Skin Deep: Sparrowhawk makes getting a tattoo like a day at the spa

Cori James Amy Bransford and Juliana Ramus outside Sparrowhawk Studio at Studioplex in the Old Fourth Ward.

While some tattoo parlors can be grimy affairs, a trip to Sparrowhawk at Studioplex in Old Fourth Ward makes tattooing feel more like a day at the spa.

The self-proclaimed intimate, feminist-inspired studio is an amalgamation of many different styles. The space stays bright with white walls, a fresh fig tree, fine art oil paintings and a comfy midcentury couch. Owner Amy Leavell Bransford, who also owns Aviary Beauty & Wellness Collective in Studioplex, used the help of interior designer Gavin Bernard and Atlanta based fiber artist Sonya Yong James to create macramé like partitions so tattoo tables have a private, but open feel. “The space has evolved into a gallery space where our clients are the canvas,” Bransford said.

Sparrowhawk may attract women, but Bransford has found both men and women trust the space and the expertise of tattoo artist Cori James. There has been some cross-pollination of clients from Aviary, other clients wish to support the female run shop and many who seek out James for her tattoo visions.

A playful take on a Dalek from Doctor Who created by Cori James.

Cori James has been tattooing in Atlanta since 2012 and is known for her own trademark technique: first she starts with a strong black outline, adds in black shading and then adds in color to make tattoos pop. This method allows for creative expression while a set process guarantees a tattoo that continues to look good years later. At Sparrowhawk, James tattoos by appointment only to ensure clients have time to curate the best design.
Bransford met James at Aviary, while the artist was getting a facial. James voiced she was growing restless at a tattoo shop in the city and wished she could tattoo somewhere like Aviary that offered a more personal feel.

There’s something about being in the chair that makes people open up. “When you are in a facial room, it’s very private and people share all sorts of aspects of what’s going on in their life,” Bransford said. “When you are in that environment you feel like the entire world passes through and you partly become a people connector.”

As Bransford got tattoo business licenses for Sparrowhawk, she decided to get further licenses for other needle aesthetic services like microblading. She soon hired Juliana Ramus, who uses the microblading tattooing technique to create semi-permanent tattoos for flawless eyebrows. The former researcher in real estate finance was growing weary of corporate culture when she took a big leap into the world of microblading.

“I knew I needed support and that I had so much to learn in this business because it works so differently than a big corporation,” Ramus said. “This was a huge risk, but I’m so glad I did it and now I do this full time.”

Ramus clients range from those who are simply over tweezing to those who have alopecia or other hair loss concerns. One of her recent clients suffered from trichotillomania, a type of impulse control disorder that results in pulling out hair. Ramus was able to use the client’s blank canvas to create new eyebrows to frame her face. “Now she doesn’t have to worry about that stuff,” Ramus said. “It might seem insignificant to some people, but it’s been a huge part of her life.”

Macrame partitions allow tattoo clients privacy without feeling closed in.

Sparrowhawk is expecting a rise in microblading clients this season. Since summers in Atlanta are so hot, many women like to pare down their beauty routines to avoid melting makeup and microblading eyebrows takes one step out of the grooming process.

“I’ve supported other women entrepreneurs at the Aviary, including people who are afraid to leave well established spas and go out on their own. It’s been gratifying to me, as a publicist who has gone into the beauty industry, to be part of that,” Bransford said.

The studio plans to acquire include a few more tattoo artists this spring, but don’t expect a full staff to blossom any time soon. “One thing that I learned from Aviary is that it’s really important to wait for the right team and sometimes that takes some patience,” Bransford said. “It’s a bit like being in a band, working in a space this small with only four or five players, so you want to make sure everybody has a specific highlight.”

Sparrowhawk is located in Studioplex, 659 Auburn Ave., Unit G3. For more information, visit sparrowhawkatl.com.

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