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Tattoo Apprenticeship: How and why should you get them?

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Getting experience in the corporate world and in the tattoo industry has some similarities. If you think you won’t have to undergo internship or apprenticeship when you choose to become a tattoo artist then you’re wrong. Apprenticeship is an important part of aspiring tattoo artist’s career. It not only serves as your training, but it’s also a way of showing respect to the community and to those who have worked hard to earn their rights to become tattoo artists.

Every mentor will be different, you’re luck if you know someone from the family or a friend who can take you as their apprentice. For those who don’t know someone, here are some steps that will help you get started with your apprenticeship:

Start building your portfolio before you apply for apprenticeship. When I say portfolio,  I didn’t mean photos of the actual tattoos you’ve done. If you haven’t been trained by a licensed professional then shouldn’t be tattooing. Remember that you are seeking apprenticeship because you want and you need to be trained by a professional.

Bring a portfolio of your best drawings. Choose the ones that are completed, and ones that showcases your talent. Present your portfolio in a creative and professional way. This will help you convince tattoo shops and tattoo artists that you are serious about getting accepted as their apprentice.

If you don’t have a collection of drawings, start by drawing everyday. Think of designs and things most people get tattooed with. Do not copy the works of other artists. You can get inspiration from their works but never imitate their works. Try colouring your artworks using watercolour, because it’s the media closest to tattooing.

Next step is to find a shop where you want to apply as apprentice. There are lots of tattoo shops you can choose from. Do your research and find a tattoo shop with good reputation. Do a background check to make sure that the time you spent working as an apprentice won’t go to waste. Meet the artist and try to get to know him or her. If you want, you can even book an appointment with the tattoo artist and get yourself tattooed by them. If you’re lucky enough they will even allow you to hangout with them. Spend time volunteering for them and build rapport with them.

When you finally get an apprenticeship, you will need a lot of patience and humility. You’ll probably do most of the dirty work, like taking out the trash, checking inventory, and even running some errands. Don’t be offended, and don’t feel bad. Just do what they ask you to do. Be patient, and don’t expect that you’ll start doing tattoos anytime soon. You’ll probably spend a lot of time watching and observing them do their work.

After spending enough time observing and watching they will then teach you how to make needles, the healthy precautions, and how to use the tattoo machine. During the first try, you probably won’t be tattooing on an actual skin. Depending on your teacher, most tattoo artists practice on fruits. Some artists practice on their own skin. While doing all these work, do not forget that you still have to draw A LOT, to practise your skills. Apprenticeship takes a lot of courage and persistence. It usually lasts for a year or two. Make sure you set enough time and budget for your whole apprenticeship, so you can maximise the experience.
  • Anna Altez