Confessions of a Tattoo Apprentice:
I work seven days a week. Four days at the grocery store, and three days at the tattoo studio. I’m shutting down my Patreon account because I don’t have time to make it a beneficial expense for the patrons. I’m squeezing every second until it screams.
The industry has made advancements since I started receiving tattoos twenty years ago. More styles of machines, better inks, and a plethora of disposable tattoo supplies.
A tattoo, contrary to popular belief, is not always forever. If you had a full color tattoo done back in the late eighties to nineties you might not have much; red, purple, orange, or yellow left in your body. I had an entire tattoo disappear. Now black, that’s what’s forever. If you want forever, make sure your tattoo has black ink.
Even now with the better inks too much sun can fade most tattoos, but the new color inks are lasting longer, an innovation long overdue!
What else have I learned? The shear volume of cheap machines made available through Chinese manufacturing means, even — you — can fuck someone’s life up. Anyone who wants a tattoo kit bad enough can afford the $30 price tag. Sure there are a few more supplies to pick up, but the cost of machines and power supplies are next to nothing. I stumbled upon a website that would sell me ten power supplies for a dollar a piece, but ten was the minimum.
Other crazy developments, there are people counterfeiting tattoo ink. Seriously, the stuff is expensive, and you have to be careful. There is a good reason your full color tattoo costs more; sterility, quality non-toxic ingredients, and freshness.
Social media self-promotion is relentless, but is absolutely necessary. Facebook is still good for something, its helped me fill up my calendar. Instagram is great for spreading my work, but I haven’t turned it into money yet. I need to see what I can do with Twitter, but I had to remove it from my phone because it takes up too much space. And snapchat, it can be an explosion if you know the right person to boost you. One snapchat blast resulted in three contacts. The author of that post has yet to learn she will be getting a freebie.
The real comfort of this apprenticeship comes from the hours I spend drawing. I had no idea I would be dedicating this much time to paper, to photography and design work, to allowing my mind to wander over thoughts and spill out whatever spoke of beauty. I am genuinely kept awake at night with art. It’s wonderful, but most of the time I must actively shut it off. I need to sleep well to make good tattoos!
PS. Why should you tip a tattoo artist? If the tattoist does not own the shop most of them will make just half of what the tattoo cost. If you think they deserve more, make sure they get it. When they become a big name, big money artist, then you can ditch the tip.