Eternal Tattoos is a legendary Michigan-based tattoo empire built by Terry ‘Tramp’ Welker. Every year, Tramp’s Eternal throws one of the top tattoo conventions in the USA, the annual Motor City Tattoo Expo in Detroit.
The Motor City Tattoo Expo is 3-days long and features over 300+ top tattoo artists from around the country and 170+ booths. Held in downtown Detroit, the expo is located inside the 30,000sq ft Renaissance Ballroom on the 4th floor of the Marriott Hotel inside the Renaissance Center.
Weaving thru a frenzy of bellhops pushing luggage carts and crowds of heavily inked Americans, the JobbieCrew Captain and I are amazed at not only the outstanding variety of tattoos but also how many beautiful ladies are here! Ton of hot girls with tattoos strolling around. Purple hair, blue hair, pink hair girls, some in black corsets, black chokers and cherry red lipstick. Very colorful crowd.
The RenCen is a maze of gray concrete, an austere minimalist aesthetic befitting Detroit’s solid blue-collar legacy. Seeing these concrete hallways full of such wonderful colorful people provides an enjoyable and striking contrast. Even in the hallway, you can already hear the buzzing sound of tattoo machines whirring away.
We approach the entry gate, get our passes and the wonderful Julia Boland turns us loose inside. Immediately we see three top artists right in a row: Marshall Bennett, Caryl Cunningham and Susannah Griggs.
Marshall is talking with fans, Caryl is busy tattooing Kelly Francis adding fuchsia and a praying mantis to her sleeve, so we catch Susannah in one of her rare free moments:
“Caryl and I are both native Detroiters, we work out of Eternal Tattoos location in Taylor. I specialize in nature, floral, colorful tats and especially insects, which are my favorite tats. When tattooing, I’m a fan of using stencils for correct proportions. I also do hand-markering for muscle curves when necessary because that technique follows the contours of the muscles better.” – Susannah Griggs
“We love coming to the Expo here every year! Live tattooing in a small space can be tricky but rewarding. I was a law enforcement major who wanted to be a correctional officer. That was before I discovered the art and magic of tattooing. Fell in love with it and here I am!” – Susannah Griggs
Flanked by his two beautiful assists Lacee Cadorette and Laura, Carl Grace from Las Vegas, is doing custom tattoo on Tony Gregory’s chest:
“Evil creepy epic shit. That’s what I like and this is a girl with black-out eyes, some dark art on my boy Tony’s chest.” – Carl Grace
Sitting on the ground painting a large and fantastic mural in black ink is Troy Timpel:
“It’s a Japanese influenced ink-wash infused with sacred geometry.” – Troy Timpel
Mike Skiver has some incredible artifacts of tattoo legend Lyle Tuttle from his Tattoo Museum (Somerset, PA) on display:
“This is all Lyle Tuttle stuff here. Great artist. Yeah, we’re based in Somerset, Pennsylvania but we travel all over. I tell alotta bad jokes and a little history, so keep checking back.” – Mike Skiver
Jeremy Miller is tattooing a pinwheel flower on a young man in a Workhorse Wu-Tang shirt.
Douglas Billian of Central Texas is touching up someone’s sleeve. We saw his wife Natalie earlier walking their friendly bulldog named Odin.
“Later on, I’m tatting Jay Jay the bassist from heavy metal band Fight on someone.” – Douglas Billian
Upon hearing this, Doug’s expo neighbor, Ram Lee, pipes in:
“I used to manage Jay Jay’s band. I coached him in 6th grade basketball. I’m out of Traverse City but I’m from Toledo, Ohio.” – Ram Lee
Liz Cook, an immensely talented tattoo artist is visiting from Dallas, Texas. She also has a signature ink series with Eternal. We caught her mid-tat of inking Ganesha on someone’s leg.
“I started doing permanent makeup in 2003 then body tattoos in 2009. My favorite tattoo is the one Sarah Miller did on my left arm. I love tattooing because my clients are great. They’re all loyal and awesome people and I’ve learned so many great life lessons thru them. And of course, I love the art. I’ve done thousands upon thousands of tattoos and the experience just gets better and better.” – Liz Cook
Halo is out of Baltimore, Maryland.
“I’ve been tattooing 11-years now. Every day is different, I love it. The industry keeps morphing and expanding. One of the best parts is you work your ass off and you get to see the visible results of your hard work on people’s bodies and it’s something they can be proud of. Nice to see the growth of both the tattoo industry and your skills as an artist improve over time.” – Halo
Gene Ramirez from Revelation in Jacksonville, Florida is putting a Zombie Girl tattoo on a young man’s forearm.
We find the legendary Bob Tyrell at his H2Ocean booth:
“I’m a native Detroiter, just recently moved out to Los Angeles. Been tattooing 19-years. I apprenticed with Tramp at Eternal for 6-years. Took my charcoal portraits to Tramp one day and he agreed to take me on as an apprentice. Then I ran Night Gallery tattoo parlor on Groesbeck and Stephens in Warren. I still run Night Gallery but now it’s a travel show tattoo parlor, I go all over the country.”- Bob Tyrrell
“I did the eagle tattoo on Kid Rock’s back. Right after 9/11, Kid Rock asked me to do it, so I went to his house in Clarkston and inked him there. I love tattoos, they’re the coolest form of art, it moves and breathes and stretches. Art on the skin is the ultimate medium.” – Bob Tyrrell
Eternal Ink is selling a ton of tattoo ink at their booth here. They have over 200+ different ink hues laid out on the table.
The ink comes in bottles: 1oz., 2oz., 4oz., or 8oz. We’re told that 1oz. is the most popular worldwide whereas 2oz. is the most popular in the USA. The most popular color worldwide is Lipstick Red.
Finally, Marshall Bennett has a free moment:
“I run Eternal Tattoos location in Eastpointe. Been tattooing 18-years now. I’m originally from Western, New York. Born and raised on a dairy farm. I specialize in realistic, portraiture, horror, skulls, biomechanical. Not cartoony type stuff. I love the tattoo culture because of the family, the people, the camaraderie. It’s very non-judgmental and everywhere we go we recognize each other, it’s like a tribe. My top two artistic inspirations are H.R. Giger and Zdzislaw Beksinski.” – Marshall Bennett
Rember Orellana of Dallas, Texas is one of the top young tattoo artists in the game right now. This man does some truly phenomenal work. Rember has a custom Signature Ink set from Eternal featuring 10-different inks.
“Been tattooing for 8-years now. Been into art my whole life, I was drawing for years then jumped into tattooing. My style is surrealistic and I like to mix architecture and architectural accents into my surrealism. I did a full-back piece that took me 12-hours. Then another time, I did a thigh piece that took me 50-hours. I do both stencil and free-hand. I love Detroit, love Tramp and Eternal and being able to travel and tattoo my art on people.” – Rember Orellana
Afterwards, the Captain and I enjoy some excellent beer and soup at the Granite City Brewery downstairs in the RenCen.
We also realize that we here at the JobbieCrew, would love to see the Tattoo Expo become a permanent daily attraction in downtown Detroit. Eternal could open a ‘tattoo bazaar’ downtown where you pay to enter into a cosmopolitan gallery of different artists. You could walk around, see different artwork, see the artists in action. Hey, the Downtown Detroit Tattoo Marketplace could happen, you never know.
Overall, Eternal Tattoos Motor City Tattoo Expo was a fantastic experience. Seeing so many creative people in action doing what they love to do and generating so many smiles is extremely inspiring.
If you missed this one, check out the 22nd annual Motor City Tattoo Expo in Detroit in early March 2017!