If you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life. This old adage has proven to be timeless and true across many mediums. Whether it be art, athletics, music, engineering, writing, tattooing or any hobby, subjects of their work will tell you that it is not a choice for them. They are a victim – held hostage by passion.
This attribute can be seen in many of the best artists time has to offer, including (but not limited to) Kat Von D, Don Ed Hardy, Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins, Mike “Rollo” Malone, Scott Campbell and Ami James. These types knew when they picked up the tools of their trade that they were not soon to put them down – instantly hooked, like a fiend to a needle.
Julius “Jules” Woods, 35, is no exception to this trait. Woods knew the day of getting his first tattoo that he wanted to pursue a career in tattooing, and he was apprenticing in shops during his senior year of high school.
Jules was born in Chicago, but he was raised in Guntown, MS – a small-town of only 2,700 people. He can recall the challenges of growing up as a black tattooer in Mississippi, but he never let that hold him back and has since traveled the country pursuing his passion.
Woods has been tattooing for over 17 years in 13 different studios. He has spent the last seven years in Carrollton – most of that time as an artist at Skinwerks Tattoo & Design alongside artist Craig Foster, who appeared and competed on the popular television show “Ink Master” in 2015. Woods has since broken away and is now the proud owner of Blackwater Ink. He opened shop in October of last year, which happened to fall on a Friday the 13th.
The master tattoo artist says the transition was absolutely terrifying.
“Nothing worth having comes without some kind of risk,” Woods said. “So, it was a risk that I took. I’ve dumped a lot of money, basically everything I have, into it. Right now, I’m putting everything back into the business to make sure that my people have what they need. I designed the shop for the tattooers – it’s not for me to make money, it’s for them to make money and if they make money then I make money in return.”
Woods seems to be doing exceptionally well since opening his studio. He has taken advice from many other owners with much more experience – and is taking all of the right steps to become successful. His humble personality, dedication and lifetime of hard work is paying off for him.
“The name “Blackwater” is an homage to home,” he says. “Every time I hear that old Doobie Brothers (Black Water) song it reminds me of home. I grew up on a farm, and on that farm, there is a lake – at night, against the moonlight, it looked like black ice. I would go there just to sit and look at this lake, the sky, the stars and all of that.”
Woods recognizes that Carrollton has an abundance of talented artists – both students and non-students. He uses the hallway and foyer of his studio to showcase local art. When he makes a sale the artist keeps 100 percent of the profit. He wants to bring more culture into people’s lives.
“I want to do things that most tattoo studios don’t do,” he says. “If you want to draw people’s attention you have to do something different. You can’t do it the way that everyone else does.”
He also recognizes the importance of local business in the community.
“A small town like this is local business oriented. If more of us will work together it will benefit all of us,” he says. “I think that’s the way it should be. There’s enough to go around for all of us – so why not help someone else out. Even if it costs me a little bit, so what.”
His clients fuel his passion. Some have said that getting tattooed is better than going to a shrink. He loves to see the reaction on his client’s face after getting tattooed. He says that most of the reactions are of people who got more than what they expected.
Woods’ passion has taken him so many places and given him a significant amount of memories and stories to tell – and will surely give him many more.
“I’m an artist at heart and I stay pretty dedicated to that. I’m either drawing or painting when I’m at home. I’ll never quit tattooing – there’s no time,” he says. “That also means very little sleep and not much of a social life – I even have two ex-wives and a lot of that comes from the time and work that I’ve put into my craft. You know how everyone says, “you’re never promised tomorrow,” so I try to get as much done every single day as I possibly can, so I don’t feel like it’s been wasted.”