Ollie Gratzinger | Editor-in-Chief
Among Pittsburgh’s thrill seekers and body modification fanatics, Friday the 13th is known for more than bad luck and spooky vibes: It’s the day that tattoo parlors and piercing studios mix things up with special deals and designs.
Pittsburgh Tattoo Company, for instance, is perhaps the best known of the bunch, with $40 tattoos and $20 piercings. The catch is that you’ve got to pick a design from their preset flash sheets, and that only select piercings are part of the special — nostril, ear, naval and lip — but the tattoo designs are quirky and cool, and the piercings are pretty neat, too.
There’s another Friday the 13th coming up in December, and if you’re thinking about going out to enjoy one of the parlors’ promotions, read on; here’s everything you need to know — and then some.
The Tattoo Experience
This wasn’t my first rodeo; I made the pilgrimage once before, the last time I was in town for a Friday the 13th in April. I’d gotten a small sunrise — or sunset, depending on who you ask — on my upper arm. This time, I went for something a bit more eclectic; a cartoon plague doctor.
There were a few things that were different about the tattoo experience this time around; the most noticeable change was the fact that the price of tattoos had gone up from the typical $20 of years past to $40 — an adjustment that the artists said just made sense.
The size of the tattoos reflected the cost increase. There were 1-2 inches larger than last time, and even though the smaller designs took much less time to complete, thus making the hilariously long line move faster, efficiency isn’t always synonymous with convenience. With the smaller designs, it took more time for the artist to get set up with the needle and ink than it took to actually put the tattoo on someone, and as my artist said, it just didn’t seem as worthwhile.
For me, these tattoos can be a fun conversation starter; I’ve run into folks who have the same tattoos as me — they’d gotten them at Pittsburgh Tattoo Company’s flash events, too — and it’s like automatically having something in common with a stranger. I think that’s pretty cool.
The Piercing Experience
I hadn’t known until I got to the shop that you could get both a tattoo and a piercing, or as many tattoos as your heart desired. I thought it was more of a pick-one-or-the-other kind of deal, but when I learned that wasn’t the case, I made the impromptu decision to get a nostril piercing, too.
I’ve had my septum pierced for almost two years, and a friend I’d bumped into in line said there wasn’t as much of a wait for piercings as tattoos, so it would be a nifty way to kill some time while waiting to get inked. So I filled out two forms at the front desk, got two numbers, and made my way over to take a seat.
The piercer was neat and professional and exceptionally friendly. There was a choice between a gemstone stud or a steel ball for the ring, and I chose the latter. This part was quick and easy.
An Overall Good Time
The wait was long, but everyone was in such good spirits. I’m pretty patient, but I’ve only waited in such a long line for two things in my life; the first was to meet the Cake Boss when I was 14, and the second was to get a Friday the 13th tat. Both, of course, were well worth it.
There was also a cooler in the front of the shop with free water and juice, which was a thoughtful surprise considering how hot it had gotten outside. One of the women working the front of the shop, taking names down and distributing numbered tickets, also handed out some fun size candy bars.
I got in line at Pittsburgh Tattoo Company around 11:30 a.m., half an hour before the shop opened, and was done with everything around 3 p.m. It took up a good chunk of the day, but a sense of community formed; I ran into people I knew and hadn’t seen in ages, and met some new people I hope I’ll see again.
Pittsburgh Tattoo Company has become something of a thrill-seeker’s Mecca, and Friday the 13th, a cult holiday. It’s an experience I look forward to every time it comes around, and I’ll be at the one in December, too. Maybe I’ll see you there.