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About a month ago, I set out to pin down tattoo artists and body piercers, as well as their regulatory parent, the El Paso County Health Department, just long enough to capture the inner workings, key figures, central conflicts and other nuances of the huge body-art business in Colorado Springs.

The endeavor proved to be much like catching and holding a butterfly. A big net helped, as did a willingness to chase an ever-fluttering and evolving, capricious entity. No answers came easily or without a curious entanglement of conflicting details, accounts and opinions.

In short, the body-art community talks a lot of smack. But the practitioners are at least united on one front: They are interested in public health. Even the Health Department characterizes them as largely "self-policing."

It's a good thing they are. The Health Department sorely lacks the resources to do the job itself. But the staff does the best job possible, considering limitations, and a couple new faces have a chance to improve upon a neglect-laden legacy.

In the end, beyond this article's "who's who" aspect, I hope it helps you make an informed decision on the best studio for your first, or next, tattoo or piercing.

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