It's all about the art at Black Rabbit Tattoo Studio
WhenBlack Rabbit Tattoo Studio (3246 St. Johns Street, Port Moody) owner Christina Christie celebrates the grand opening of her tattoo shop this Saturday (July 23), the 23-year-old will be thinking of a janitor who worked at Maple Ridge Secondary School seven years ago.
"I was doing a lot of drawing for the school, and he noticed some of my work," Christie tells the Straight while on the phone from Port Moody. "He said, 'Hey, I could probably get you a job', and so he took my portfolio down to a place called Renaissance [Studio] in Abbotsford, and they looked at my stuff and they really liked it."
Christie started working for the Fraser Valley tattoo shop while still in high school—first as a visual artist, and then as an apprentice. She stayed at Renaissance for four years before moving onto another tattoo shop in Maple Ridge, while also studying at Emily Carr University of Art and Design.
"First, I went to Emily Carr with a lot of low-brow art, and I kind of had lots of pinup girls, and girly, provocative sort of art. They kind of turned me down and said, 'I think you have feminist issues'," Christie says with a laugh.
Undiscouraged, Christie diversified her portfolio, returned to Emily Carr, and was accepted into the fine arts program. "It's funny because today, that [low-brow art] is what makes me the money—it's that type of art," she says. "So I kind of do a little bit of both—a little bit of low-brow art as well as conceptual art."
At Black Rabbit, Christie is apprenticing Leanne Thief, an Emily Carr student who will also be doing body piercing at the studio. Although the two young women are currently the only staff members at Black Rabbit, Christie hopes to keep it female-run even as the shop expands.
"That's definitely something that I want to keep going," she says. "I would love to just work with women, because I want people to take us seriously as females. And because I struggled with that, I want to kind of embrace that."
Christie says that while transferring her art into tattoos was relatively easy, she struggled with not being taken seriously in the male-dominated tattoo industry.
"I think it's changing now because of things like TV shows and stuff like that, but it's definitely still hard for me to be taken seriously, and that was part of the reason why I wanted to open up my own shop," she says. "I wanted to have my art be shown, so at least you can sort of make your own judgment and look at my art and see for yourself."
To help support Metro Vancouver's visual arts community, the walls of Black Rabbit will display work by up-and-coming visual artists. While Christie initially had her heart set on opening a shop in Vancouver's SoMa neighbourhood, she's excited to bring a second tattoo studio to the City of Port Moody. (Up until last week, Sinister Skin Tattoos & Piercings [2520 St. Johns] was the only place to get inked.)
"Being that Port Moody is the city of the arts—or at least that's what they say—I think we're going to be just fine," Christie says. "We pride ourselves in being artists. I specialize in people, portraits, and pinups, but I try to keep my portfolio as diverse as possible. I like a challenge."
You can follow Michelle da Silva on Twitter at twitter.com/michdas.