Golden Spiral Tattoo grows with success

by Rebecca Harrelson


Sean Carey has owned Golden Spiral for eight years. Golden Spiral Tattoo studio outgrew its former location on Spring Garden Street and is now located in downtown Greensboro. It took only about 10 days to move from the old location. In the meantime, Carey tattooed in a hotel room for clients who were in from out of town.

“Not an ideal situation, but it worked for the time being. You make it work, ” he said.

There are six artists, including Carey, and a piercer who also doubles as the manager.

The shop itself is one of the larger studios in Greensboro, yet for the artists the space still has a sense of community. “There are no doors and the same thing is on the TV in every room. So, if a conversation gets started about something ridiculous that happened on the TV we can all chime in.”

The staff’s artwork dons the walls, and switches out every so often when they have a new show occurring.

Carey commented on the evolution of tattooing in society’s eyes and the influence of media.

“Now you can be 90 percent sure that the person hiring you has one, so that’s almost over with. Occasionally you still get people in who associate tattoos with bikers and sailors, but that’s few and far between,” he said.

Carey has been tattooing for 18 years so he sees many recurring tattoos in and out of his shop.

“If you’re happy with it, then it’s OK. I don’t want to poo-poo on something someone likes, or deter someone from asking for it. You definitely see an influx of some things. You see one of these and you think I’ve never seen this before then all of a sudden you see a million of them! Maybe it’s a pop start that gets it then it floods through the whole country.”

Japanese art is what Carey does more than anything else. Overall, it’s basically a lot of color pieces. “I do black and grey occasionally, but mostly it’s 90% color. I do prefer that, it’s more fun. For some people color just doesn’t really work for them. And some things really lends themselves to black and grey more.”

Growing up in New York, Carey spent a lot of time being creative with his artist mother. He started getting tattooed when he was 17. Carey recalled, “That’s too young. Many of those have been covered up”¦and then re-covered.”

Not all parents find being tattooed as a safe form of expression, Carey’s parents seemed to accept the progress. “I wasn’t getting into a ton of trouble. I was ok, so I wasn’t surprised they handled it well. I feel like my mom understood where I was coming from since she had that artistic background. Now I’ve tattooed both my parents, my dad has pretty extensive stuff and he used to not have anything before I started, which is cool.”

“I went to every tattoo artist in every shop that I could find in the surrounding cities trying to find the right person and he fit the bill. His use of color and negative space was definitely something I was looking for,” said Amber Gregory, a client of Carey.

There are a lot of opinions surrounding watercolor pieces and pieces that don’t use outlines. Carey spoke to those rumors and that particular style of tattooing.

“You can definitely lay in really solid color and have it stay without an outline. I tattoo a lot of firemen and they are outside a ton, always really burnt. If they wanted a watercolor style tattoo then I would say ‘you should get something with lines.’ The watercolor thing is fairly new, and when something fairly new happens, you really need 15 years to see if it’s a viable thing to do and that 15 years hasn’t happened yet.”

Carey is normally booked out four months and rarely has the opportunity to take walk-ins.

“It’s definitely my job to get the best looking image out of the persons ideas. Luckily for me the person will come in with ideas and not an image. If you are going to come in with real stiff boarders about what you want, it really doesn’t matter who you go to if you are just reproducing something.” !


Golden Spiral Tattoo is located at 206 S. Elm St., Greensboro, North Carolina. The shop is open Monday through Saturday from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. Walk-ins are accepted time permitting. Call 336-333-3937 to make an appointment or schedule a consultation.