Crystal Morey Chats with the Versatile Guen Douglas
By Crystal Morey
Guen Douglas has been turning heads and helping others turn heads with her eclectic tattoo work for over six years and on several different continents. Her name, as well as her work, keeps popping up all over the tattoo network and justifiably so… In a very short time (according industry standards) she’s developed a signature style and has mastered the art of creating tattoos that are not just artistically aesthetic, but truly enhance the overall appearance of her customers…
The queen of the food tattoo, Guen caught my attention initially with her over the top cupcake tattoos, which led to more mouth-watering creations not soon after. Whether it’s her passion for a subject or client demand, she tends to get a lot of request for specific images -the aforementioned cupcakes for example and more recently, cats. Not one to ever get in a rut she approaches each piece with a fresh perspective and creates tattoos that are original and personal for the client, and in doing so has amassed an impressively diverse personal portfolio. Her pieces are smart and heart-wrenchingly cute, without being overly feminine. They are very much like Guen herself -bold, playful and so sweet they make your teeth hurt.
CM: Before we get to the juicy stuff, can we go over your career to date? What compelled you to start tattooing? Where did you apprentice and where has tattooing taken you thus far?
GD: I got my first tattoos when I was 17, however it wasn’t until I was 21 that I started getting tattooed in earnest. That’s when I would say I fell in love with tattooing and my interest in learning developed. I tried for years to get an apprenticeship. I was lucky to count some pretty fantastic tattooers as friends that gave me great advice. Eventually it paid off and I got an apprenticeship at a local street shop in Ottawa, Canada. I worked there for just over three years.
The first two years were grueling. I guess you could call it a classic apprenticeship – lots of gophering, cleaning, emotional abuse and doing nothing but kanji and small black tattoos. It wasn’t until May of 2007 that I was allowed to do color tattoos. I finally quit my bartending job around that time and started tattooing full time and actually made a living from it. It’s a time in my life I wouldn’t want to relive. Ha-ha. In 2009 I moved to the Netherlands to work at Slick Nick’s shop, 25 to Life Tattoos.
Working in Holland has brought me a new apprectiation of traditional tattooing. Japanese and traditional styles are a lot more popular here and I have noticed the influence in my work. I am now preparing for a move to Brighton, UK to work at Phil Kyle’s Magnum Opus. They have such a fantastic and ecclectic crew and I am looking forward to working along side them all.
CM: Brighton will be fun, you’ve done guest work with those guys correct? Besides design proclivities have you noticed any other differences between tattooing in North America vs. tattooing in Europe?
GD: Yeah, it was love at first sight with the crew at Magnum Opus. Ha-ha. I get nervous working at other shops because you never know what to expect from tattooers, egos, attitudes, etc… But within a day or two at Magnum Opus I really felt like I was among old friends. Maybe it’s because I’m becoming more confident as a tattooer but I’m finding myself really enjoying the community of tattooing here in Europe. Dinners with shops in other cities and exchanging ideas. It’s been a great move, I really enjoy the European way of life.
CM: How did the food tattoos come about… I know you cook, was this imagery something you concocted or did it start with a client? Food tattoos are practically their own genre these days! Its epidemic! Is there anything edible you are dying to tattoo on someone? Anything you refuse to do?
GD: I have a giant cheeseburger tattoo done by Dave Knight at PSC Tattoo. It was definitely already becoming a “thing” when I got my cheeseburger done. I’m a girl who loves to cook and have many friends that love to cook. Also having worked in bars and restaurants for years I count a fair amount of chefs and cooks as friends. For these types of people food has a nostalgic and emotional connection and it makes perfect sense to me that they would want it tattooed.
I know a lot of people think these types of tattoos are weird but if you think about your past there are probably plenty of foods that bring back fond memories. I’ve pretty much had my fill of cupcakes these days, mostly because everyone wants a variation of the same thing. It makes life like Groundhog Day, ha-ha. So I’ll only do cupcakes now if my client comes up with something fun and different, think: maple or coffee or blueberry. As for food tattoos I’d like to do; I’d love to do more savoury food tattoos: comfort foods, salads and vegetables. I’m not opposed to sweets however, a wedding cake would also be so fun to tattoo!
CM: A wedding cake would be rad! It would have to go on someone whose been married like 12 times… with a scattering of those little bitty groom (or bride) cake toppers toppling off it… ha-ha. Yeah. You have amazing collection of tattoos yourself. I can’t stop staring at that apple! Who have you been tattooed by and who would you like to tattoo you still?
GD: I have a few pieces from Lus Lips, Todd Noble, Adam Turk, Seth Wood, Dave Knight, Dave Cummings, Joel Conroy and quite a few more ha-ha. Grime, Rachi Brains and Carnie Marnie are at the top of my wish list, but of course the wish list never stops growing!
CM: In the time you’ve been tattooing what’s the most absurd thing that’s happened to you?
GD: I don’t think anything that absurd has ever happened to me, but then again it depends on one’s definition of absurd. I worked at a street shop for a few years so I’ve see my fair share of odd mostly spring-break-style-girls-gone-wild kind of stuff. I once had a customer tell me that he was filling his crystal necklace with the “ecstasy of the tattoo” while I was tattooing him. He asked me to “feel his crystal” when we were done (I was afraid he meant something else ha-ha) but I took the crystal into my hand and he started counting backwards from 10. I figured if I just held it until he was done it would be anti-climactic so when he got to six I said, “Whoa. It’s making me dizzy” and gave it back… He lost his mind. He was ecstatic… another satisfied customer! Ha-ha.
CM: Feeling a crystal does tend to make people ecstatic! I have a feeling your lexicon of oddball stories will quadruple once you start working at Magnum Opus! Speaking of oddballs, I know a couple tigers who will be quite upset if I didn’t bring up Brazzers… Do you want to share that fun Douglas tidbit?
GD: Ha-ha yeah… little known fact about me is I did the voice over for the Brazzers’ website, y’know “the world’s best porn site” ha-ha. A friend of mine was commissioned to make their animated logo that plays at the end of every video clip. He asked me if I’d do the voice (we were at a BBQ at a house with a recording studio) so we took a break from eating burgers to record the clip. It’s hilarious. I never realized how popular that website was until after!
CM: Ha-ha I never did get the whole story, I just remember more than one boy’s eyebrows hitting his hairline whenever you said it! Awesome! So do you have a favorite tattoo story?
GD: Don’t think I really have a favorite story, I must be really vanilla or too odd to notice, ha-ha. The one thing that I can say is that tattooing has brought me so many fantastic relationships. I find the more clients come to me specifically for my style of work the easier it is to connect to them, we have so many similar interests and ideas. I have met so many wonderful people that the line between friend and client has become often hard to distinguish. This job just gets better and better and I’m sure my move to Magnum Opus will bring more love and more opportunity to learn.
CM: That’s a good note to end this on… unadulterated optimism! Goodnight John-Boy!
Guen can be found all over the internet, but most readily here: