Body Art Gone Wrong

Body Art Gone Wrong

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Denver Colorado – Faces Loosely Regulated Body Art Industry

Cristal M Clark

We’ve all seen countless stories and pictures of terrible tattoos, piercings and the like which we usually laugh at. But what really happens when body art goes wrong?

Well that depends on what state, county, city or municipality the shop is in, what agency is responsible for regulating said shop and what do they regulate, exactly?

Not everything is regulated believe it or not. In Colorado, most counties will adopt their own regulation which is “stricter” than what the states regulations on body art are or so they sell it to you that way – it is still a loosely regulated industry. If the state doesn’t have something on the books with regards to body art your county won’t which is absurd quite frankly. We can enable the sales of recreational MMJ regardless of the fact that Federal law prohibits such a thing.

State vs County regulations is basically the same concept as with Federal law, it supersedes state law, likewise as with counties, state law supersedes county law. Each county if they wanted too, could regulate items not on the State Health Departments Books just in the name of keeping consumers safe.


Case in point, which is not entirely easy for me to share with you as it involves someone I thought of as a friend, someone I could count on. 

Denver has about as many tattoo shops as it has churches, bars and liquor stores, they are around every corner one could imagine so finding a shop is easy, finding a qualified artist, well that is not so easy.

I recently visited a shop Harmony’s Ink located at 7000 Washington St, after becoming acquainted with its owner. 

The shop itself is in a rundown out of the way part of town. The shop advertises on Google that is it is a sober shop, which is not entirely accurate. The owner- Vance Walker  is a raging alcoholic, which he seems to be really proud of.  He rather delightfully informed me right away that he likes to get drunk and chase his good tattoo artists away. He likes to drink every day according to him, a six pack or more. Something both his current and former staff have confirmed. In fact, a few weeks ago, he was at the shop hanging out with someone on a Friday night, drunk and got run over by a pizza driver as he was stumbling about, and was subsequently in the hospital until he was deemed sober enough to be released the following evening.


Upon entering the shop for the first time, I witnessed people lounging around basically doing nothing, no one offered to help me so I just sat and waited for the owner. Then it dawned on me that all of the people sitting around were the actual staff of the shop, doing absolutely nothing, just sleeping on the couches, laying around on their mobile phones. If I had not known the owner of the shop, I would have turned around and walked right out of the door. My first impression was that it was a completely unfriendly, unprofessional environment. Lazy is what it felt like.

Mr. Walker showed up eventually, and introduces me to an artist (Pat Kelly) to do a complete cover up who seemed rather disengaged, uncaring and quite frankly not like any other artist I had ever met, this guy seemed green, uncertain and as if he did not even want to try. 

Anyway, the artist and I spoke about what I wanted, exchanged numbers and I did not hear from the artist again for several weeks, actually I did not hear from him at all, it was Mr. Walker pressuring me to stop back in despite the fact that at this point I had serious reservations about this particular shop after several discussions I had with Mr. Walker himself who was quite upset about quite a few things that were happening at the shop. Up to and including his distrust of his own staff, they chased away potential new hires and were pocketing money (they don’t have any bookkeeping here).


I actually had conducted and experiment on the shop heading to Reddit I got the shop its own Reddit and started posting the very pictures they have up on the Harmony’s Ink Facebook of their actual work. Long story short, the shop was banned from posting to Reddit due to the terrible tattoo’s – artists within the tattoo community on Reddit labeled the shop – a chop shop.  And it shows, I blew some of the images up and inspected them carefully and they are pretty terrible, the work will undoubtedly leave scars on the individuals who walked away with each piece.


During my second meeting with the artist at the instance of Mr. Walker, I personally witnessed Vance Walker (the owner) sitting on a table in the Tattoo area of the shop vaping happily away, which happens to be a violation of the health department code. At any rate, I met with the artist for several hours, I could tell the artist really was not going to put any actual effort into what I wanted. He steered me into a different direction and honestly not one that I wanted to go in personally. The artist is not exactly an artist. 


During our conversation the artist asked me if I would be willing to do a laser treatment, in which he would lighten only certain parts of my arm. He circled 6 small parts of the original tattoo which is not colored by the way, to lighten parts of it. We scheduled the appointment for 11/23 and that was that.

I’ll be honest here, I was not thrilled with the idea of having the laser procedure done, I have met with some of this country’s best of the best tattoo artists during my travels, they have never, ever suggested that, quite honestly most agreed doing the cover up I wanted would be easy.

What I learnt from this is that this particular artist is creating unnecessary work which is a fairly huge concern for anyone considering going to this particular shop or any shop for that matter. Unnecessary work can also spell trouble for the individual receiving it, and it shows both the ethics and morals of this artist suggesting it. I did not need a laser treatment; we could have easily accomplished what I asked for if said artist had any talent to speak of and had actually listened to what I wanted, bio mechanical, Clive Barker style . What I asked for was not the direction the artist was attempting to steer me in as it were. The artist seemed to want to do pin head crap. Complete Garbage. 

I still figured you couldn’t screw up lightening a tattoo, right?



I go in for the laser treatment and he ends up doing almost the entire tattoo, whilst he is doing this, he is explaining to another artist in the shop that he is still learning the tool (a picking tool) and shows the artist how he can adjust the settings on it.

I am humiliated by what this guy did, I can now feel the entire original tattoo under my fingertips, as it will leave me with some fairly significant damage, front and back of it, some parts are completely gone, it looks like the skin has been cut out of me, I did not sign up for this. By the artist adjusting the picking tool he cut deep into certain parts of my arm, which became terribly infected. His aftercare instructions were to keep it clean and use a lot of lotion, not exactly the industry standard for this type of procedure.

I did some checking, some other shops in town who actually know how to do this procedure  and they told me that the artist should never adjust the settings on the picking tool themselves and only a few companies in the state are actually certified to do this. Now all one has to do in order to be certified to use the picking tool is to take a few courses online, you don’t actually have to know what you are doing, of course.


After I realized my arm had become infected, I was angry at my friend, a friend who only after I had the procedure informed me that he himself would never get into the chair of that artist. We stopped speaking for a few days, I was upset. I agreed finally to me meet the Mr. Walker at the shop about a week later, under the pretense that we were going to hang out, my intent was to actually confront the artist in front of Mr. Walker, but after arriving I could tell no one in that place gave a shit about causing harm to an individual. They didn’t even open on time. 

Mr. Walker in fact, received a call from someone while I was sitting next to him, I could hear the conversation, the individual had recently gotten a tattoo from the same artist and called complaining about an infection. Their response was to laugh, they literally thought it to be funny.

Imagine I am sitting at the shop my arm in pain, if any of you have ever had an infection run through an extremity you know what I mean when I say you can feel it. I watched them eating pizza in the actual tattoo area, where one of you might be getting your next tattoo. They were sleeping on the sofas, vaping everywhere, everything seemed like it was just a hangout to them, a joke, the shop not a serious business at all. Then it hit me, the owner of this shop is not serious, his staff is not serious, this is just a hangout to them as if they are 8 again, a place to go, if they make money they make it and if they don’t, they don’t really care. 

To make matters worse, I learnt that the owner does not even know how to tattoo, pierce or laser. He just owns the shop but does not know anything about the actual jobs, what is to be a real tattoo artist so he would not know if anyone doesn’t really know what they are doing. So he sees some pictures but doesn’t know if the artist is really that good? Mr. Walker keeps posting for a “hot female artist” ladies trust me when I say don’t bother. And if they had an audit? I would hate to be them on the receiving end of that, they don’t keep books, Mr. Walker complained about the staff pocketing money without recording it so he’d never know. 

I tried to inform Mr. Walker twice about my arm being infected, he became angry and told me to take it up with the state, which by the way the state of Colorado does not regulate lasering of tattoos. I aim to change that though.

I did some further checking on the shop through both its current and  former employees, they all agree if the owner were not a drunk things might be moving along better, overwhelmingly everyone I spoke with, including the some of the current employees, report that the owner does in fact bring his alcoholism into the shop, he hits on women, employees and customers, making sexually inappropriate comments or suggestions, while drunk,  one former employee Steven Alonzo has a lackluster amount of talent left the shop over Mr. Walker being drunk all of the time, sexually harassing Mr. Alonzo’s aunt and being put in a shop next to the current artists who according to Steven have no talent, like he should talk quite a bit of work posted is his, i.e. the diatribe Reddit banned, anyway all of that was chasing away Mr. Alonzo’s customer base according to him, so in the end he felt it best to part ways. But has anyone stopped in to the see the actual customer base here? They are not serious tattoo enthusiasts these are kids just looking for something to make them appear “cool” until they are 30 or 40. Mr. Walkers mentality is would appear. 

In the end, friends who are trustworthy would never put friends into the chair of an artist they know is not trustworthy, someone who doesn’t care, someone they themselves wouldn’t get work from. Especially when you commission your friend to pay for and build your website and domain name, something Mr. Walker knew nothing about. This bloody fool was under the ridiculous impression he owned the Harmony’s Ink Domain name. Doesn’t even know how to research that. 

So, this holiday season if you are aiming to get some ink done as a treat to yourself do your homework even if you are friends with someone at the shop you are going to, do your homework. I failed to do that, choosing instead to trust my friend who later informed me that he himself in fact, did not trust the artist he hooked me up with, he wouldn’t sit in that artists chair for anything personally. Which of course begs the question, why have bad talent and not attract customers over having no talent and trying to actually find some?

Cristal M Clark

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