So I just flew in from Pittsburgh and boy are my arms tired….(Boooo, Hissss) – sorry, I couldn’t help myself there. Actually I flew in from Pittsburgh two days ago and my right arm IS tired, and sore – it feels like Satan Himself gave me the world’s worst indian rug burn – but it is also newly made into something beautiful. Who is responsible for this transformation you ask? What artist lured me all the way out to Pittsburgh in the dead of winter? I will keep you in suspense no longer…the amazing Hannah Aitchison.
That’s right guys and girls, the phenomenal Hannah Aitchison has opened her brand new shop ; Curiosity Shop in Pittsburgh, PA and I leapt at the chance to fly out there and meet and work with her in person. I won’t go into a long description of Hannah’s MANY accomplishments and credentials – frankly I couldn’t do her justice and you probably already know all about her. Most if not all serious tattoo collectors and fans do. If you are in the minority of those who don’t know then merely google her name and be amazed –
This lady kicks Major Ass.
On my short list of dream artists I long to work with Hannah occupies a spot at the very top and I just about died and went to tattoo heaven when she agreed to work on me. How did I do it? Luck and timing, for sure. Hannah Aitchison has recently relocated to Pittsburgh from her native Chicago and this has created some breathing room in her otherwise daunting waiting list. Also perseverance. I blitzkrieg-ed her with so many emails it’s a wonder she agreed to tattoo me at all. I also proposed a project that she was interested in and made myself available based on her schedule, not mine. So if your going up to bat to try to land an appointment that was how I made it happen. Go easy on the emails, though. I may have overdone it.
So Pittsburgh, right? What do you know about Steel City? I knew nothing. I am from Massachusetts originally and I know Pittsburgh is an east coast city but like all Massholes I didn’t think of it as a “real” East Coast City (there’s a reason they call us Massholes) mainly because I could not drive there in 45 minutes from Boston. So this was a brand new local for me to explore.
Hannah’s shop is in an old ice warehouse called-fittingly enough- The Icehouse. Back in the day giant blocks of ice were cut from the river and stored in the cool interior of this lovely old brick building. Now it is in the midst of renovation into artists spaces and Hannah’s shop adds a lot of sparkle to this icy crown. I took some pictures of course…
And that’s not even the half of it. The shop footprint is HUGE and Hannah and her shop-mate Scott White have a slew of great ideas to maximize it. From what I understand this unique and talent-crammed shop will eventually become a clearing house and meeting place for artists of all stripes as well as fans and followers. A destination spot to hang out and enjoy an array of artistic, culinary, musical and fermentation based activities and events curated by Hannah and Scott. I recommend you follow the shops progression closely and watch as it evolves into what will likely be a cultural center in the Lawrenceville area of Pittsburgh and way beyond.
A word about Hannah Aitchison’s shop-mate Scott White. The day I arrived – bleary and sleep deprived from a red-eye out of San Francisco and quite frankly freezing my ever-loving ass off ( I knew all that California sunshine was making me weak! I have completely lost my East Coast cred here. I’m bundled up like the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man and meanwhile Pittsburghians are jogging outdoors and scampering around in shorts – I kid you not. I tip my hat to you Pittsburgh natives – you put the Steel in Steel City!) I arrived at Curiosity Shop to be greeted by the lovely Miss H and Scott.
Scott was taking a rare day off and was hanging about the shop. I get it. If I could miss work to spend the day hanging out with Hannah I would too. Anyways, while Hannah got down to the business of making tattoo magic Scott and I chatted. Funny and intelligent with loads of good stories and unique insights Scott made for lively company while Hannah got ready.
She had a little extra work to do thanks to me. Yes, I emailed her 30 times but never mentioned…
1. What arm I wanted tattooed (the drawing she had was orientated to the left but I never bothered to tell her it would be my right ) and
2. I had something already tattooed on my shoulder. Whoops! But Hannah took it in stride and swiftly reconfigured her drawing to match these unexpected changes.
While Hannah and I were mid-session Scott also performed the cutest coffee run EVER. Not a coffee drinker himself, Scott gamely offered to try and figure out how to brew coffee for us. This sounded worrisome. Hannah and I opted to instead send Scott out into the cold to fetch us coffee. Pretty straightforward order but Scott approached with it precision. He was going to get this order right, dammit. He returned with our coffees perfectly poured (although apparently he had accidentally “burped” one of the coffees before getting the lid on – oops) and no less than FIVE different pastries because he wanted to make sure he got something we would like. Awwwww. Thanks again Scott!
And tattoo fans know this; Scott White is also a tattoo artist with many years of experience and a big talent. He will also be working out of Curiosity Shop alongside Hannah and I can guarantee you he will provide excellent company along with top notch ink!
I could just gush and swoon all day about how fun it was to work with Hannah. Classy, sassy, smart, funny and lovely – not mention immensely talented – It all just made me dizzy. Could it have been the needles and the blood? Nah – it was Hannah all the way. You’ve been patient – here are some more pictures:
Hannah gets ready – the drawing is a painting done by my daughter when she was 12. How cool is Hannah to agree to tattoo this instead of running for the hills?
This picture does NOT do Hannah’s work justice! Once I’m healed I’ll post more pics but this gives you the basic idea. Not to mention she whipped this out in 2 sittings!
Getting inked is always a journey. Physical, often emotional, draining and generally very taxing. Hannah made it fly by with kindness, compassion, humor and tons of personality. I had such a ball!
And now a few words about Pittsburgh…
Scott is a native and was able to tell me a bit about the city and the various neighborhoods. Curiosity Shop is in Lawrenceville which is a hipper, more urbane spot with new shops, restaurants and bars opening constantly. It appears all the cool kids in Pittsburgh have discovered it and are now flocking there. I walked around to get a feel on my second day. First a big breakfast at one of Hannah and Scott’s favorite places, Coca Café
Delicious breakfast, stalwart coffee and friendly service! Thanks Ali!
I passed by snow lined streets…
And over to 720 Music, Clothing and Café. This was spot was so cool! Like your coffee spot got hooked up with your favorite old record shop and then mashed up with a funky clothing store. Plus 720 is also home to quite possibly the hippest coffee guy evah, Jerel…
Dude was so cool I had to put his picture in twice!
My final day in Steel City I once again followed Hannah’s suggestion and headed over to the Strip District (strips of street vendors and outdoor markets folks, not strippers – git yer mind out of the gutter!)
First I went to city-wide famous diner Deluca’s
Yes, that is a line of people out the door at 8:15am in 25 degrees weather no less. was it worth it? Hell Yes.
The Strip District is an older neighborhood filled with family run shops and vendors going back generations. It reminded of the Haymarket in Boston and the old downtown in Lowell Massachusetts. Hard-working, sincere, without pretension and filled with friendly people offering up all kinds of goodies – I dug it!
It also was home to this place;
A nice old church right? No big deal…until you get a little closer and realize…
It’s a bar – The Altar Bar, to be exact. So bummed I had to leave that day and couldn’t go check this place out. Bet it rocks, though.
Finally it was time to walk back to the hotel. I saw more people jogging on this freezing Saturday morning than I have seen in California in the last 6 months. Seriously. Joggers everywhere. Some in shorts. Several without hats! My mother would be scandalized, hell I was scandalized! I’m just gonna come out n say it – you have giant brass balls, Pittsburgh – you really do. Steel city indeed.
On the way to my hotel I passed through the very modern and lively downtown and theatre districts…
This was such a great area with restaurants and interesting architecture I really should have taken more pictures but apparently I am a wimpy California cold weather quitter!
So now I am back home with an amazing new tattoo, an incredible tattoo experience and a place in my heart for Steel City. Will I return to Curiosity Shop and Pittsburgh someday? Hell yes – except maybe in the Spring – Scott assures me it’s lovely that time of year!
note to Hannah hopefuls – Hannah and Scott have launched their new website (it looks fab by the way) and are taking tattoo requests! Hallelujah! Visit their site to fill out the tattoo request form and cross yer fingers!