Q&A with Brett Prince, of Short North Tattoo

  • Photo by Meghan Ralston
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From the July 25, 2013 edition

Columbus has a thriving tattoo industry and culture, with a decade of experience, Short North Tattoo owner Brett Prince is one of its leaders. What separates Prince from his peers is Tattoo Cancer Fight, a charity he founded to help cure cancer.

After Prince felt the sting of having a loved one diagnosed, he decided to fight the disease and knew tattooing was how he’d do it. So on the seventh day of every month, Short North Tattoo — along with seven other shops in Ohio and Indiana — will donate 100 percent of the proceeds from that day’s tattoos to the James Cancer Hospital & Solove Research Institute. Prince hopes to get more studios, from Columbus all over the country, involved in Tattoo Cancer Fight and really make an impact.

My style is very fundamental, traditional with a lot of Japanese influence. I’m mainly an illustrative tattoo artist with traditional elements. I work on a large scale; back pieces, full sleeves. They are anywhere from 72 to 120 hours. So when you’re doing three or four hours a pop, you’re looking at 30 to 40 sessions.

Tattoo Cancer Fight is a very simple concept. Studios open their doors on the seventh of each month — Aug. 7 will be the first — and perform tattoos at cost, and the client pays. However, the shop and the artist retain no profit. All the proceeds from that day are channeled directly to the James Cancer Hospital & Solove Research Institute in the name of Tattoo Cancer Fight.

It was going to be just our studio … but it’s more impactful when we do it as a unified voice. If we can channel it to one focal point, such as the James which is a really advanced research facility, it can make a real impact. There are 21,000 tattoo shops in America. If 10 percent of those participant throughout a year and raise $500 per shop, it ends up being $12.6 million. Right now we have eight participating studios in Indiana and Ohio. We’re really happy with that with it still not having launched yet.

The [Tattoo Cancer Fight] tattoos are [on a] walk-in basis. That way we can just address each individual and hopefully put a line at the door to create a buzz. Walk-in shops, as opposed to a custom shop like this, have much higher volume and we want to utilize that — turn over as many clients as possible. If someone wanted a larger piece, they can absolutely come by that day too. We outline it that day and all the proceeds from that day will go to [the charity]. Then they could come back on the seventh of each month and we’ll work on it.

Any artist that would like to design a logo for Tattoo Cancer Fight — it’s open to the public and doesn’t have to be a tattoo artist — the prize is $500. We’re going to launch a merchandise line with that logo and all the proceeds from that will go to the James.

This neighborhood is very conducive to what we’re doing. We make an effort to present tattooing as a fine-art medium, rather than something separate. We couple it with other mediums displayed in the studio … and just about every medium is represented. Every other month, we rotate in new artists … and hold a reception during Gallery Hop. Local artists are welcome to submit portfolios and we don’t charge a commission [for pieces sold in the studio].