Jim Francis was in his late teens and early 20s in Southern
California, he admits he was on a roller coaster of drugs, alcohol and
"almost anything I could get my hands on." It wasnít until
the LAPD kicked in the door at his dealerís house ó and pinned
most of the drugs on Francis ó that he decided to go straight.
relocating to Milwaukee with his wife, Angela, Francis has come a long
way. Not only is he the owner of Milwaukee Ink Tattoo (the first
tattoo studio authorized by Harley-Davidson to be housed within a
dealership), he and Muskego-native Angela recently welcomed a
daughter, Olivia Laverne. But his triumph-over-tragedy success doesnít
stop there ó he was also a cast member on the most recent season of
Spike TV series, "Ink Master," hosted by Dave Navarro of
Francis, who has
been tattooing for more than 12 years, learned his trade on the
streets with a homemade rig and from hanging out in a friendís shop.
"I really wish I had written down the day I did my first paying
piece," he says.
With a specialty
in Japanese and photorealism, black and gray pieces are his current
passion. "I find them a challenge to do and lay out
properly," he says. "For some reason, my mind just seems to
crave drawing and tattooing these pieces. Plus, there is a limited
color palette, and that works in my favor since I am partly color
he never set out to open his own shop. "It actually takes up more
of my time than I want it to," he says. "I was comfortable
working in other shops and just dropping my percentage and not
worrying about staffing, supplies, taxes and all the other work
that goes into owning a shop."
the Harley deal "fell into his lap" thanks to the
support of Starship Tattoo owner James Purvis and Chaz Hastings, owner
of Milwaukee Harley-Davidson, who mentored Francis on running a
successful business. Now, as the owner of Milwaukee Ink Tattoo, he
offers a variety of tattoo and body modification services to clients
from Milwaukee and beyond. At the end of the day, says Francis,
"I want to make the customer happy and for it to be a memorable
experience for them."
contractually he canít say much about his time on "Ink
Master," he says he walked in "cocksure that I was going to
kill it" and found out real fast he wasnít in his own shop
anymore. "Things are real different with combative customers,
jumping through hoops to make three judges happy, living with the
other contestants, missing your family and personal space ó and then
you have the whole production side of it. I was a hot mess!"
The thing about
the legendary tattoo artists who serve as "Ink Master"
judges, he says, is "they are paid to be asses ó and they do
their jobs well."
Francis, his main goal in moving to Wisconsin was to grow as an artist
and a man. And that he has succeeded at, in spades. "I am old
enough now to realize that my actions donít just affect me anymore.
I have a family and a shop to worry about, and the future of those two
things weighs on me everyday," he says. "Failure is not an
my reason for applying for ĎInk Master.í I didnít go on the show
to get famous. I went on the show to see how I would perform under
pressure and to make a future for my family and my shop. God, I hope
Tattoo is located at 11310 W. Silver Spring Road, Milwaukee, inside
Milwaukee Harley-Davidson. Tattoos start at $60. mkeink.com