Bringing a feminine touch to Boulder tattoo at Love You

Boulder’s newest tattoo shop welcomes appointments and retro vibes

By Jess Mordacq Nov 4 2021

Many tattoo studios decorate their walls with imagery of demons or naked women, evoking a macho vibe common among the traditional tattoo world. As tattoos become more mainstream, the industry’s classic makeup is shifting.

Cori James wanted to work in a studio with a more calming, welcoming, comforting energy than can be found in many shops. When she moved to Boulder at the beginning of the year, Cori struggled finding a shop to work at that fit these criteria, especially for women clients and tattoo artists. So she decided to build one herself and opened Love You in Boulder, pushing tattooing into a more modern form.

“The shop I wanted to work at didn’t exist,” Cori says. So she and her husband bought the space with their savings and financial help from a friend.

In September, Cori booked her first appointments inside Love You Tattoo at 3380 Arapahoe Avenue. She found the open, high-ceilinged space in April and signed her lease in June, from having the idea of a new kind of shop to calling a studio her own in two months.

Cori James. Credit: Cori James.

With a retro, 1970s vibe, Cori, her husband and Brit — Cori’s friend, first hire, and shop manager at the previous studio they worked at together — painted the studio’s entire stretch of wall with thick, geometric stripes of red, yellow and blue. In the front of the studio sits sleek, red and blue chairs and a couch, plus a lava lamp.

When I try Love You’s front door on a recent visit, the tattooist in the front of the shop hurries to let me in. Cori keeps the door locked partially to protect her all-female staff.

Because Cori’s four resident employees, including herself, book their own appointments and schedules, largely on Instagram, the studio is without a receptionist and a website. The locked door also serves to promote healthy tattooing practices, so that an artist doesn’t have to stop mid-ink session to open the door with gloves on.

The front of the building’s sign simply reads “Love You.” Though strangers occasionally wandered in to ask about the new business, Cori chose to leave off “tattoo” because of the shop’s appointment-only policy. Plus, it adds intrigue for those passing by.

“I don’t need to promote my tattoo shop,” Cori says, who has “Love y’all” tattooed across her knuckles. “Just love.”

Credit: Jessica Mordacq

Artists and clients

After tattooing for 7 years in Atlanta, then around a year in Denver, Cori and her staff now tattoo high-end, custom designs on many of her previous clients in Boulder. Though Boulder has a less established tattooing scene than Denver, Cori is trying to change that, working with clients who commute to Love You from Denver, rather than the current reverse scenario.

As an appointment-only shop, Love You doesn’t allow walk-ins. Cori’s artists also draw their own designs and some offer flash tattoos, also pre-drawn in an artist’s style. Allowing artists to create their own content and schedules makes for a happier staff, and thus happier clients.

Though Cori didn’t intentionally recruit an all-female staff, she enjoyed the process of collecting talented artists who have become a close-knit family.

While her shop cultivates a female vibe, Cori herself has a hardcore one, which, of course, also manifests in the studio, since it’s a tattoo shop after all. Since 2015, she has raced competitively in triathlons, two Ironmans, and 13 half Ironmans.

Featured image of Cori James and Brit, provided by Love You Tattoo.