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22nd Annual Motor City Tattoo Expo

Motor City Tattoo Expo took place the weekend of March 3rd-5th and Motor City Geek was lucky enough to check it out. Even though MCG has been before, this was my first time going. I might now work in a “cool” industry (romance writers have all the fun) I come from a very square accounting background and the entire concept of a tattoo expo was rather foreign to me.

When the event was described as “You are surrounded by people in various states of undress all getting tattoos” I was in. One hundred percent in and willing to step over whoever I needed to in order to get access to cover this event.

There were two main sections of the expo. As soon as I got in, there were some vendors set up. They were selling a lot of merchandise that was either tattoo related or general merchandise like t-shirts, funky makeup or other novelty items.

Past that was the main floor which was about five rows of booths where artists could work. Most of the booths were actively tattooing and also sold prints of their work.

I went on a Saturday and the crowd was heavy. The event has been growing in popularity but the size of the expo space hasn’t changed so it was a lot of people crowded into one space. If you went with the idea of getting a tattoo, you’d have to arrive early. There were a few booths that had open availability, but you’d have to wait hours or come back later for your appointment. Undoubtedly the best part of the event is the atmosphere. Not only was there some class-A people watching, but you’re surrounded by people getting tattooed. When I first arrived, I was subtle about sneaking glances at what the visitors were getting permanently imprinted on their body, but after about an hour I was openly voyeuristic. Because if you’re going to get tattooed in public, that’s part of the gig, right?

Because this is first and foremost a geek website, I was on a mission to find tattoos related to pop-culture, video games, comics, and movies. For real life tattoos, I mostly struck out. Carl (A tattoo apprentice who does make up a hell of a lot better than I do) had a great one he shared with me.

However, there were lots of great portfolio shots of geek related tattoos. Some that stood out was a great Eleven (from Stranger Things), and a super detailed Mystique (Rebecca Romijin version from X-Men) that was only a few inches tall on someone’s arm. There were Star Wars tattoos all over the place in the portfolios, but a disturbing lack of Star Trek related ones. Let’s get on this Detroit!

While researching the event ahead of time, they made a point of mentioning all the different styles that would be represented. Even though I’ve seen multiple seasons of Ink Master, I’m still not too familiar with different styles, so I can’t say for sure if they delivered on that promise. However, the friend I went with was ready to drop money on a good watercolor style tattoo and there were hardly any artists there that specialized in that style. So I have to admit that the expo DID have plenty of artists there, some styles were more represented than others. Another interesting, and understandable surprise in hindsight was that artists were not there all weekend. So when the website promised 300+ artists, they were not all tattooing at once. Some only came for one day. One of the more popular artists was only taking two appointments and that was it for the weekend. Once again, advanced planning is really important if you want to book a prolific artist. Even though I had some complaints about the event, overall it was great. Just for the people watching alone, the price of entry is worth it.  I would be happy to wander around for hours. I just wish the space was bigger so I could have done more wandering.

If you’re bummed that you missed it,  there’s good news! There will be a summer version of the Tattoo Expo! Check out more details here:

Photos and article by Mallory Crowe

The rest of my pictures are below!

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