Tattoos have become a highly praised art form in Denver. While they are still considered taboo, 303 Magazine is more interested in the story behind the tattoo. One that is not lending itself to outdated gang stereotypes, but instead represents a deeper meaning as old as storytelling itself.
The tattoo artist is a therapist, and your body is the canvas. Each tattoo serves as a page in scrapbook of your life. Their permanency and individualized meaning are the inspiration of Tattoo Envy. We will be touring local Denver tattoo shops, picking the artists brain, and making a catalog of the most amazing artists the city has to offer.
First up, I take a look inside the process of talented artists Adrian Villalobos and Josh Butierres who work side by side at esteemed local shop Tribe Tattoo on 674 Santa Fe Drive Denver, 80204. The moment you enter Tribe, you are greeted by a colorful, chaotic, yet effortlessly zen interior. As you continue into the space you’ll find the shop sprawls back nearly the entire block. A total of 8 artists work in this shop, each with adoring clients and their own area of expertise. The experience along with the friendliness, cleanliness, and general energy of the shop are the pluses. Make an appointment, it’ll be worthwhile.
Adrian and Josh penciled me in to talk about their expansive work, tattoo stereotypes, artistic inspiration, life, and the taboo yet deep meaning of tattoos among other art forms.
303 Magazine: What’s your favorite design to tattoo?
Adrian Villalobos: I have a portrait, a girl that I did that has four eyes. It was wild, and really fun. I lean towards nontraditional, I love the surreal, colors, I love full color. Color is awesome. Veronica (design pictured right) comes in with crazy imaginative designs, that’s what makes it cool doing tattoo art. That design, I’ve never done that design before.
So tell me about the mom tattoos next to each of your eyes?
AV: Our mom passed away in a domestic violence dispute.
Josh Butierres: She got shot in her face. So we put the tattoo on our face.
AV: Josh and I, we work in the same shop, right next to each other, and it means a lot to have the clients and the response and the love that we have.
Do all of your tattoos have meaning as heavy, is it something you look for when getting your own tattoo?
JB: I do, I mean I have this whole arm, it took me at least six months to come up with the idea. Everything on this arm is super meaningful, the others are too. But of course.
AV: My most meaningful would on be on my neck, in 2005 I got shot 4 times and survived. The tattoo has two guns in the design and four bullets. I ended up losing my lung. It really slowed me down, but I’m a survivor.
You are a survivor, that is an amazing story. You’re like a walking miracle. Are you addicted to getting tattooed at this point?
JB: I feel like I have a problem.
Eventually, you’ll run out of canvas.
JB: True. That’s why they mean so much. You’re taking it to the grave. It’s for life, it’s yours, You can’t pawn it, you can’t return it. It’s why it has meaning.
Tell me, how’s the Denver tattoo scene?
JB: I feel like tattooing here has evolved into something awesome. There’s always going to be some people that aren’t, but really we have an awesome scene.
AV: I’m happy to be part of that. To be a part of the good artists, at one of the best shops if no the best shop in Denver. It’s cool, you know, we get people from all over the world. I had some clients from Paris, and they came out here to us, they wanted to remember the city and we represent with tattoos, we rep Denver for them.
Do you feel like a therapist?
AV: Oh sure. They talk to us. I’ll be tattooing and the design always has meaning, and I had a client who lost her mom and couldn’t go to the funeral and she came and got her moms name and it meant a lot to her.
JB: Every tattoo is meaningful too, you’ll look at a tattoo and be like why are they getting this and you don’t know the reason, then you’ll start tattooing and they tell you and you’ll be like oh that makes sense, that’s sick as fuck. I had this client, this girl had traveled the world and kept the card of every tattoo artist from everywhere she had gotten one in her life, like tons of countries, and she asked for mine and it meant a lot to her. It meant something to me. It travels and it goes with the person, it’s dope. That was the coolest thing ever.
Are there any tattoos that you wish you hadn’t gotten. Any regrets?
AV: Tribals. I did a cover up, but now I love it.
JB: I had tribals too, me and him we went through a tribal stage.
What tribe are you from? How old were you when you did your first tattoo?
JB: I was 10 and Adrian was 14 and we did it with the sharp end of an electric toothbrush. I got it covered up since, I didn’t really know this is what I’d be doing and where I would be. I should’ve framed it.