Tattoo artist Melissa Freeman dips the needle of her tattoo gun into a cap filled with ink while working on a tattoo at Deluxe Tattoo in downtown Steamboat Springs.

Photo by John F. Russell

Tattoo artist Melissa Freeman dips the needle of her tattoo gun into a cap filled with ink while working on a tattoo at Deluxe Tattoo in downtown Steamboat Springs.

Homegrown artist finds her place in the world of tattoos

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— As a student at Steamboat Springs High School, Melissa Freeman dreamed of being an artist.

She dreamed of someday seeing her creations hanging on a gallery wall where others could admire it.

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Making a mark in ink

Steamboat Springs resident Melissa Freeman always has loved art, but these days, her canvas is skin and her art is creating tattoos.

Today, her art is seen across Steamboat Springs, but it’s not hanging on any walls. Freeman is the owner and operator of Deluxe Tattoo on Lincoln Avenue in downtown Steamboat.

“Tattoo art is cool because you get to walk around with it. You live with it, you age with it ... you wake up with it every single day,” Freeman said.

“It’s different than canvas that is hanging on the wall. Something that’s stagnant,” she said.

Freeman started tattooing seven years ago when she got interested in tattoos as a way to express her art.

She worked under an apprentice in Denver with a mentor who taught her the ins and outs of the business. He taught her what was ethical and how to incorporate her love of art into tattoos.

After a few years in Denver, Freeman returned to Steamboat and opened her own shop in the heart of downtown.

“I’m excited to be able to come back to my hometown and tattoo people that I grew up with and people in a community that I absolutely love,” Freeman said.

While many people in Steamboat Springs have fallen in love with Freeman’s style, it’s the interaction that inspires the young artist.

“My favorite aspect is that I get to sit down with a different person, a different group of people every single day,” Freeman said.

“I get to know them and get to put something into reality that they have been thinking about in their head, being able to draw something up for them so that they can see on their skin.”

Last week, Ciera Barber walked through her doors and came face-to-face with a drawing she will carry with her the rest of her life.

It was not an easy choice or one Barber took lightly. But after finalizing the details, she sat down on Freeman’s bench, and the art on the paper took on a new life on her thigh.

The sounds of Johnny Cash, the voices of her friends who were there to support her and the buzzing of the tattoo gun filled the air. Within the hour, the image that began on paper was forever a part of Barber.

For many, Freeman’s art is part of a fashion statement. For others, her images are used to remember special events or people. Some are simply an expression of who they are.

Freeman understands that tattoos are not for every person — and that’s fine with her. But at the end of the day, her hopes are that her art will inspire those who come to her and that her art will become part of their lives.

To her, that’s better than a creation hanging on a wall.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966

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