By Nina Silberstein
Rumor has it Portland is one of America’s most “inked” cities so it’s no surprise we have an abundance of tattoo shops and talented artists to boot.
Relatively new to the scene is Birdhouse Tattoo, which opened for business at 5823 SE Powell Blvd. on June 12, 2020—the first day Multnomah County reopened after the pandemic shutdown.
Birdhouse provides a comfortable and welcoming atmosphere, and artists who work with all skin tones, body sizes and gender identifying people.
Owner Alia Bird was born and raised in Portland. She holds a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the Pacific Northwest College of Art and previously owned a letterpress print shop on Foster Rd. in SE Portland for nine years.
“After closing the chapter of printmaking,” Bird said, “I dabbled in various artistic jobs, but eventually decided to learn about tattooing and have been immensely enjoying it for almost three years.”
Her initial inspiration for Birdhouse Tattoo was to create an environment completely different from a typical, hardcore tattoo shop vibe.
“My goal was to make an alternative option for people looking for a calm, relaxing, inviting and comforting experience,” she said. “I filled the studio with live plants, added warm lighting, chose natural wood accents and painted the walls white to create an airy, more natural feeling in the shop.”
So instead of playing heavy metal music, for example, their artists choose upbeat and easy-to-listen-to soundtracks so that they can hear their clients, have conversations and offer plenty of opportunities to ask for breaks.
“I want our guests to feel more like they are stepping into a spa rather than a grungy tattoo shop,” she adds.
Five artists work at the shop and they include Bird, Michelle Pomerantz, Chelsea Brazzo, Wesley Tucker and Uma Chopra.
“Birdhouse Tattoo is full of emerging tattoo artists and we all love sharing our knowledge and various experiences, while perfecting our craft,” Bird explained. You can find the artists’ bios on the Birdhouse Tattoo website.
Floral tattoos with delicate line work and details are a very popular request. “Because the art of tattooing is shifting into nontraditional imagery, a lot of people are looking for unique tattoos that hold a lot of personal meaning,”
Many of their clients may only have a few tattoos that they got when they were young, but as they age, they’re now looking for tattoos that are artistic and hold importance.
Starting a new business a couple of years after her print shop was daunting for Bird, especially with the unprecedented and complete shutdown of the industry, and the uncertainty of when tattoo shops and other personal services would reopen.
“Also, with so many artists moving to private studios in Portland and taking a precautionary hiatus on tattooing, we were worried that we would even be able to find individuals to fill out our space and create our little tattoo family,” she said.
During the shutdown, personal protective equipment was in very short supply and because of that, nitrile gloves, masks and even toilet paper were harder to order and pricier to purchase.
“Starting a business in the middle of the pandemic definitely felt risky on multiple levels,” Bird says.
Because tattoo artists have always been trained in keeping their stations clean and sterilized between clients, there haven’t been a lot of changes or special restrictions due to COVID-19.
That said, to keep their clients and artists extra safe during the pandemic, it is mandatory for everyone inside the building to wear a mask and have their temperatures checked upon arrival before entering.
The shop runs two medical-grade, high-efficiency particulate air filters in the shop at all times to keep the air circulation clean.
“We’re now asking clients to come to their appointments solo to keep the overall population of the shop minimal and to make sure there is plenty of room to allow social distancing,” Bird added.
Before the pandemic, it was normal for guests to wait inside the shop until an artist was ready. Now each is asked to wait outside until the artists have sanitized their stations, as well all door knobs and checkout areas before guests are allowed inside.
5823 SE Powell Blvd.