A New Take on Tattoo Conventions: Great Lakes Tattoo Walk Up Classic

By Amanda Flores

all photos by Lyndon French.

all photos by Lyndon French.

Great Lakes Tattoo Walk Up Classic is a new take on tattoo conventions. Hosted at Great Lakes Tattoo, the shop hosted the annual event featuring 22 artists from around the country. This independently owned shop is run by Nick and Sarah Coella. Nick has been tattooing and collecting vintage tattoo memorabilia for over twenty years. Sarah runs the business and the curating of events at the shop. Instead of having to wait long hours at more corporate conventions, this event brings out a friendlier and a more intimate experience. 

After a corporate tattoo event in Canada, Nick was burnt out from the stereotypical conventions and decided to create a more positive friends-based event for the community. The first night is the opening reveal for all the featured artists to meet and great while showing their flash art. Each of the artists created a sheet of flash exclusively for that weekend. The second and third day were open for walk ins from the public.


This event has brought together many women artists in the tattoo industry. One of the highly regarded featured artists, Virginia Elwood, joined the convention for her first time. Elwood has been an artist for over 16 years focusing on Americana Traditional Art. Back in Brooklyn, Virginia owns and runs her own independent shop, Saved Tattoo, with her partner Stephanie Tamez. Together Elwood and Tamez helped create Everence, which is a new take on tattoo memorials for loved ones. The premise of Everence is to take powder created from DNA of a loved one, add it to the ink, and create a more biological intimacy with the tattoo.  


Glennie Whitall, another featured artist, is the owner of Toronto’s Pearl Harbor Tattoo. Pearl Harbor is a traditional shop ran and owned by Glennie. She has been featured in the Walk up Classic for the past three years and hopes to come back for a fourth.

Chicago’s Great Lakes Tattoo Walk Up Classic was filled with welcoming and friendly vibes for both the artists and customers. This event is free and is first come first serve creating a quick turnover leading to over 200 tattoo completed over the course of the event.