“Star Wars” fans celebrate May the fourth with fresh ink

Maddie Domico marks her body for the first time with a Star Wars tattoo at Old School Tattoo & Piercing during their “May the Fourth Be With You” sale. Domico said she favors the original Star Wars movies over the newer ones, hence the fighter jet tattoo. // Photo by Emily Porter

By Emily Feek

The force was strong in Bellingham on Saturday, May 4, as “Star Wars” fans poured into Old School Tattoo and Piercing for their annual flash sale.

The third annual “Star Wars” flash sale was held from noon to 7 p.m., giving fans an opportunity to get walk-in tattoos designed by Paul Foertsch and Ramsey Rye. The flash sale offered a limited number of designs, both new and old, for customers to choose from, Old School’s social media manager JD McKnight, said.

Foertsch, the owner of Old School, said holding a “Star Wars” flash sale was a natural choice for the shop and its artists.

“Most of us here in the shop grew up in that era and have a deep love of ‘Star Wars,’” Foertsch said.

The first May 4 flash sale was held in 2017 and ran Thursday through Saturday, but has since been scaled back to one day, according to Foertsch.

Their love of the franchise was visible in the shop, including themed art on the walls created by Old School artists, a Millennium Falcon Lego set mounted beside Foertsch’s workstation, a shadow box of Princess Leia created by Rye and a mannequin wearing a Boba Fett costume that Foertsch assembled.

Before the event started, Foertsch and Rye stopped to take pictures with Eric Pope, an Anacortes resident visiting to celebrate “Star Wars” day by marching around Bellingham in a Chewbacca costume.

A wide variety of fans entered the shop to participate in the flash sale, from tattoo novices to tattoo veterans covered in ink. A trio of participants even commuted from out of town to participate in the event. Jordan Foley of Burlington and Marissa and Michael Shearer from Mount Vernon described themselves as “Star Wars” super fans.

“It just seemed too good to pass up,” Michael Shearer said.

Shearer already had a tattoo of the rebel alliance logo when he entered the shop and left with a pair of wrist tattoos featuring TIE fighter and X-wing  starfighters.

“The Empire Strikes Back” was a resounding fan favorite at the event. The artists asked customers which “Star Wars” movie was their favorite, and Foertsch said almost everyone’s answer was Episode V, although someone did cite Episode III as a favorite for its “meme value.”

Despite the shared allure of the “Star Wars” movies, each customer had a different reason for getting their space-themed tattoo.

For Jenna Grossarth it was about nostalgia. Grossarth said she wasn’t a big fan of the franchise and didn’t have a favorite film, but her mom loved the series and she associated it with her.

“It’s more like thinking about my mom,” Grossarth explained.

Grossarth chose a Chewbacca tattoo, and placed it on her calf next to a tattoo of a character her husband designed. Another reason she got the tattoo was because she jokingly refers to her husband as “Chewie,” Grossarth said.

University of Washington student Maddie Domico participated in the flash sale and got her first tattoo, an X-wing starfighter encircled by a wreath. She said she loved the series and the designs that Old School was offering, and she was planning on getting a tattoo anyway.

The tattoo artists brought their passion for both “Star Wars” and tattooing to the event. Rye and Foertsch were joined by fellow Old School tattooist Jesse La Farge, who didn’t design his own tattoos for the event but helped tattoo customers.

Foertsch has been tattooing at Old School since 2002, and said he loves tattooing as both a job and an art form. He said he considered going to art school in Seattle but ended up moving to Bellingham and later taking on an apprenticeship with a local tattoo shop,.

“I kind of fell into it,” he said. “Once I got into it, I realized it was a really good fit for my personality and skill set.”

His fellow artist, Rye, learned to tattoo from the previous shop owner. After his apprenticeship ended, he chose to continue working at Old School, Rye said.

“It’s a good location and I like the people I work with,” Rye said. “I didn’t see any reason to leave.”

Foertsch, Rye and McKnight all agreed that the shop’s culture was a significant reason why they enjoyed being at Old School, both for interactions with co-workers and with customers.

“It’s a lot of talking to people and hearing their stories,” McKnight said. “You get to meet a lot of cool people.”  

Regardless of whether customers are having tattoos custom designed or participating in flash sales like the “Star Wars” Day event, everyone brings their own experiences to the process.

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