Great Lakes Tattoo
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History & Happenings, the Great Lakes Tattoo Blog. Sharing news, events and fascinating tidbits on Chicago Tattoo History.  



Travel & Happenings

  • Chip Douglas will be out of the shop the 14-18
  • To book in with any of our tattooers e-mail, call, or swing by the shop as a walk-in. Contact us today.


Tatts Thomas newspaper article Nick Colella's collection

This piece from Great Lakes Tattoo's permanent collection is an original press photo from an Interview with Tatts Thomas featured in a Milwaukee newspaper. It was given to Nick Colella from Brad Fink as a gift when Great Lakes Tattoo opened. 

Tatts Thomas was one of the first tattooers who opened a tattoo shop in downtown Chicago, on State Street. This photo was taken in the late 60's after Tatts moved to Milwaukee. He had to leave Chicago's State Street because the city raised the tattoo age requirement from 18 to 21 years of age in 1963. These 3 years caused a dramatic drop off in tattoo customers and so Tatts had to go where the people were.

In this article titled “Satanism is Trend in Tattoo Trade”, the reporter was inquiring about new trends in tattooing. The majority of people getting tattoos were young servicemen, primarily navy, who typically chose patriotic and military tattoo designs. These designs were especially popular during wartime. As time went on and views on the war and patriotism changed, young people were no longer getting as many of these designs. With the previous military tattoo trend slowing down, the reporter went to the source to find out what the latest trend in tattooing comprised of.  When asked what young people were getting, Tatts showed the reporter paintings and tattoo flash of several devil designs. "I put a thousand devils on them for every head of Christ."  

The clipping framed with the photo reads; "For use in PMS of Monday, Feb 13 with AP news- picture package NY14- Feb 11 - Current trend - Variety of devil designs, which veteran tattooer Gib "Tatts" Thomas says are now the most popular, are displayed in Thomas's Milwaukee tattoo parlor. " I put a thousand devils on them for every head of Christ, " Thomas said. Thomas, a former circus tattooed man, will be out of business June 30 when tattooing will be prohibited in Milwaukee for hygienic reasons. (AP Wirephoto) See Ap Wirestory by Ken Hartmann 1967"



Traditional Pharaoh's horses tattoo Rich Hardy





June 16-18/ 22-24 



"Rich Hardy has carved out a name for himself with his bold take on classic Western tattoo imagery. While so-called “traditional” tattooing is currently experiencing an ongoing popularity, with imagery and application techniques seemingly being continually regurgitated, Hardy constantly strives to push boundaries while remaining firmly rooted in both historic imagery and ideologies."

Tiger tattoo back piece Virginia Elwood



Saved Tattoo, Ny




June 17/ 19 



"Regarded as one of the top tattoo artists in the world, Virginia Elwood is also the co-owner of Saved Tattoo in Brooklyn NY. She is a New York native who started tattooing in Boston in 2001 . Specializing in bold colorful work and black and grey portraiture, Virginia's tattoos are influenced by traditional Americana, propaganda posters, textiles and folk art from an array of cultures and time periods."

Fernando Lions american traditional Howling wolf tattoo

"Fernando Lions is an old school tattoo artist working in NYC at Flyrite Tattoo. Fernando specializes in old school tattoos and he particularly enjoys all the traditional subjects and themes such as daggers, women's heads, snakes. He also enjoys tattooing Japanese traditional tattoos on a small scale."