Everything You Need to Know About the Great Lakes Tattoo’s 2018 Walk-Up Classic

With hundreds of new design options from this year's featured tattoo artists, it'll be hard just choosing one! | © Lydon French / Great Lakes Tattoo
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Updated: 13 April 2018
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Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood is home to a tattoo parlor unlike any other. Full of personality and a self-proclaimed “attitude-free” zone, Great Lakes Tattoo blends art with ink to give clients an unparalleled experience. Lucky for Chicagoans (and anyone visiting the Windy City this weekend), Great Lakes Tattoo is hosting their third annual Walk-Up Classic.

The Walk-Up event can be described as a tattoo marathon. The shop invites tons of artists from around the country to deliver unique tattoos to anyone who walks into the shop over the course of the weekend. An opening party on Friday, March 23, 2018, offers attendees an opportunity to peruse this year’s flash sheets and celebrate all things tattoo. Then, on Saturday, March 24th, the shop’s doors open at 11 am and stay open until 7 pm, with nothing but great tattoo art in between.

We spoke with Nick Colella, one of Great Lakes Tattoo’s owners, to find out everything you need to know about 2018’s Walk-Up Classic.

© Courtesy of Great Lakes Tattoo 

Tell us a little bit about this year’s guest artists.

Each year we have between 20 and 22 tattooers tattooing in the shop at the same time. Each tattooer designs their own individual flash sheet. All the sheets have designs of varying size, but all of [the] designs are made to be done in one shot, meaning the tattoo is completed from start to finish in one sitting.

Does every artist at Great Lakes Tattoo create their own unique flash sheet specific to this event?

Yes. Each tattooer has his or her own style, and they translate that style to the flash that they paint for the event. There is no theme to the flash; it’s whatever the tattooers want to paint, as long as it’s a one-shot design.

How many tattoos do you expect to complete over the course of the weekend?

We are hoping to do over 200—just like we did the past two years.

What’s your favorite design from the flash sheets this year?

I have a lot of favorite designs, but my favorite sheet is done by Marina Inoue. Marina also did this year’s poster and invite.

© Courtesy of Great Lakes Tattoo 

What started the Walk-Up Classic tradition?

This is actually the third year of the Walk-Up Classic. The idea came about from traveling and doing the convention scene. Everyone is so caught up in the convention grind that we all were missing hanging out and catching up with each other. We missed [being] able to have a decent meal at a decent time and just relax with friends.

How has the event changed over the years?

Not a lot has changed since its inception. We know pretty much what to expect, and we get the event running smoother with each year.

Do you have any tips for first-time participants?

For the first-timers, I would say show up to the flash reveal party on the 23rd, get an idea of what you want so the decision-making process is a bit easier on the day of. Then, I would say show up early and get in line. If you have a specific tattooer in mind, the line in the past has started around 6 am. There will be coffee provided by Dark Matter Coffee, and we will be bringing out portable heaters as well.

© Courtesy of Great Lakes Tattoo
© Lyndon French / Great Lakes Tattoo

Any restrictions visitors should know about?

This is a cash-only event, but there will be an ATM on the premises. There really are no specific restrictions. We ask everyone to be respectful of the neighborhood, the shop, the tattooers, the support staff, and each other.

What is your favorite part of Walk-Up Classic events?

The amazing energy that comes from the excitement of the Walk-Up—I am very fortunate to be a part of such a rad event.

What inspires you when it comes to great tattoo design?

All the old-time tattooers who painted flash and did the tattoos because that’s what they had to do to make a living. I try to make designs like they did—designs that stand the test of time.

The Walk-Up Classic Opening Party takes place Friday, March 23, 2018, from 7–10pm. For more information about Great Lakes Tattoo and this year’s Walk-Up Classic, visit the shop’s website:

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