Known for his colorful and bold Japanese tattoos, Ami James has been tattooing for almost 25 years but his journey to the art form wasn’t simple or easy. Born in Israel, at 12 his father took off, leaving his mother to care for the family. In hopes of better opportunities, she moved them to Miami where Ami grew up. In Episode 2 of The Tattoo Shop, Ami opens up about his past. “I lived in the middle of the ghetto...it was just a culture shock for me...and I grew up pretty quick.” Early on he showed rebellious qualities and was drawn to skateboarding and punk. He admits that at the time he didn’t really care about anything but he was serious about art. “I was drawing all day.”
"I can’t wait to do the thing that we love doing, you know?" - Ami
He continued to get into trouble and ended up doing a stint in jail. He was fortunate, however, and had friends who cared for his future. “So, I went into jail, and when I got out I had nothing. My 21st birthday I wake up in the morning and I was living in these guys house. And there was a box on the couch. And I open the box and in that box was the shittiest tattoo machine that anyone could ever have. And I knew that moment was my life change.”
With the success of his past television endeavor, Miami Ink, Ami decided to give it another, more updated and personal try with The Tattoo Shop. Driving through the Wynwood arts district, dappled in bright colors, bright sun, and lots of graffiti, he explains, “I wanted to be a part of it. I always want to be somewhere where art is open to people.” The Tattoo Shop not only marks the opening of a new shop for Ami, but also a reunion with some of his oldest friends like Garver and Montoya. “I can’t wait to do the thing that we love doing, you know?” And that love shows through not only in his spectacular tattooing, but also the shop: Ami designed and built the interior himself!
From the punk rock tendencies of an angsty teenager, to the highly successful tattoo artist and shop owner he is today, Ami says, “It took me a long time to find my path but I finally did.” He admits that his success still shocks him sometimes but he’s always thankful for his awesome family, in the shop and out. “Sometimes your background dictates where you're gonna end up, until you wake up one day and realize it, and step away from that.”