Motor City Tattoo Expo: On the Road in Detroit

By John

The Motor City Tattoo Expo holds a special place in my heart. This convention (four years ago) was the very first convention I worked for Tattoo Artist Magazine. I had no clue what I was doing! Crash mostly abandoned me that first year, like a newborn gazelle, I was thrown to the “tat con” wolves and had to get on my feet and start running. But I guess there’s no better way to figure out how to survive than sink or swim…

This year’s show was hands down the busiest Detroit show I’ve ever worked. It started out slow on Friday, but by the end of the day I knew I was going to be out of merch and back issues come Sunday.

I ran into Juan Puente that morning before the show and it’s always great to see a friendly face before you hit the floor. The convention was stocked with some awesome talents in the industry, including Jack Rudy, Corey Miller, Bob Tyrrell, Big Gus, Gill Montie, Dan Henk, Juan Puente, Dan Dringenberg and the list goes on…

Friday night Juan, Dan, Corey and a few of us went to Fishbones, which is becoming a tradition for me (and many of the other tattooers) after the show closes up. I would have to say (in my limited tattoo industry background) that Dan Dringenberg has to be in a Top Five category for best tattoo stories ever! I really can’t say enough nice things about him and I’m glad I got to finally hang out with him this time around. And watching him drink two Bud Lights at the same time with two straws in each bottle, pretty much made my night!

Saturday seemed to be the day of the visiting tattooers. I saw Mario Desa from Chicago Tattoo Co. right before Juan tattooed a sweet anchor on him.

Mario Desa’s arm: Tattoo by Juan Puente (Photo by Julie Buchser)

I also ran into Dawn Cooke and got to talk to her about some of the new things she is working on, and got some feedback from her on a few new things that TAM has been working on as well. It’s always good to get feedback and I appreciated her sharing those thoughts with me.

I also got to see Leo Zulueta and Mike Aul from Spiral Tattoo. Leo is one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met, and I was stoked he came up this year and hung out at the booth for a while. “Everyone should give Leo five bucks!” I’m pretty sure I had conversation with someone that ended in that statement… Ha-ha!

Canada, eh?

As for the convention itself on Saturday… wow! It was packed. It reminded me of what the New York convention looks like on Saturday. Balls to walls people. I mean, I know when a convention is busy when attendees start asking me to see “my portfolio” and “Do I have any openings today?” Umm… do you see all these magazines? I actually told someone I was a “journalist” and not a tattooer… –that was a fun reaction to watch.

But these are my two favorite questions people asked me at my booth, (which is clearly not a tattoo booth) “Do you have any hummingbirds?” or “I’m looking for a dragon…”

Cool. I’m looking for a girl that doesn’t hate baseball and isn’t allergic to the kitchen! Ha-ha. I mean, I could have done like four tattoos on Saturday… that’s how busy it was!

Big Gus throwin’ down!

Sunday night after the show Mark Heggie, Big Top Tattoo (who I had never met before, or remembered meeting) took us all out to dinner at Slow’s BBQ. HOLY SHIT, was that place awesome! I seriously put myself in a food coma. Mark was super hospitable… he kept offering everyone food and “off-menu” desserts –it was insane. One of the best after-tat-con-meals I had ever had. Just don’t get the vegetarian chicken… apparently vegetarian chicken at a BBQ place is not good –shocking! Ha. Anyway, Mark, if you’re out there I will be contacting you next year fo-sho! Thanks again.

However, all joking aside, hats off to Tramp and the Eternal Ink staff for getting us a booth last minute and really running a very seamless convention. This is really one of the best shows in the country –from the artists, to the staff, to the venue.

Although, Detroit Marriott, I have a bone to pick with you and your concentric circle monolith of a hotel… Why can I not smoke outside of the lobby bar anymore? What a pain in the ass that was. I understand you have a no smoking law that just passed, but seriously –it’s outside! I think this is the only convention that I smoked less than a pack of cigarettes for the duration of the show…Oh, well. I guess I’ll live longer now?

My room was No Smoking and No Abortions…

Thank you Detroit Rock City, and GOOD NIGHT!!!

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