Steve Vance’s first meeting with his future wife, then Betina Hawk, was all business.
Betina, who was working as a recruiter for a staffing agency, sent Steve on a job interview. Steve returned with bad news: The interview had gone well, but his visible tattoos cost him the job.
Steve immediately began searching for companies that would remove his ink, but that research brought another shock: One treatment would cost about $1,500. With most tattoos requiring at least eight to 10 treatments to remove, Steve knew that price could be a barrier for others in his situation.
“The cost was a little astounding. It was something that wasn’t, to me, feasible for every walk of life,” Steve said. “So I started doing research into what it would take to open up our own shop and be able to provide an affordable service with quality equipment.”
In 2013, the couple opened The New Canvas in a downtown storefront, a few doors down from a salon where Betina, a licensed cosmetologist, worked as an aesthetician. They quickly realized they were filling a niche in the Springs by providing an affordable and safe option to remove ink that could be a barrier to gainful employment, or a painful reminder of a failed relationship.
“I don’t think you should have to charge an arm and a leg to get quality service, so it’s really important in everything that we do,” Steve said. “We’d like to still be able to pay our bills but we want to be able to take care of our clients and help as many people as we can in all walks of life.”
The New Canvas’ Old Colorado City location, where the Vances moved about three years ago, feels more like a day spa than a medical facility, with a trickling water fountain in the lobby and New Age music playing softly over the speakers.
“It’s very stress-free, and it feels really good to be able to help people,” Betina said. “We have a careers program, and we offer highly discounted rates for people that were in Steve’s situation and need to get a tattoo off to join the military or become a police officer.”
Over the past seven years they’ve expanded their services to include permanent makeup, microblading, Brazilian camouflage tattooing, advanced skin care and laser teeth whitening — all in response to client needs, Betina said. A lifelong learner, she is always researching and perfecting solutions to new problems.
“We’ve really molded our business according to what our clients need,” Betina said. “Three years ago, one of our former clients … called and asked me if I knew anyone who could do a camouflage tattoo. I called around and I could not find anybody, so I was like, ‘Hey, that sounds like something that I really need to learn because our clients could potentially need that as well.’”
Brazilian camouflage tattooing uses non-iron oxide pigments customized to match the surrounding skin, Betina said.
“It’s basically tattooed into the skin with a certain method that blends evenly with the surroundings, so you really can’t even tell,” she said. “We can cover up surgical scars from tummy tucks and skin eccentricities like vitiligo and things like that.
“I just had a lady that came in today with really bad scars from a botched facelift,” she added, “so it just changes people’s lives.”
It’s that personal touch that keeps The New Canvas in business, Steve said.
“There’s a story behind every tattoo, behind every scar,” Steve said. “We spend a lot of time building a relationship because of the multiple treatments. We’ve seen our clients have great achievements and we’ve seen sad times come.
“It’s really neat to get to know people and be able to help them progress to employment or beyond relationships that have failed,” he added. “We help them remove marks that may be traumatizing to them — and they become more like family.”