Friday the 13th: Tattoo Holiday

by | Oct 18, 2019 | TATTOO CULTURE

Bad luck turns good inside a tattoo shop. Get behind the scenes of Friday the 13th with Yellow Bird Tattoo and Lucky 13. 

For most people, Friday the 13th is a symbol of bad luck. But for several Richmond tattoo parlors, it’s the most wonderful time of the year: it’s a long standing tradition for many shops to hold Friday the 13th flash sales, providing opportunities for customers to receive specialty tattoos at a discounted rate.

“There’s a lot of preparation that goes into this day,” said Yellow Bird Tattoo apprentice Zac Clark.

PHOTO: Joseph Fessman Tattoo by Arianna Coghill

Since late 2017, Clark has been an apprentice at the shop, learning the ins and outs of tattooing under the parlor’s owner, Joseph Fessman. Fessman first opened the shop in 2016 after the passing of his mentor, Richie Pan.

For Fessman, Friday the 13th provides the perfect opportunity for his artists to showcase their talents and create repeat customers.

“We do things a little bit different. Instead of smaller tattoos for thirteen dollars, we’ll do bigger pieces,” Fessman said. “That way they’re not getting some rinky-dink tattoo. They’re getting something a little nicer and actually come back for another.”

At Yellow Bird Tattoo, the preparation for September’s event began bright and early at 9am. The artists were busy sanitizing, cleaning, and stocking supplies. 

PHOTO: Yellow Bird Tattoo Flash Sheet by Arianna Coghill

“We got it down to a good science last year,” said artist John Setzer. Setzer has been tattooing for over six years and moved to Richmond in 2018.

The morning of Friday, September 13 found a line of 10 to 15 excited customers gathered around the building, all anxiously waiting for Yellow Bird to throw open their doors. Tattoo artist Nicole Mackencie was at Yellow Bird early to get in line for a moth tattoo on her upper arm. She likes Yellow Bird Tattoo because their bold and smooth art differs from her traditional, flowery style.

“Since I’m an artist myself, talking to other artists is interesting,” Mackencie said. “You get to see different styles that you wouldn’t see at a gallery.”

For parlors like Lucky 13, Friday the 13th events are the busiest days of the year. For last month’s flash sale, Lucky 13’s line curled around the building, stretching all the way to North Meadow Street. Flash sale veterans know how intense the wait can be, and arrive as early as 8 am. Customers come prepared with lawn chairs and waters, along with things like playing cards to keep themselves entertained.

Photo by Lucky 13 Tattoo

Denise Johnson, Jaque Williams, and Iyeana Jackson had been waiting in line for over 3 hours to get their tattoos.

“Just relax, be patient and be prepared to wait a minimum of two hours,” was Johnson’s advice to any first timers looking towards Lucky 13 as their flash sale parlor.

These Friday the 13th sales not only are a great bonding activity among friends, but also provide an opportunity for first-timers to receive their first tattoos at a discounted rate.

23-year-old Tiara Williams was one such customer. She researched for weeks before deciding that Yellow Bird’s colorful and graphic tattoo style was what she wanted.

“Going on their website and on their Instagram and seeing all the artists’ individual work, I could see that this was a place with talent,” Williams said.

PHOTO: Joseph Fessman Tattoo by Arianna Coghill

According to Fessman, research is the most important thing when picking a tattoo parlor. Many shops in Richmond specialize in one niche style, and others have various artists who can accompany several different styles.

“Research is the biggest thing you can do,” advised Fessman. “I love walk-ins as much as the next one, but if you’re looking for a specific style of tattoo or a bigger piece, do your research before you come in.”

Richmond will see another Friday the 13th in December, so if you’ve been waiting to take the plunge on a new tattoo, mark your calendar.

Top Photo: Yellow Bird Tattoo

Arianna Coghill

Arianna Coghill

Arianna Coghill is a multimedia journalist, graduating from VCU in December 2019. She's been published in the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and several other publications. When she isn't working on a story, she can usually be found reading or drinking five dollar wine from novelty mugs.

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