Have gun – will travel: Tattoo artist has plied his trade all over the world
Post Independent Contributor
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – In his travels around the U.S and internationally, tattoo artist Matt Hayes doesn’t judge people by their body art – or their lack thereof.
“I always say the difference between tattooed people and non-tattooed people is tattooed people don’t care if you’re not tattooed,” said Hayes, owner of Spyder Rose Tattoo in Glenwood Springs. “It’s all skin when it comes down to it.”
From an apprenticeship in Canada to opening a tattoo shop in Central America, Hayes has spent the last 13 years fine-tuning his craft and promoting his art.
He learns from every experience, having tattooed in Toronto, Costa Rica, Hawaii, San Diego, New York City and Virginia, where the Spyder Rose shop was originally started.
“That’s the reason I travel – I learn different styles, different techniques, and new tricks from all over, because that’s what it’s all about, right?” he said. “To learn as many new tricks as you can put in your bag.”
This week Hayes, a Glenwood Springs native, is embarking on a trip to Central America to share his highly acclaimed work at the Panama City Ink Fest running Aug. 17-19.
He is one of nearly 50 artists from around the world showcasing their urban and body art that includes tattooing and body piercing. The event is expected to draw more than 1,000 people. Hayes expects he will tattoo one to two people a day, with time set aside for networking, seminars and surfing.
“Honestly it’s all about learning how other people live in the world by seeing it, more than anything you can find in a book,” he said. “And that’s not just for tattooing, it’s for everything in life. I like meeting new people. People are awesome.”
Growing up, the 38-year-old Hayes always appreciated the art. While stationed in Pearl Harbor, his grandfather paid visits to famed tattoo artist Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins in Honolulu’s Chinatown.
“My grandfather was covered with Sailor Jerry stuff,” he said. “I remember he had a tattoo of a fake timepiece because he said it was always time to get the heck out of here.”
Hayes received his first ink by former Carbondale tattoo artist Calamity Jane, a well-known figure in the industry, the day after he turned 18. Hayes now has body art from his neck to feet. He averages a new tattoo about once a year, and even has tattoos by his two kids, Cody and Bella, displaying their autographs.
“They all have different meanings,” he said of his art. “They don’t necessarily have meanings for other people, but they have meaning to me. I feel so privileged to be a tattoo artist. I was just at the right place at the right time.”
Hayes’ work is revered by clients in the valley and by his sister, Mary Cedra, of Carbondale. Hayes did the art on her arms, called “sleeves” in the tattoo world.
“His work is original. When I see someone with a tattoo from him I can tell it is his work straight away,” she said. “His work stands out because of his use of color in his imagery. He does a lot of his work freehand, or without stenciling the image on first, which takes a great deal of skill.”
Cedra said she and her family, including mom Sinda Wood, of Glenwood Springs, saw Hayes’ artistic potential early on in his life. Mothers aren’t always pleased by tattoos, but Wood is one of Hayes’ biggest fans.
“We all knew that he would be a successful artist from a very young age. That is something that he always had a gift for,” Cedra said. “From the moment he started to tattoo I knew he was going to be very successful. It seemed to come naturally to him, and I could tell how much he loved doing it.”
Cedra said her brother’s determination to become a success in the tattoo industry is motivating.
“He makes a goal and he goes after it. Everything that he has ever wanted to do or be he has made happen. Move to Hawaii and become a tattoo artist? Done. Open up his own tattoo shop? Done,” she said. “He is a dreamer and an achiever. That’s something to be impressed by. A lot of people just watch their life go by. He would never let that happen.”
Hayes has served as a mentor to colleagues in the business, including one that closely shares his name. Tattoo artist Matt Hays, a Basalt native who recently moved to Denver, said the move was possible thanks to Hayes.
“I work in an incredible, world-renowned studio, an opportunity I never would have been offered had Matt E. not been willing to take a chance on me and present me with the opportunity to learn this amazing craft,” he said.
Hayes and Hays were raised in the same valley but did not develop their bond until they began working together in an apprenticeship.
“His work was good – clean solid lines, bright bold colors, the same quality that you might find in the magazines,” Hays said. “He taught me properly. It was a real traditional apprenticeship.”
The pair became fast friends and collaborated to open the Spyder Rose Tattoo shop and build names for themselves in the industry.
“I figured Matt Hayes and Matt Hays, what would be cooler? But would it work? It did work and it worked like a dream,” Hays said. “I learned from Matt E. what it takes to be a good, successful tattooist.
“Every aspect of tattooing, from the business side, the cleanliness and sterile aspects, to the creative and technical aspects, to good client interaction and customer service, was taught to me with strict emphasis,” Hays said.
“Anything less than the best just didn’t cut it with him, therefore it didn’t cut it for me either.”
Hays said despite some minor confusion, sharing nearly the same name with his mentor has been a blast.
“We’ve done some collaboration tattoos together, which have been super fun and the clients absolutely loved it,” Hays said. “I mean, how often does somebody get the chance to say that they got tattooed by two guys with the same name at the same time?”
With childhood memories of catching lizards and sledding, Cedra said her brother is one of a kind – a humble, world-traveling tattoo artist with a sharp sense of humor.
“People think just by looking at him that he is some tough guy who might be hard to relate to or talk to. Completely the opposite,” she said.
“Many people have said that having him tattoo them made the experience even that much better because of his attitude and presence. He is accepting of everyone and just very easy to be around.”
Tattoo or no tattoo.
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