these three little words come up with amazing frequency in this blogs “Search engine terms” catagory. What this blog does is catalog all the pages that people used to find my blog, so if you put “tattoo apprenticeship pittsburgh” in google (and apparently a ton of people do) then my blog is one of those which comes up as a result (most likely because of this posting). Since I made a topic about the subject im not surprised that it gets grabbed by search engines at all, what I am surprised by is how often it gets clicked.
Either one of two scenarios is happening, 1) one person is obsessively typing the same phrase into google 4 times a day and then clicking on my blog over and over or 2) there’s quite a few folks out there who want an apprenticeship in Pittsburgh. Im betting its the second one.
As I discussed in my previous post, my days of being angry and threatened by other folks wanting to be tattooers are behind me, in my post about apprenticeships i gave what I believe to be good honest advice about the correct way to go about gaining an apprenticeship. However recently I have had one of those encounters which make me shake my head and force the happy part of my brain to try to keep the angry part in its cage.
I was at a local art store and the girl behind the counter started talking tome about being a tattooer. In my past I would have shut the conversation down or told a tale of horror about the rigors of tattooing in order to scare the poor person away. These days I genuinely try to be helpful without encouraging people who aren’t serious, in this case the girl had no visible tattoos at all and asked me “How could I get an apprenticeship” to which I gave my stock answer, start by getting a lot of tattoos from an artist you respect. There are some very good reasons I make this suggestion, for one, by getting tattoos you learn quite a bit about the aesthetics, technique, and experience first hand what you potential customers will be dealing with, second it allows you to form a relationship with your potential mentor and decide if you like their approach (and vice versa), in becoming a client you also allow the tattooer to learn who you are and instead of being a stranger to him or her you become anything from a trusted client to a friend.
So I mentioned all this and her response was “Oh I don’t want tattoos, I just think it would be a fun job where I could make a lot of money.”
The angry part of my brain punched itself in the face.
I paused for what felt like a full 15 seconds before I responded. “Im going to tell you this nicely because im a nice guy” I told her, “But if you said that to almost anyone else in tattooing they would get extremely angry. That attitude is all take and no give, it takes a lot of time and responsibility to apprentice someone because you are teaching them a whole lifestyle and not just a job. If you dont love tattooing enough to have them then I dont think you would do a very good job of it.”
Blank look. I took my purchases, said have a good day, and left.
From this and the occasional email I get from people it would appear that people who are around their early 20’s dont see tattooing as a career or even as a lifestyle choice, they have no inkling of the arcane and intricate world that they would possibly be entering. Tattooing is not only a job, its what our grandfathers would have called “a trade”. You are not just a peg fitting into a hole they way you are at a retail store or fast food joint, you become an integral part of the shop you work at, your contribution is like a major ingredient in a recipe, too much or too little and you could ruin the whole thing.
The bald fact is that becoming a tattooer is the result of years worth of gradual accumulation of knowledge and effort. you train your mind AND your hands slowly, the way a martial artist repeats the same moves over and over til its mind numbing and boring and you are correcting tiny tiny nuances that you couldn’t even detect a month before. I’m not saying it isn’t fun, but it certainly isn’t fast or easy. It requires you to be exceedingly patient and humble (believe me the world is full of tattooers who quit being humble and, not surprisingly, wherever their skills were at when they got cocky is as good as they are ever likely to be). It is one of the few manual trades left that require both skill and determination, the blacksmiths and sign-painters are (mostly) gone, tattooing requires an apprenticeship because it cant be learned from any other source, a book, a computer, a video can only show you what it looks like, only an apprenticeship will really show you how to DO it.
I dont want this to come off as a rant, but I would like people who are looking to become tattooers to understand that you do not understand what is involved if you are asking google for an apprenticeship. Tattooing is just too old-fashioned for the sort of cold interface of a computer, you have to go out and do it by hand, laboriously, just like applying a tattoo there is no short cuts, not tricks, no easy way out. the moment you put that first dot on someone you are committing to taking the long, diligent, exhausting way to finishing that tattoo.
Finally, if there really would ever be a tattooshop that advertised an apprenticeship online I would run as far the opposite way as you could. Chances are they would be charging a lot of money to not teach you anything but how to get burned for alot of money.