Miami Ink: 10 Years Later
Quite a spectacle it is, walking down Washington Avenue in South Beach, Miami. It's booming with people from all walks of life.
Both natives and tourists alike, day drunk, sunburned, out for an afternoon on the town. If you're roaming around just shy of the corner on 14th street, you'll stumble upon a familiar scene, an unassuming establishment famously known for its 6 series stint on International television.
Today, there is a 12 person lineup of customers impatiently waiting to inquire, and the staff barely breaks a sweat. In that line I’ve picked up at least 5 or 6 different languages. A German family, one French couple, two Brazilian boys in their early twenties, Italians, South Africans,a gaggle of teen girls are jumping up and down at the sight of a member of the TV cast. They beg for photos with everyone who is working. If ever it may all get to be too much, they do a good job of hiding it. The shop is clearly a well oiled machine. They know these people are all here for a common purpose... to acquire a permanent memory at Ami James' world famous “Miami Ink” (Love Hate).
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The studio is quaint, bright, and rather homey, adorned with impressive large scale artwork painted by the tattooers who work here. Japanese Dragons weave their way in-and-out of their respective frames. There's two couches for customers, stacks of flash books for the picking through, a section of shop merchandise, and a velvet rope that bars curious onlookers from wandering thoughtlessly onto the tattoo floor. There’s another section of seating behind the rope that gives off a certain "pay to play" kind of vibe... ever so subtly. This is undeniably a compelling set for a successful TV program.
"The gold standard, Miami Ink (was) the granddaddy of all current tattoo shows" says one website. And this is true. It was the first "tattoo reality" series known to America. It began broadcasting in 2005 and taped it’s 6th and final season in 2008. The IMDB synopsis of the show states "Four master artists and an apprentice take viewers inside the world of tattooing as they work to open a tattoo parlor together. The series explores the sometimes poignant stories behind some of the designs and the meaning the wearers attach to them." The program aimed to get up close and personal, following the trials and tribulations of not only the clients, but the daily lives of it's cast as well.
Miami Ink led to several spin-offs which most notably included “LA Ink” and “NY Ink” which also aired on TLC. 6 years post debuting the final season, I'm pleasantly surprised to see they are indeed still enjoying the fruits of this acclamation. I've noticed a queue at the counter everyday this week ; and with the highest minimum on the beach, you best believe it's not because they do it for cheap either. But when it comes to permanency - do you want Prada or Payless?
Due to the massive triumph of "Miami Ink" James has since opened 4 additional and equally successful shops in 3 countries, But here I stand, in the one that started it all. Though some of the cast has since moved on to other TV projects, (i.e. Chris Nunez, Inkmaster) Ami James, Darren Brass, and Yoji Harada still remain residents of Miami Beach, and work full time at the studio along with Federico Ferroni, James Hamilton, Jose Cordova and Janos Masz. Guest artists include staff from the other Love Hate studios, along with Chris Garver - an original cast member of the series.
It's still relatively simple to get tattooed here. They accept walk-ins on a first come, first serve basis daily - due to the overwhelming amount of international clientele, I'm told it's easier this way.
With no end in sight, the Love Hate brand continues to grow - city to city, nation to nation, and we can't help but wonder what's next for James and Company. Surely he's got another trick or two up his sleeve.