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Jri

Advice on training up

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Hi everyone,

Firstly, I hope this is in the right section of the forum - feel free to move it if not (I'm new here!).

I work as a graphic designer and illustrator in the UK, both full time and on the side as a freelancer, I am interested in making the switch to become a tattoo artist.

I understand the most commonly accepted way of getting into tattooing is to apprentice under another more established and experienced tattoo artist. The problem that I have is that my wife and I share the household expenses and ultimately rely on my income - so the idea of losing time through the week to work for free is not practical for me. What is the best/standard way of getting around this?

I have space in my garage and am planning on decking it out as a home studio eventually, but to be clear; I don't want to just blindly start up with no experience/good practice knowledge.

At the moment, I am putting together a portfolio of drawings and am thinking of taking it to show at some of the studios in my area. The hope is that someone may be interested in taking me on on a Saturday perhaps? So that I can learn the ropes, health and safety, tattoo process/technique etc...

Is this an acceptable approach?

Any suggestions/personal experiences would be great - how long did each of you apprentice for before going it alone? Did you go full/part time?

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Not too many tattooers like being cold called about apprenticeships. Have you been getting your tattoos from a particular artist? Talk to him/her about it.  Otherwise, read up on machine function, technique and reputable suppliers. Most of the equipment available to the general public is garbage. Take a course in cross contamination prevention and blood born pathogens - and then overkill the safety precautions you've learned.  Tattoo your own legs.  Tattoo a very understanding friend. If you can draw well, you've got a good head start. 

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Thanks for your reply David, I hear what you're saying about cold calling.

I'm probably going to get laughed at here, but I don't actually have any tattoos and don't plan on getting any. While that may sound idiotic coming from someone who wants to get into the industry, my interest is in producing the art and not necessarily wearing it (I know it's one of the many tattoo industry issues that divides opinion heavily - but that's who I am).

I don't have any current relationships with local artists, so unfortunately would be going in cold to an extent. My initial thinking was that I might send out a few emails to the studios in my area to see if they would be receptive to me bringing some work in, at least that way I'm not barging in at a time when they might be in the middle of something etc...

Are there any lists/directories of approved/reputable hygiene courses or even starter/taster courses for tattooists in the UK?

Are there any knacks/telltale signs for determining what is good equipment and what is cheap tat?

I have a few friends who have voiced a willingness to be tattooed as they are fond of my drawing style, but because they are my friends - I don't want to tattoo them until I know it's going to:

1) Be safe
2) Be procedurally correct (by which I mean the relevant follow-ups/aftercare protocols are all done properly)
3) Meet my artistic standards

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I'd have to say that you're putting yourself in the most difficult position possible to learn the trade.  You've never observed a tattoo being applied first hand.   Getting tattooed makes it significantly easier to understand the process.  Asking a tattooer to look over his shoulder during weekend sessions to learn what he's doing so you can set up to work at home is not going to go over very well.   There are hundreds of young, talented artists in any given city willing to throw themselves fully into an apprenticeship that will benefit both themselves and their mentor.  You bring nothing to the table (except, perhaps a bribe) that would appeal to a professional tattooer for you to be in his way, asking questions during his busiest day of the week. 

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Thanks for getting back to me again.

Surely there are at least a few examples of tattoo artists who have no tattoos themselves (I genuinely don't know, I'll need to have a thorough google when I get time). If there are, presumably they learned the trade somewhere? I have observed tattoos being applied first hand.

Are there any lists/directories of approved/reputable hygiene courses or even starter/taster courses for tattooists in the UK?
 

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In the US, cc/bbp courses can be scheduled through the Red Cross. 

Not saying there's not un-tattooed tattooers out there. I'm sure there's plenty.  Some of those may have also received their training on an extremely part-time basis.  Not an impossibility; you're just putting sever restrictions on your education attempt.  These days, in tattooing, having an art background and being able to draw well is the standard.  It barely helps towards your chances of someone taking you on. 

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That's something I expected and am ready for.

Conversely, in professional illustration, only being able to draw well doesn't help your chances period - so I'm not under any illusions that whatever artistic chops I might have will give me a leg up. I expect the weighting and motion of the machines to reset some of my technical drafting knowledge to zero anyway. The fact that I'm a persistent so and so on the other hand, will hopefully help.

What's the general consenus in picking up a basic machine just for the purposes of experimenting on pig skin (probably using technical info from whatever books I can lay my hands on/YouTube/internet etc...) in the meantime, so if I go into a studio with some work - at least I've got a little common ground?

Edited by Jri
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Actually a lot of tattoo shops when they take someone on  to teach/ mentor or whatever, prefer  it if you haven’t ever used a tattoo machine , but then there are some who are the opposite, it probably comes down to thinking that you may have picked up bad habits which are harder to get rid of than starting with a complete newbie. That’s just my opinion from seeing many artists commenting over the years and complaining about apprentices not listening to instructions as they have been scratching for 6 months from their basement/kitchen with their  $60 eBay tattoo kit and think they know it all.

 

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Thanks for your answer!

Keeping in mind that I want to avoid the aforementioned ebay tattoo kits, what is a good price to pay for one and what brands should I avoid/go for?

Would a rotary machine be a good option for a beginner?

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Normally, most would say to start with coils so you can understand the use of speed and hit; and learn how to adjust them to make them do what you want.  In your case, I'd recommend getting a Cheyenne Thunder and learn to be quick and gentle.

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