So you want to be a tattoo artist?

We get a lot of people asking about getting an apprenticeship at the shop. Most of them email or message on Instagram. A lot don’t even know who owns the studio or who works at the shop. Some send CVs. Which is nice, but it’s not anything we would ever need to see. I used to give advice, and mostly I’d never hear from them again. So I’m going to write it here. To save me writing it and so you can read it before you send me a CV. Also bear in mind this is just my opinion, I’ve been around a long time. Dammit.

Tattooing is as much a trade or a craft as anything else. There is a history behind it, some shops are lucky enough to have family connections to past tattooists, others have been lucky enough to fall into a lineage of tattooists. Very few have it all figured it out by themselves. But we are all standing on the shoulders of giants. All of us.

You do not have to know this history, it is something that is learned and can be discovered, but it is something you should learn and be taught in an apprenticeship.

Why do you want to be a tattoo artist? I hear so many people who wanted to be tattooists growing up. A lot of us fell into it. “Too lazy to work and too scared to steal” is a phrase some of use to describe how we got where we are. But I digress; why? You have to work stupid hours, you are self employed, that means you pay your own taxes, not your boss. You will be no showed, you will still have bills to pay, you will need to save and put money aside for the slow days. Luckily you can paint flash then, but you’d rather be tattooing and making money. No holiday pay, no sick pay, no pension scheme. No future!

Can you draw? I mean draw on paper, and not just tracing down trad flash that wasn’t good when it was painted by that old dead guy. Don’t get me wrong, there were some masters of the game back in the day, technically and artistically; but as today there were many chancers. If you do trad flash, make it better if it’s crap reference, fix the mistakes, put yourself into it. Don’t bring in what you think we want to see. We don’t want to see arrows, infinity symbols, koi carp etc. We want to see what you are capable of. Not your worst work. Although it can be very cool to see someone’s progression over time. A tattoo apprenticeship is not being taught to draw. If you are an apprentice you will be taught to adapt your work for tattooing, but that will be that. (Don’t bring in charcoal drawings, hate the filthy stuff)

If you are scratching, stop. If you are serious about getting into a shop. You will have bad habits you will need to be broken out of. not every mentor will have the time or inclination to deal with it.

Why do you want to work in my shop? This ain’t working in a corporate structure. There is work to be done and money to be made, tempers get frayed at times (and I’m sorry to anyone I lost it with) but we are all human. In life you like 20% of people you meet straight away, hate 20% and you are indifferent to the rest. How do you know you want to work for a few years at least with someone if you haven’t met them? Visit shops, hang out, get tattoos, figure out who you get on with, then ask. If you get advice or you are asked to go and draw and come back, you have just been given a test. If you walk out and sail away you just failed. But was that your ego tripping and throwing a chance away? You might never know.

You will break down machines and clean. You will learn to use an autoclave and the sonic. You will mop, fetch, carry, make stencils, answer the phone, maybe run the bank, deal with customers, go the shop, clean up puke, watch people faint, piss themselves, throw people out, deal with junkies, time bandits, psychic vampires, sharks, hear the maddest stories and the funniest jokes. (And the worst jokes) You will not do one single thing that any tattoo artist in the shop has done. We all did that shit, and we all still do. Feels good. You will learn a trade and hopefully become part of the fabric of tattooing.

But are we taking on any apprentices? No.

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