The Massachusetts Tattoo and Art Festival

By Marci Izard

ZAZA image 3.jpg

They have 3 kids, 1 business, about 22 tattoos, and a crowd one thousand strong that’s gearing up for their latest undertaking:  the Massachusetts Tattoo and Art Festival.  Yes, Joe and Irene Peterson, owners of ZaZa Ink, are busy.  But they exhibit passion and teamwork (along with their brandish body art) that seem to make it all possible.  It’s that devotion, along with those tattoos ~ some on flesh, some on canvas ~ that will be on display at the upcoming festival.  But tattooing is just the start.  The weekend-long event that the Petersons created , scheduled for April 13-15 at Worcester’s Crowne Plaza, will also feature the crafts of local artists and a wide assortment of entertainment that seeks to provide “…something for everyone,” as Joe puts it.  I got to chat with Joe about the inking and thinking, pigmenting and planning, involved in organizing what he hopes will become Worcester’s annual Tattoo and Art Festival.
MI:  Set the scene.  What’s a tattoo festival like?

JP:  Basically a lot of artists, from across the country, will be doing tattoos.  Anyone off the street can check out the styles of local and national artists to choose a tattoo, just like out of a magazine.  But another main focus is education.  For example, a lot of people don’t realize that getting tattooed by someone who doesn’t have a shop [out-of-house tattooing] is very unsafe.  We play with blood, bacteria and disease transmission.   There needs to be a sterile work environment. 
MI:  And the festival will also feature art?

JP:  We’ll have local artists there ~ a number of local painters and sculptors are planning to attend.

MI: Are many other local parlors involved?

JP:  The Missing Lhink has a booth and Miraculous Creations out of Worcester will be there too.  We’ll have some representation from local talents and some from out-of-town: California, Florida, New Jersey, even Canada.
MI:  And additional entertainment? 

JP:  We’ll have sideshow entertainment: sword swallowing, piercing hooks through body parts – extreme, but interesting carnival-type stuff.  There’s also a comedy hut in the Crowne Plaza that will have a show every night.  On top of that, we’re working with promoters to line up a different venue for each kind of music ~ we want to have something that appeals to everyone.

MI:  What kind of a turnout are you expecting?

JP:  Anywhere from three to five thousand people.  And there will be plenty of places to get free passes.  Again, this is largely for educational purposes, not profit.  Festivals help artists learn different techniques, and teach the public what to expect.
MI:  How many tattoos do you have?  And who has more, you or your wife Irene?

JP:  My wife has more.  I have a total of about nine tattoos, but nothing award-winning.  It’s kind of like all my friends who are mechanics; they drive beat-up, broken-down cars.  My tattoos are nothing special.  My wife has about 13 or 14 individual ones.  She handles the books at the parlor while the artists and I handle the tattooing.  She’s a massage therapist and a stay at home mom, so we tend to trade services.  I’d rather get a massage from her than a tattoo. 
MI:  How’s business?

JP:  I opened the shop about five and a half years ago, shortly after tattooing became legal in Massachusetts.  Since then we changed locations for a larger parlor.  We have shown a lot of growth ~ I now have four full-time artists and we do anywhere from ten to 25 tattoos a day, six days a week.
MI:  How do you think tattoos are perceived overall?  And is their perception changing?

JP:  It is definitely changing.  They’re a lot more accepted now.  You see girls getting much larger pieces, even on their rib cages and forearms.  My wife just had her forearm done.  We see people from all walks of life getting entire backs done.  It’s not just bikers and the military anymore, there’s a much broader appeal.  Two shows on TV [Miami Ink and Inked] have helped that.    
Joe and Irene’s West Boylston parlor offers a wide range of options, from four tattoo artists to body piercing, massaging and henna.  They say the April 13-15 festival will be similar, covering all bases with a variety of music, entertainment, artwork and tattoos. 

More information is available online at