Before becoming a tattoo artist, Tony Carey worked in an iron foundry for nearly seven years. “It was dangerous, hot, and people got hurt. I didn’t want to do it anymore.” He thought of himself an “art kid,” and got an apprenticeship at the tattoo shop where he’d been hanging out. Tony started working tattoo festivals in 2004, and has been doing customs for the last 15 years.
Tony’s partner Adrienne Carey, a local teacher with a knack for organizing large events, chuckles when asked which of them suggested a tattoo festival. “It was one of those things when one of us said, ‘hey, can we start a tattoo festival in Prescott?’ and the other replied, ‘that’s what I’ve been wondering.’ From that, we started reaching out and exploring our options.”
Adrienne and Tony are back with the annual Northern Arizona Tattoo Festival, happening over the July 4 weekend. Now nine years since that first festival, last year’s was lost to the pandemic, and this will be the first year it won’t host international artists, largely because of Covid-related travel challenges. But many of the best artists from across the US are coming together for this fun local event.
The tattoo contests are open to anyone. Contests will include black, gray, color, pinup, Japanese-style, and traditional ink work. The festivities will also include vendors, onsite tattooing and live music, including local talent. Doors open at noon each day and contest registrations start at two.
A loyal patron told me, “My favorite part of the event is seeing the people, the incredible artists and the body art they create. There are many traditional tattoo artists at this convention. It is amazing how each tattoo artist has a different style and signature to the art they create. I never tire of seeing the creativity!”
To create this year’s poster the Careys reached out to Lloyd Parrack, owner of Gypsy Rose Tattoo in Phoenix. Parrack’s design places a woman in profile at the center with a cactus flower in her dark, curly hair. Inspired by his love for Arizona, he added the state cactus and bird, saguaro and cactus wren, and clouds to represent our beautiful monsoons. Bringing it closer to home, he framed the image with rope to represent our annual rodeo, which offers events concurrent with the festival.
Parrack has taken a booth at every festival since the Careys’ first, and is looking forward to traveling up for some cooler weather.
“I think the festival brings a lot of money to the city of Prescott. The Careys put on a tremendous show and are great people to work with. They do a lot for the community.”
Other artists joining this year include Abe Garcia, Jamie Bartlett, Sam Avitia and Jason Anthony. Several will be selling merchandise, paintings, art prints, art originals, stickers, and tee shirts. There will be fake tattoos for kids and others. If you want a specific tattoo artist, you can find contact information on the festival website.
As his goals for the event, Tony says, “We want people to have fun and forget their troubles for the weekend.” He will be exhibiting as well, and is currently working on custom, large-scale Japanese-style pieces.