Cory Norris

Interviewed by Curtis Burguess
Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 11.09.38 AM

Curtis: Hi Cory, let me start by saying I’m a huge fan of your work! Your versatility, technical ability and creativity are a great inspiration to the tattoo community. Was art involved in your life since you were a child? Do you think the era that you started tattooing contributed to your versatility?

Cory: Thanks Curtis, and let me start by saying how honored I am to hear that from you! I’m a huge fan of your work as well. Such a smooth, refined, recognizable style, you’re at the top of my list; so thank you for the constant inspiration. I would say yeah, I have always been around some kind of art influence. My dad drew a lot when I was a kid, so I guess it was a learned behavior. I always felt comfortable and happy drawing. It’s something I always had for me, almost an escape from the daily routines of school and chores. I come from a pretty middle class background, so we didn’t have a whole lot of money. Drawing was for entertainment most of the time. I started tattooing around 1994 or 1995. That was the era of crazy twisted up tools and appliances with bright yellow or blue light bouncing off them.

Curtis: And super bold outlines right?

antonio copy
dave copy 2

Cory: Yeah that’s right! I like to use different line weight, but that was out of control. That was in Santa Cruz, California under the guidance of Iggy Vans and Patrick Ethington who were working at Erno Tattoo; two super great guys and artists. They really answered any questions I had even though I didn’t technically work for the shop, I just wouldn’t leave. I worked around there for a year or so and ended up with a great opportunity through another great guy and artist by the name of Jef McGreevy, whom I worked with for awhile at a tiny little shop in the downtown area of Santa Cruz. After he left and landed in Baltimore at Little Vinnie’s, he let me know they needed another guy there. So I packed and went. I think that might be where my versatility came from. Everyone there had a very distinct style, from super simple traditional to just amazing bio-mech stuff. It was serious sensory overload and I was just so hungry for info I took as much in as I could from everyone, plus I was the walk in guy so I had to be able to do anything that came through the door.

Curtis: Sounds like fun, what a great shop to get into! So, if my history is correct you met Aaron Cain, Dave Waugh and Seth Ciferri at that shop? Around 1996-98? Being the walk in guy, were you doing lots of flash or were already doing custom tattoos at that time? How long were you there and where did you go next?

Cory: Yeah, that’s right. I’m still so grateful to have had that opportunity. It was 1997 I think; I was there for a year, but learned so much in that year it was almost too much to process. Especially what Aaron would talk about as far a composition or color theory. I got the idea of what he was saying, but years later it would really click. I would be working out a drawing and it would just make sense. Almost like a bunch of seeds were planted that year and the more I worked the more it would come together. I was pretty much walk-in guy for that whole year. I did a few custom pieces here and there but I was happy at the time just working on doing solid clean tattoos. Vinnie owned two shops at the time, one was pretty much walk-in only down on Liberty Road. And I think the other was in Finksburg. The Liberty Road shop was really a 90% walk-in shop and that’s where I was. Finksburg is where lot of the custom work was done. That was a long year, almost no time off there. Eventually I wanted to get back to California, it’s definitely home for me. That when I opened up my own place in February 1998, just passed my 15 year anniversary.

Curtis: Curtis: 15 years! Congrats man! Can you tell me a little bit about your shop? Are you a private studio?

red copy
maribel copy 2
kyle copy
Cory: We’re not a private studio, we do a lot of walk-in stuff and I have such a great crew. Everyone is really dedicated and works super hard. Danny Warner, Mischa Matulich, Eddie Zavala, and Phil Manzanedo who is the piercer and just broke away and opened his own studio right down the hall. Im glad he didn’t go far, he been around for about seven years I think. I have a room set up for working that is totally private and I could work in there, but I love being around everyone in the shop and having fun all day. It’s a pretty mellow atmosphere so it’s still easy to concentrate and not get to bothered with people coming and going.

Curtis: You mentioned color theory and composition, didn’t you recently take classes to push these ideas even further?

Cory: Yeah, I did. I attend the Academy of Arts out of San Francisco and take the online courses. They are pretty demanding and it’s something that takes some juggling to fit in, but I seem to find time and make it work. The color theory class was a serious eye opener. I thought I knew a bit about color going into it, but I was blown away. It was the hardest class I took so far and the one I took the most from. I still think I have a lot to learn but am more comfortable making decisions about what works best for the piece. Plus I have guys like you to look up to that are amazing with color theory!

Curtis: I am not sure how you keep up with family, tattoo workload, and art classes! To me it shows that hard work is how you get good. I believe that we had a short conversation about color while you were still taking that class. You were sure able to make me think about color like I had not before in just a few short minutes. HA! Were you practicing a lot of color ideas in your paintings first or were you able to apply these things to tattooing right away? And what other classes did you take?

More of this interview inside Tattoo Society Magazine back issue #40

Leave a Comment