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'NY Ink' Set Visit: Ami James Takes His Tattoo Talents to NYC

by Alex Moaba, posted May 27th 2011 3:00PM
Renowned tattoo artist Ami James will be taking his talents from South Beach to New York this summer, expanding his reality tattoo show empire into the Empire State with 'NY Ink' (premieres Thurs., June 2, 10PM ET on TLC).

James has spent the last few months putting together a new crew and setting up an expansive, sprawling tattoo shop in downtown Manhattan that he's dubbed the Wooster Street Social Club. AOL TV spent a day hanging out at the shop, taking pictures and talking with James about the new cast, what's in store this season and New York's vibrant tattoo culture.

James said he's extremely excited about opening a new shop in New York. "The tattoo culture is way bigger in New York than Miami; there's no comparison at all. New York has always been a tattoo capital. You walk down a New York street in the summer and literally every third person has a sleeve. That's something that just doesn't exist in Miami. The really cool part is that you have a lot more customers who want to get serious work, really cool tattoos, which inspires you as an artist everyday."

He's stocked his new crew with artists Tim Hendricks, Tommy Montoya, Megan Massacre, Chris Torres and Miami holdover Billy DeCola, who can cater to a wide variety of tastes and styles. "A couple guys in there do really amazing art, but they do separate things: one guys does color portraits, another does kind of Tim Burton, another cast member does this crazy color photo realism. It's really cool to have the diversity of a bunch of guys at a really high level tattooing at one spot, and everyone does something completely different."

But beyond the serious art of tattooing, Ami James is also a showman who knows how to assemble a highly addictive, highly-rated reality show. He's upped the ante this time around. "We picked the cast differently than the previous shows. It's cast to have such a crazy dynamic of everybody offering something else into the business. We have every kind of person in there, which makes for interesting TV."

Life at the Wooster Street Social Club plays out a lot like life on MTV's 'The Real World' -- the co-ed cast of characters take turns loving and hating each other, working together, fighting with each other and getting into all types of shenanigans both in the shop and out in the New York nightlife. They decided to call the space a social club because it's more than just a tattoo shop: it also has a gallery space, coffee shop area and a boxing gym downstairs.

The crew's two tattooed bombshells, Megan Massacre and Jessica Gahring, stir things up, and are likely to make viewers quickly forget about Kat Von D. Jessica, the shop's tall, leggy vixen of a floor manager, is constantly causing trouble and creating the type of entertaining drama we now demand from our reality TV.

"It's just funny because we've got a girl [Jessica] that's really outgoing, talks way too much, and it just becomes really, really hard to be able to work sometimes," James said. "There's fights all the time between Jessica and everybody, really. She is the epicenter of everybody getting pissed off to date."

Then there are the celebrity guests, who flock to James' shop to get tattooed by one of the best in the business, and provide the show with an extra dose of star power. Supermodel Jessica White and 'Jersey Shore's' Angelina Pivarnick recently visited the shop for tattoos, as did Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley, one of the NFL's most feared pass-rushers, who was there to get work done the day AOL TV hit the shop.

James and Woodley brainstormed a design for a forearm tattoo that was highly personal to Woodley: it featured two wolves looking over a wolf-cub, surrounded by a dreamcatcher. Woodley, who has a three-year-old daughter, explained what the tattoo meant to him. "Me being the leader of my pack of my family now. Once upon a time my dad was the leader of the pack and I was a great follower. When I look at that tattoo every day, it's gonna remind me of my family history, of you being that follower and now being the leader of that pack. And how the decisions you make affect your family, and how your family's only as strong as everyone working together."

It's unlikely that many NFL quarterbacks will be interested in the deep, family-oriented inspiration for the design as Woodley is using his gigantic, tattooed arm to bludgeon them into the ground behind the line of scrimmage. It's also unlikely that any NFL offensive lineman will make Woodley look as uncomfortable as he did while sitting waiting in James' chair, eyeing his massive tattoo needle, dubbed the 'Hebrew Hammer.'

Between bringing a high level of tattoo artistry to a tattoo mecca, unveiling a new diverse, entertaining cast and incorporating a bevy of celebrity guests, we won't be surprised if this New York spin-off blows up to be even bigger than James' previous endeavors.

'NY Ink' premieres Thurs., June 2 at 10PM on TLC.

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Mari Rose

i like what u do..keep up the good work...u r blessed

June 16 2011 at 7:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Send him back to Miami Beach he discriminates against religious tattooing. On his show down in Miami he wouldn't do a guy who wanted Catholic rosary beads tattooed on his body, Ami made a big deal out of it and wouldn't do it but he did a Jewish guy that wanted a Jewish word tattooed on his body and he even made a phone call to his relative to make sure the word and spelling was correct for this customer. You got some nerve coming into NYC punk go back to Miami and stick your head in the sand.

May 29 2011 at 11:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"every third person has a sleeve" how could that make tatts anything but un-cool? New flash Justin Bieber has 2 tatts, now that is either really cool or the sign of the end to tattoos being anything than a fashion trend gone terribly wrong.

May 28 2011 at 8:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Hey Gorilla !!

what crap! body disfiguration! I would not hire any of these FREAKS!

May 28 2011 at 1:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jack Cross

What happened to his apprentice, the asian kid?

May 27 2011 at 7:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jack Cross's comment

He probably either went on to become a better artist than Ami or got driven into depression and self-loathing from Ami's bullshit.

December 10 2012 at 10:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Heidi C. Normand

So excited to see the show... especially since I will be on it! Profile pic is of the tat Megan Massacre did for me a few weeks ago and it is a work of art!

Interesting article...but I have a problem with this little piece of reporting.

As stated above..."He's stocked his new crew with artists Tim Hendricks, Tommy Montoya, Chris Torres and Miami holdover Billy DeCola" and where is Megan in this list?

Sounds like a good ole' boys club reference to me!

Of course she is mentioned after ..."Two tattooed bombshells named Megan Massacre and Jessica Gahring stir things up, and are likely to make viewers quickly forget about Kat Von D." Not as one of the artists...but as one of two tattooed bombshells.

Really? Of course they are gorgeous but Megan is an artist as well and should have been listed as such.

The only person in the studio who could have rendered my artistic vision of my tattoo into what it became would have been Megan. I get stopped on the street and in restaurants and stores daily by people who want to know where I got this piece and I am so proud to tell them it was done by one of the newest and quickly rising tattoo stars...Megan massacre!

And yes...I meant that to sound like a good ole' girls club reference ;)

May 27 2011 at 5:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Heidi C. Normand's comment
Alex Moaba

Good point Heidi. Didn't mean to slight Ms. Massacre....clearly from your tattoo she's a talented artist. Updated the article to add her to the artists section.

May 27 2011 at 6:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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