Ask any two tattoo artists and you are likely to get completely different feelings about Friday the thirteenth. Some love them and do all they can to set up the event. Others despise the event and refuse to even discuss the tattoo. Often dismissing it out of hand.
Final tattoo on Grace Carroll during Friday the 13th
Not only has this tradition divided artists it has created a whole new type of collector and even the shops that support the Friday the Thirteenth tradition agree that it is not always a good trend. One of the first problems David Clarke discussed was “Some people only come in for cheap, small tattoos once or sometimes twice a year and then we don’t see them again.” Alexis Rivera of Black Heart tattoo agreed and went further “I understand that getting people in the door is how you expand business but people who just want cheap work that doesn’t mean anything to them are not repeat customers.”
Alexis went further to say “Five years ago we did these tattoos and I got email addresses from all 63 people I tattooed that day. Even though I followed up with them NONE became a repeat client.” This indicates that one of the biggest complaints about the tradition being a waste of time is closer to accurate than some would probably like.
Grace Carroll getting her first Tattoo on Friday the 13th.
“Friday the 13th tattoos are the current infinity knots.” Dave Clarke offered. Although some might get the truth is this is an industry where time tends to prove out his point. Even now the industry is seeing unsustainable work that masquerades as the current AMAZING invention. Things like white ink tattoos and UV tattoos quickly flashed and disappeared.
Alex and Aubrey Trufant run a prosperous shop (Trufant Brothers Tattoo), host a tremendously successful convention and do guest spots all over the world. They also celebrate Friday the 13th every time it comes around. Last May the five artists in the shop did 237 tattoos in 24 hours. Two and a half months after that event Aubrey discussed return business. “We’ve seen some of the people who showed up for Friday the 13th back in the shop for larger pieces.” Indicated Aubrey which seems to hold up much of what David and Alex had indicated earlier. Aubrey went on to say “That’s not why we celebrate the 13th though. We have great customers and several of our Friday the 13th customers are regular customers who come in for the event.”
Another common thread running through the day at Trufant Brothers was the first-time customer. San Angelo is a military and college town. Two of the largest groups to grace the doors of a tattoo studio. Several people indicated that today would be their first tattoo. One customer commented she had been thinking about getting her first tattoo and a friend had brought her to the shop. She ended up getting a hand sized tattoo on her ribs that she’d wanted for a few years but been nervous about getting.
Like all clichés there is always a grain of truth hiding within. A shop doing poor work which is likely to be covered in 10 years is going to do the same work regardless the day. A shop doing spectacular work is going to continue doing spectacular work. The tradition is about community and taking the ill omen from a superstition and replacing it with positive energy.
Artists are a fickle bunch and will stick to their training and traditions. They are also unlikely to change their minds. This collector enjoys the tradition and finds it a great way to fill up little spots in his artwork. He also likes to use it to really check out an artist by giving them a space, a budget and free reign to do what they want to do; that’s another story though.
Want to know more? The Twisted Tattoo Collector blog and podcast is a weekly publication hosted by Doug “The Big Cheese” Schwartz who is a collector and student of the tattoo world. Check out more of his work: http://iamtwisted.net @twistedschwartz on Facebook and Instagram.
Alexis Riviera - http://alexriveratattoo.com/contact.html