White walls. Midcentury furniture. Moroccan-style rugs. SparrowHawk is not your average tattoo shop. In fact, don’t even call it a “tattoo shop,” says founder Amy Leavell Bransford, who also owns Aviary Beauty & Wellness Collective, the intimate spa and salon a few doors down at Studioplex in the Old Fourth Ward. She calls Sparrowhawk a “tattoo studio.” Or, more specifically, an “intimate, feminist-inspired space for traditional and cosmetic tattooing.” The vibe is upscale, modern, comfortable, and feels like it was built for Instagram, with Marshall speakers, fig trees, and shearling throws draped on the white leather massage tables. The look was crafted by designer Gavin Bernard, who also worked on Aviary. Even the partitions between the handful of tables are exquisite—handwoven felt and wool macramé-inspired walls created by local fiber artist Sonya Yong James.
Built with women in mind (though men are welcome, too), SparrowHawk opened its doors this month, introducing a whole new concept. It is unlike anywhere else in the city—if not the country—where you can get inked. The vibe of typical tattoo parlors can be intimidating—as if the needles weren’t scary enough—with aggressive color palettes and flash art on the walls that feels more brawny than beautiful, more carny than calm. SparrowHawk, in sharp contrast, is more inspired by spas and salons.
Aviary, the spa collective Bransford founded in 2009, is known for top-notch facials, hair care, massage, and cutting-edge products in a cozy, simple but stylish environment. The concept for SparrowHawk was born when spa client, Cori James, a tattoo artist at Live Free Tattoo, said she wished she could tattoo out of a space like Aviary.
“It just seemed like there was such an opportunity,” says Bransford. “We just wanted to rethink a space that’s typically dominated by men.”
The pair hopes the bright and airy studio will make tattooing more approachable, particularly for women looking for style and comfort over utility. What’s more, SparrowHawk is also a destination for beauty services itself: cosmetic tattooing. Though James is known for traditional tattooing, the studio also offers the semi-permanent eyebrow tattooing known as microblading, and will expand into other types of permanent makeup. True to its cool-girl theme, there are also hip dry goods like L.A.’s Boy Smells candles. Studioplex, 659 Auburn Avenue, sparrowhawkatl.com