ON THE ROAD: Aspen, Colorado

Skin & Ink Magazine, January 2000


Featuring Mammoth Tattoo
Written and photographed exclusively by Erika Stanley


Mammoth Arts- Aspen, CO

Way up in the snowy peaks of the Rocky Mountains, sits a lone tattoo shop - Mammoth Arts, Inc. Inside of which, sits a lone tattoo artist. For years now, its owner and sole tattoo artist, Ben Wallenborn, has been fighting the abominable City of Aspen for the right to keep his doors open. The struggle started in November 1996, when Ben and his previous partner, Paul Lambdin, applied for a zoning code amendment. Now, after spending thousands of dollars, petitioning with a collection of 420 signatures, and hiring Attorney Dennis Green, Aspen still comes down on Ben with the strength and determination of a yedi. Due to his hard work, his doors are open, but his fate is still tumbling down a mountain of bureaucracy. Ben has been waiting for a verdict for more than a year and a half. At this point, he is just happy to be creating his art in the city that he loves. (Ahh, unrequited love!)

Originally from Colorado, Ben worked for three years with Clay Woods and Dave Evans at Underground Art, one of the better tattoo studios in Memphis. His friend, the aforementioned Paul Lambdin, invited him out to Aspen because he was itching for more ink. "When I came out to tattoo him, there were no tattoo studios and everyone wanted work done. They kept me busy and I wanted to stay because it's just so beautiful here." Ben adds, "I was born and raised in Colorado and missed it."

Ben enjoys doing bold, colorful pieces. He states, "I like to stay versatile and not be tied down to one style. I saw this article once on this guy who claims that 'nothing matters but black'. He said he was from an industrial town and all he saw was black I don't know, I've been to some pretty bland places, but I've always been able to find color." Ben enjoys his clientele in Aspen, because he feels that they aren't spontaneous. "People here think a lot more. They don't just come in. They think about what they want first. I do more custom work here than any other place I've ever worked. I tattoo tourists as well, but I lose a lot of them as potential customers since I;m booked a couple of days in advance and they have to leave town. At least I get to know most of my customers. They become friends."

Stan Corona and I visited Aspen during Gay Ski Week, which is a booming time for Aspen locals and one of the top gay events worldwide. Escorted by Ben and Stan, we attended a tattoo contest at an Aspen nightclub, called The Tippler. We spent the evening painting temporary tattoos on sweaty dancers and judging the tattoo contest. The 1st place winner, James, won a $50 bar tab for a full color dragon wrapped around his leg, skillfully applied by Darren Rosa out of New York City. Mathew Warren took 2nd place with his Boris Vallejo archer by Stevie Moon, and Dean Krume came in 3rd with Asian flowers across the back by Sailor Moses.

Part of the trip was for Ben and his girlfriend Kasey to get some tattoos from us. It all started with Stan tattooing a Cyber Ganesh and a rat on a jet-powered Vespa on Ben's Chest. While I tattooed a fairy on Kasey's hip. Later, Ben goes for seconds with Stan. This time getting a monkey riding a locomotive train on his ribcage. I guess Ben thinks tattoos are like Doritos, you can't have just one! At least until the all merge together and finally become "one" tattoo.

The snow kept falling during our visit, sometimes approaching white-out conditions. Was it influenced by the tattoo inside my bottom lip, which says "Pray for Snow"? We went snowboarding in the infamous "champagne powder" of Aspen! I managed to avoid breaking my tailbone again. Stan was trying to make snow angels all day, but he claims to have been snowboarding. Which, for Stan is a major improvement! The last time he went out, he nailed a face plant, but was so flexible, he whacked himself in the back of his head with the heel edge of his snowboard. When ski patrol first saw him, he was sitting in red snow. Kids were coming up to him and going, "eeew." The patrol guy asked, "who's the President?" Stan said, "George Clinton." He thought Stan was brain-damaged, but I explained that this was the way he always was. Ski patrol loaded Stan into the toboggan. As he rode off the mountain, Stan held his leg instead of his head, as if that was where the injury was sustained.

- We"ll be seeing you on the road!