Tattoo Territory

by Lucy Schaefer

Chances are you’ve driven past the two-story brick building on Main Ave., the one with the green trim and little fence that looks more like an early-1900s home than a tattoo and piercing haven. But that tan brick building is exactly that – a tattoo shop called Your Flesh Tattoo & Piercing, opened by Matthew Rosseau on June 6, 1996. Partner Sarah Rosseau received some of her first tattoos there way back in the day before pairing up with Rosseau. These days, Your Flesh is a staple of Durango, and this tatted up power couple co-own what has become the most popular tattoo shop in the Four Corners.

It’s been 22 years since the doors first opened, and Your Flesh is officially celebrating its anniversary on Sunday, June 10. They’ll be hosting a party, auction, art show, and fundraiser to help KSUT gather the funds for their new building.

Here is a look back at the last two decades of Your Flesh, and a look forward at the hopes and future of their shop.


What ignited you to open Your Flesh?

Matthew: I apprenticed out of Florida right after I had lived out here. I always knew Durango is where I wanted to come back to. I think in hindsight I could have received more experience traveling around more and working at other shops, but I knew that if I didn’t open up a shop here, somebody else was going to. I felt like I had to jump on it. That was the driving force. I also just fell in love with Durango. When I left, I knew I wanted to come back here.

How has Your Flesh evolved as a shop?

Matthew: Your Flesh has definitely matured over the 20-some years. We have evolved to be the staple of quality tattooing in the Four Corners. We evolved into a trustworthy place.

Sarah: We both pride ourselves in being business owners who value the relationship with our clientele. We really strive to make sure people are happy and want to come back here. Now it’s becoming generational. Now we have people coming who got their first tattoos here. Now, their children are coming for tattoos.

Matthew: Yeah, I’m tattooing people’s grandchildren now. Being in a place this long, it feels really cool to be trusted and depended upon.

Sarah: We have always tried to make sure everyone is happy and to have quality tattooers. Everyone here. .. doesn’t just know how to tattoo. They paint and they draw and they are always artists. Being able to see everyone over all the years come through and become something more than what they might have been before is neat.

Matthew: Our motto has always been quality is our gimmick.


What piece of advice would you give someone who is trying to open their own tattoo shop?

Matthew: Don’t do it.

Sarah: (Laughs) It’s hard.

Matthew: It is hard! We are in a time (and) generation where tattooing is in its golden age. It’s changing everyday. I wouldn’t encourage someone to open a shop to this calibur, where you have six to seven tattooers. I don’t know if many people would be able to deal with it.

Sarah: People opening up a tattoo shop when they don’t have enough experience is tricky. They just want to be on their own and don’t want to answer to anybody. They don’t think about putting art on people that will last forever. It’s changing right now. There is the older tattoo generation that has certain unspoken rules that are slowly disappearing. You see these younger people coming in that aren’t following the same traditions.

Matthew: Yeah, the history, lineage, and appreciation for the history of tattooing is disappearing.


What motivates you as the owner of Your Flesh?

Matthew: What motivates me is to just keep it going. We are part of the community. I feel that obligation to the community. But, I don’t look at it as an obligation. I look at it as a motivation to keep it being the premier quality tattoo place in the Four Corners.

Sarah: We strive for our employees. We always have suffered a little so our employees can grow and do amazing things. We’ve always tried to make this place a spot artists can come to and do amazing work. Matt has always pushed that. It’s neat to see people come in to go on and do amazing things.


What motivates you as a tattoo artist?

Matthew: That is another weird one, being an older tattooer. Like I said, it is the golden age of tattooing. When I started, it was the Renaissance. The art was coming back and younger artists were trying to make it progressive. Now, there are amazing tattooers in every nook and cranny of the globe. For me, you want to try and keep up and progress as an artist. Also, to prove to yourself you still “got it,” and keep your clients happy and keep the business going. The younger tattooers keep me motivated. It’s such an exciting time. To be part of it is an honor. So, the younger tattooers and how fast tattooing is progressing right now keeps me motivated. I’m just the old guy who wants to keep up now.

Sarah: You’ve definitely progressed. You’ve found yourself as a tattooer. Now I think you’re at the place where you can hone in on your style of tattoos because you really love doing wildlife. We like to fly fish, and for him to be able to bring that into his tattooing brings a whole new different comfort of developing his style.


Do you think there is a special formula or pattern for being a successful owner of a tattoo shop?

Sarah: Patience. (Laughs)

Matthew: Patience, quality, service. Treating people great.

What is your favorite part about owning Your Flesh?

Matthew: I have a sense of pride. It feels good that we have been here this long.

Sarah: It’s incredible. Our son is almost 18… and to see how proud of us he is makes us feel good. Then, we see people that show us tattoos they’ve received from Your Flesh from 20 years ago that they are proud to show.

Matthew: Being trusted and being part of this community is one of my favorite things. The friends and family we have built throughout the 22 years of having this place is pretty special. Being in this community attracts people from all over the world, so now we have family all over the planet.


What has been your most satisfying moment?

Sarah: Buying our current building was pretty amazing. To be a tattoo shop is amazing. We do get discriminated (against). So, it’s cool to change people’s minds on what tattooing is. We aren’t these crazy people. This isn’t some dark scary place.

Matthew: The fact that we are a legitimate business and that we’re able to purchase a piece of property because we are legit, and because of our reputation and our quality, there is a lot of satisfaction behind that.

Sarah: I love it when we get older customers for their FIRST tattoo. That makes me happy to see these people coming in. It’s ritualistic for people to get a tattoo. To be a part of that is pretty special.

Matthew: It’s satisfying to have newbies walk in to hear them say that they asked around for the best tattoo shop and were pointed in our direction. Recommendations in the Four Corners tends to be Your Flesh, and that is satisfying.

Can you talk a little about your journey to your current style? What kind of stuff did you start out doing?

Matthew: I started when the new school movement was beginning. You wanted to do everything as crazy as you could. Now, most of my clients are a little bit older. I don’t get many people in their twenties. I get people that want tattoos that are timeless. I do more nature-related tattoos that have that classic tattoo “feels.” I don’t do much of the crazy stuff anymore. I try and keep an elegance to it. I do large tattoos. I like that because I tattoo better when they are big tattoos rather than small ones.

Sarah: He’s done a lot of mastectomy tattoos. Which is really cool. Matt has done so many different styles; it’s really wild to see throughout the years. If you were professionally trained back in the day, you would have been able to do every style of tattoo. That is kind of dying out these days.

So 22nd anniversary, aye? What is this going to entail?

Sarah: We are going to have an art show. We will be doing raffles and giveaways. There will be a silent auction that will benefit KSUT for their new building. We definitely wanted to do a benefit for some local charities. For us, we have received so much back from Durango, we want to give back to our community whatever way we can. All the tattooers will be doing all different types of art. So, there will be drawings, sculpting, paintings, and leatherwork. We will be setting up a photo booth so old and new customers can get their photos taken. It’s our way of giving back to all of our customers, friends, and family.


What’s your drive to host this event and donate to KSUT?

Sarah: We want to be able to help out who we can. We don’t have a whole lot to give, but whatever we can, we will.

Matthew: I think KSUT is a great organization to donate to. For their drive and all the children and whoever is going to be involved with KSUT in the new building… if we can help those people out, that will be awesome.

Sarah: Also, our lives have revolved around music. There isn’t a moment that we don’t have music playing. So, music is healing. Music is everything. It will get you through the hardest times in your life and the best times in your life. It’s great to support people that are putting music out there. Also, the fact they are putting music out there for the Southern Ute Tribe.


What are your hopes for your 22nd anniversary event?

Matthew: I hope people come and have a good time. I want people to come and see old friends and meet new friends.

Sarah: I just want to open our doors and let people get to know the artists.

Matthew: It will be nice to have people come in for a different scenario instead of laying down and getting hurt. (Laughs) For people to come to eat, drink, and hang out.

Sarah: It will be nice for people to come and see the other side of our employees. Usually you’re coming in a little nervous, whether you’re being pierced or tattooed, so you don’t really get to meet the other artists. To see the other sides of the artists is really awesome, and see all the different types of artwork they do. It’s art. And art is always fun to share with community. We want to let people in and thank them.

Matthew: Durango has been good to us. We are so thankful.


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