By Caitlin Berube-Smith
When multiple ideas and thoughts concerning the art of tattooing collide into what we see as a present day revolution, only one thought resides, the body is the canvas and the tattoo itself is a personal expression of aesthetics. The practice and history of giving and receiving tattoos is a symbol of freedom that is simultaneous with the culture in which we live.
During an interview with Tobi Wallace, owner of Tobi’s Tattoo Studio, I was allowed a deeper look into his history as a tattoo artist. According to Tobi, “I only knew one person in the small rural town I grew up in, and that was my Grandpa. There was still this stigma around people who had tattoos ya know – bikers and drinkers, they were all negative associations. My Grandpa was a biker, but he was also the sheriff, so he broke that stigma, not only for me but for everyone else in the town.”
Tobi’s artistic career started much earlier than his career as a tattoo artist. He remembers exceling in art of depicting hyperrealism in his own work at a very young age. He then took those skills to the next level, or so he thought, when he was accepted to the Art Institute of Dallas in the field of Computer Animation. Though, for him, something was missing, it was as if he wasn’t fulfilling his ultimate life dream.
Then, at the age of 25, after this life changing realization, he began to direct his goals toward becoming a tattoo artist. He saved up enough money to buy his own equipment, and started practicing on friends and neighbors in the garage of his house. His big break came when he started as an apprentice at a local shop. Four years ago, with almost a decade of experience under his belt, he opened up his own shop, Tobi’s Tattoo Studio, which was originally located in South Fort Collins. In August of 2012, he and his crew moved to his dream location, a high traffic corner in Campus West.
Tobi couldn’t stress enough, “My crew is my family, this is an industry built on trust, and each person excels at something different. If someone wants a tattoo they describe as predominantly black and grey shading with intense lines, then I send them to Gus, because this is what he is killer at. If someone wants a portrait, I send them to Tommy.” Each member of his team masters in a particular technique, if you are looking for tribal Indonesian, then Tommy is also the best guy for the job. Old school, go see Brock! Tobi himself is recognized for his use of color. “We also offer a wide range of piercings and jewelry, our piercer Matt can do just about anything”, said Tobi.
When I was in their shop, they explained to me, tattooing is like a signature, it’s like differentiating a Matisse from a Gaughan. They explained, “you can spot a different artists’ tattoo from a block away.” With the influx of tattoo shops opening across America, Tobi explored how defining your style is the only way to establish yourself and make it in this industry, because it is no longer underground, it is recognized by the masses, and not as a stigma, but as a way of life.
Tobi Wallace’s mission is to make each and every person that steps into his studio, whether they are comfortable in a tattooing environment or not, feel at home. He has definitely succeeded at this; he opens others up to the possibility of accepting new forms, subjects, and artists, from the second they walk in. “My entire staff is capable of executing endless style variations. We draw our inspirations from one another.” This studio is also the only tattoo shop in Fort Collins with an online catalogue of every single tattoo their crew has done over the past four years. That means you can access their art from the comfort of your own home. When you know what route you want head with, go see the boys at Tobi’s Tattoo Shop, and make sure to say hi to Chewy, their piercing apprentice.