Sam Yamini has come a long way since getting his first tattoo in a trailer. Originally from Las Cruces, New Mexico, he has been tattooing for fourteen years and is a founder of Dedication Tattoo with Andy Canino, Jason Boatman and Brian Thurow. Westword recently sat down with Yamini, who talked about his first tattoo experience, running a business and his focus on aesthethics. See also: Andy Canino on sacrifice, honesty and confidence Westword: Does art from your hometown influence your work?
Sam Yamini: No, not really. I just happened into it there. That's where I'm from, that's where I started, but that's not where I got most of my tattooing education.
How did you get into tattooing?
Randomly, I met a biker guy in the parking lot of a grocery store and got tattooed in his tow-behind trailer when I was sixteen. He ended up teaching me how to tattoo. He stuck around and opened a shop in my hometown, so I worked under him for a little over a year before he wandered on in his ways.
Can you tell me a little bit about Dedication and why you decided to open the shop?
Absolutely. The shop has been open for a little over a year now. We all have worked together for a while and just wanted to make our own way, find our niche and provide a different sort of experience, a different sort of environment for our clients. Kind of take things to the next level. We have kind of a cooperative shop, where there's no owner. Everyone just kind of contributes to the functionality and that way no one has to work for someone, but also no one has to have the complete responsibility of owning and running a business.
Is that a difficult balance, being an artist and running a business?
It is, and that's kind of the principle behind the shop. If you want to be a good shop owner, it's a full-time job. There's so much to be done. But if we can divide responsibilities among the four of us, then it's not a full-time job for anyone and it doesn't have to have a negative impact on your pursuit of the quality of your tattooing.
What styles do you like to work in?
I like traditional styles, be it Cholo, Latin American black and gray, traditional Japanese tattoos, traditional American tattoos.
Do you work in other media?
I have done a lot of different things in the past. Presently I'm doing a little bit of sculpting and watercolor painting.
What do you think is more important when it comes to tattoos: meaning or aesthetics?
I think that aesthetics are the most important thing. Meaning is kind of secondary, in my opinion. As long as it looks good, it's a good tattoo. If you want to pick some subject matter that works well as a tattoo and has meaning for you, then I'm all for it.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
For more information, visit Dedication's website or follow Yamini on Instragram @sam_yamini.