Written by Carlos Contreras
“I don’t do [just] one thing, I chase ALL my passions. From waking up as a father and husband, seeing my kids off to school then kissing my wife off to work I become a tattoo artist and shop owner. When I find time I educate the city on tattoo health and safety as the co founder of the Guild of Ethical Tattooists. Which is aligned and parallel with my mission as the chairman of the Board of Body Art Practitioners under the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing department to safeguard public health.”
Said the subject focused on for this installment of #CommunityDialogue. The “Jack of so many amazing trades” and causes, Ben Shaw, sat down with us recently to catch up. Seems like the only way Ben and I can end up on the same page is via an interview. We are often on the same stage – or used to be. And so these days, we continue to try and make time in our busy lives, to talk about all that we are doing. As you can see, Ben does a lot. We asked him about one of the things he does and loves most – an event and catalyst for community engagement all in one. I asked Ben about Art Fusion for a Cause.
“When called upon, I spearhead an event called Art Fusion for a Cause, which helps bring community together for a charitable end. This event helps in raising awareness and funding for great causes from autism awareness, to grieving children to veterans with PTSD and everything between. Art Fusion allows me to help those who can sacrifice themselves for a higher good.”
We can dig that. In fact, Ben and some fellow professional artists are headed to Blue Agave Republic on May 17th to help raise money for scholarships for the New Mexico Hispanic Bar Association. If you miss it, keep an eye out as you’ll likely see another Art Fusion event pop up super soon. They used to happen EVERY month in Tractor’s Wells Park tap room. As you can see Ben does more than tattoo. He aims to be a man of community – one who walks the walk and talks to people from all walks of life. We asked him about what drives this community minded tattoo shop of his.
“To gain ones love and respect, you don’t just expect it, you show it give it and it hopefully comes back. Tattoo artists in the past have been viewed as outcasts, fringe society citizens, undesirables. But we hold a great weapon…skill, passion, artistic talent, which we can use for good. The foundation of Archetype Tattoo was built on community engagement. It is our mission to be constantly donating, and promoting local charitable causes and events.” That’s how it started. In their early years as a shop, the artists at Archetype could commonly be found, funding the hopes and dreams of other artists and small businesses at just about any fundraiser or event happening. When that didn’t feel like enough – Ben came up with something.
“To take it a step up a notch, we started Art Fusion for a Cause. This is where four artists collaborate and create four unique pieces of artwork live before your eyes, which we raffle off and give the proceeds to great causes. This is a super fun event, filled with camaraderie and cheer,” said Shaw.
“In fact, very soon, we are all going to sit down and meet to create another Art Fusion for a Cause benefiting a charity called Light in the Night. We’re looking to schedule this some time in August or September of this year. We are looking to hold this event at the Nob Hill Bar and Grill,” he added. But, it’s not just about being out and about, spreading good will and some money around – for Shaw, it’s also about legitimizing, regulating, and ensuring the longevity of a profession that has provided him a livelihood.
“I am looking to work with our city and state leaders to help launch some serious educational campaigns, teaching the public about the dangers of unlicensed body art activity, and urging people to seek licensed professionals” he said. Shaw is responsible for some of this work being coordinated and executed by he and his colleagues already. “We’ve been to different schools, middle schools, high schools, outreach programs, health fairs, and even UNM, sharing with all ages the dangers of unlicensed body art activity,” he added. Ben and his fellow professionally licensed tattoo artist friends are aiming to help the public understand that a tattoo is in fact a minor topical surgery and should be treated with care, attention, and awareness in order to keep all parties involved in the process safe and healthy.
You might be wondering like we were at this point in the conversation – why here? What makes Albuquerque so special – and or the kind of place for this kind of business and focus? “The people,” he said.
“No other state in the U.S has so many heavily tattooed people within all areas of their population’s demographics. I have clients spanning from gas station clerks, to APD, AFD, nurses, doctors, lawyers, and even clients in the Senate and the House of Reps. Being heavily tattooed, I feel like I fit in here. Here in Burque it doesn’t matter what I look like, it matters what I do, what I say, and what I want to achieve. Being a military brat, and traveling extensively for my profession, I haven’t found this anywhere else. Albuquerque itself is so very art driven, and community based. Those are two of my foundational driving forces. For me tattooing in Albuquerque, is like being a fish in water” said Shaw.
Well – we can tell it’s certainly not an instance of sink or swim; and – I think I speak for a number of Burqueños when I say, I’m glad the big fish that is Ben Shaw chooses to call this place home. Speaking of which, we wanted to know… what it’s like to own a business in Burque. “I’ve been a business owner in ABQ for 14 years. I’ve built my tattoo business around the pulse of Albuquerque. I am familiar with the community – it’s likes and dislikes,” he said. That makes sense. Plan. Novel idea right? It might seem easy but we are sure it’s not as easy as it sounds. Keeping a business open in any city and industry is a feat not easily accomplished, cheers to that. Keeping the doors cracked takes new and innovative approaches to business and marketing. We asked Shaw to share a tidbit about something he has coming up for 2018. He let us in on something that all those coming to the Land of Enchantment for our annual Balloon Fiesta will be glad to know. “We will be offering all of their hotel guests special commemorative Balloon Fiesta tattoos at a special limited price, which they can collect a different one each year they visit,” he said. You heard the man, get em’ while you can. While we had him – we asked Ben to share some words of advice to any budding business owners out there. The humble and kind man begin with some words of congrats.
“First off, a congratulations would be in order. Working for one’s self is, in my opinion, is the only way to be. It is no easy task of course, and all responsibility is on your shoulders, but it is amazing. Become obsessed with your business, because that is what it will take to make it successful. Every detail, every element of the business is your responsibility and you must become hyper aware of all the small moving parts. To become successful you will have to brave the challenges, lead those that will follow you, and keep moving forward, hurdles, successes and all.” We can second ALL of that.
With all this talk focused on everything and everyone else – we finished up by asking Ben a couple of things about himself. We asked, what is the best thing someone has ever told you?
“No matter what you do, always do your best.” by my Mom. She told me this right before I shipped off to boot camp at 18, and although it was a very simple bit of wisdom, it was the way she said it that made it stick. I’ve slipped and tripped here and there in my life, but I’ve always strived to embody this little tidbit of greatness,” he said.
Since he mentioned greatness, we asked him about his greatest – biggest rather. We asked, what is your biggest dream or goal? “I am currently in a position and location that has manifested from many years of hard work and diligence. Now I stand at a ledge overlooking vistas filled with potential, hope and excitement. Hopefully I will bring my best self to every engagement I find myself,” the enthusiastic and driven Shaw said. We sat with that answer for a bit and decided we liked the possibility in it. It wasn’t/isn’t limiting – for our interviewee it was absolutely fitting. We wanted him to fit in any final words – and so we asked him to throw in a few. Here’s what Ben Shaw owner or Archetype Tattoo chose to say to you as his last words:
“Thank you so much for this interview. It is an honor to be asked these questions and get to share the answers with anyone and everyone who reads them. Respect.”
Cheers and respect right back at you, Ben. Keeping on hustling.”