The man with the dragon tattoo

Ami James, the granddaddy of "tattoo TV," returned to TLC earlier this summer with a whole new crew and a fresh locale, New York City, with the debut of NY Ink.
November 1, 2011

In 2005, tattoo artist Ami James and Original Media kick-started a wave of tattoo shop docuseries with TLC’s Miami Ink. Spin-offs LA Ink and London Ink have since carried on the format, with each series providing air time for the inked and the stories behind their new tattoos, as well as the camaraderie and drama between tattoo crews. James, the granddaddy of “tattoo TV,” returned to TLC earlier this summer with a whole new crew and a fresh locale, New York City, with the debut of NY Ink.

James, who got his first pro tattoo at the age of 15 (a dragon, for the record] now splits his time between the Miami location and the New York shop, named Wooster St. Social Club. Heading into December’s second season premiere for the latest edition of the franchise, James is out to prove that audiences still have an appetite for ink.

What made you decide to come back to TLC for a second series, after a three-year hiatus?

I figured since I created the brand with TLC I would continue the journey with them and there was a lot of unsettled business.

Do you approach the New York show differently than you did with Miami Ink?

Not by choice, but the approach has to be different. New York is so fast paced there is no way for me to compare the two. The dynamic of life is so different [and] the shows mirror that.

The biggest difference is Miami travels at about 30 miles an hour and New York travels at about 100 miles an hour.

How do the camera crews affect your day-to-day business?

It doesn’t really affect me anymore, or the business. I’m pretty used to it after 110 episodes. In fact, I might feel awkward without them there.

Are there any tattoos that you regret getting, or are there any you’ve done that you aren’t so proud of?

As an artist there are always tattoos you would like to see yourself doing better in the future, but none I regret doing. As for the tattoos I have, it is sort of the same situation; I wish I had more really good tattoos, but I do not regret getting tattooed.

Why have you kept your Miami shop and how do you split your time between the two cities?

I go back and forth each week. I kept that shop because it is my baby.

How many episodes are you shooting for NY Ink‘s second season, and what can viewers expect?

There will be 10 episodes [with] less drama, thank God, and more about our personal lives. You will get to see each character and [learn] something about them personally. The biggest surprises are yet to come.

About The Author
Managing editor with realscreen publication, an international print and online magazine that covers the non-fiction film and television industries. Darah is an award-winning journalist who has spent over two decades covering a wide range of issues from real estate and urban development to immigration, politics and human rights, primarily with The Vancouver Sun. Prior to joining realscreen, she was editor of Stream Daily, realscreen's sister publication covering the dynamic global digital video industry. She also served a stint as a war reporter in Afghanistan for television and print, and was a national business blogger with Yahoo Canada.