Visiting Mike Emmett's Ypsilanti tattoo parlor in Depot Town is like stepping back into a few different eras of classic Americana. Depot Town's architecture harks back to the 1800s and all the little towns that sprang up in Michigan along the Detroit-Chicago rail corridor; the interior that Emmett decorated in reds, blacks and whites is straight out of the late 1950s and early '60s; and his tattoos are an homage to classic '20s and '30s American ink.
You also might know Emmett as the genial stepbrother of ex-Sights and current Shooter Jennings organ-playing phenom Bobby Emmett III (who has an amazing pop solo record due this fall) and the boyfriend of songwriter Misty Lyn. That is if you don't know him as one of the Detroit area's premier tattoo artists
Emmett got into tattooing about eight years ago. After leaving the graphic arts program at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, he returned to Detroit and quickly fell into tattooing: "I knew some tattooists and wanted to do something art related. They showed me a few things and I was off and running." He learned from local tattoo masters Jeff Zuck and modern tribal tattoo father Leo Zulueta. After working at a couple of different local studios, Emmett opened up Depot Town Tattoo this past March with co-owner and fellow tattoo artist Dawn Cooke.
Given his own background in the arts, it's no surprise that Emmett uses the high ceilings of the parlor to showcase the work of different local artists every three months. Currently the vivid, massive canvases of painter Tom Gogola look down on those about to get inked.
Emmett draws a lot of his design inspiration from classic American tattoo artists Sailor Jerry, Don Ed Hardy and Detroit master Percy Waters. "There's something very primal about people wanting to mark their bodies. Traditional American tattoo style is designed like it is for a reason — it's bold and simple and will stand the test of time. That's why Dawn and I try to respect that lineage and follow its path."