Let’s talk about why I hosted a Friday the 13th event this year. To make things clear, I have a small studio in a large Victorian Tower that was built in the 1800s. The building is beautiful, however in the 1800s it use to be a mortuary for one of Bloomington’s oldest churches that is located one building over. Because the building is confusing and may be haunted, rent is cheap. So thank you ghosts for keeping my rent low.
So, I’m NOT currently charging ghosts for tattoos, instead I usually allow people to contact me directly through my Instagram account @ImFromIndiana and sometimes @TattooCryBaby which I don’t update as much and rarely use. Instagram has been a great way to get my content out into the world. There really are no bad clients that I meet through Instagram. The people who I meet through the app have usually followed my page for years, seen me grow, and by the time they are ready for a tattoo we feel a connection of mutual understanding of my skills as a tattoo artist.
Facebook is trash and I will dedicate a post explaining why I hate Facebook personally when it comes to tattooing. People who contact studios through Facebook are… I’ll save if for another day. If you have ever contacted me through the Facebook page, it’s okay I most likely never checked it! Join Instagram if you want me to tattoo you (…kidding..)
So, the other day was Friday the 13th and myself and two assistants hosted the busiest day at the studio. The doors officially opened at 12:00am and didn’t close until 6:00am, which is a very long party. I stayed in the backroom where I tattoo, but my assistants Pauly and Lindsay stayed in the front. What I decided to do this day, the busiest day of the year was pure stupidity. I decided I would buy only red and blue ball point pens and draw my designs directly on the skin of people signed up to get a tattoo.
I loved being able to do it, but when you have a list of over 50 people signed up to get a tattoo and you decide to pull a Bowser move like this, the slowest character in Mario Cart, not as many tattoos will be done. But I just got back from Michigan and I’ll tell you, I didn’t want to use any stencils, I wanted to make art and feel alive for the entire day. I wanted to know that my studio can generate money without technology. Just don’t take my speakers, I really need those to play Tiny Desk concerts as I tattoo.
For those who don’t know what a stencil is, it’s whats applied to the skin before the tattoo. It can be printed, scanned, or hand drawn and I decided to do the hardest of the three on the busiest day of the year. It’s fun to push myself, I like challenges, but it’s crazy to freehand multiple small tattoos back to back. What if I can’t do it, what if I mess up the design and feel silly, what if I’m too tired? These are all issues that possibly could have happened throughout the day.
Luckily I tattoo a lot of friends, people I respect, and good people around Bloomington, Indiana. Because I feel comfortable, I can feel good about doing something as ambitions as drawing on stranger for a day and cross my fingers my hands don’t shake.
I’d generally say that now that I have more experience as a tattoo artist, almost 5 years, my opinion is that most tattoo shops that advertise $31 Tattoos are usually bad shops. Typically nobody wants to actually have to tattoo all day for what may only match a normal Friday when it come to paying the artist. Usually I don’t see artist with large followings embrace Friday the 13th, but may designate an apprentice to contribute to festivities, since the day may involve more clients than they’ve ever tattooed before. In this case, if you find out an apprentice will be doing your Friday the 13th tattoo, realize blowouts and shallow lines that fade may happen. Also, typically “clean tattoos” that heal well usually don’t start appearing in an artist’s body of work for years (probably around 2-3 depending on their experience).
So, with so many cons why would any good artists choose to every participate in the day? Easy, if the artist is independent of a large studio, like a private studio, there is a lot of money and clients that can be generated on this day. If the artist is paying booth rent instead of a percentage then that artist too can make quite a bit of money for their business. Honestly, I wouldn’t ever want to tattoo $31 tattoos all day and work for someone else if I only made a percentage.
Let’s do the math.
- If I make 50% of what I charge, then I only make $15.50 for every tattoo I do
- I’m most likely only going to be able to do 2-3 per hour depending on the design
- Taxes takes 30% because tattooers are independent contractors
- If an artist typically charges $100 per hour and nets $50 per hour they take a $20 pay cut on their end every Friday the 13th!
F*ck that $$$
So, since I work at a private studio I wanted to do something different. I wanted to tattoo a large group of people for $31 but give them a premium tattoo experience.
It’s my opinion that hand drawn tattoos are on the highest end tattoos a client can every receive. Freehand tattooers are the alchemist of the tattoo industry. We don’t travel with printers, just disposable ballpoint pens, sharpies, and fancy pens you buy from Kingpin Tattoo Supply (mmmm, Kingpin Tattoo Supply where all my dream equipment exists). Freehand artist wake up and walk to the studio without a clue what is going to happen the day of the appointment as the person receiving the tattoo. These are all reasons I love being a freehand tattoo artist (when the job calls for it). We’re the only tattooers that don’t go away.
- Printer breaks down, we can still tattoo
- iPad Pro doesn’t work anymore, not a problem
- The whole grid gets knock out and civilization is sent back to candle light, no problem
Freehand artistry is my personal favorite form of tattooing, it connects the client to the artist’s true ability. No illusions are created. No copy machines are being surrounded with secrets references of other tattooers work….it’s purely art.
By free-handing every tattoo this day, I was able to feel a personal connection to every client I tattooed on the 13th. Every one of my clients, we talked as I drew my images that they hand chose from the wall of hand painted Flash. When I was a kid, moments like this got me excited about the possibilities of tattooing. A field, I believed then was full of artist who wanted to make images on people who love tattoos enough to permanently be reminded of a particular mark every day of their life. What a creative field it must be, I could only image how fun doing something like that everyday could possibly be. So in my studio, we’re doing what I think tattooing should be, we’re doing fun tattoos that showcase the client’s personality and the artist’s quirks.
Early in my career, as an aspiring artist, I needed to get into tattooing I felt because in the early 2010s I would never make ends meat to even support a prosperous art career. It would take leaving Indianapolis and moving to Bloomington to enroll at Indiana University
Let’s Go Hoosiers!
At IU, I studied under a professor I admired named Caleb Weinstraub, as well as a host of other faculty but Caleb specialized in really making colors pop. I’d ask him questions all day and when he was tired of being asked questions I’d annoy him with even more questions. Within time I began to feel a real identity to my own sense of color. Although, now that I am done with art classes (and I’m biased) I do not actually see a reason to go into a visual art program in 2018, too expensive.
But in regards to what I learned about color, these days my typical clients comes in the studio asking for colorful work. It’s then my job to deliver something they’d want to wrap in a bow and showing off to the world. Sooooo anyway there was supposed to be a conclusion to my thoughts on why Friday the 13th Tattoos are awesome/not lame…
… they’re not lame because the client wins every Friday the 13th!
Everyone, no matter how much they earn at their job, gets to be important that days of the year. So, really the only unlucky people are those people who can’t make it on the list in time. But…
To everyone who frequented my studio for the first time this last Friday the 13th, thank you. Pauly and Lindsay, thank you guys so much for keeping the ship floating while I went to the back to tattoo wave and wave of tattoo clients, all of you rule! Next Friday the 13th, I think I may stencil all the designs on that day, but if I chose to hand draw them all on again would any be mad? I might not be able to do as many but if you get to the studio early, I can guarantee you’ll be able to get your tattoo somewhere before 6:00am.
Love from Bloomington,