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Photos: Tattoo Artists At Work At Great Lakes Tattoo's 1st Walk-Up Classic

By Carrie McGath in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 21, 2016 2:44PM

A crowd of tattoo collectors and tattoo virgins alike starting lining up outside Great Lakes Tattoo (GLT) as early as 6:45 a.m. on Saturday for the shop’s 1st Annual Walk-Up Classic. The line spanned the block. By the time we stopped by, the place was literally abuzz, as dozens of motorized tattoo machines inked participants at the same time.

For the Classic, tattoo artists from all around the country spent the weekend at GLT, giving tattoos on a first come, first served basis. Customers got to skip the artists' typical months-long waitlists, but had to pick their tattoo designs from the artists' flash sheets—pre-set sheets of designs the artists created especially for the event.

Mike Silas came in to Chicago from Milwaukee to get a tattoo from GLT's owner, Nick Colella. “It's electric," Silas told Chicagoist. "You come in, pick something off the [flash] sheet and get it done, so it's like the grass roots of tattooing.” Silas loved the space, too, with historic Chicago tattoo memorabilia filling its vitrines and covering the walls. “It's kind of like a museum that also works as a tattoo shop.”

Juan Villagomez received his first-ever tattoo from GLT’s own Miles Maniaci. “It’s a heart with other suits of a card like a club, a spade, a diamond,” he told Chicagoist. He added, “I love it here, the classic style of it. I liked the people around here and even made some new friends.”

Eva Nemec went to guest artist Dan Smith—owner of Capture Tattoos in Tustin, California—for a design of a skull clenching a heart. She very much appreciated the event's traditional approach; each artist created a sheet of designs for the event and customers picked designs from that sheet, an arrangement that got a little lost in the recent rise of customized tattooing.

"You don't see that anymore," Nemec said. "There are so many American-style tattoos here and I just love it. It's really old school and it worked really well." Nemec said.