Six Questions for LCTAF’s Ashley Silversides

Ashley Silversides, Limestone City Tattoo and Arts Festival, Kingston, Ontario

Photo Credit: Steven VanSmeerdyk

Ashley Silversides is the owner of Painted Lady Fitness, which specializes in personal training, yoga and wellness for tattoo artists. After traveling and working with tattoo artists over many years, Ashley and her business partner founded the Limestone City Tattoo and Arts Festival (LCTAF) in 2016.  Having experienced differing aspects of so many tattoo conventions, they set out to create an event that highlighted the best ideas and experiences.  Coming up on it’s second year, we caught up with Ashley to talk about this year’s tattoo and arts festival, and what makes Kingston the perfect place to host such an event.

1. First of all, tell us about yourself.  How did you land in Kingston? What attracted you to Kingston’s visual art and tattoo industry?

I landed in Kingston around 2010 after marrying a tattoo artist who grew up in and is from originally from the area. Not only was that my introduction to Kingston and everything it had to offer, but it was also my introduction to the tattoo community, and the world of tattooing; none of which I had any idea would make up the majority of my life today.

I’ve been really grateful to travel to bigger cities like Toronto, New York and Sydney, Australia which have massive tattooing communities. Kingston, although smaller, is this beautiful community that embraces all things art, no matter what that expression of it is. Whether it’s tattooing, graffiti or sculpting, we embrace it all, which makes Kingston a really ideal place for us to throw a tattoo and arts festival.

2. As a founder and organizer of this festival, were you at all surprised by how it was received and supported by the community?  What were the biggest takeaways from last year’s hugely successful event?

There are two things that blew me away last year. The first thing was how warm the city and community of Kingston accepted this event. The amount of interest, people shouting ‘come out’ and coming through the doors to see us, the artist in the gallery and everyone we brought here under one roof was incredible.

The second big takeaway was the number of volunteers in the community who came together, and the amount of help we received from people who wanted to be a part of the event. I believe that the momentum we have from last year’s event is enough to push everybody through this year, and to keep us going especially now that we are in the 11th hour.

3. Was there any question that you wouldn’t be back for second year of the festival? What key jobs do you take care of, and how do you anticipate your role changing over the course of the weekend’s activities?

My business partner, Andrew Ottenhof of The Foundry Tattoo, and I are the creators of the first tattoo festival, so it makes sense that we are both involved in the second one, and I guess you could say many more to come.

My jobs over the course of the year include absolutely everything. From dealing with partners, sponsors, vendors, artists, media, marketing, planning promotional events, pop-ups and everything in between. I’d like to think the only thing that I don’t really have a hand in is the tattooing. Everything else gets done with the help of both of my business partner Andrew and our business partner Eikon, but more specifically Ben Campbell. We manage to get everything done between the three of us, and we all have our own strengths.

I’m hoping that over the course of the festival my role changes from insanely busy woman running from one side of Kingston to the other, to a really calm woman sitting down having a glass of wine watching the weekend unfold as it does, both with the hiccups and the smooth sailing we expect.

4. As the old saying goes, ‘many hands make light work’, and that sentiment seems to be very appropriate to how your festival is organized.  What goes into making this festival such as this happen in year two, and how important is the team aspect?

What goes into the making of the festival? Wow, I guess my question would be what doesn’t? From grant writing, to sponsorship. From booking the artist, to booking the art gallery. From booking the vendors and finding out what promo events are going on in the city that could assist us. Constantly booking interviews, doing press releases, working on our social media, or website, there’s nothing that we don’t take care of ourselves and it is pretty well a year round job from the time it ends until the next one starts.

We have an amazing team of people behind the Limestone City Tattoo and Arts Festival, as well as we have an amazing group of people behind the collective that organizes the big parts of the festival. We have volunteers that are among the most incredible group of human beings I could ever have the honour of working with. These people show up on the hottest and coldest days, whenever and wherever it is that we need them to be, and they show up with the amount of enthusiasm and energy that we [the planners] need.  To get out in front of and promote this festival, letting the city of Kingston know who we are, what we are, and when it’s happening, that’s a huge part of it all.

5. Last year’s Limestone City Tattoo and Arts Festival celebrated tattooing as a part of Kingston’s cultural landscape. In your opinion, why do you think tattooing has thrived in Kingston over the years? And, why is Kingston the perfect location to mount a festival that celebrates both tattooing and arts?

I think Kingston is like many cities in that it’s a really great place for tattooing to survive. I feel like if art can survive, then tattooing can survive.  Kingston is a really great place to have this festival because I feel like it’s a balance of history with a funky, new energy, combined together it makes for a really exciting place to celebrate art.

6. Finally, with a curated list of 40 tattoo artists representing Canada, the USA and beyond, as well as live music, which artists and performances are personally looking forward to the most?

There’s not one specific person or event that I am looking forward to the most. I am looking forward to absolutely everything that graces the path of this festival from the beginning of set up to the last moment of tear down. Every piece of myself has been put into this, along with my business partner Andrew, and with our partners Eikon. I’m just really excited to share the weekend with everybody who comes through the doors and the amazing community that we live in.

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