Name: Christina Owen
Location: south London
Occupation: student paramedic
My name is Christina Owen, I’m 28, I live in south London and I’m a student paramedic and photographer. I could write a book about my tattoos. I have 24 at the moment. I collect them – they are mostly very bright and very bold and I’m hoping that over time I will collect enough small pieces to be built up into bigger sleeves. I prefer getting them done bit by bit, as they tell a story of my life. I’m about to start a photography project about tattoos and the stories they tell.
I’m also training to be a Paramedic and so many of my patients want to talk about my tattoos all the time – it’s a great conversation starter and seems to take their mind off the reasons why they’re in the ambulance! Amazing how many people you wouldn’t expect find them interesting, like little old ladies and children.
Where did you get your tattoos done? All over the place! My favourite tattoo shop in the UK is Frith Street in London, but I’ve had some done in Brighton, some at other places in London, one in New York and one in Copenhagen. At Frith Street I’ve had a few tattoos by Valerie Vargas, who’s an absolutely amazing artist, and one by Frank Carter – who rendered me so starstruck that I couldn’t speak to him.
What got you into tattoos and what was your first tattoo? My first tattoo was a Chinese symbol on my stomach that means ‘fish’ (apparently!). I got it when I was 18 at my local tattoo shop because everyone else was doing it. A couple of years later I discovered SuicideGirls and couldn’t believe that tattoos could be so beautiful and so much like art. Up until then my experience was of tiny black and grey shapes that you would pick off a wall and have slapped somewhere on you, so you could say you’d done it. I thought the women on this site were wonderful and their tattoos completely captivated me.
Are you planning any more tattoos? Oh yes! I have about seven on my to-do list at the moment, but beyond a great idea for a tattoo, it’s also about finding the right artist to do it, and having the time and money to get it done. I’m impatient but I don’t want to rush – they need to be done properly, in the right place, at the right time. I’m quite picky about when the right time is to get a tattoo! I need to be in a good mood, things going well, the sun needs to be in the 5th house and the day needs to have a Y in it etc etc. It’s quite annoying…
Where did your inspiration come from? I mainly find inspiration in patterns and shapes that surround me. The stars on my chest come from part of a windchime that I got for my 20th birthday. It fell apart, and the stained glass star shape was all that was left. I stuck it on my bedroom wall in every place I lived, and fell in love with the design to the point where I wanted it on me forever! Sailors would get swallows tattooed on each side of their chest when they had travelled a certain distance away from home and I got stars, because of the star that I took with me everywhere I went.
I recently got the design from a pot that belonged to my grandmother on my arm, and I have this ancient biscuit tin that has yellow flowers on it that belonged to my Mum – I want the flowers tattooed on me somewhere.
I collect patterns from things that I have grown up with. Apart from that, I love traditional sailor flash designs and also pop art. I have a traditional arm and a contemporary arm to reflect both.
How would you describe your style? Bright! And nothing matches! But hopefully everything will somehow go together in the end. Like a living room where none of the furniture matches, but it looks good anyway.
Is there anyone you would like to get tattooed by? I’m going to Nashville next month and I’d like to get a tattoo by Amanda Leadman at Black13 Tattoo, but whether or not that will happen remains to be seen. There’s also a female tattoo artist who’s photographs I follow on Flickr and her tattoos and art are amazing. She works somewhere in America – it frustrates me that artists live in places you can’t just nip to on your day off! And I would love an entire sleeve by Miss Led, but she doesn’t tattoo as far as I know.
Do you have a favourite tattoo? People ask me this a lot and I don’t want to pick a favourite because it’s like picking a favourite child…but the stars on my chest are the best thing I’ve ever done. Also, the words on my feet – 2nd best thing I’ve ever done (they say Didi and Gogo which are the nicknames of the characters in Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett).
Do your tattoos have meanings? Yes – they have surface meanings and some have deeper meanings too, and those meanings don’t get told when people ask. But the surface meanings do. And some of them only have surface meanings. I got a black cat tattooed on my wrist when I was 20 purely to impress a boy (it didn’t) and I had an anchor tattooed on my arm at the oldest functioning tattoo shop in the world, which is Tattoo Ole in Copenhagen, only because I wanted to be like a sailor and walk in off the docks and pick a design off the wall. The quality isn’t great, but I love it because of where it’s from.