Boulder area tattoo shops
Bolder Ink, 2735 Iris Ave., 303-444-7380
Color the World, 1303 Broadway, 303-786-9866
Enchanted Ink, 1200 Pearl St., #35, 303-440-6611
Freaky's, 2870 28th St., 303-413-0420
Immortal Ink, 1121 Broadway, Suite G2 (behind Meta Skateboards), 720-338-6668
Main Street Tattoo, 201 Main St., Longmont, 303-651-6112
Rising Tide, 1537 Pearl St. (inside Urban Pearl salon/gallery), 303-544-1537
Scarred for Life, 3216 Arapahoe Ave., 303-442-0684
Tribal Rites, 1309 College Ave., 303-449-4611; and 7735 W. 92nd Ave., Broomfield, 303-421-5700
Jeff Hamm, 42, may be a bit older than the average person getting his first tattoo. Awaiting his first ink injection at Bolder Ink tattoo shop, he says there's a simple explanation for the wait.
"I never wanted anything permanent on my body unless it was the right thing," he says. "Then I came up with this idea."
The idea: The profile of an eagle's head on his left shoulder with the feathers trailing in shades of red, white and blue. "I want to show my patriotism," he says.
Shirtless, he settles into a chair reminiscent of those found in a dentist's office. He cracks a few jokes with his fiancée, Julie Podsiadlo, 41, of Denver. Podsiadlo has four tattoos, including the two she got earlier today: a ladybug on her right ankle, an angel on her left.
Tattoo artist Matt Arriola finishes prepping Hamm's shoulder. Hands clad in blue surgical gloves, he loads a needle with ink, then presses the needle to Hamm's skin.
"You're going to feel a pinch," he says.
It's going to pinch for the next hour and a half.
Hamm doesn't flinch as the needle punctures his flesh.
"Not so bad," he says with a smile. "Not so bad."
Once part of an outlaw culture, tattoos have become mainstream, in part because of the popularity of tattoo-themed reality television shows "Miami Ink," on TLC, and "Inked," on A&E, which follow the lives of tattoo artists in Miami and Las Vegas, respectively. While tattoos historically have been associated with bikers and sailors, these days a grad student is as likely to get a tattoo as a gangster. In turn, a generation of artists have emerged whose preferred canvas is skin. Boulder is home to eight tattoo studios, and as tattoos become more accepted, artists are seeing a broader range of customers entering their studios, from women like Podsiadlo, with her multiple tattoos, to Hamm, who's getting his first ink in his 40s.
Meanwhile, at a table adjacent to Hamm, Boulder resident Nick Ranno, 24 — who will begin graduate school in the fall — is getting his third tattoo. His first was a wingspan that stretchesacross his collarbone and extends down to his midriff. It has a banner that reads, "Strength through wounding.â Ranno says he got it a year ago when he was going through some family problems.
His tattoo-in-progress is a half sleeve (a tattoo that covers the shoulder and extends to the elbow) on his left arm. The design is of an intricately detailed cherry blossom with a black crow along the bicep.
For Ranno, this half-sleeve is only the beginning. His goal is to have a bodysuit - a series of tattoos that covers the entire torso, popular in the Japanese tradition of tattooing.
"It's a form of self-expression for me. I'd rather have art on my body than not,â he says. "If you find a good artist, it's a privilege to have their art on your body.â
Ranno's artist is Joel Long, who has been giving tattoos for 15 years and has worked at Bolder Ink for five years. Long has seen many trends come and go, both regionally and nationally. Countrywide, he says, a broader cross-section of the public is getting tattoos - to the point that there is no longer a prototypical person who gets a tattoo.
It's an underground art form, he says, that has become mainstream in recent years. He gets equal business from the white-collar and blue-collar business worlds.
As for designs, the koi fish - an ornamental Asian variety of the carp - is extremely popular. The koi fish symbolizes perseverance, and according to Asian mythology becomes a dragon upon entrance to heaven. Every region seems to have its most popular design, though, Long says. In Atlanta it's the panther, in Miami the dolphin. The current tattoo trend in Boulder, he says, is trees.
"Here you've got Naropa students and people who like the Buddhist stuff,â Long says, which works well for him, as he specializes in Asian-style tattoos.
Long's favorite tree tattoo - or at least the most ironic - is one he inked on a snowboarder's shoulder. The boarder recently had crashed into a tree on the slopes and one of the limbs had pierced his shoulder. The tattoo commemorated the accident.
But you don't need the daring of an extreme athlete to get inked.
"Pretty much every walk of life - every economic group, every social group - is getting tattoos now,â says Carlos Haas, a tattoo artist at Tribal Rites on the Hill.
Haas has been a tattoo artist for 15 years, and has been with Tribal Rites for more than four years. What surprises him most is the rise of women getting tattoos. He says the majority of his customers now are women, "of all ages, from mothers with their daughters to grandmothers coming in.â
Haas credits this rise in popularity to the television shows, but says that for most people, getting a tattoo is still a deeply personal decision, not something dictated by popular culture.
"People will do something that has a particular meaning to them, be it family, faith,â he says.
Whatever the motivation for a tattoo - be it patriotism, popular culture or personal meaning - Haas encourages people to take their time when deciding on a design. Tattoos are an excellent means of expression. But they're also permanent - for better or worse.
"Really think about it. Don't rush. Make a good decision, and try to do something that you can look at throughout your life that is a nice design or really means something to you so that even if the design wears out the meaning never will,â Haas says. "It's a scar you get to choose. This is something you get to take with you, everywhere.â
Contact Vince Darcangelo at email@example.com.