Denver, CO

How the owner of a new Denver tattoo shop is changing the world of tattooing

Steven Bonifazi
Chloé Besson stands in her new shop, MADÉ Tattoo & Mercantile, on June 8, 2021 in Denver, Colo.(Steven Bonifazi/News Break)

By Steven Bonifazi

(DENVER, Colo.) Growing up with a French father and an American mother, Chloé Besson was born in France and spent the first five years of her life summering there and going to school in Chicago.

After finishing high school in Evanston, Illinois, she moved to Boulder, Colorado in 2010 to pursue her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in printmaking with a sub-focus in photography from the University of Colorado Boulder. Growing up around a family who had no tattoos, Besson credits her start with tattooing as being an interdisciplinary artist that stepped into the medium.

"For the past ten years I have been working as an illustrator, muralist and photographer, painting murals around Boulder, Denver and in Washington. I got picked up to do illustration for a publishing company out of San Francisco in late 2018 for a book on witchcraft," said Besson. "People started reaching out to me to design tattoos and pretty quickly I just started to think hey, I could I do this."
Chloé Besson in her new shop, MADÉ Tattoo & Mercantile, on June 8, 2021 in Denver, Colo.(Steven Bonifazi/News Break)

Besson began tattooing just two years ago, spending over six months conducting research, tattooing artificial skin and trying to form an apprenticeship at local shops. After realizing that she would need to know someone on the inside in order to get a start, she told herself she would not wait for somebody else to get going.

Part of Besson's process when she began tattooing was her desire to practice conscious tattooing in addition to trauma-informed tattooing, inclusive, safe and comfortable tattooing. Trauma-informed tattooing involves knowing how to facilitate a safer and empowering experience for clients who may have experienced trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder in their past, as tattooing involves drawing blood and can be nerve-racking for those who have never got one.

As a woman, she herself, like many others, has experienced unconformable tattooing experiences and knew from the get-go that she wanted to hold a space that would make both artists and clients comfortable.

As someone who just cares about life on a personal level and is a sensory experiential creative, it is really important to make the tattooing process pleasurable to the best of my abilities, creating a safe and inclusive environment for my clients," said Besson. "How is it that we're not acknowledging that tattooing, simply put, is a client actually trusting someone they’ve never met before to mark their body permanently and pierce their skin with needles."

With a background in lithography, Besson loves and embraces the history, learning process, tradition and rituals of traditional tattooing. She stated that she sees a lot of the same discipline she learned from lithography mirrored in tattooing.

However, the part of traditional tattooing that she omits from her life is the ego-trip mentality that comes with certain aspects of tattooing, such as the entire process revolving around the artists, not listening to clients or going out of their way to make them feel comfortable, the seniority, hierarchy that is a part of tattooing that has been ingrained into the medium.

Specializing in fine line tattooing, Besson focuses more on black fill rather than shading. For her, the work she does, as well as everything in her life is centered around what she is aesthetically drawn to.

While working out of Boulder for the past two years, Besson received so much popularity on social media that her books would fill up within a day or two. After a short while, Besson began dedicating herself to opening her very own tattoo shop.

Nine months later, her dream came true with MADÉ.
Interior of MADÉ Tattoo and Mercantile(Photo courtesy of Chloé Besson)
Interior of MADÉ Tattoo and Mercantile(Photo courtesy of Chloé Besson)

The first day of tattooing at MADÉ took place on June 2, however, the official opening day is June 26. While the shop remains closed to the public and is only taking people who have previously made appointments, Besson will host an opening celebration of MADÉ on opening day, featuring live music from local Denver producer and DJ HEXKITTEN, art, mercantile, drinks and food.

"I just want to celebrate," said Besson. "I've just been doing this alone for nine months and I just want to celebrate with everybody. I want to see the community, mingle and support other makers in the community.”

In honor of Pride Month, a total of 15% of the sales made at the opening day celebration will be donated to the Lavender Rights Project and the National Black Justice Coalition.

The Lavender Rights Project works to provide people in the LGBTQ community with the opportunity to access, understand, assert and advocate for their rights without a lawyer. The National Black Justice Coalition is a civil rights organization that empowers Black lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender, queer+ and same gender loving people through coalition building, federal policy change, research and education.

In addition to donating to LGBTQ organizations, Besson has an extensive history utilizing her platform to give back to those in the community who need it most. In March of this year following the tragic Boulder King Soopers massacre, Besson encouraged her followers to donate to a GoFundMe ran by the city of Boulder to support the families who lost loved ones, offering $20 off tattoos with proof off donation.

Additionally, in May of last year after George Floyd passed away, Besson held a tattoo raffle for three $150 tattoo vouchers and eight $100 tattoo vouchers. The entry fee for the raffle was $25, with 100% of the proceeds going to eleven Black advocacy organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union, Black Lives Matter: Minneapolis, Black Vision Collective and Reclaim the Block.

In just 72 hours, she raised a total of $14,225.

"I got the community service award three years in a row in middle school for being in soup kitchens every day after school," Besson said with a chuckle. "I just care and feel if you have a platform and it's growing, use it. My business is my business, but it's also me."

When she's not running her business and making the world a better place, Besson enjoys spending time with her Husky-Shepard mix Arlo. She plans on creating and launching her own line of sustainable tattoo and skincare products and is aimed at running a much bigger art and tattoo collective under MADÉ.

Nevertheless, Besson humbles herself in not knowing everything and encourages anyone who is eager to start their own business or pursue their dreams to take that jump.

"Don't be afraid to jump off cliffs, the water might be warm. I care more than anyone will ever know," said Besson. "I will run after anything I'm passionate about. You got to want it, you got to care."

For more information regarding Besson and MADÉ Tattoo and Mercantile, click here.

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