Today I bumped into…Christian Nguyen, a Swiss tattoo artist who’s worked in Geneva for the past 21 years. He is best known for his black and grey style, traditional Japanese tattooing, skulls and lettering. Christian is a highly respected artist who has worked in shops all over the world and has loyal clients who travel far and wide for his unique style. Getting a rendez-vous with Christian at his shop InkVaders, often takes over a month, but as thousands of happy customers will confirm, it’s worth the wait. With such rich experience in the tattoo industry, and his work, which has touched the lives of so many people in Geneva, I decided to find out more…
What is the life of a tattoo artist like?
The time spent together with my customers is very enriching. Everyday is a different day. You may call me selfish, yet when I am troubled about something with no answers, I know that once I enter my shop and receive my customers I find the answers I am looking for. I remember asking once for some advice about my children, and the answer that I got was that I needed to take care of myself first before anything else. This one stuck to me. As a tattoo artist, I develop intimate relationship with my customers. While I work on their tattoos we have plenty of time to talk and share our stories. The exchange I get with my customers has always been an important part of my job.
Do you have any anecdotes you can remember?
There are plenty, there are some funny ones and also some sad ones. I remember tattooing the name of a person that had just passed away. There are certain experiences that are very moving. When my work touches the lives of some customers my work becomes more meaningful.
Since you started working in the industry, do you feel that people’s attitudes toward tattooing have changed?
I think that there are more and more people getting tattoos. However, there is a huge misconception about tattoos. I feel that majority of tattoos no longer have meaning behind them. It has become a fashion statement for most people. I would say up to 80 % of people would regret their tattoos once done. The lifestyle that we have today has become so easy where everything can be done quickly requiring very little thought process. Once you decide you want to have a tattoo you book a meeting with a tattoo artist and you get one. It’s like when you want to have a house, people think of the wallpaper without thinking of having to dig a hole to first build the house. Back in the day, people had to man-up and get the courage to come to a tattoo shop. The meaning behind was so much more than just a mere additional mark on your body.
You yourself have tattoos, what is the meaning of the Japanese signs on your neck?
It means ‘good times’. I had it to remind myself of how lucky I am to be present today and cherish the good times I have. All of my tattoos are part of me now. The tattoos that served as a reminder about the important times in my life, I know now and forever will. I do not even notice them anymore.
What was tattooing Fred Durst and Otto from Limp Bizkit like? Is there any additional pressure for you when you’re working with someone famous?
Like all first times, you get nervous in the beginning but the more you do it the more confidence you gain. I still meet them and go on the road with them to tattoo. It is an interesting experience, because being with them allows me to see the overview of what it means to be in a band. I used to be in a band, and understanding what it means to be in a band, at their level, has made me realize so much more.
You have spent many years tattooing and therefore speaking to many people from Geneva. Is there such a thing as a typical “Genevois”? Could you describe one?
I would say that it is very rare to find a typical Genevois. You do not see them anymore. Everyone is so mixed already. Although, we can both agree that it is breath of fresh air when we meet one!
What are the things you think could be better or improved about the city?
As a father, I wish that education were more than making children become lawyers and bankers. I want my children to be able to follow their passion and build their own dreams. As a child, if your passion is skateboarding, why can’t you follow through with that? I feel that the spectrum of choices into the different careers we have today is so limited. Having traveled regularly in the States, I have realized how many more choices they have there compared to what we have here.
You are a full time dad and full time tattoo artist, that is very impressive. How do you manage?
The truth is, I am less of a tattoo artist and more a father to my children. Having spoken and met with so many people in my life, I quickly learned what really matters in life.
Are there any events in particular or places you would recommend to the rest of the Genevois?
I do not go out that much anymore. I am out of the loop when it comes to events in Geneva. But I definitely enjoy the lake and the nature side of Geneva.
On a final note, what would your advice be to someone thinking about getting tattooed?
Take the time you need in choosing a tattoo. It is important that the tattoo means something to you and not just a mere sign of trend. I have tattooed a few people with designs I do not necessarily find appealing, yet it makes them happy, and that’s what matters.
Rue de Drize 3, 1227 Carouge