There are a lot of funky tattoo studios out there but Old Smithy Tattoo Parlour in Leek is a cut above the rest. Not only is it home to a resident pack of top notch artists but those same artists are heavily involved in community charity projects. Yayo sent out roving reporter Matt Haddon-Reichardt to brave the December chill and get the low down on how the Old Smithy crew are giving something back.
Its Friday the 13th of December a date many claim is unlucky. Not so for those in the tattoo industry who standby the belief that getting a tattoo on Friday the 13th will bring you good luck for the rest of the year. Gale force winds and torrential rain batter my old Micra and as I drive steadily across the desolate Staffordshire moorlands. As I turn my windscreen wipers on full I pray good luck will come early. I am heading for the Old Smithy Tattoo parlour in Leek to get my first Friday the 13th tattoo and to interview the team about the charity work they are undertaking.
My luck holds out and I arrive at the studio a little late and more than a little windswept. I am greeted with a warm handshake from studio manager Matt Wall. I hand him my bag of groceries and he puts it with the growing pile at the front of the studio. Many tattoo studios do promotions for Friday the 13th but at Old Smithy they go one step further.
"So the cost of the needles, ink, set up and the rest is the studios way of giving back."
“Every year we pick a charity and the money we raise from doing Friday the 13th tattoos goes to them,” explains Matt as he sticks the kettle on before taking me on a tour around his establishment.
“This year we have opted for Leek and District Food Bank. The customer pays £13 for a tattoo selected off the flash design sheet and that money goes directly to the charity. We also ask them to bring at least 3 food items off the list we have been provided by the charity.”
I ask Matt if the artists get paid.
“No, no they don’t. So the cost of the needles, ink, set up and the rest is the studios way of giving back. We do ask for a tip which this year we have suggested be in the form of scratch cards. It’s just a bit of fun really and ties in with the whole lucky/unlucky Friday the 13th theme.”
I’m not the first customer of the day so I ask if any of the artists are millionaires yet.
“Not yet,” laughs Matt, “but we don’t shut till early evening so there is plenty of time yet.”
My tour and cup of coffee finished I roll up my right trouser leg and assume the position on tattooist Hollie’s tattoo chair. I’ve selected a little ghost from the sheet and as Hollie debates the best position to slot it in to my other work we chat over how Friday the 13th is keeping flash alive.
“We have clients who come in every Friday the 13th to take advantage of the deal. It’s often the only time people opt for a flash tattoo, now custom work is so popular,” she says as her tattoo machine begins to buzz and my pain begins.
I admit to her that this is my first flash tattoo.
“You are a prime example. I think a lot of uninitiated people don’t even know flash really exists anymore, such is the popularity and demand of custom work. So they see it as a real novelty to come and pick a design off a sheet and get it inked on their body.”
"I think a lot of uninitiated people don’t even know flash really exists anymore."
I ask if the promotion is good for business as well as good for local charity.
“Oh most defiantly, I’ve had people come in for Friday the 13th tattoos and go on to get other work done by me and others who after Friday the 13th become regular customers. It’s a really nice way to introduce my work and the studio to people as well as giving a little something back.”
Over the past decade with free and easy access to cheap tattoo kits off sites like Ebay there has been a rise in the number of people illegally tattooing from home. Hollie see’s the promotions they are doing as not only about charity work but about educating the public.
“We have people coming in to the studio asking to get horrendous tattoos covered up after they have got one done cheap at a friend’s house. Some of them don’t have any other work and have never even stepped into a tattoo studio. If promotions like this get newbies through the door for their first tattoo and introduce them to the professional world of tattooing that’s got to be a good thing.”
From across the studio tattooist Bex Heath takes a break on testing her luck on scratch cards to toss her hat in the ring.
“I’ve had people coming in for cover ups who have been to so called tattoo parties. You have one person tattooing and a load of people turn up and take it in turn to get tattooed. It’s a real horror show as there is no infection control, no hygiene standards and you can’t call the person tattooing an artist.”
"I’ve had people coming in for cover ups who have been to so called tattoo parties."
Hollie finishes up and I admire her work in the mirror. It’s a very well executed tattoo and I feel quite proud to have got my first flash design.
“It’s funny,” Hollie says as she takes off her gloves, “we have customers working on full sleeves just with Friday the 13th flash designs.”
It’s a cute idea but sounds like a very long drawn out way to get a sleeve.
In the time it’s taken for me to get my ghost tattoo the food bank donations have filled the basket and are piling up on the floor. The team have a quick break and we all head outside for me to take a photograph of them in front of the studio. The weather is still miserable and the drive back over the moors will be as intense as my morning journey into Leek but I’m not worried; this time I’ve got luck on my side.
A final thought from the author: "Never ever get an illegal tattoo. Its common sense and a great way to avoid blood poisoning, HIV and hepatitis. Always go to a registered tattoo studio. In fact why not try the Old Smithy crew. Leek is a beautiful town and its worth the journey to get a top notch piece of art. And while you're healing that fresh bad boy make sure you use top quality aftercare products. I'd recommend Yayo. Why? Because they are the best."
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