For those not in the know, Friday the 13th is a sort of tattoo holiday where many shops run small flash (read: pre-designed tattoos that go on multiple people) specials for a small flat fee like $13 or $31. The shop I work at ran their second of these events this past Friday, and it was the first one I’ve participated in. I expected it to be a little crazy, but I had no idea it would be as crazy as it turned out to be.
For a little context, we did have a Flash event for Halloween that was sort of the same concept, which I did participate in. I drew up 26 small Halloween themed designs. Cutesy pumpkins, ghosts, tombstones, bats, .etc. Throughout the whole day I only did 5 tattoos and wound up sitting around embarrassed that nobody liked my designs while the other artists were slammed. I ended up putting myself into the role of receptionist, answering the phone and getting everyone’s paperwork in order just to feel busy and useful.
For December’s Friday the 13th I was determined not to have a repeat of Halloween and spent about a month and a half creating designs. I drew up a few designs a day until I had 8 packed flash sheets with about 250 designs. I didn’t even realize I had even gone so overboard until I had printed them all out. I advertised them on Instagram but didn’t even bother doing a paid advertisement because though I had done it for Halloween and received a lot of interest it didn’t wind up turning into anything. I got a couple of messages saying people were interested in coming, and ran an Instagram Story poll to see how many of my followers were planning to attend. Based on the feedback I got I was expecting about 12 clients. Much better than Halloween.
My fellow artists had shown up to the shop at 10am to get started. Due to a medical appointment and a prior commitment of dog walking I was unable to get to the shop until 11:30. When I walked in the door it was packed already. “Wow. Good for the other girls!” I thought to myself. Then my friend Kirsty, the shop owner came over to greet me and presented me with a wait list. There were already about 8 names on the list before I had even walked in the door. I was flabbergast.
People just kept pouring into the shop and the waiting area was literally packed. We had set up a wait list system so people could put their name and number down and get called when we were close to getting to them. This way people could go get a bite to eat, go home, or even in some cases go to work and come back after their shift! All of the artists were totally slammed and our lists kept on growing.
We cut off the wait lists at some point in the early evening and had to start turning people away if their name wasn’t already on the list. By the end of the night I had a total of 58 people sign up for tattoos from me. A good number of these people didn’t stick around when they found out how long the wait would be but I am still shook that that many people even liked my designs enough to consider it.
At some point reinforcements arrived as some friends of the shop owner came in to help out at the front desk. The shop is typically by appointment only and has no need for a receptionist, and each artist handles her own appointments, paperwork, and transactions. However on Friday the 13th it was madness and the amazing Chris and Lu really stepped up to take a lot of pressure off of us. They called back everyone on our wait lists, copied ID’s, made sure paperwork was filled out, and even prepped the stencils of our designs for us.
It became a procession line of set up, tattoo, breakdown, set up, tattoo, breakdown… I snuck in the odd bathroom or cram-some-food-in-my-face-hole break between clients but for the most part was continuously tattooing. I did manage to take a drink between at least every 3 tattoos so as to stay hydrated. As the night wore on and it seemed like my list wasn’t getting any shorter any time fast I literally wanted to sob out of some weird combination of happiness, frustration, and exhaustion.
Throughout the day I got to meet and chat with so many interesting folks. I took the tattoo virginity of several people — some handled it like champs while others were on the verge of tears and clearly rethinking their decisions. I got to see the entire spectrum of pain tolerance and sociability in one day. I got to do my first mother/daughter tattoo (who came all the way from Fort Collins for little ol’ me), I did my first booty tattoo, and my first tramp stamp. I *almost* made my first ragrat by applying a stencil with text backwards. I tattooed everyone from a paralegal to a parolee.
At a certain point I was so exhausted, nauseated, and had such a tremendous headache that I was considering tapping out and telling everyone waiting that I’d have to reschedule them and offer them a discount upon the discount and a massive apology. It was while I was tattooing and debating this with myself in my head that Kirsty came over to inform me that she was almost done with her list and asked me if I would like some help with my list when she was done. If I were a religious person I would have been thanking Jesus in that moment.
All in all we wound up tattooing until close to 3am and I was the last artist to finish. The last client of the day was a sweetheart who had patiently been waiting a long time and my conversation with her put me at ease and gave me a relaxed second wind to keep going through her 2 tattoos. The 15 hour tattooing marathon gave me a renewed sense of confidence in my artistic ability and worth — plus I made bank so there’s that.
I’ve learned a lot for the future not only being prepared (I used every last needle, glove, and razor I had bought the day before), but about how much I can handle physically and where to draw the line in the future. I practiced standing my ground when people were trying to manipulate their way into cutting in line, and practiced a tiny bit of self care by staying hydrated. All in all I am so grateful to be in this industry and community, to be included in this event, to have the friends and support that I have, and to have so many people like my art enough to get it permanently tattooed on them. The stress and pain was totally worth it and I am looking forward to embarking on the next one while making some smarter decisions based on what I learned.