I’ve been reading a great deal recently in other tattooer blogs and in the general tattoo press how the availability of apprenticeships is becoming more and more limited. The obvious reason for this, is the fact that tattooing has become widely mainstream due to media coverage and TV. Generally meaning we all have more and more people knocking on the door of the tattoo studio asking for one as they have seen how easy it is to tattoo and see it as a career option.
This sudden rise in wanna-be tattooers has created a monster in the eyes of most seasoned professionals. I hear more and more stories as of late how guys have opened up their doors to individuals who, on the outset seem to be motivated and loyal, only to find out that this is far from the truth and get burned.
The apprenticeship for me, was always about how much I could give back to tattooing and my mentor, as much as how much I could gain or learn. It seems to me that nowadays it is more the case of how quick somebody can plunder your wealth of knowledge and give nothing in return so they can move on and do the same elsewhere. The kind of modern fast track to the front of the que approach. Or worse still, open up a shop in the same town and try their best to take as many clients with them by underhand tactics and general bullshit! This has happened to myself personally twice in the last six years. About the same time that a certain TV program first aired.
This has caused a rise in professional tattooers shutting the door in the face of anyone who comes knocking. I currently have an apprentice who I feel I can trust completely. She is hard-working, dedicated and has no agenda other than to take the craft of tattooing to the limits of her ability. However, this will be the last person I open my door to and teach. I am sure many others feel the same and are taking the same direction.
Tattooing, for me has always been a craft that must be passed on by a teacher or a series of mentors happy to pass on knowledge in exchange for dedication, hard work and loyalty. It now seems to me that this is a thing of the past and this can only be bad for the entire profession.
We now have shops run by so-called professionals who have been tattooing for a matter of months, not years. Also, most of these people are living with such delusions of grandeur and inflated egos that they have apprentices as well. So we have a kind of blind leading the blind scenario. These shops are popping up everywhere and to some it has spelt the beginning of the end. A kind of over kill of poor quality rubbish. The kind or poorly executed work that many of us have tried so hard to eradicate and show the public what was actually possible with the craft of tattoo. This has also been made possible by an influx of pre made products that can be bought cheaply through the internet. I have maintained for a long time now that if pre-soldered needles disappeared from the market tomorrow we would lose over fifty percent of the wannabe’s overnight. Separate the wheat from the chaff, as they say.
I read a piece recently in a blog by Myke Chambers, how he likened the current situation of apprenticeships in tattooing to a movie he had seen of which I have forgotten the title. Sorry!
The story of the film was about the over population of the planet. How the intelligent of our race could see the problem and make a conscious decision to only have one child or none at all. Where as the less intelligent were still breeding like rabbits. The movie’s climax is set far off into the future where all intelligence has been bred out of the human race and it has de-evolved. If pro tattooers are shutting the door on future apprentices, then even the talented and hard-working aren’t going to get the knowledge and skill building they deserve and so over a long period of time tattooing can only de-evolve too.
This over time may even push tattooing under ground again, which may or may not be a bad thing, and see a cull in all these low quality shops cashing in on its popularity. I personally would like to see a downtrend in media attention and the so-called spotlight coming off out profession. A burst in the bubble so to speak. There will always be a hardcore contingent that will raise it from the ashes like the phoenix and I am sure that tattooing will continue to evolve well after my time has passed.
If you are looking for an apprenticeship and you feel you can really give back to our craft as well as take, then don’t give up. I’ll finish this piece on this note. It has always been my firm belief that if you were born to tattoo then you will find a way. Even in a world where many of the people currently tattooing were really born to do something else that requires a lot less skill and effort.