Women Who Ink: Naomi Fuller

By Columbus Alive
From the May 3, 2012 edition

No, Naomi Fuller will not tell you the story behind the name of her Westerville tattoo studio.

“It’s top secret,” she said, arms folded across her tattooed chest, hair gathered in a bandana. But Thrill Vulture is Fuller’s heart and soul — “TVT” is tattooed just beneath her throat. Its atmosphere and her work ethic are inspired by a woman tattoo artist she met as a teenager in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

“She did really good tattoos. It was two girls in the shop. I never really thought much about that, but it might have had something to do with the fact that I saw that, oh, there is another woman who is respected and does a good job,” Fuller said. “I was 18. I had been in other tattoo shops, but I had never seen a shop that was like hers. The atmosphere was really relaxed. You could come in and hang out.”

Fuller is a self-taught artist, a path she recommends for no one.

“I didn’t think I had any options, I guess,” Fuller said. “It’s pretty hard to get a proper apprenticeship, and I probably didn’t put enough effort into that. My thing from the beginning was that I was gonna do tattoos and I was just gonna figure out how to do the tattoos. So I just worked really, really hard.”

Thrill Vulture has been open for nearly 17 years, and it’s been Fuller’s all along.

“I’ve just always done whatever the hell I want and it’s not a big deal. I recognize now that it’s a big deal that I own a small business and that it’s been around this long and that it’s a tattoo shop, but I don’t feel like it’s a big deal,” she said. “I also feel like women can do whatever the hell they want. They just have to do it. It might be more difficult at times, but they just have to deal with it.”

For years, Fuller knew just one other woman tattoo artist in Columbus, Kat Marie Moya, and she was often the only female tattoo artist at conventions she visited.

“People would assume I was the counter help. They do that here, too. They come in and assume I’m the counter help and I just give them to these guys. I really don’t care,” she said, nodding toward her two artists.

At conventions, she’s been told to wear a tighter shirt, and one client told her, “You’re pretty good for a girl.”

She reserves equal disdain for people who think women are better tattoo artists than men.

“They have all these ridiculous reasons that I also don’t think are true, like girls do better artwork or girls pay better attention to detail or crap like that. It’s just not true.”

Fuller’s studio is lined with handmade illustrations of the classic American tattoos she prefers. She emphasizes workmanship, honesty, service. And she doesn’t take any crap.

“We treat everybody the same way. I don’t care what walk of life you are of what you look like. We’re not judgmental of people. Everybody gets tattooed, you know.”