Drawn to the Summit: Owner wants to make new Silverthorne tattoo studio part of landscape
On the wall at Summit Ink, a new tattoo studio in Silverthorne, hangs a frame with two $1 bills inside, one each from the shop’s first two clients.
Small denominations, but the bills speak volumes for the new owner and how well his work’s been received since opening on Dec. 20, next to OfficeMax at Summit Place Shopping Center.
Sean Oliver goes by the name “Sean Ozz” when he’s doing tattoos inside his new studio at 285 Summit Place.
Getting to this point, however, wasn’t easy. The road was marred with unexpected potholes, heartbreaking detours and crushing dead ends, but things are looking up for Ozz, who left his band behind in Houston to make his move on Silverthorne with his family, including his longtime girlfriend Gina Cates and their children from previous relationships.
Having passed all town inspections, Ozz’s studio is open and ready to go.
Some of the finer details are still coming together, but if things go well — and they have been — he hopes to find himself doing well enough to support his young family that supports him so well, someday own a home in Summit County and even make his studio a respected piece of the landscape by giving back and doing things like offering free airbrushed face-painting for children at community events or maybe even joining the chamber of commerce, he said.
“Just little things, something to give back a little bit here and there to this community,” Ozz explained of his grand design, adding that he’s planning some opportunities for guest-spotting at his studio and, at some point, would like to hire an additional artist or two, provided they can live up to his standard of work.
Right now, though, Ozz’s the only full-time artist working out of the studio, and business has been solid for him.
He said he expected to take a loss his first month but, with a stack of release forms a couple inches high, that hasn’t been the case. “I didn’t make a great profit,” the owner and artist admitted, “but the bills are paid.”
As for the $1 bills on the wall, one came from Chris Garcia, Ozz’s first client at the Silverthorne studio who says he’s “constantly” getting compliments for Ozz’s work.
In fact, Garcia came back a month later for another piece deeply important to him — this time the logo of his favorite NBA team on top of the bone where his spinal cord meets his collar.
“(Ozz) does great freaking work and has awesome customer service,” Garcia said of his preferred tattoo artist as he bore the pain. “I’ve talked to a couple tattoo artists since I moved up here, and Sean’s been the only one who actually came through for me, worked with me and I’m really happy with what I’ve seen so far.”
The other $1 bill came from Todd Andrews, the second person Ozz tattooed at the new studio and another happy customer who also came back about a month later for a piece that came as a result of a lost bet.
“I really like tattoos,” Andrews said. “Once you get your first one, they kinda get addicting. Meeting a guy like Sean, who’s been doing it for 25 years, I like his style. The way he does things is a little different than other people I’ve seen, and I trust him. I haven’t even looked at what he’s doing today.”
Ozz enjoys doing any style of tattoo, whether it’s cookie-cutter Japanese symbols, a black-and-white tattoo, more traditional work or the wild, vibrant colorful pieces for which he’s won multiple awards.
Ozz said he’s been “type-casted as a color guy,” but more important than what he thinks about any given tattoo is the opinion of the person who’s going to be wearing it.
“It has to be done so it will hold up to the test of time,” he said. “It needs to look good five years, 10 years, 20 years — the rest of your life.”
Even if he absolutely hates a piece, when the person who’s getting the tattoo loves it, he considers it a win.
“I’m not someone’s dad,” he said responding to a question about people who make bad decisions with long-lasting implications. “I’m not here to judge; I’m here to get it to the best of my abilities.”
Inside the studio, Ozz also sells “flesh racks,” or gelatin-like pads that mimic the texture and consistency of human skin and serve as good practice tools for aspiring and seasoned tattoo artists alike.
And Ozz hopes to create a small art gallery inside the studio. He wants to target the type of artists who “can’t get into the Vail communities.” If their work sells, he’ll take a small cut. Otherwise, the displays will be free, Ozz said.
At 44 years old, it took Ozz a long time to get to this point, but the man who airbrushes, tattoos and dabbles as a hobbyist drone pilot with his own YouTube channel thinks he’s ready.
“I’m a firm believer you should pay your dues before opening your own studio,” he said. “Maybe I did it a little too long for 25 years, but I’m definitely due for it.”
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