Rocky Mountain Tattoo Emporium in Breckenridge keeps it traditional | SummitDaily.com

Rocky Mountain Tattoo Emporium in Breckenridge keeps it traditional

Owner Adrian Holcomb is shown outside the Rocky Mountain Tattoo Emporium inside the La Cima Mall on Tuesday in Breckenridge. Holcomb will celebrate his studio’s grand opening this Friday by raffling off a free tattoo worth up to $100 at the studio.

Covered in ink, the owner of Breckenridge's newest tattoo studio experiences a snap judgment every now and then.

For Adrian Holcomb, tattoos are becoming more mainstream than ever, but occasionally parents still pull their children close as they pass him in grocery store aisles.

Inside his new studio, Rocky Mountain Tattoo Emporium, at the La Cima Mall on Tuesday, Holcomb was anything but intimidating. He was friendly and personable as he spoke in a soft voice plugging his new studio's grand opening this Friday.

"I'm trying to go for an upscale, vintage, a throwback to old times but with modern cleanliness and technique," he said of the studio. "I try to focus on taking care of the locals."

For Holcomb, that means staying client-focused and offering a 25 percent discount to those who live here, cutting his hourly rate from $200 down to $150. During Friday's grand opening, the studio will have light refreshments along with a raffle for $100 worth of free tattoo work.

Holcomb probably won't perform any tattoos Friday night. Rather, he expects to meet potential clients, talk tattoos and maybe schedule some appointments. Around 7:30 p.m., right about sunset, they'll cut the ribbon.

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"More or less (it's) a celebration and a welcoming," Holcomb explained. "It's a chance for people who are maybe intimidated to come into a tattoo shop or didn't know we are here to come and see what we're all about, meet us and get a feel for the space."

It might be somewhat ironic that a tattoo artist who has had such extensive work done himself wouldn't recommend it to someone else, but Holcomb said he often advises some people against getting tattoos.

"There's been kind of a trend lately with young kids wanting neck and hand tattoos," he said. "I definitely guide away from that, especially when you're real young. You know, you don't know what life may bring you. Whereas if you're 40, 50, 60 … you kind of know what the world's got for you."

The tattoos on Holcomb's body run head to toe, covering his arms, legs, feet, hands, torso and back before going around his neck and coming over his shaved head like a hairline. He knows his tattoos are "forever." They were done by a man Holcomb calls his "mentor."

"It was like 10 years worth of work — top of his head to the top of his feet," said that mentor, Ed Schaffer, speaking over the phone from the Big Bear Tattoo studio in Big Bear Lake, California.

For anyone considering getting a tattoo by Holcomb, Shaffer highly recommends the work of his former apprentice.

"Absolutely," Schaffer said. "Especially if they like the traditional style; that's what he leans towards."

Holcomb said he isn't trying to be a "one-trick pony" and can do other styles of tatoos too. However, he knows that the old-school, American traditional-style tattoos are probably his greatest strength when it comes to the hand-crafted art form kept on the skin.

"I feel it's timeless and classic and also ages in the skin well," Holcomb said of his favorite style. "I feel like it's always a good choice unless you just don't like that style for whatever reasons."

Explained at Tattoodo.com, the traditional style was born on the high seas during the 1700s, when sailors encountered indigenous peoples with tattoos and copied the practice. Over time, the style was refined by American tattoo artists to be known for bold lines and bright, vivid colors, much like the American eagle Holcomb remembers on his father's arm.

The style may gain or lose popularity in a moment, Holcomb said, but any American traditional tattoo will "outlast the trends."

Holcomb has been doing tattoos for about 11 years now, including his apprenticeship at Big Bear Tattoo. He stayed there for about five years before moving to Colorado and later working for another studio in Breckenridge.

Holcomb has been doing tattoos out of his own studio since opening in July. Without much advertising, the response so far has been largely based on word of mouth, but Holcomb's been nontheless pleased by it.

"I hit the ground running," he said, adding he's tattooed every day since opening in July.

Holcomb is the only full-time artist working out of his new studio, but he has been welcoming a regular cast of guest artists to come in and fill some of the gaps in style where Holcomb may not be as strong.

Tattoo artist Sean Lisonbee just wrapped up a week-and-a-half stint at the studio and he's sure he will return sometime during the ski season. Another artist, Carlos Macedo, who's known for doing realistic black-and-gray portraits, will be in town Oct. 25-29.

Meanwhile, Holcomb's mentor said he's happy for the former apprentice and proud to see him get his own place.

"He was a great employee," Schaffer recalled. "We loved having him here, and we'd love to have him back anytime he wants. He was probably our best apprentice to come out of the shop."