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Meet Cat James of Cattoos in San Diego County

Today we’d like to introduce you to Cat James.

Cat, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I had been intrigued by the art of tattooing for many years, since before getting my first tattoo in college. As an art student studying graphic design, I had many friends ask if I would draw the tattoos they were thinking of getting. At a few points within college, I looked into getting an apprenticeship, but to be honest, the commitment was daunting – investing lots of time and energy into something that I wouldn’t see a financial return-on-investment from for a few years at the least scared me. Also, I’ve always been a sort of “Jane of all Trades” if you will. I know I would want to learn and pursue many trades in the next couple of years and could not commit to just one. I’m in my early 20’s after all, this is our time to explore everything! For the past few years, I put the idea of tattooing aside and have made a living doing freelance graphic design among other things. I became very passionate about branding upcoming companies and creating logos and personal brands for artists and entrepreneurs. I continued this work (and still do it now) while traveling around Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Mexico returned to Ocean Beach for a few years, then headed back to Mexico. This return trip is when tattooing came back into my life. I had a rad roommate that was completely trusting in my ability as an artist.

After lots and lots of research, I did my first tattoo on her. I was so amazed how well it turned out and how natural it felt to execute the tattoo. The next tattoo I gave was to my mom when she came to visit me! Many other tattoos followed during my time in Mexico. I fell in love with the intimacy and process of hand poke tattooing so naturally, I decided to continue now that I’ve returned to San Diego.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
For a long time, I’ve been frustrated at my inability to commit to one craft and see it all the way through. Now, however, I’m so grateful that I’ve taken a swing at so many different things on my way to where I currently am. My attempt to make freelance graphic design my full-time career made me realize that I hated spending all my time in front of a computer screen. I took bartending classes and worked that industry for a while, eventually developing a distaste for the unhealthy habits that late night lifestyle encouraged. I worked in a health food store and then for a raw vegan restaurant, really refining my own self-care. Unable to see a future doing those jobs, however, I practiced and became a teacher of both Ashtanga and Bheemashakti Yoga. Although my health was thriving, my creativity still craved an outlet for sharing. Between many of these chapters, I spent months on end traveling in Central America. Every time I lived abroad, I valued moneyless, and happiness more. Slowly, but surely, I’ve found my ideal lifestyle; a balance between my overall health, financial and emotional needs, and desires to travel, explore and be free to change my mind at any point in time. At this point in time, I love that hand-poke tattooing fulfills these and I love being able to imprint memories and meaningful symbols on people’s skin for them to keep forever.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Cattoos story. Tell us more about the business.
Cattoos is my personal (and very young) tattoo business. I specialize in hand-poke (also known as stick and poke) and Jagua tattoos. Traditional tattoos can be a costly investment and it’s important to be sure about your decisions regarding them. My goal as an artist is to share this form of body decoration in a way that is approachable both financially and in a decision-making sense.

That’s where Jagua comes in. Jagua is similar to henna in that it’s a plant-based temporary skin stain that only lasts a few weeks, but it is black in color. It is NOT to be confused with black henna. Black henna actually contains a harmful chemical that is extremely toxic to us. Jagua is a much more natural and safe alternative that not many people know about! It’s great for events like festivals or concerts, young kids who aren’t old enough for a real tattoo or even pranking your conservative family and friends (I had a client do this recently on April fools, pretty funny). My main goal for offering Jagua though is allowing people the opportunity to ‘try on’ a tattoo they aren’t ready to fully commit to. I’m proud to offer these two less common skills, especially Jagua because of its rarity.

As for most hand-poke tattooing, I tend to favor line-focused designs, that can also have shading. Although many of my personal designs are heavily inspired by my travels in Central America, surfing and living by the sea, I am totally open to whatever tattoo ideas people come to me with! Small symbols and simplified designs tend to look the best.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I think luck is more of a perception than anything. I can choose to see each occurrence in my life as luck, divine intervention or just the reality that I’m fortunate to be affected by. I think it’s important to be aware of how each of these perceptions effects our wellbeing. Personally, I notice that when I attribute things to luck, I subconsciously dismiss my own role in making it happen. Sometimes, like in the case of meeting my roommate who was willing to receive my first tattoo job, it’s harmless. I’m lucky to have met her. However, when I think about going back to Mexico the second time to try making working-while-travel a lifestyle for me, I choose to be proud of myself for making that leap of faith, putting myself out of my comfort zone. It was not luck that landed me in Mexico, it was me! That narrative plays an important part in my self-confidence as an ever-evolving human. So, I guess what I’m trying to say is, luck is cool, but it’s important to take responsibility for the good things in our lives!


  • $30/hr for Jagua Tattoo sessions, $30 minimum. (prorated pricing)
  • $50/hr for Hand-Poke Tattoo sessions, $25 minimum. (prorated pricing)
  • $20, $30 and $40 pre-designed flash tattoos available for choosing from
  • Add me on Instagram @cattoosbycat for many discounted/free tattoo opportunities!

Contact Info:

  • Phone: 7608033987
  • Email:
  • Instagram: @cattoosbycat

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