I was having a conversation the other day with somebody I know who is learning to tattoo, and will be going full time very soon and making the life changing decision to leave their job. This is a huge decision and is not one that should be taken lightly, but seems to be a decision many people are making right now.
Now, said person has a history in art- they have sold art that they have created all around the country and genuinely have artistic talent. They have been working in a tattoo shop offering lasering services, and have also worked as a shop manager. They’re also just a really nice person. This too me all adds up to somebody who deserves to be an apprentice- they know the industry, they know the regulations, they have the talent and they’re good with the clients.
However, there are so many people nowadays who decide that this whole “apprentice” thing is completely overrated, and that they can just do it themselves. I’ve just had a little browse on Ebay. The cheapest tattoo machine is £10.91. Thats how easy it is. Nowhere on the listing does it say you must present a certificate in order to buy, so I could buy one of these right now. Too many people are buying these, pitching up in their kitchen and tattooing people. We’ve all seen these tattoos, people come up to you and say, “Yeah, look at this, Trashy Tina did it in her kitchen for me. Cost me twenty quid, tidy.” Ahh, so Trashy Tina is just a tattoo genius, and that british bulldog that looks like a cat on your neck is quality work? This is so rife around where I live- people are telling their mates that their drawings are great and saying, “you should be a tattooist”. Believe me , until you’ve tried to become an apprentice in a respectable tattoo shop, then really, you have no idea how hard it is.
I suppose people will argue with me that the greats all started somewhere, that Ed Hardy started tattooing with a needle when he was knee high to a grasshopper- great, that was then. Things have moved on, massively. Nowadays some of the most talented artists and illustrators I know cannot get a look in in the tattooing, purely because the standard is so high in many shops. Also, if somebody is taking on a sub par apprentice, it’s probably because they’re sub par themselves. So the next time you draw a rose and a crucifix, with a piece of tribal with japanese clouds in the background and your best mate says to you , “That’s top that, you should tattoo that on me”, please just say, “No, I haven’t had the training, I’m not doing that, take it to a good shop and pay for it.” This will make the tattoo world a much better, much more transparent place to be, and will make me, a very,very happy man.
Rich Jones spends his time getting great tattoos and learning Journalism and Media, which he’s going to ace a degree in, in September. When he isn’t having needles stuck in him or writing long words, he loves rugby and music.