened to that and had an epic sing along!
BB: When it comes to shoes, are you a Vans, Converse or Dr. Marten’s fan? Why?
CA: It’s a tie between Vans and Dr. Martens. Vans are super comfy, my go-to slip-on for “easy walking”… my Dr. Marten’s are my sh*t kickers, haha. I wear them often in Gastown-they make me look a lot tougher than my 120-pound frame. They’re also comfortable, and classy (as far as “classy” for me!).
BB: What made you want to pursue a collaboration with Baggins? What was the experience like for you?
CA: An old friend Tami (@tamitattoos), did a collaboration with you, and I thought it was a great idea. I’m always up for supporting local businesses, and even though I don’t live in Victoria, I love it there. I also think your shoes are great! And I wanted to wear my art on my feet haha.
BB: What’s next for you as an artist? Do you have any other big projects coming up or anything that you’re pursuing?
CA: Yes! I opened my own tattoo shop in June, Dark Ocean Tattoo! My best friend Shannon and I tattoo there and my partner Amanda is the manager. It's near the beach in Kitsilano, and I'm super excited about this life-changing venture! We have been talking about it for years, since we first met, and decided that if the opportunity ever presented itself, and it felt right, we would take it. I have had an amazing time @liquidambertattoo, and I am super grateful for everything they have done for me, and am also just buzzing about this next step!
BB: Final question! Just for fun, what’s your favourite word?
We love the bold colour and attitude Crystal brings to her tattoos and artwork - we can't wait to see what's next for this talented human! Ready to order your Purple Peony Slip-Ons? Swing by the shop at 580 Johnson St in Victoria, BC or order today online! Please note, average print turn around time is approximately 10-12 business days, plus shipping and we cannot ship Vans outside of Canada.
Want to see more of Crystal's work? Check out her Instagram or if you're feeling bold, book your next tattoo with her at Dark Ocean Tattoo!
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