This is something I've been wanting to do for a while now but havent really had the time to put together, so with help from tattooers and other apprentices here it is, the most frequently asked apprenticeship questions - answered! - Bob Done
What is a tattooing apprenticeship?
A tattooing apprenticeship is where you learn how to tattoo under a professional tattooer, its widely considered by most tattooers as the most respectful, legitimate and SAFE way to learn how to tattoo. How long does an apprenticeship last?
An apprenticeship can last anywhere between 1-5 years. Some people say your apprenticeship never ends and in many respects it doesn’t, you will continue to learn for the rest of your life and you will always be under the watchful eyes of your mentor as its there name that you sail under. To give the question a definitive answer is hard as it all depends on what you would consider to be a fitting ending, is it the day you stop making teas for everyone? Is the day you don’t need to scrub the toilets anymore? is it the day you get your own station? Is it the day you leave to go to work at another studio? Its over when the boss says its over! How do I get an Apprenticeship?
Obtaining an apprenticeship requires talent, dedication, hard work, persistence & guts. If you lack any of those skills then its going to make obtaining an apprenticeship 1 Million times harder.
Before even searching for an apprenticeship you are going to need to spend a good 6-12++ months putting together a strong portfolio of work, meeting tattooers, networking and getting your name out there.
Start to save up some cash as well somewhere in the region of a couple of grand+ just to tide you over during the initial part of the apprenticeship. Once you feel that you have a good portfolio of solid work you should start going round to tattoo studios and making your intentions known. Most apprenticeships are based on an already established relationship with a tattooer. (i.e. you know them and they know you) The likelihood of you walking into a studio for the first time showing your work and them giving you an apprenticeship off the bat is very very slim and an unrealistic expectation for you to have. The process of obtaining an apprenticeship can take months if not years especially if done right, don’t rush into anything. The saying ‘Good tattoos aren’t cheap and cheap tattoos aren’t Good’ - can also be applied to apprenticeships - ‘Good Apprenticeships aren’t easy and easy Apprenticeships aren’t Good’ What sort of stuff should I be drawing for my portfolio?
What sort of style tattooing do you like the most? Old School? New Skool? Traditional Japanese? Tribal? Black & Grey? Portraits? Draw what your most passionate about to start off with to hone your skills. If your not passionate about a certain type of style its going to come across in the drawing or painting. Know your stuff, if you want to focus on Old School traditional tattoo art you need to know things like your not supposed to put a ship above an eagle, if your focusing on Traditional Japanese art you need to know what flowers come from what trees and not mix them up, Learn the history behind the stories and learn the different mask names. A good portfolio of consistent work where the artist knows his tattoo history and dos and don’ts is better than a portfolio of Tasmanian Devils next to pin ups standing on Kois. What about tattooing courses?
To date there is no recognition inside the industry on any scale for ‘tattoo courses’, although this is also a taboo subject in the tattoo community for various reasons, not all artists who ask for money are unscrupulous.
It has been known some Tattooists will take money off apprentices as security to get them the correct tools from a reputable supplier so they can start as they mean to go on and when finished their training they already have all the tools to do the job.
Others may be offering ‘workshop courses’ that would last only a matter of weeks and also encourage or demand you to buy the equipment needed from them as well, these people sadly are just after the money!
It is recommended that you check the individual’s credentials on a local government and national scale before you part with your hard earned cash. All trade professions have leeches that offer intensive training courses for a fee but ask yourself this, If you needed a root canal would you rather go to a dentist or a medical student 4 weeks into their dental doctorate? What about teaching myself at home?
Teaching yourself to tattoo from your home is the worst way to go about entering the profession.
Without the technical knowledge & health and hygiene procedures needed to tattoo being passed down to you from a mentor you will:
a) Scar yourself horrifically.
b) Put yourself at the risk of catching a number of serious illnesses and permanent diseases.
c) Lose the respect of the majority of tattooers & members of the tattooed community
d) Close the doors to potential studio doors once you start to seek professional employment.
e) Risk being fined for illegally tattooing at home without EHO registration.
f) Risk being put on the sex offenders register if your tattooing minors (under 18‘s) even if you yourself are under 18.
Do I pay money for an apprenticeship?
You don’t pay for a good apprenticeship. A prospective employer looking to take you on and teach you how to tattoo in exchange for money should be carefully scrutinized as they are often at the lower end of the professional spectrum and may only care about the money they will get off you and not about the actual apprenticeship process. Leaving you out of pocket and attached to a tattooer with little or no skill in tattooing, passing on what very little knowledge they do have on to you. Leaving you semi trained and not in the best position to seek further employment at another studio. Do I get paid during an apprenticeship?
Not normally but some apprentices may get there travel paid for them, Some spend a few days on the front desk a week and get paid for that, It varies from shop to shop and tattooer to tattooer. What will I be expected to do in exchange for an apprenticeship?
You will be expected to do the majority/all of the cleaning in the shop, including scrubbing toilets!
You will be expected to safely and efficiently set up and break down stations.
You will be expected to safely and efficiently scrub tubes and manage the autoclaving. (after training)
You will be expected to make teas and collect lunches.
You will be expected to work your ass off every single day, turn up on time, maintain a professional & considerate manner at all time, nod your head at all times and give the response ‘how high?’ When your boss or bosses ask you to jump.
You MAY be expected to take home your bosses laundry or ironing or give his car a good clean every now and then, this is unlikely but not unheard of. There aren’t any shops in my town offering apprenticeships what should I do?
Start looking outside of your town! If your serious about obtaining an apprenticeship you should be prepared to move anywhere in the world and you will find that your chances of getting an apprenticeship are greatly increased. My Son/Daughter/Niece/Nephew wants an apprenticeship how can he get one?
By doing all of the work there selves. If you cannot be bothered yourself to look for an apprenticeship you don’t deserve one and will not get one. I think I’m pretty good at drawing but don’t want to take my work into a studio and get laughed out what can I do?
Post it up here in the apprenticeship section and your guaranteed to get an honest response from at least one or more of the frequent posters here, If you don’t want to put it up on the internet for everyone to see you can PM one of the artists on here and ask them if they wouldn’t mind taking a look at your work and giving you some feedback. Don’t just PM them some paintings off the bat, be courteous and ask first though. I have another question that isn’t on the FAQ where can I get it answered?
Right here! Post it up!
This FAQ is in no way complete, its an ongoing project, if you have somehting you feel would be useful in here, hit me up with a PM!
BIG BIG Thanks goes to the following for helping in the writing of this FAQ: Phil Kyle, Jamie E, Jim, Fred, Mark Ford, Fluffer, Montana Blue (non member) & microsoft live mail for installing a spell check in your latest version of hotmail.
& to all the tattooers who answer these questions day in day out in there shops and know these responses like the back of there hands.