G etting a tattoo is harrowing. Pain is a given, and so is permanence. Your body’s in someone else’s hands, and one of those hands holds a rapid-firing needle, just as often called a “gun.”
Lucky, then, that the people behind Lucky Soul Tattoo in Woodbridge have tried to eliminate as much anxiety from the process as possible. Tracey Rose, co-owner of the business with fellow tattoo artist Jim LoPresti, says getting a tattoo can be a surprisingly good time to talk, much like a visit to the hairdresser, but even more intimate. “It’s kind of like a therapy chair,” Rose says of the situation. “You learn so much about their lives.”
The earlobe-disced, long-sideburned, righteously goateed LoPresti is chatty with clients as he works—“A lot of people say Jim is the nicest guy in the tattoo business,” Rose says—and part of the reason he opened his own shop was to create a space where the atmosphere was just as important as the artwork.
“Making the customer comfortable kind of went by the wayside,” he said of places he’d worked previously. He first opened the business in Ansonia in 2001, moving to the current Woodbridge location in 2011, which is when he and Rose, who was once his apprentice, became business partners.
Past a comfy waiting area with a self-serve coffee station is the studio where Lucky’s five tattoo artists—Rose and Lopresti as well as Jeremy DeMayo, Dora Marie and Beth Potter—give skin the canvas treatment. The place is tattoos-only (no piercings, for example) and does almost all custom work, explains Rose, meaning you’ll probably walk out with an original. If a patron brings in a photo of someone else’s tattoo, Lucky’s artists won’t attempt to replicate it exactly, out of respect for the original artist, but they will work with the client to develop an idea along a similar theme.
Some customers have a precise idea from the get-go, with a picture to work from; others need help defining the idea they have in mind. “We spend extra time so we can get someone’s vision” right, says Rose, who adds that she and other staff members are sometimes up until 2 a.m., working out drawings.
As for the visions coming through the door, they’re impossible to predict. A tattoo can represent nearly anything, from memorializing the death of a loved one to an unforgettable vacation to an esoteric flight of fancy. Resulting tats range in size and visibility from modest to can’t-miss; larger body work, such as sleeves (tattoos encircling the arm) or back and chest pieces, especially with intricate color work, might take many sessions spaced over several months to complete. Pricing follows suit. While a small tattoo might cost $80, bigger projects will easily go for hundreds.
LoPresti says Lucky Soul is named after an expression his dad, Andy LoPresti, used to use when individuals came into any fortune, large or small: “You lucky soul!” The humility of chalking good things up to luck translates into other areas; LoPresti says he’s surprised at how loyal some of Lucky Soul’s customers are, mentioning portraits of several customer’s children he did during the shop’s early days, only to have those very same children come in for their first tattoos once they turned 18. “We’re watching these people grow up,” he says of his customers. “It’s a really neat experience.”
Rose agrees. Both she and LoPresti seem most animated when talking about the people they ink. “We have so much gratitude and love for our clients,” says Rose. “Without them we wouldn’t be doing what we do.”
Lucky Soul Tattoo
214 Amity Road, Ste A, Woodbridge (map)
Written and photographed by Cara McDonough.