by Abby Brill
Getting your first-ever tattoo is no small thing. Fortunately, the art of tattooing is experiencing a renaissance.
All three of my grown kids have tattoos, and my daughter directed me to her favorite tattoo artist here in Prescott, Feliz Manzanedo. I had to wait a couple of months for an appointment, but I got to spend a very prickly four and a half hours with Feliz in late January. Getting tattooed feels “like a bee sting on a sunburn,” as she describes it. It’s pretty painful, but it’s much better by the following day, and man, is it worth it. She does exquisite work. I have art on my arm!
How many successful young artists do you know who have grown up and stayed in Prescott, gaining all the skills they needed in school and in a local college, to start a business and prosper? Now 26, Feliz grew up in Prescott, attending Mountain Oak School, then Northpoint Expeditionary Learning Academy for high school, and went on to an Associate of Arts degree from Yavapai College.
Mountain Oak is known for providing a strong foundation in the arts, and Northpoint provides many opportunities for artistic initiative, so Feliz feels she arrived at Yavapai College with a solid foundation in the visual arts. At YC she spent a lot of time learning printmaking, a medium she still works in today.
While still in high school Feliz became known for her artwork, and began taking commissions for paintings and painted shoes. This led quite naturally to designing tattoos, but when she saw how tattoo artists rendered her work, she felt it could be better, which then prompted her to invest in some equipment and start doing the tattooing herself.
In 2016 she went to work at a studio in Prescott Valley, gaining experience and watching other artists at work. While she learned a lot there, she quickly felt the need to break out on her own and start building up her own clientele. It helped a lot that she grew up here and was already a known artist. A couple of other artists from the PV studio decided to join her, and Modern Craft Tattoo was born.
It took several months to change the zoning in the South Montezuma neighborhood to allow a tattoo studio, but all the papers were turned in on time and they opened in 2019. After working in a dark room where she needed a headlamp to see, the new studio is a joy to work in. It has two big windows that fill the room with light, and is very clean and airy. Modern Craft Tattoo has two tattoo artists, Feliz and Becka Spillane, as well as a certified piercing artist, Keely Delander. They are all very mutually supportive and enjoy running their own business immensely.
Arizona has no regulations for tattoo studios, but Feliz and Becka wanted to follow the highest standards in safety and cleanliness, so they chose to follow California standards, for which they have certificates. Feliz’ father is the Groom Creek fire chief, and she says she wants to honor the good sense he gave her. All the artists at Modern Craft Tattoo are committed to keeping themselves and their clients safe. Tattoos are by appointment only, and the client can bring only one other person along. Masks are always worn, ventilation is good and all surfaces are wiped down with bleach between sessions. The ink they use is top-quality Eternal Ink, certified vegan and containing no heavy metals.
Feliz is known for her botanical and floral work, though she uses her extensive visual arts background to render all kinds of design ideas that clients bring her. People often bring in a screenshot that she can take and run with. Sometimes a client will come with a specific design they like, but increasingly people come to her asking her to design something for them. Her reputation is such that sometimes a person will just say, “I want you to do my forearm, any way you want, because I trust you and I know it will be amazing.” Feliz loves having that kind of artistic freedom and feeling embraced by the community.
Feliz takes inspiration from a number of directions. She absorbed a lot of mythology at Mountain Oak, as well as a love of watercolors. She loves doing portraits and has a reputation for accurate tattoo portraits. She loves the fluidity and curves of the human body, and has found inspiration in erotica. Working alongside Becka is also great for sharing ideas and techniques.
Many tattoo artists happen to be men and do very masculine tattoo work. Tattooing has traditionally been a man’s world. Feliz is known for her fine-line work, her flowers and portraits. Many of her clients are women, who appreciate the fine work and the calm, relaxed atmosphere of the studio. While Feliz has done years of two-dimensional design, she is fascinated by the challenge of putting 2D designs on 3D surfaces. It takes considerable skill to put a portrait of a face onto the curve of an arm. She is getting really good at seeing how a specific skin tone will take certain colors. The photos here illustrate the kind of detail she can get in her work, and you can see more on her Instagram feed.
Many clients are so pleased that they come back again and again. The word is getting around that Modern Craft Tattoo does really excellent work, and Feliz is booked into early 2021. Clients are coming up from Phoenix and from as far away as New Mexico.
It's inspiring — and unusual — that someone can grow up in Prescott and use the local education she received here (including an art degree!) to build a successful business with a growing clientele. Kudos to Feliz for her skills, her creative spirit and love of her art. I have no regrets and only great satisfaction that I spent those hours with her!
Abby Brill is Associate Editor of 5enses.