Owners keep ink in the family at Blue Heron Tattoo in Frisco
Blue Heron Tattoo
Where: 401 Main St. Unit D in Frisco (next to Bread and Salt)
Pricing: $140 per hour
Call or visit the shop to schedule a tattoo (1-2 days for small art, a week for larger pieces). For artwork samples from the shop’s three artists, see www.facebook.com/blue-heron-tattoo.
About halfway through the color work on a Star Wars tattoo, Piotr Kopytek of Blue Heron Tattoo in Frisco gives his human canvas a quick breather while he cleans green ink from his tattoo gun.
“That shin is fun,” longtime local Johnny Nova says, looking up from his cell phone with a grimace to take a peek at the tattoo in progress. He’s perched on a black leather table in the middle of the small, parlor-style tattoo shop, found nestled in a single room on the corner of 4th Avenue and Main Street. The tattoo is a New American-style Yoda with lush greens and thick, black line work, the sort of art Kopytek and his two partners have practiced and perfected for a combined 35 years.
“It’s going good,” Kopytek says over the hum of his tattoo gun. The Yoda is far from a complex design, but the devil is in the details. It’s going on the upper half of Nova’s shin — easily one of the most painful spots for a tattoo — and Kopytek had to be careful with the placement: This one sits smack between his subject’s kneecap and a neighboring pinup girl tattoo.
“These guys are kind of like family,” Nova said when asked what brought him to Blue Heron. Kopytek’s gun is whirring again, and like a veteran bartender he chimes in without once looking up from the work at hand.
“Kind of?” Kopytek asks. For years Nova has been friends with Kopytek and Blue Heron’s co-partners, Curtis Haggerty and Guapo. The group even lived together for a stint, back in the mid-2000s when Guapo owned Purple Lotus tattoo in Frisco, and Nova trusts all three with just about any piece of art. The shop itself has been around for about four months.
“Well, I guess we are family,” Nova says as Kopytek finishes shading Yoda’s forehead and eyebrows. “I would never go anywhere else because these guys are my friends, my family. Even if I come in here to hang out, if I come by when I’m not even getting tattooed, it’s just always nice.”
HIGH COUNTRY TATTOOS
The Rocky Mountain tattoo scene is tough to pin down. Unlike other Main Street hot spots like restaurants and ski shops, tattoo parlors aren’t quite built into the resort-town landscape. Common knowledge says they’re a better fit on the Vegas Strip than in Summit County.
But Kopytek and his partners hardly agree. For a shop with just three artists, Blue Heron boasts one hell of a High Country pedigree: each of the partners has worked at a Summit-based parlor before, and each one has more than 15 years experience in the industry.
Guapo — he goes by nickname only — moved to Summit from the California Bay Area in 1993. He’s been tattooing in town ever since, spending 10 years at Purple Lotus before taking over as part owner of Godspeed for six years. Blue Heron is his newest and latest gig, but it’s slowly becoming his favorite. For him, a tattoo shop is just a natural extension of everything else he loves about the mountains.
“If I’m tattooing, I’m stoked,” Guapo says. “To do that and make a living off of it — just snowboard and draw all day — you can’t beat that. I look forward to coming to work, you know what I mean?”
And regular clients like Nova look forward to returning. At Blue Heron, the walls are covered in samples of artwork from the three partners. There are massive examples of Kopytek’s geometrically precise nature scenes, teeming with Asian-inspired pastel tigers and wispy cranes. There are smaller examples of Guapo’s traditional portraits, found right next to Haggerty’s colorful New American drawings.
Presiding over the entire rooms is a tongue-in-cheek poster the three made in March for the inaugural Summit Tattoo Invitational. It shows Kopytek, Guapo and Haggerty dressed as the mariachi imposters from 1986’s “Three Amigos.”
“The best part about this shop is we’re laid back,” says Haggerty, a former Summit local who spent the past seven years tattooing in California before returning to Colorado last year. “This gives us the chance to really focus on artwork instead of getting wrapped up in other things. The tattoos are the most important part here — you don’t have any distractions. It’s more of an art shop, so you know what’s going on here.”
And the art always comes first at Blue Heron. Tattooing is a family affair, even for a makeshift family, and the shop charges a flat rate of $140 per hour. It beats driving to Denver or any other metro, Guapo says, especially when the quality on everything from geometric prints to an old-school Yoda is on par with the best.
“People come from all over the world to vacation, and when they do they want to get tattooed,” Guapo says. “You just have to take care of everyone. This shop is just a bit more relaxing, with everyone doing their part.”
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