For Six Guns Body Art owners and artists Byron Tarver and Ashley Gann, tattooing isn't just about the job, it's about the art.
"You're creating something. You're not just creating something on a canvas or a piece of paper, for me, it's living art," Tarver said. "That person takes off with that piece of art and they literally carry it with them for the rest of their lives. It's a pretty special thing."
Tarver and Gann recently opened Six Guns in Dillon, across the street from La Riva Mall. This is the first foray into ownership for Gann, who has been tattooing for four years, but not for Tarver, who started at the age of 13.
"I had family members that were tattoo artists, so I actually learned in a tattoo shop," Tarver said. There were no laws against Tarver's young apprenticeship with his uncles, but "it was considered extremely taboo." The artist, originally from Sulphur, La., has had a few shops of his own over the years - including in British Columbia and Alaska - a 16-year stint following the tattoo circuit around the country - where he attended tattoo conventions and competed, winning two awards for his portrait work - and a tattoo school in Arkansas, which he operated for 11 years.
That's where he met Gann. Gann also found a love for tattooing early on; Her mother had friends who were tattoo artists, including one who reluctantly agreed to try her hand at tattooing a grapefruit at the age of 14 (grapefruits are often used for practice). Gann later ended up as Tarver's apprentice, got her license, and managed the school for three years. During her tenure as manager, she created a new curriculum for the school that was the first of its kind to be federally recognized, which allowed the United States Department of Veterans Affairs to issue grants to veterans interested in the trade.
Tarver specializes in portrait work - like a life-like rendition he did of a young Jack Nicholson, from "The Shining" - Gann loves doing color work, and especially enjoys the sight of a bright and saturated tattoo from afar.
"She's an excellent artist," Tarver said. "She's very accomplished."
While the two shut down the Arkansas shop because there was too much competition, they didn't come to Summit County for the lack of it.
"Honestly, we moved here just because it was beautiful, and the people are nice," Tarver said. "I love the mountains."
And so far, in the month the Dillon shop has been up and running, the reception has been very good. Sometimes when a tattoo shop opens up in a community that didn't have one before, the response isn't always positive, Gann said. But in Dillon, everyone's been very welcoming - the Dillon Town Council even did a ribbon cutting last week.
"Everybody's been really supportive of us being here," Gann said.