Inking in

One of the most hackneyed and overused sayings of the '90s: "Tattoos aren't just for sailors and bikers anymore." Um, duh.

Still, the mainstreaming of permanent body art has continued — culminating in the inevitable: tattoo reality TV.

Between the two current series, A&E's Inked and the Learning Channel's Miami Ink, the message is colorful and clear: Tattooing is artistry. Serious artistry.

The two shows also illustrate the factions of tattooing: Inked focuses on a stylish shop in a Vegas casino (co-owned by motocross superstar and Pink boytoy Carey Hart) where many of the customers are tourists looking for flash (the premade designs that often adorn tattoo shop walls) or a dash of ink to commemorate their Sin City adventures (but in this case, what happens in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas).

Miami Ink, on the other hand, is about a custom shop; each client gets an in-depth consultation leading to a one-of-a-kind piece of permanent adornment. The staff, among them the immensely talented Chris Garver and visiting guest Kat Von D., often become closely involved with clients, particularly those getting profoundly emotional tattoos, such as tattoos honoring loved ones who've died.

Watching the shows has a compelling effect: You want a tattoo. And if you've got the itch, now's the perfect time: The 11th annual Motor City Tattoo Expo rolls into the Renaissance Center this weekend, bringing more than 200 artists from as far away as Europe and Japan.

Local legend Terry "Tramp" Welker of Eternal Tattoos, who's organized the event since year two, says the expo is so popular he has a huge waiting list for internationally renowned artists. In its early days, the expo was held at smaller hotels near the airport; last year it moved to the Renaissance Center.

Indeed, last year's showing boasted a charming juxtaposition: throngs of tattooed, pierced and dreadlocked expo patrons intermingling with the pressed and prim Ren Cen suits.

"Before, when it was in the burbs, the artists would fly in and then stay in the hotel all weekend. Now, people coming in can take the People Mover, walk to the bars downtown. ... We're giving everybody an opportunity to really see Detroit."


March 3-5 at the Detroit Marriott in the Renaissance Center (400 Renaissance Center, Detroit; 313-568-8150). Call 517-548-6814 or

Sarah Klein is Metro Times culture editor. Send comments to [email protected]