Cori James

Photo courtesy of  @corijamestattoo

Photo courtesy of @corijamestattoo

Name: Cori James

Current City: Atlanta, GA

Hometown: Macon/ Forsyth, GA

Occupation: Tattooer

"Georgia born and raised, I am a passionate artist and aspiring triathlete trying to conquer my world one day at a time by pushing myself both creatively and physically as often as possible. I love spending time and having fun with my partner, Jason, and our pets Gus (cat) and Beni (dog). I'm a total Netflix/ TV show fiend. I get super invested in just about every character (Damn you, Game of Thrones!) and even though I'm super active, training 6 days a week for a triathlon, I LOVE sitting on my ass and binge watching my favorite shows…and then rewatching them immediately. Movies too. Additionally, I love reading inspiring books...which I will then buy for all of my friends and talk about constantly. I just love feeling inspired and feeling good and want to share that with the folks I love. Overall, I'm just a homebody triathlete who tattoos. Ha!"

What attracted you to the art of tattooing and how would you describe your style? 
My fascination with tattoos started at a pretty young age - I was probably 13 or 14 when I started asking my mom if I could get one. Thankfully she said "Nah" or else I might be covered in tribal, barbed wire and god knows what else. I was drawn to the rebellion of tattoos, I guess. The idea that they made you different. Unique. I've always been a pretty all-or-nothing kinda gal, so I knew I wanted to have lots of tattoos. I also loved the idea of breaking the mold of what being tattooed meant. I grew up in a small town which can lead to some pretty close-minded views, and people would tell me I'd never get a job if I got tattooed. That I'd look unprofessional. Blah blah blah. You know, the stuff your grandparents might say. Not mine, though. My grandparents are rad. Anyway, that just stoked my little rebellious fire even more. I wanted to prove that having tattoos doesn't actually make you a bad person…DUH.

I had wanted to be a veterinarian growing up, but when my interest in tattoos began, my love for art and my distaste for school took precedence over living the animal doc life. I was intrigued by tattoos, wanted lots, and thought…well if I make it my job I can get as many as I want! And so my little journey into becoming a tattooer began. I graduated high school, moved to the big city of Atlanta, and managed to wiggle my way into an apprenticeship in 2011 and did my first tattoo about a year later. 5 years in and loving it!

I was always drawn to traditional tattooing - the old school stuff that has been cool since the early 1900s. I love the style's longevity and history. The more I learned about the process of tattooing, the more I loved traditional for its bold lines, bright colors and the idea of doing tattoos in a way that looked great and aged well. It's the style that always suited my abilities as an artist and I've been able to make my own version of it over time. Developing my own style came with time and it's pretty amazing and humbling to know that people are into it and want it on them permanently. Pretty wild! So, overall, I'd say I'm a traditional tattooer with my own little spin on it.

Off the top of your head, what are a couple of your favorite pieces to work on? 
Cats, anything Harry Potter related, roses, peaches…well just anything someone says "Do it the way you want. Do it in your style." Thaaaat's the best!

Photo courtesy of  @corijamestattoo

Photo courtesy of @corijamestattoo

Photo courtesy of  @corijamestattoo

Photo courtesy of @corijamestattoo

You recently left Live Free Tattoo after five years to work at a brand new space called Sparrow Hawk ATL. Tell us about the transition and why you chose to hop shops. 
Live Free was the first shop I ever tattooed at full time. I will forever be grateful for that opportunity and the years I spent there learning from some of the best. However, after 5 years of growth, Live Free reached a point where I felt like it was time to spread my wings. The transition from LF was so smooth and wonderful. My Live Free fam was supportive and kind and I can't thank them enough for that.

Leaving Live Free, I knew I really wanted an environment that worked best for me creatively: bright, open, relaxing and a potential shift for new clients.  I also wanted it to be viewed as a feminist space - that was key. Tattooing is a very male-dominated industry and lots of shops are still male-dominated spaces. The times they are-a-changin' though and that's exciting. The owner of SparrowHawk, Amy Bransford, and I met and immediately knew we could create a space that Atlanta hadn't seen before. Not another tattoo shop, but a studio space where artists of all kinds can come and create in a calmer, softer environment. That's the best way I know how to describe it. We wanted to break the idealized mold of where someone could tattoo and what the tattoo industry looks like. Cue in a female dominant space where everyone feels welcome and relaxed. Some people have asked if guys are allowed...Of course, guys are allowed! That's the whole point of feminism, in our view. INCLUSIVITY. So, to the fellas who are coming to SH and supporting a feminist space, I love you and you are a huge part of our future! And to the powerful women showing support and love, THANK YOU.

When you're not creating art, you're training/participating in triathlons. How did you fall into that world and what do you love about it? 
I'll try not to be too long winded with this part and make a long story short. Haha. So, I was an athlete growing up, soccer and cross country, though not a very motivated one. I was competitive and liked the social aspect of hanging out with friends…and I had way too much energy all the time so it needed to go somewhere. I loved it, but wasn't super into the whole training part. I just wanted to play.

Photo courtesy of  @colorful_tri_cori

Photo courtesy of @colorful_tri_cori

When I graduated high school and started my short stint at college, I got good and lazy and well..gained some weight. Not a whole lot, but like most human teenage people, I was extremely insecure, self-conscious and had always hated my body; this led to an eating disorder that wrecked my life and body for a number of years. I was 19 or 20 when my eating disorder started to include working out like a crazy person and running my ass off (literally) while eating little to no food. I was sick, real sick, and had turned running, something I once loved, into nothing more than a means to an end. However, in 2012/13 I hit rock bottom and finally caught a real glimpse of what I was doing to myself. I needed to begin the healing process, which I knew would take a long time, and I needed to start now. A client of mine ended up recommending a book to me, just by chance, that would change my life. A Life Without Limits by Chrissie Wellington- a mega badass and 4-time Ironman World Champion, the longest kind of triathlon you can do with 140.6 miles split between swim, bike, and run. She had suffered from an eating disorder when she was young and kicked that shit's ass to become a total beast of an athlete - my dream. I immediately knew I wanted to become a triathlete and I wanted to do it right. I wanted to become healthy and strong. Triathlons saved my life, really. I was slowly killing myself, but my desire for strength and health took over finally. I hired a coach, joined Atlanta Tri Club (BEST IDEA EVER-MY TRI FAM RULES) and started the long process of recovery. Now, I swim, bike, run, eat, and get stronger every day. I no longer check the scale for my weight, I check my splits to see if I've gotten faster and holy shit, is that a good feeling or what?? I absolutely love training and racing triathlon.

Let's dive into the future, describe your dream life?
Ooooo dream life? Hmm…I'm going big here. I see myself living in Boulder, CO in a doooooope midcentury mountain home, tattooing and owning my own triathlon apparel brand. And I own 20 well-mannered goats to go along with our normal pets.

Discuss the importance of female friendships in your life. 
Is there even a way for me to put this into words? Wow. The ladies I have in my life are just…AMAZING. INSPIRING. UPLIFTING. INCREDIBLE. I could go on for days. 
I didn't always have an abundance of close female friendships. Actually, I had a tendency to have mostly male friends growing up. I don't think it was until I started tattooing and grew up a bit, that I realized how truly important my female friendships had become. I am so incredibly grateful for the women who surround me. I feed off of their positivity, their badassery, their determination, so many things. I don't know what I'd do without them, honestly. 

Photo courtesy of  @corijamestattoo

Photo courtesy of @corijamestattoo

Who are some of your greatest influences? 
My Mom. She is a powerful force even though she hides it under her kind eyes and sweet smile. She taught me from a young age to be independent and to not take shit, but to also know when to empathize and tone it down. She's my biggest inspiration and always will be. The overall support from both of my parents has been such a huge part of my growth as a person. They're the best.

My best friend, Becca Scott, is my forever hero. She has inspired me since the day we met and seeing her take the leap to work for herself gave me the courage to do so as well. Not to mention she's the funniest and most awesome person ever.

Charlie Graham, my angel in Memphis, is a constant inspiration in my life. She knows how to brighten my day with kindness and smiles, but will also light a fire under my ass and cut the crap when I need it. She's a go-getter and an influence to literally everyone she comes in contact with. She's so rad it's stupid.

This list could go on for days so I'm gonna stop here before I try and include 80 people. 

If you could have dinner with any woman in history, dead or alive, who would it be and why? 
Elizabeth Warren. She is a ball of fire and so unafraid to speak her mind. That woman, y'all, she's kicking ass. 

What are you grateful for? 
So so many things. My partner, Jason. My amazing family and friends. My ability to tattoo. My ability to be a triathlete. Mountains. Fall weather. Books. Stranger Things. SOOOOO many things.

Quote to live by:
"There's nothing as unstoppable as a freight train full of fuck-yeah."
-You are a Badass- Jen Sincero- one of the inspiring books I'm obsessed with/ am buying all of my friends.

To follow Cori's tattoo journey, peep her Website or Instagram or dive into her triathlon world here

Tattoo ArtistCasha Doemland