Interview and Photos by Scott Preston
Almost 20 years ago I got my first tattoo here in Cincinnati and since then have acquired a few more. The person who did my first tattoo is still going strong at the same shop I stepped into 20 years ago. Dana, from Designs by Dana Tattoo’s will be celebrating 40 years of tattooing this coming January. I thought what better way to help celebrate such an amazing art form than to sit down with the man himself at his shop in Northside.
Cincy Groove: How long have you been tattooing?
Dana: It will be 40 years this coming January. I got out of the Army in 1971 and started tattooing.
Cincy Groove: Did you start your shop here in Cincinnati originally?
Dana: No, I’m from Indianapolis originally and was tattooing underground for about 5-6 years there. I moved to Cincinnati in 1977 and had my original shop at 9th and Race St for 11 years. Then moved here to the Northside location and been here ever since.
Cincy Groove: Why did you start tattooing 40 years ago?
Dana: I was in the Army and just got back and went with somebody who was getting a tattoo. I thought it sounded pretty interesting and wanted to watch him get it.
Cincy Groove: Do you have a background in art?
Dana: Yes, I have been drawing my whole life and I also have my Master of Fine Arts degree in Sculpture from DAAP here at the University of Cincinnati.
Cincy Groove: Have you tattooed any famous people?
Dana: I re did an old Steven Tyler tattoo and some sports figures. But not really too many here in Cincinnati. My buddy on the Sunset strip has done quite a few famous people.
Cincy Groove: How long does a typical tattooing session last for you?
Dana: Typically 4-5 hours. I like to break it up into a couple sessions.
Cincy Groove: What has been one of the weirdest tattoos you have done?
Dana: I get asked that a lot, but there are just so many. One time we tattooed an olive right at the crack of this woman’s butt near her tailbone. It was some kind of inside joke. Most of the tattoos I have done are weird in their own way.
Cincy Groove: So I understand you also have family involved in the shop here.
Dana: Yes, my son is tattooing right now behind you there and my wife has also been tattooing for quite a few years. My son Jason started in 1993 at the age of 18.
Cincy Groove: What kind of person typically comes into your shop?
Dana: All kinds of people from all walks of life. Doctors, lawyers, nuns, priests, bikers, students.
Cincy Groove: Do you have any customers that have been coming to you for a long period of time?
Dana: Oh sure, I have guys that have been coming here for over 20 years. I have also done 3 generations of the same family, tattooed the grandfather, and the father and then the grandson. The oldest person has been in their 70’s.