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Why Ami James of NY & Miami Ink loves kanji

Why Ami James of NY & Miami Ink loves kanji Posted on September 20, 2012Leave a comment

Ami James, the sexy American tattoo artist best known for his hit reality TV shows, Miami Ink and NY Ink, was in Hong Kong last week for the grand opening of the new fashion playground, LAB CONCEPT.

Dressed in a crisp white shirt, G-Star raw denim and skinny suspenders, James talked to us before the big event about why he decided to collaborate with LAB CONCEPT, his take on piercings and the latest tattoo trends.

Ami James x moi

LifestyleAsia: Is this your first time in Hong Kong?

Ami James: This is my second time. I was here three years ago shooting a travel show exploring the history of tattooing in Hong Kong, and the more time I spent here, the more I fell in love with the place. It’s one of my favourite destinations in Asia, for sure.

LSA: What did you discover about Hong Kong’s tattoo culture?

AJ: I came to see how it all started, back when all the sailors were coming over. Even under British rule, there have always been old-timers that tattooed in Hong Kong. It’s something we were always aware of, but as I live on the other side of the world, it was cool to see the guys who have been tattooing for 80 years — they’re still alive! It was quite an experience.

LSA: Why did you decide to work with LAB CONCEPT?

AJ: We started talking about it two months ago, about finding someone to push the brand in an edgier way, and really be a dictator of style. When I got approached, I did a little research and realised that this was something that Hong Kong needed.

LSA: How would you describe your style?

AJ: God, my own style … I have style? (laughing) I don’t know. My style is my personality, you know, it hasn’t changed much. I think as fashion evolves, we evolve with it. I mean, you go from skinny jeans to bootleg to bell bottoms and back. That’s the only thing that changes with me. I’m simple but I love fashion. So, I guess my style is me.

LSA: How many tattoos do you have, and would you call it an addiction?

AJ: At this point, I think I just have one tattoo that goes from here to there. Is it an addiction? Yes, absolutely. But there are way worse addictions.

LSA: What are your thoughts on piercings?

AJ: I’m not into piercings — it lacks art. I’m an artist, not a guy who pokes holes into people. I love tattoos because I love art and it just happens to be on a different canvas. If I was to put a nail in the wall, would I call it art? No, I would use it to hang up art, so I feel the same about piercings.

LSA: How popular are Chinese characters as tattoos these days?

AJ: Kanji — the number one money maker for so many years. Thank god for the Chinese people for bringing us kanji because it’s possibly bought me a couple of cars in my career. It’s not as popular now but we still do a couple a week.

LSA: And how do you make sure that they’re correct?

AJ: I have a Japanese guy who works with me so usually I make him draw them. Unfortunately, I can probably guarantee that a million people are walking around with kanji that might say “sweet and sour chicken”, or worse. We probably cover up more kanji than we cover up names.

LSA: What are the latest trends in the tattoo world?

AJ: The common place for women to get tattoos now are the ribs — about 50 percent of women are getting it there. It’s funny because they always pick the most painful spots. The lower back is not the most comfortable but if there’s a place that hurts more it’s the rib. But then again, women have children, so they handle pain a lot better than men.

LSA: Do you ever get tired of tattooing?

AJ: It’s a job, but I’m very fortunate to have a job I love doing. I don’t have to work, but I choose to work because I love doing it. So, is it still my hobby? Yea, it’s a hobby I get paid for doing — what I love doing — so I’m very lucky. How many people can say that?

(Originally published on

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