We had the good fortune of connecting with Cori James and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Cori, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
As a young tattooer in the early days of my career, I was brought up in the industry surrounded by the “eat, sleep, and breathe tattooing” type of artists. They would work from noon til midnight on a regular basis and only talked about tattooing, tattoos, and tattooers. They worked, worked, and worked some more and would wear their exhaustion like a badge of honor. And if I’m being completely honest…I absolutely hated that environment. I hated the idea of focusing all of my energy and time on my job- even though my job is awesome and super fun and I adore it- it’s still my job and I hated the thought of prioritizing it over my family, friends, and living my life outside of the tattoo shop. I tried to keep up with my coworkers at first by working myself to the bone, but it’s just not who I am and it makes me a crabby, uninspired tattooer when I am over worked. I realized early on, that that just isn’t the kind of tattooer I wanted to be…and that was okay! It didn’t make me less dedicated to the industry or less talented than my coworkers, it just meant I had to accept that my priorities in life were different from theirs. After a few years in my career, I found a love for endurance sports (Ironman triathlons in particular) and decided that it was okay to love something other than tattooing. It was okay to focus some of my energy on something that was good for my soul, even if it wasn’t necessarily going to further my career as an artist. I had to deal with weird judgment from coworkers at the time, but I didn’t care. I knew it was good for my soul, which in the end, would be good for my clients and that was what mattered to me. I made the decision that I was not the person who “lived to work”, I was the person who loved their job and “worked to live.” Over my career I have cut down the amount of days I work per week and the number of clients I see per day, yet my income has remained stable and my lifestyle as an athlete is supported. I think it’s the balance in my soul and my trust in my wonderful clients that has helped me cut back, but stay financially stable. Tattooing can be a “feast or famine” sort of industry, but every time I have a dry spell, I just trust that I needed the rest and that my clients will come back when the time is right. It sounds kind of *woo woo*, but it’s the truth! :]
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I specialize in my own version of American traditional tattooing! I use the tried and true back bone of traditional tattooing- bold black outlines and shading combined with bright colors- but add my own little spin with lots of fun colors and a bit more dynamic imagery. I love bright colors (but also black and grey, don’t get me wrong!) and creating art that makes people smile. I’m so very grateful for all of the amazing clients over the years who have trusted me with their super fun ideas! From Ron Swanson made of breakfast food to the old school “Mom” hearts we all know and love. As a female artist in a male dominated industry, specializing in a male dominated style of tattooing, it’s been truly amazing to see the support and love my art gets from all types of folks! I still can’t believe it sometimes. That people want MY ART permanently on their bodies! So wild. So grateful. However, tattooing isn’t the only form of art I create! In 2019 I started my very own athletic wear design brand called Fill The Well Athletics! @fill_the_well_athletics I’m so proud of this tiny little business where I’ve been able to combine my love of art and design with my passion for endurance sports and all things active. The brand is based very heavily in the idea that self-love is something that each and every one of us needs to embrace. I try to make designs that will inspire people to love themselves while also doing something good for their body- whether it’s running, cycling, climbing, dancing, walking, rowing, bird watching, you name it. If it makes your heart happy and helps you find self-love, I think it’s amazing. I hope Fill The Well can change the fitness community in a way that prioritizes self-love and health over looking the way society tells us is “attractive” or “right” or whatever they force down our throats. Loving yourself will change your whole world!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
My fiancé and I actually live out in Boulder so when folks come to visit, all we want to do is show them the beauty that is Colorado and the Rocky Mountains! We always take folks straight to Chataqua Park to see the Flatirons. It may be a touristy destination, but it’s popular because IT’S AMAZINGLY BEAUTIFUL and right smack in the middle of Boulder! I don’t blame folks for wanting to be there too! We adore the trails in South Boulder as well. Especially the Shanahan Ridge area! So many trails start in that area and you can hike to Bear Peak as a straight shot up the trail! We also love taking folks to Rocky Mountain National Park. I mean, it doesn’t get much more awesome than an hour drive and you’re in a national park…like…c’mon. Yes, please! Obviously we love hiking and showing folks the incredibly beautiful nature around here. Since we never really leave Boulder, we absolutely love eating the incredible Nepalese food at Sherpas on Walnut, after a nice long hike so that’s a must for anybody visiting. Then we head over to Rayback Collective for a beer in the sun at a table in their huge outdoor seating area! If we wanna get fancy, though, we take folks to Oak on Pearl Street. The food is amazing and the cocktails are top notch. Can’t go wrong!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’d love to thank my supportive parents, my loving and amazing partner Jason, and the folks in the industry I have found who love life as much as they love tattooing like me. Y’all know who you are!
Instagram: @corijamestattoo @fill_the_well_athletics
Larissa Johnson Photography