A true tattoo talent. Yayo interviews the awesome Kat James
So many of our pro artists are at the top of their game and none more so than the super talented Kat James. Despite Covid causing tattoo chaos Kat hasn't dropped the ball and continues to produce some of the best tattoos in the UK. We sent out blog writer Matt Haddon-Reichardt to get the low down on why she loves tattooing so much.
Q. How Did you get into tattooing?
A. Tom, now my husband, got to know my arty side. I cant remember a time in my life where I wasn’t doodling on something which drove my mum mad and obviously at school but I never thought I could actually make money from art. So we just started chatting about tattooing, he had a really crappy tattoo he wanted covering up, and he suggested maybe getting into it rather than letting my talent go to waste. I had no idea about the industry at that time, I mean I had a couple of small tattoos but that was it really so I started to research tattooing and the industry. Things like cross contamination; Google told me bits and pieces. This was 16 years ago so there wasn’t a lot of information about tattooing to be honest but I just kind of got the bug! I sourced materials and started practicing on practice skin and then Tom was my volunteer from there. I am lucky to have picked tattooing up quite naturally and progressed pretty quickly. In 2007 we moved to Bristol, which is Tom's home city, from my home town in Bury up north and I got offered a job right away. I worked in a few studios in Bristol and eventually I met Cookie who became my adopted mentor. I picked up a few things from working with different artists along the way, some things I kept with me and use to this day and some things I soon realised were bad practice and never to be repeated by myself.
"Year after year we got busier and busier taking on more artists to cover walk ins who themselves eventually got booked up!"
Q. Tell me about how your career has progressed?
A. After 4 years of working in different studios, 2 of them with Cookie at Demonic Dermagraphic in Radstock Tom, I decided it was the right time for us to open our own studio. I have two children so wasn’t really into the travelling tattooist scene or lots of conventions so for me it was the next step. In 2011 we opened Purple Rose Tattoo in Bristol. It was scary but felt like a natural progression, in the beginning it was just me but within a month or so we had 3 artists and a piercer. Year after year we got busier and busier taking on more artists to cover walk ins who themselves eventually got booked up! Almost 10 years later we have 11-12 artists at anyone time , some come and go but the majority love it and stay. I’m not going to lie it is hard work running such a big studio and I couldn’t do it with out my husband Tom who deals with the day to day running and the business side of things.
Q. How would you describe your style?
A. My style? I have never really thought I had a style as such, I suppose you would say I’m an all rounder. At the beginning of my career I progressed towards black and grey realism but I’d say colour is were my heart is. The nerdier the better from comic style to realism. I am a nerd, a big nerd much to my husbands dismay and I am very lucky to get so many awesome tattoos to do!
"I love everything about the job itself; the people I work with and more importantly my lovely customers! "
Q. What do you love most about your job?
A. I love everything about the job itself; the people I work with and more importantly my lovely customers! I am lucky enough to have a really good team who I work with, extended family really and apart from the odd occasion we just gel as a family. The majority of my customers are awesome!!! Don’t get me wrong everybody gets that one or two lets say difficult customers but as a whole I can't complain, some have even become close friends. I love the different banter we have, I literally laugh everyday. And the gossip you hear; wow! I think we are the new bartenders, my customers become so comfortable with me they tell me everything; never too be repeated of course. I love the fact that tattooing has given my family a pretty ok life. My kids are 20 and 21 now; I feel so old but they are doing well and if it wasn’t for tattooing I don’t think we could have been able the give them half the opportunity’s we have been able to.
Q. What did you get up to during lockdown?
A. To be honest before lockdown my time was pretty limited, I always find myself booked up 6 months plus in my diary so any artwork was dedicated to my clients designs. Any spare time I had was usually for general house duties, shopping, cooking, cleaning etc. But obviously with having so much spare time over lockdown I started to do Pet portraits. Just for friends to begin with and my own just to keep busy and posted a few on Instagram; from there I got commission after commission. I love animals just as much as tattooing so I absolutely love doing them. I also do a little interior design, my own mostly but tips to friends and family, more of a hobby but would love to get more into that.
"To be honest I don’t think we have survived it yet; its just the beginning of it."
Q. Do you think tattooing has survived Covid 19 and is making a come back?
A. To be honest I don’t think we have survived it yet; its just the beginning of it. We are pretty sensible with money so had enough in the business to see us through, the business premises grant helped for a couple of months keeping the studio and bills paid but it soon ran out. Personally being a ltd company and technically employed by Purple Rose we had to furlough ourselves which was minimum money but we did the same as probably most people and took a mortgage break. The pet portrait commission helped with keeping a little money coming in. It was scary at first not knowing but eventually we actually enjoyed ourselves, after 10 years of being flat out it was actually nice to have a break from it all. To get to spend quality time with the kids with the lovely weather we had. Luckily we have a huge garden so spent most of the time out there, we actually have a nice garden now. I kept Tom busy also with all them finishing touches to the house he never had time to do before! Hopefully we can survive as an industry. Since retuning we have been busier than ever before, I need another break!
Q. Eight years ago when I started writing for the tattoo industry sexism was a huge problem. Nearly a decade on have things got any better?
A. I have experienced a little sexism in the tattooing industry, my husband and I would go to conventions to look around and everybody would naturally presume that Tom was the artist and chat to him. He would correct them, but even now people presume he is the tattoo artist when we tell people what we do for a living. In my studio no its not an issue, but overall probably. There are more and more woman owned studios popping up which is lovely to see, I was the first in Bristol and now there’s at least 4 or 5 that I know of; we are getting there slowly.
Q. What are your plans for the future?
A. What are my plans for the future? Just to keep doing what I’m doing, our studio has an amazing reputation and we work hard to keep it that way. I will probably slow down eventually, have a bit more time for fun things hopefully but to be honest I just love what I do and would miss it if I didn’t do it at all.
A final thought from the author: "We love how talented our Pro Team are and we are super proud to support them. Times are tough, especially on our wallets, but please remember to keep supporting tattooing and your favourite tattooists. Together we can survive this. Also remember to heal your tattoo with Yayo. If you want the best then use the best. Use Yayo!"
Yayo, be part of the family!
Words by Matt Haddon-ReichardtImages by Kat James,Yayo and NHS England