Daily Camera (Boulder) - - Deeds -

re­quires trust be­tween the client and the artist. Not only are clients asked to have faith in a tat­tooer’s artis­tic abil­i­ties and clean­li­ness, but they also trust them to cre­ate a safe space. shop about the work­ing con­di­tions — such as ver­bal abuse or the al­leged hid­den cam­eras — they shrugged it off, Valdez said.

“The whole vibe was just, this is what you have to do to be an artist,” she said.

Valdez reached out to Kirsty York, owner of an Black­bird Ink in Lafayette, for an ap­pren­tice­ship in

2018. The shop took her un­der its wing, and now she’s set­ting up her own booth at Black­bird.

York founded Black­bird three years ago with a goal to sup­port women en­ter­ing the in­dus­try. Though she’s only been in the game for six years, Valdez is one of three artists she has ap­pren­ticed.

Since the art­form isn’t taught in uni­ver­si­ties or other in­sti­tu­tions, the only way to get into the busi­ness is to find a men­tor.

“There isn’t like an of­fi­cial way to get in. It’s like a barter sys­tem thing,” York said. “And a lot of the time, un­for­tu­nately, men use that as a way to ha­rass women.”

York said that she’s bring­ing on an­other ap­pren­tice soon be­cause there will be room in the shop. Lora Bird, a res­i­dent artist, is leav­ing next month to open Hon­est­bird Tat­too, a pri­vate stu­dio off East South Boul­der Road in Louisville. Valdez will take over Bird’s booth. She is still com­plet­ing her ap­pren­tice­ship but can start book­ing clients at a smaller hourly rate.

The in­com­ing ap­pren­tice reached out to Black­bird af­ter in­quir­ing with other shops in the state, York said. She added that woman was told by one shop owner that he couldn’t of­fi­cially train her, but would teach her pri­vately if she agreed to date him.

Be­fore be­com­ing a busi­ness owner, York worked for what she re­ferred to as an “old-school shop.” She de­scribes this par­lor type as mostly of­fer­ing clas­sic Sailor Jerry-style tat­toos, ask­ing clients to pick flash, or pre­drawn de­signs, rather than of­fer­ing cus­tom tat­toos, and eight to 12 artists all in one room tak­ing walk-ins un­til late evening.

There, she wasn’t al­lowed to share her so­cial me­dia or hand out her own busi­ness cards and said that her work wasn’t pro­moted as much as her male col­leagues. Her booth fee, or cost of work­ing in the shop, was half of each tat­too and tips. York had to stay un­til the end of the night to be paid out.

York de­cided to charge a flat monthly rent at Black­bird, so if her res­i­dent artists make more in com­mis­sion, they can keep their ex­tra cash.

One rea­son why ap­pren­tice­ships can take years is be­cause of­ten new artists are do­ing grunt work most of the time, York said. Al­most all ap­pren­tice­ships are un­paid, and some re­quire pay­ments to the host­ing tat­too shop. York said that it’s taken sev­eral years to build up a solid clien­tele, but the two artists who have com­pleted their ap­pren­tice­ships un­der Black­bird have ac­com­plished that in less than two years.

Des­tiny Hum­rich, a res­i­dent artist at Black­bird, said that she knew York from Rocky Moun­tain Col­lege of Art and De­sign. Both stud­ied il­lus­tra­tion there.

York reached out to Hum­rich, as she il­lus­trated tat­too de­signs but didn’t tat­too them, and of­fered to men­tor her.

“I’ve only been tat­too­ing for less than a year up to this point,” Hum­rich said. “My an­niver­sary is in Oc­to­ber and like the fact that I al­ready have my own booth and like a solid clien­tele and ev­ery­thing is crazy. She’s cre­ated an en­vi­ron­ment that em­pow­ers women and not only that, but we get to ex­cel at a rate that’s not com­mon in this in­dus­try.”

Bird, who will open Hon­est­bird in Oc­to­ber, was the first ap­pren­tice at Black­bird and started a few months be­fore Hum­rich. She quit a cor­po­rate job af­ter she was of­fered the po­si­tion of ap­pren­tice­ship at Black­bird.

She said that she never thought that she would have enough clients to work as an artist full-time af­ter only 2K years in the in­dus­try, let alone be able to open up her own stu­dio. She now has 4,000 fol­low­ers on In­sta­gram, where most of her new clients find her work.

“I feel like I’m kind of the first gen­er­a­tion of tat­too artists that went through an ap­pren­tice­ship that wasn’t abu­sive, or gaslight­ing or ter­ri­ble, men or women,” Bird said.

Down the hall from the fu­ture Hon­est­bird is a pri­vate stu­dio owned by Kelsey Brown. The name of her busi­ness, En­tropy Tat­too, de­scribes her ab­stract, water­color-like de­signs.

Brown said that the san­i­ti­za­tion prac­tices for tat­too­ers haven’t changed much since Boul­der County moved into the COVID-19 re­sponse that al­lowed per­sonal ser­vices, in­clud­ing tat­too shops, to re­open, the Safer At Home stage.

Brown said that tat­too artists al­ready were re­quired to learn about pre­vent­ing blood­borne pathogen spread, so she al­ready used dis­pos­able gloves, nee­dles, aprons and med­i­cal-grade san­i­tiz­ers. The ma­jor dif­fer­ence is that she and her clients wear masks and she san­i­tizes ev­ery sur­face be­tween clients rather than just the tat­too sta­tion. She also doesn’t per­mit friends and fam­ily in the stu­dio.

She added that there’s more lim­its on sup­plies, such as gloves and other clean­ing sup­plies, but she or­ders through an in­dus­try-spe­cific whole­saler that doesn’t strain per­sonal pro­tec­tion equip­ment in­ven­tory for health work­ers.

When tat­too ser­vices were per­mit­ted, Brown con­sid­ered keep­ing En­tropy Tat­too closed. The coro­n­avirus disease is mainly spread per­sonto-per­son through res­pi­ra­tory droplets, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ters for Disease Con­trol and Preven­tion. Brown doesn’t tat­too faces, but she wor­ried about be­ing in close con­tact with clients. Tat­too ses­sions can take sev­eral hours.

“I talked to my fel­low artists. I talked to my hus­band, like we re­ally sat down and dis­cussed and de­cided that I could stay closed but it was purely out of fear,” Brown said.

Brown books clients by hav­ing one day where she’s open to in­quiries, and sched­ules at least a month out. She said that af­ter re­cently open­ing up her books, she’s sched­uled through Jan­uary, and had more than 150 re­quests for the 40 avail­able slots.

The in­dus­try is suf­fer­ing event can­cel­la­tions, with tat­too con­ven­tions un­able to pro­ceed dur­ing the pan­demic. York of­ten trav­els ev­ery year to net­work and work as a guest artist. This year, she was plan­ning to have a booth at the can­celed Colorado Tat­too Con­ven­tion and Expo that was sched­uled for Oct. 2-4 in Den­ver.

Dur­ing the tem­po­rary clo­sures of tat­too par­lors, Alynn re­lied on the Cac­tus Coven on­line gift shop, sell­ing screen-printed totes and clothes and prints of her il­lus­tra­tions. But since re­open­ing, she’s back to her reg­u­lar sched­ule of be­ing booked up to five months in ad­vance.

She added that she’s eas­ily fill­ing her open slots by post­ing flash de­signs on In­sta­gram.

“I think that tat­toos are a way a lot of peo­ple like to process things,” she said, “and so it’s kind of not sur­pris­ing to me be­cause it’s also one of the few so­cial things you can go do right now.”

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