An overflow of bodies was spilling out onto the street of 609 East 13th Avenue on Saturday, toasting the night in celebration of the opening of the long awaited Landmark: Electric Ghost Tattooing. The co-op is a venture put together by four colleagues of the Denver tattoo scene, whose combined sixty years of experience led them to develop a coalition of professional skin-ink artists that can finally do things their way. Seth Brown, Nikolas Pew, Jher Clark and Ben Thompson enjoyed a raucous party on Saturday night, but are ready to get down to work on their own experiment come tomorrow morning, when the shop opens for business.
"This is an artist-run studio -- there's no one big overlord. It's us. The four of us," says Pew. "It's a true co-op, which doesn't exist [in tattoo shops]. There have been some people who have tried it, but everyone will tell you that there's a reason you don't do it that way. Four owners, four independently minded voices make it difficult. But we're going to be the exception."
The four of them say that they are looking forward to doing things "the right way," having had many frustrations with previous tattoo shops. "We're sick of working for someone who doesn't listen to your opinion, doesn't care about your opinion," says Thompson. "Now, when something needs to get done, the four of us can sit down and talk about it, instead of living off the sweat of another man's back."
Jher Clark, Nikolas Pew, Seth Brown and Ben Thompson
Aside from getting out of working for someone else's shop, the owners of Electric Ghost say their goal is to run things a little differently, keeping room open for walk-in clients and making their space a place where people can feel comfortable to hang out and relax. And they seem to have a wealth of clients ready to take them up on that. The party on Saturday night was filled with everything from families to biker gangs to hipsters, most of whom had been tattooed by one of the four artists in the past and are looking forward to the new shop. "I've tattooed lawyers, doctors, cops, judges, nurses, jews and bishops." waxes Clark, "tattoos mark a time in your life. There aren't many people who won't get a tattoo."
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The space that Landmark has moved into has been an unloved vacancy since a short-lived Gelato shop closed it's doors over a year ago, in spite of that the neighborhood is a slice of prime real estate these days, thanks to the opening of Kilgore Books, Jelly Cafe and the dance-club Beauty Bar. "We looked at a hundred different places," says Pew, "but this was the spot that spoke to us. As soon as we walked in here, there was a vibe that all of us agreed on. There's a new energy in this area."
"[In the past] everyone started to go to other neighborhoods, like South Broadway with Sputnik/High Dive. And this neighborhood got neglected," says Thompson. "But people live here. There's people walking around. It's becoming like Williamsburg or San Francisco's Mission district."
"The guys from Kilgore and Wax Trax have been by a couple times to welcome us to the neighborhood," says Brown. "We're real excited. There should've been a tattoo shop here years ago."