Feb 162005
 
Authors: Jessica Brooke

Tim Corley has made people urinate, faint and convulse. He is an artist and a businessman.

Corley, co-owner of Millennium Gallery of Living Art, 211 Jefferson St., has been bringing people to tears for 15 years through an estimated 15,000 tattoos.

Since beginning his career out of his home in 1990, Corley has opened a business, traveled the world, had his work featured on the covers of Tattoo and Savage magazines, and established a loyal clientele base.

"It's pretty important (to find the right tattoo artist)," said Danielle Geyer, a senior marketing student who has two tattoos. "I do a lot of research because it's going to be on me forever."

Ken Underwood shares Geyer's opinion. Corley has tattooed Underwood exclusively for 14 years.

"He's the best I've seen," said Underwood, who recently began employment with Millennium. "He's pretty much done my entire body."

Corley looks like what some people might expect of a tattoo artist with his shaved head, long blond goatee and countless tattoos. To add to the image, he rides motorcycles and describes himself as a musician. He is also an accomplished businessman.

Tim Corley never suspected he would be successful when he began to experiment with tattooing on his trusting friends.

"I kind of started on a whim, a personal whim, not a dare or a bet or anything but then I just fell in love with (tattooing)," Corley said with his wife, Heide Unger, by his side.

Corley and Unger opened Millennium in 1995, and since then they have moved to a larger location, expanded to include an adjacent clothing store and opened The Second Millennium in Greeley, 909 16th St.

Ryan Corley, the couple's son, pierces at Millennium and is apprenticing to become a tattoo artist.

"It's always what I've known, since I was 7 years old," Ryan Corley said. "I realized when I was little that I have a different life than all the kids I know. It's a great opportunity. I can go a lot further with this than if I went to school. It's what I've known. It's what I believe."

Unger said that Millennium is a family business.

"We're a good team," Unger said. "The whole family works here: daughter, mother-in-law, future son-in-law."

Tim Corley and Unger have tattooed during Bike Week in Sturgis, S.D., for the last 10 years. While Sturgis provides several repeat clients and excellent exposure for the artists, Corley said that his favorite part of Bike Week is making tough bikers whimper.

"Being a tattooist in Sturgis, it's so fun to knock the biker off of people," Corley said with a wide grin. "You get people coming in that just bought their brand-new motorcycle, regardless of what brand or whatever. They come in, they've got shiny leathers, no butt stains, no oil stains, you know doin' the 'I'm a bad biker. I gotta get a tattoo,' and then they get their first tattoo and it's like …" he proceeded to imitate something that could have been a wounded seal.

Corley's needle sent a client into convulsions in Sturgis. The tattoo the man wanted took approximately 50 minutes. With five minutes to go, the man fainted and began convulsing. It was up to Corley to extricate gum from the man's mouth and lay him down

His hand became wedged between the man's head and a counter and remained there until the man regained consciousness. Following a 45-minute nap, the client was ready to finish the tattoo.

Corley had a similar experience with a friend at the beginning of his career. The friend urinated after fainting.

"I got him changed and woke up and made sure he was OK and everything. I think it scared us both equally. He was like my eighth or ninth tattoo," Corley said.

Corley has attended more than 40 tattooing conventions around the world. While he named Dunstable, England, and Oslo, Norway, as his favorite conventions, the highlight of every year is the National Tattoo Convention that is held in the United States.

"That's the Academy Awards of all the tattoo industry all over the world," Unger said.

Millennium was voted nicest tattoo studio in the nation at the 2004 convention. Tim Corley has won awards ranging from best color to best memorial to best back piece. However, he and Unger agreed the nicest studio award has been the highlight of their careers.

The new studio opened in November and is the product of a year's hard work by the Millennium crew. Corley spent every day working on the studio and the rest of the employees came in during their spare time to help, Ryan Corley said.

The final effect includes artistic black and white portraits showing off piercings and tattoos. A fountain provides soothing background noise.

"(The studio) is beautiful," Ryan Corley said. "There was one moment when I realized how beautiful it was. I was closing and all the lights were off. We had just put up the black and white pictures and the light was shining from behind them. It's just beautiful."

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