James Hughes grew up in California before joining the Navy right out of high school. Upon getting his first tattoo fresh out of boot camp, he discovered the medium to which he wanted to dedicate his life. When his active duty was up, James stayed in Maryland, hoping to obtain a fulfilling apprenticeship at a reputable shop. His enthusiasm was not met with open arms; it was going to be a lot of hard work and dedication to be able break into the tattoo business.
Don’t let it be said that James hasn't paid his dues. While working several jobs during the week to pay bills, he worked for free at a poorly run tattoo shop on the weekends—running errands, mopping, cleaning toilets—doing the jobs that everyone else at the shop was beyond.
In his time at this particular shop, he learned more about what NOT to do. That said, James began tattooing friends and acquaintances out of his house to begin shaping his skills as a tattooer. Then one day, James received a call from another up-and-coming tattooer who told him about an opening at a shop at which he was working in Silver Spring called Capitol Tattoo—his first real job tattooing.
Working in a fast-paced “street shop” with artists such as Seth Ciferri, Matt Rinks, and Brady Duncan really taught James how to work proficiently. Still, quality came in second to quantity. After almost four years at Capitol, he was urged by the same friend who introduced him to that job to go work for none other than Vinnie Myers in Baltimore, Maryland. Little Vinnie’s not only provided a talented and experienced staff, but working there also provided James the opportunity to travel all over the United States and Europe, working at the side of one of the finest tattoo artists, nationally. However, after four more years at Vinnie’s, he was still unable in a lot of ways to escape the “street shop” mentality.
James left Vinnie’s in hopes of building a more “custom” clientele and to seek knowledge and guidance from Tom Beasley, Owner and Proprietor of Dragon Moon Tattoo Studio in Glen Burnie, Maryland. Dragon Moon maintains an impeccable reputation built on 25 years of experience in the tattoo industry. During his two years at Dragon Moon, James learned the graces of customer service and individual attention. He was able to hone his skills as an artist and, at the same time, garner the confidence to take a more independent approach to his career.
Looking for a breath of fresh air, James traded the suburbs of Glen Burnie for the big city of Washington D.C. After a couple years downtown, we opened Bethesda Tattoo.