Defiance Tattoo – Kent, Ohio
It’s only fitting that Rob Bohn, who grew up as part of the punk and hardcore scene, would name his tattoo and piercing shop, Defiance.
“It may be more mainstream today, but twenty years ago, being tattooed was an anti-social thing. It was a statement of freedom and individuality,” Bohn says. “My problem in life, and one of the reasons I’m in the tattoo culture, is that I don’t like rules.”
Defiance Tattoos, which opened in 2006, is located a few blocks from Kent State University with a student population of close to 30,000. As you’d guess a big part of their clientele are students. Getting a tattoo is often part of the college initiation whether it be athletes who’ve just joined a team or freshmen asserting their independence. When bands are playing on campus or in local clubs, you can often find them at Defiance before or after the gig getting some fresh ink.
Bohn describes Defiance as a hard working street shop. Of course, they do custom work, but their lifeblood are walk-ins and their ability to take any request no matter how large or small and turn it into art.
“We don’t fit in with other shops because we do things our own way. I’ve got friends that own custom shops, which is cool, but they like to set their own pace; a street shop is a different mindset. People talk about art, which is great, and that’s definitely a part of it, but we do what the customer wants,” Bohm says. “The way I look at it, is that this is a business that allows me to feed my family and pay my bills.”
“People tend to forget where tattooing came from,” Bohm adds. “Back in the early days, tattooers were not really artists, and so a lot of it was flash and very simple designs.”
Defiance has a two story layout with a lobby and piercing room on the ground level and tattooing happening upstairs where there are five stations and a drawing table where artists work on custom projects. Bohn is the shop piercer. He’s joined by tattooers Christine Zwick, Larry Spano, Michael Jagel and Chase Ogle.
Defiance is nothing if not consistent. Not only do they produce quality work, but they’ve been named Best Tattoo Shop in Kent, Ohio by Kentwired.com for the five straight years.
Name a style from American traditional and black & grey to new school color and script, and the tattooers at Defiance have it covered. Piercings are more of the standard ear, nose and belly button variety — on any given Saturday, Bohm during the school year will easily do fifty piercings.
“Piercing to me is like a working class job — I come here to work and give customers the best experience possible,” Bohm says. “They may not be the most interesting piercings, but it’s fulfilling for me because it’s cool to come in every day and hang out with cool people in a cool atmosphere. I love working as a team and achieving things together.”
Bohm has been a professional piercer since 1999. He was in his first year of college at the time, and fell into a piercing apprenticeship and worked his way through the ranks. Doubling as the manager of some of the shops where he worked, he also gleaned what it really takes to make a successful career out of something you really love to do.
“If you want longevity in this industry, you’ve got to treat it like a business,” he says. “There’s an edge to a tattoo shop; the people who work there might look different, they might play wild music or monster movies, but most importantly, you’ve got to accommodate your customers and give them a great experience.”