Deep Roots Inspire Community: the artistic upbringing of the Boulder Tattoo Project’s Chelsea Pohl

By Lauren Maslen

Chelsea Pohl is a kaleidoscope. As the project manager of the Boulder Tattoo Project, Chelsea has her eyes set on many artistic ventures and she isn’t set to stop anytime soon.

“She snatches the right opportunities when they arise,” explains her sister, Alyssum Pohl. “But she’s patient. That’s why she’s successful.”

Chelsea Pohl's series of dinosaur paintings is on display at Logan's Espresso Cafe in Boulder.
Chelsea Pohl’s series of dinosaur paintings is on display at Logan’s Espresso Cafe in Boulder.

Chelsea paints dinosaurs. She paints blood splatters, cats, and critters. She is also a photographer and sculptor. She teaches art classes; writes and illustrates children’s books; owns a tattoo studio with her husband, Vinny, and raises two daughters named Tiger and Phoenix (which the tattoo studio, Claw and Talon, is named after). Chelsea manages all of this while successfully bringing the Boulder Tattoo Project to its new home. The project is a community-wide creative initiative which begins inking after Halloween, and Chelsea has been preparing for months.

Chelsea is a hardworking businesswoman, entrepreneur, artist, and mother. She’s inspired, she says, and this inspiration is a gift she hopes she can pass on to others.

“I feel like Boulder is pretty conservative when it comes to the arts. I just want to find a way to crack open the rigidness when it comes to that… I’m working on it.”

Deep Roots Lead to Sharp Peaks

Chelsea moved to Boulder when she was 17 years old. She knew she loved it long before that, however; the initial view of the Flatirons while driving over the hills of Route 36 for the first time struck a nerve with her when she was 13. It was an “aha!” moment she would never forget.

“I had a premonition I would live here one day.”

Chelsea was accepted into Naropa University at age 16.

“I had my trajectory; I knew what I was doing.”

Life would take its turns, leading to more travel and a life in Boulder. The people she would meet along the way would be the catalyst to a life of art, innovation, and inspiration.

Chelsea Pohl co-owns Claw and Talon Tattoo on Folsom Street in Boulder with her husband, Vinny.
Chelsea Pohl co-owns Claw and Talon Tattoo on Folsom Street in Boulder with her husband, Vinny.

Chelsea grew up in Kentucky in a family that some might consider slightly less than rigid. When she was 7, Chelsea’s parents took her, Chelsea’s sister and two kittens sailing between the East Coast and Bahamas for a year  “When you’re living on a boat, you don’t have anything around you. You’re limited to where you are,” Alyssum said. Creativity came into play: the sisters were each other’s playmates, they invented languages and were artistic. “This translated into our adult lives – whatever you’re motivated to do, do it. No one’s going to do it for you.”

Merm was one of the kittens that lived on the boat with the family. “Merm talk,” an invented language, progressed out of Chelsea’s childhood obsession with the cat. Now she has written and illustrated several books based on him, including “The Adventures of Merm the Cat,” which was released in August 2010.

After some slight hiccups with a book deal, Chelsea decided to self-publish. She said she doesn’t know how people received the Merm books, but that’s not the point.

“A lot of times I just do things because I love them… just cause that’s your natural expression.”

The Boulder Tattoo Project

The Boulder Tattoo Project came out of Lexington, Ky. A collaborative started by two artists, Kurt Gohde and Kremena Todorova, the Lexington Tattoo Project is an ongoing project containing the elements of a poem, tattoos, photography, and now a book.

“Chelsea is the first person to invite us and this Tattoo Project artwork to another city besides our own,” Kurt Gohde and Kremena Todorova wrote in an email.

Chelsea learned about the project through her sister, Alyssum, and decided she wanted to bring the project to her adopted hometown. She went back to Lexington where Gohde and Todorova invited her to take part in the Lexington initiation.

“That just made sense! I’m the bridge between the two cities,” said Chelsea.

Vinny did her tattoos in Lexington. “Deep Roots” now rest respectively on each of her ankles.

Chelsea remarks that it was a good experience to reconnect with her old town, a place she doesn’t often go back to.

The Boulder Tattoo Project's next event will be at the Laughing Goat Cafe on Pearl Street on Halloween night. Participants and the public are invited to attend. A silent auction with donations from local artists and vendors will benefit Boulder flood relief.
The Boulder Tattoo Project’s next event will be at the Laughing Goat Cafe on Pearl Street on Halloween night. Participants and the public are invited to attend. A silent auction with donations from local artists and vendors will benefit Boulder flood relief.

The tattoo projects are all about community. They are about showing love of one’s city. It’s not just about tattoos. The project is about peoples’ connections to their city and how they express that. How else can one usually do so besides living in a town?

Chelsea will be conducting a demographic survey at the tattooing to see what participants’ backgrounds involve. All kinds of people get involved with the project.  “There are a lot of first time tattoo-ees,” Chelsea said.

“People are really excited. People are saying, ‘This feels bigger than me.’”

The Boulder Tattoo Project will not only consist of tattoos. The multimedia collaborative will feature the poem “Boulder Zodiac” by Anne Waldman; words and phrases of the poem as tattoos; photography of the tattoos and their owners; a music score by Gregory Alan Isakov; and a final film which will combine all of these individual elements.

“Chelsea has set an extremely high bar for the people that we will work with in other cities–she has been twice the collaborator we hoped for and Boulder is so lucky to have her,” Gohde said.

Want to get involved in the project? It’s not too late!

Even though the project has given away its 200 words and phrases from Anne Waldman’s “Boulder Zodiac” poem, those still wanting to get involved in the Boulder Tattoo Project can receive commas for the shop’s $50 minimum. They won’t be covered by the art grants which are supporting the project, but they will allow Boulderites to feel like a part of the community and the Boulder Tattoo Project – exactly what Chelsea hopes to achieve.



Published by laurenmaslen

I'm a multimedia journalist from Colorado. Music is my alibi. Travel is my defense. Contact for further inquiries.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s