We had the good fortune of connecting with Sandi Calistro and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sandi, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I have helped start 3 tattoo shops now and have finally gone out on my own with this last shop I’ve opened. I’ve focused on creating a space that is more of collective rather than the feeling of having a boss. I don’t think there’s much room for that mentality in the art world. So often it feels like people want to benefit from another person’s talent and hard work. I want to encourage the artists working with me to realize their full potential and thrive in an environment that nurtures their creativity.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’d like to describe my art as having a dreamy, illustrative quality to it. I am drawn to the female form and often include elements of the divine feminine in my work. When I first started in the Tattoo industry I was encouraged to be well-rounded and know multiple styles of tattooing. I understand the purpose of this method but it certainly did not do me any favors in developing my own style and getting to where I am today. I’m proud to have encouraged the newer Tattooer ‘s that I had a hand in teaching, to do their own style from the start of their career and nurture it. I’ve also encouraged fine artists who’ve become tattooers to find time to nurture both elements of art, it creates a healthy balance. It seems to be a common credo and tattooing to work long hours and many days. Tattooing reeks havoc on the body and I think it’s important for new tattooers to not run themselves ragged and pace themselves. After 21 years of tattooing,I am tattooing three days a week and doing art when I can find time the rest of the days. Working less the past couple years has saved my hands. I am incredibly proud to have created a space where the people I care about can create tattoos in any style they prefer without judgment, a space where negative treatment will not be tolerated. My coworkers and I lift each other up and inspire one another every day. I am so grateful for this wonderful creative space.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I am so proud of this city so I get very excited when I have friends visit and I can show them around. The first place my mind goes to is good food. One of my old tattoo shops was right next-door to Root Down it’s one of my all-time favorites. There is something at that restaurant for everyone and the atmosphere is on point. There are so many more that I love, urban beets in Arvada, which is all plant based, uncle, bar dough- I could go on and on. I’ve taken friends to the wild animal sanctuary in keensburg, it’s amazing to see these animals living free and getting the best care after being rescued from awful situations. I’m also a huge fan of the Denver Museum of Contemporary Art. I’ve seen so many shows there and it’s so nice to stroll through the multiple floors of the museum and end up on the rooftop and enjoy a snack or a cocktail and occasionally live music, it’s wonderful. I also suggest a trip to the mountains. One of my favorite mountain towns is Salida, there are some really cute shops in town and Hot Springs nearby. I’d probably offer a souvenir tattoo to end the trip.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’d like to give a shout-out to my husband Wesley Case and fellow artists at Tattoo Dumond. My husband helped me realize that I could go out on my own and succeed. He spent countless nights remodeling the new space that I am in, Keeping in mind my vision for the tattoo shop. There were way too many sleepless nights where I was doubting this step, I didn’t think I had what it took to make it work and he was always there to ground me. He’s one in a billion.
I didn’t have a group of artists in mind when I started considering this new space, I kind of wanted that to all unfold naturally and it did. I have been working with my coworker Sal Tino for quite a few years now and he is so talented and humble. He makes me want to be a more loving, kind human and inspires me as an artist every day. His style is wild and magical and so beautiful.
I have the pleasure of working with the incredible Alisha Rice. Alisha and I worked together about a decade ago at Twisted Sol one of the first custom tattoo shops in Denver. There was a lengthy gap in between our time as coworkers and I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to work with her again. She really lifted me up when I needed it. She expressed her gratitude in working in a space with the vision I had in mind so many times and it always just happened to be right when it mattered most. She works her ass off and creates a vast array of tattoo styles. It’s really incredible.- so much talent. She has pride in making the space special and welcoming to everyone that walks in the door. She also bakes some of the best sourdough I’ve had… Haha.
Cori James is a beautiful soul that I’ve been getting to know over the past year. She moved here from Atlanta Georgia and I had been familiar with her work for quite some time because she excels at what she does and I’m always in awe of other women in this industry. Her style is what I might describe as a bit traditional but very much her own and so so clean and thoughtfully done. She’s also an inspiration outside of tattooing having her own line of athletic wear and competing in triathlons. She’s a bad ass.
Tori Kro was mine and my former business partner’s apprentice at Ritual and the most recent addition to the shop. I had always admired her paintings, She has an illustrative style that is both alluring and dark and I knew it would translate beautifully into tattoos. She is also so very kind and thoughtful . I couldn’t be more proud of her,. She’s been tattooing for about three years now and you think she’s been tattooing for at least a decade. I know her clients appreciate her so much too. She she puts extra effort in making sure her client as as comfortable as possible while giving them an absolutely beautiful piece of artwork. We have an amazing artist joining us in May and I cannot wait. Her name is Kala Warman I know that she will be an amazing fit. Her artwork blows me away and she has always been a big support for other female artists being treated respectfully in our industry.
I also have an apprentice starting with us when restrictions lift, her name is Sarah Gilstrap. Sarah is a crazy talented illustrator and I have no doubt she will thrive with us. She is kind and encouraging and we will be so lucky to have her.
I’d like to also give some love to my former home, Ritual Tattoo. It was my 6 years with this space that gave me the confidence to open my own spot, I very much miss my family there.
Instagram: @tattoodumond @sandicalistro
The Tin type was made by Brass & Bellows.