For the love of carving your own shapes
How snowboarder Jo Chastney became a leading tattoo artist in the UK
Snowboarding is very similar to art. It allows you to paint whatever shape you want on a fresh canvas, every time a storm brings the white fluffy stuff. As with art, there are no rules. You can go inside or outside the lines, do what you want, use what you want. That is always what attracted me to both snowboarding and painting, that I was free to just run with it, however I wanted.
It’s always inspiring to see where people go after snowboarding, what careers, interests or other sports they move on to. Jo was a successful snowboarder who had a pretty sick part in my snowboard movie Snow Balls (watch the full movie here). She then turned her hand to tattooing and it turns out she’s bloody good at that too. Based in Bournemouth in the UK, I got in touch to ask her about her transition from the art of snowboarding to that of tattooing.
Hey Jo, awesome to see where you are at now. How did you transition from snowboarding to tattooing?
Well after having the best time snowboarding, I felt I needed something new to get into, and not just anything, it had to be as dope as snowboarding! It was really hard to get into as it’s so popular right now and everyone who can draw a rose seems to want to tattoo, and some that can’t (draw a rose). I’ve felt like snowboarding and tattooing are really similar, in that it’s more of a lifestyle, it’s not just about tattooing/snowboarding, there are so many events that involve tattooing or my art; conventions, art shows, etc.
Also the way I have learned and pushed myself is similar, you have to push yourself to get better, but not too much, don’t go doing a portrait in your first week, like don’t hit a black belter… !!
Would you say your work is of any particular style or what would you say you are known for?
I hope I’m known for my line work and dot work. That is my favourite style at the moment, but doing that all day every day would drive me nuts! I love the variety in styles, I do prefer traditional and dots and lines, but if someone came in and asked for something completely different, if I felt I was capable, I would be more than happy to do it! I just love tattooing, and that people come to me and want me to do it. It’s such an awesome feeling.
Where do you take your inspiration from?
The more I’m tattooing and drawing the more I look at every day things in a different way. My inspiration comes from everywhere! Some TV/films, posters, flowers, buildings… you get the idea. If I go to a convention/art show I can’t wait to get home and draw or get to work. Artists/tattoo artists that are getting me buzzing at the moment are; Casper Mugridge, Kelly Violence, Otto, Lizzie Cartwright, Rebecca Vincent, Paul Davies, Jono Wood, Rachel Urquhart, there are loads more but I won’t bore you.
Is there any particular part of the body that you like to work on, why?
My favourite areas are forearms and calf’s. Everyone has different skin, so sometimes ink goes in beautifully, and other times it’s a little more difficult. The softer parts are generally a little tougher, where your skin is stretchy, as you can’t get enough tension to get the skin tight.
What is the work you are most proud of, can you tell us about it?
Oh that’s tough, as some of the smaller tattoos I do that aren’t my particular style can be the most rewarding. If someone is really moved by a tattoo I’ve done, well that’s just amazing! My favourites are a ship silhouette, a fish chopped up so you can see the bones, a tree with dots and birds, heart with scissors, pocket watch with roses and filigree, and an octopus with a divers helmet.
What is the tattoo scene like in the UK? Are there many other female tattooists? Anyone you’d like to mention?
The scene is HUGE! The London Tattoo Convention is one of the biggest in the world. There are about 80 studios just in Bournemouth! There are a lot of female artists as well, totally owning it. Way too many to mention! But a few that have really helped me are, Claire Hamill, who was one of my mentors when I started out. Ledge.
As I mentioned earlier, Kelly Violence, Lizzie Cartwright, Miss Jo Black, Jody Dawber, Rebecca Vincent.
What would you another girl wanting to start out as a tattoo artist, have you got any advice for them?
“Be prepared to work for nothing and do a load of crappy jobs!”
It is a hard process, but like everything, if you work hard and want it enough then it will happen. Obviously, you need to be able to draw a bit too… just draw, draw and then draw some more. All styles as well, as you might prefer a certain style but might be better at drawing/painting another style, and you can’t be picky when you start out. Be prepared to work for nothing and do a load of crappy jobs!
You tore your ACL a while back, are you still snowboarding?
No. Well I did go with my dad last season but I couldn’t do it properly which sucked, even with a knee brace. I’m not torturing myself this year!
I saw that you are shaping your own surfboard, can you tell us about the board’s shape and inspiration to do it?
Yes! So the studio I work at is in the same building as a surf shop, amazing!! So one of the guys there has a shaping bay and started making a few boards, I waited until he did a few until we started mine, haha. I wanted a longboard and it was cheaper to make my own than to buy one, so they convinced me. Luckily it’s turned out perfect!
I didn’t really have much of a clue about what shape I wanted, I told him what I wanted it to ride like and he came up with a template. I picked the fabric inlay, and we had it glassed by someone else. I just asked to do the bits that didn’t matter too much but he said I had a good eye so I did quite a lot.
Contact Jo Chastney and find out more about her work
You can email Jo Chastney on firstname.lastname@example.org – just put tattoo in the subject.
Jo’s latest Instagram images (@JoChastney):