Tattooing has become such a sought after career that now more than ever people want to get into the business. Years ago, this was a mystery but with the invention of the internet, tips and advice in securing an apprenticeship are readily available, however the vast majority of people can't be bothered to Google even the basics prior to approaching a shop.
This phenomenon has created a distaste in the mouths of almost every artist and shop and has become a sore spot that no one wants to speak up about for fear of offending.
The reality is, if you can't be bothered to respect the industry you want to become a part of, you're in the wrong industry.
Tattooing and respect go hand and hand.
So here's our top nine tips to pissing off the artists' you're approaching and guaranteeing you'll never succeed in your endeavour:
9. Send an Email, Facebook Message or Comment on an Unrelated Status
Nothing says "I respect the industry and am taking this seriously" like a generic email.
BONUS POINTS: If you leave a 4 star review while simultaneously requesting an apprenticeship or ask US to call you to further discuss this offer.
Your offer is not an opportunity to a shop. Apprentices are years of work where the artist gets nothing back but the hope that the apprentice turns out to be worth their time, finishes the apprenticeship and sticks around longer than 5 minutes after they've started tattooing.
8. Apply at a Shop You've Never Been Into or to an Artist You've Never Met!
We wholeheartedly wait with bated breath for a stranger to appear before us that we can eagerly bestow years of knowledge and time onto.
Try investing in your artist and gaining a real relationship prior to even asking, getting tattooed by your artist several times over months or years builds a level or trust in your love, respect and dedication as well as you show you respect the artist as an artist.
7. Only Half Finish Your Art OR Bring in an Empty Portfolio
The best way to show you understand the attention to detail and precision it takes to tattoo is by taking zero time to throw together a portfolio.
Try taking a few hours to curate a meticulous and well thought out portfolio to present to the artists, preferably showcasing multiple styles of art. We want to see as much of your art as possible but it should be shown to us with pride and attention to detail.
As a manager, I will literally take a look at a resume and if it is not aesthetically pleasing, easy to read, well thought out and precise, I toss it in the garbage. Your portfolio is your resume; Take the time to make it stand out against literally hundreds of others.
6. A Good Portfolio Features Your Best Infections & Blowouts!
We look forward to you dropping off your portfolio of scratcher "tats" — your pride in safe and clean practices is worth writing home about, clearly Blood-borne Pathogens and Cross Contamination are your passion, just in the opposite way we are looking for.
BONUS POINTS: Showing off your Turkey Club sandwich behind your setup shows us you can multitask like a boss AND that you're a kitchen magician in more than one sense. Thanks but we're not hungry.
5A. Suck Your Artist's Dick, Literally
(assuming they have one, but hey, we needed a catchy title)
This works best if the artist is married or in a relationship. That ALWAYS ends well.
5B. Suck Their Dick, Figuratively
Try to avoid requiring skill by flattery.
4. Tell Your Artist You've ALWAYS Wanted To Tattoo, Since Watching the Latest Season of Ink Master.
Reality TV shows what the industry is like, EXACTLY. We are just dying to add people to our shop that want to be an artist based on the reality tv parties, glam and money.
The reality of a tattoo artist is literally hours of drawing, self loathing, drawing, tattooing, more drawing and more self loathing. Meaning, it doesn't take a 30 minute coffee break to draw a portrait, and it certainly takes more than one sitting for a full sleeve.
3. Squander the Opportunity IF You Do Get One!
Featuring the hits: Never answering a phone, FUCK CLEANING UP AFTER MYSELF IM A ROCKSTAR, Leaving Early & Showing Up Late, Passive Aggressive Muttering Under My Breath, half ass homework and the bonus track - Excuses.
Apprentice: the nice way of saying shop bitch.
You should be constantly doing everything for everyone, ask what is needed daily, go above and beyond in your tasks, put in 110% in everything you're doing and IF you don't want to do that, then don't bother applying.
We love hearing how hard it is, we have no idea because we were never in your shoes. We also don't do everything we do as a test, us being dicks and making you clean up after us isn't to make you prove your dedication or to teach you something important — we are obviously just useless and mean. Wax on, Wax off.
1. Tell Your Mentor Where You Want Your Art to Go
Since you obviously know much more than your mentor, telling them the direction you want to take your art is appreciated. When we give constructive criticism we look for a complete disregard of our advice — this shows a strong will and rebel attitude. Since it's art, there's no right answer so just continue doing you, You Go Girl.
You have tattoos and piercings and you've got an Instagram, your friends keep telling you “You're a babe” and your followers have commented about you being a model, but where do you start ?
1. First step, reality check.
Are you doing this to make money and become a household name ? if yes, stop while you're ahead - the modelling world, especially the tattoo/alternative industry is not your ticket to a mansion in the Hollywood hills - You're better off checking out your options at being a sugar baby. If you are doing this for your self, as a hobby or because you want too: proceed to step two.
if you value your security an alias is invaluable, keep your real social media out of the picture, don't share model type pictures on your personal accounts - reverse image search is a dick and your privacy will be gone in less than 5 minutes if you don't keep everything 100% separate. make a new email address, use a fake address or PO box, don’t share your modelling to or from your personal accounts, don't tag your real life friends in your modelling accounts and don’t tell any one who contacts you online your real name ever, legal model releases to a photographer being an obvious exception.
3. Now you have a name, create new social accounts.
Only create an account if you intend on using it, theres no point in using 23 social sites if you don't keep them up to date with DIFFERENT content. Sharing from Instagram to twitter and Facebook is lame and you give zero reasons for someone to follow you on more than one platform.
4. Selfies are great but you're not a “model”.
Sorry to be that dick, but you need to work with photographers to be a model, more honestly - you need to either be paid or at very least not be PAYING out for your shoots. In the beginning paying good photographers to take good photos is a good investment, but if you are always paying, you're a client not a model.
5. Build up a portfolio of CONSISTENT work.
A bad photo is a bad photo. You may think all experience is good experience - it’s not. If the photographer sucks, the photo will suck and a bad photo will make you look like a bad model and thus affect your likelihood of working with better photographers and making money.
Share for share with other models or pages, go to local events, make business cards, set aside a budget for shoutout pages, ask to shoot with other models, make friends with other models, engage your fans online, ask questions, message photographers, message brands, submit to magazines and pages on Facebook or Instagram, create a fan page on Facebook, create sponsored ads to get likes on photos, create a website for yourself. Become a brand and sell yourself. Read shit about marketing, branding, sales and networking.
7. Don’t ever take a photo you don’t want to take,
If you don't want to shoot a nude, don’t ever take a nude photo. As a model, you do not own the photograph, the photographer does and even if you say no and the photographer agrees to respect that, the photographer can post it, sell it or show it to anyone, anytime regardless of your wishes or requests. Therefor the only way to prevent a problem is to never allow yourself to do something you don't want to do or that you don’t want on the internet, forever.
8. Lastly, stay true to you.
There are thousands of girls trying to make it, be yourself. don’t try to look like everyone else, don’t try to act like everyone else, do what makes you happy, dress and style yourself how you feel sexy or badass and don’t ever try and be someone else - this industry was built off of creativity and individuality, be the rebel.
There’s this immediate conclusion that with anxiety and depression comes this innate inability to conquer it’s rigour-mortis skeleton grip on your mind. Like someone with these illness’ can only fall into a desperate state of paralysis and fear, like the only face of anxiety is that of panic attacks and cold sweats. Like depression is either all encompassing or absent. Like the true faces of failing mental health are the ones you see on the posters; people curled up on the floor of their kitchen screaming, people sitting outside in the pouring rain, people swallowing pills just in time for someone to find them and save them.
There is nothing further from the true reality of the sickness. They are a shadow, they are in your bones, in your blood — the air in your lungs and the smile on your lips while you're screaming bloody fucking murder, ”Hail Mary, Someone Save me.”
The cure is to stop breathing, once you're blue and cold - I'm sure the voices will finally be silenced enough for you to get a full night’s sleep.
I have had nights so dark and so deep that the madness that comes literally becomes real, to actually start seeing the metaphorical skeletons in your closet actually hanging in your door way, noose around their neck, I've had mornings where i walk through my house and the only thing i can see is, a catalogue of items that could carve out my veins or I could choke down with a swig of whatever i could find, circled in red — neon signs flashing “use me” “take me”. In those nights or mornings; I've gotten dressed and put on my part of society skin and walked outside and no one, and I mean literally,
noticed. They all commented on the warm weather, laughed at my poor jokes and kissed my lips like the world was fine while to their left — my best friend I should have saved-sits with a bottle full of gasoline to his lips and the lighter in his other hand — smirking. You learn to blink and force it out,
It's not real — it can’t be real.
You learn to cope, however possible. Self medication has its perk’s — it works and it takes it all away, for a period of time — things are shiny and everything is numb but slowly you're dying, which means — it — wins and it-can never win.
Self Mutilation is a viable solution, I found I could open a vein and for a while at least, I could make it through.
I found I could fight my devils with a pen and ink, I found I could get through the nights with tiny little lifesavers known as Ativan and a daily dose of Wellbutrin.
The sleep would come and when I woke up twelve hours later, the sky wasn't total black and the light had washed some of the thick despair off the walls, enough to get through another day.
I find the worst thing about this plague is those who have never, experienced a darkness even close to our, average. They sit on their throne of mental health and judge how someone dying deals with living. For some fucked up reason, they've decided to assign a stigma to real help, be it prescription or self prescribed. Like somehow sticking “addict” to our person like a name tag and guilting those clambering for a chance at a decent tomorrow is beneficial to someone.
Like telling us to cheer up, get dressed and go for a walk
Hasn't fucking occurred to us.
Like we don’t do that, almost every hour of every day.
Like we don’t deserve a little helping hand.
I have often tried to explain this oxymoron of a life to someone who's never felt it, and while you wish they could FEEL it, you are endlessly grateful they never will.
I’ve tried to explain it in words that can express the emotions, but how do you explain the reason you cut yourself till you pass out from blood loss, or even just enough to take the edge off — is BETTER than the alternative your brain is screaming for you to choose. How do you explain without sounding like a drug addict justifying the fix that will kill him-
“I don’t cut for attention, it’s not a cry for help, I don't want to die, I cut or scratch because it releases the fucking voices, it quiets my demons, it takes my mind from the screaming in my head, to the burning on my skin, I can fix physical pain. I can put a bandage on a physical wound and it will give me enough of a break to shove the fucking monsters back into the box in my head to keep myself alive for another day, another hour, another minute. And that is enough of a validation for me to be selfish.”
Have you ever listened to “Hurt” — the original or the cover, it doesn't matter “I focus on the pain, the only thing thats real” - I can fix it when its real. I can’t fix something I know isn't there. I can’t fix something I can’t touch.
Now, I'm sure there are plenty reading this with shock, who are only continuing because it’s like watching a slow motion train wreck — but this is the truth, maybe I'm speaking for myself, or maybe I'm speaking for all of those in the darkness in their minds while they’re outside smiling, building empires every single day. but the reason I'm opening this box of uncomfortable thoughts and fingers tightly griping your throat, tightening every time I hit a nail on the head, is because I get asked more often than not, when I admit without fear - I am sick. I am dying but fighting myself to allow myself to live, that I am hopeful that I can beat hopelessness, that I am medicated and I encourage everyone who needs it, to do the same, that I am not addicted while I admit I am an addict, I am a fuck up but I will not let my fuck ups become my legacy, I will never let depression and anxiety be my headstone- is “how?!”
Like because I have not succeeded in my perpetual hunt for eternal sleep, somehow I don’t qualify as their idea of someone with mental health concerns. I couldn't possibly be sick because i don't seem “depressed” or “anxious” and because i have achieved success and happiness and i am so fucking proud of the things I have done right, i couldn't possibly be suffering to get up every single fucking day,
Well, I am. and I am not alone.
I promise you, I am not an exception, and in your circle of friends, we are many.
This morning, laying in bed beside my husband - we were just discussing the state of the world, the upcoming election in the States, this story of a woman who got 20 men to buy her an iPhone which she then sold to put a down payment on a house, priorities of people in general. This led him to mention the thing he loved most about being an artist, the constant struggle. It's the exact opposite of a 9-5 office job, every day you're faced with a new mountain to conquer, regardless of your mood, how you're feeling, it’s not a job where you can just turn off, tune out. It’s not like writing, where you can stare at a blank page for hours and justify it by being ‘uninspired’. As a tattoo artist, you have to be inspired every day, sometimes for 8 hours straight, there’s no creative block break when you're dealing with skin that fucking hurts.
I mean, if you've ever gotten a tattoo - a fifteen minute break feels like you're pouring acid on a fresh wound going back in. Your body starts healing, starts trying to recover and going back in is an always unpleasant SURPRISE to your system.
I’ve watched him get up some mornings lost, frustrated and tired. He drags his feet, drinks his coffee slowly while mentally trying to find some motivation to tackle the day’s tattoo, regardless of size. It's not something you can paint over, or half ass and hope for the best - every client comes in expecting 100%, no one wants to pay for some artist to not give a shit. I've watched every single one of the guys who work in our shop, come in on sick days, with bags under their eyes or a world weighing on their shoulders and still sit drawing a design with meticulous dedication and immense effort even when they struggle to finish breakfast. The love for what they do is something I've never seen with any other art form.
Each tattoo they bleed, they pour a piece of themselves into each finished product, and every time when they are finished a piece; you can physically see the pride, then the complete self loathing wash over them as they appreciate their successes and then immediately hate their work. No matter what level these artists are on, be it the top tiers or the first few weeks of their careers, all good artists go through an immediate conflict of immense pride in their work, they wipe it down, take a photograph, wrap it up and send it out the door, they pull out the camera or phone and their immediate satisfaction you can actually watch wash off their face like the ocean’s tide. They pick apart every detail, every line or white highlight, every texture or blend - like it’s not quite smooth enough, not quite sharp enough, not quite dark enough. That’s the thing that drives them the next day - their failures, more than their successes. They want to be better, they push themselves to be stronger with every single tattoo they put out.
i know, my husband comes home and sits on the couch beside his children and his wife and stares at his tattoo that day, cursing every mistake made and asking for my ‘honest’ opinion, and when I tell him what I see wrong, almost always alerts him to at least one more thing to hate. Eventually giving up on that piece with frustration, tossing aside his phone with a silent resolution to fix that mistake next time. It’s always next time.
I think that’s what makes a successful artist - the perfect balance of self confidence and complete self hatred, like somehow these artists manage to function with the two polar extremes of a personality type co-existing and feeding each other. It’s one of my favourite and yet most infuriating things about my husband, his obsession with personal and artistic growth, but how do you fault someone who is never satisfied with good enough. You watch them every single day scroll through Instagram with the sole purpose of seeing better artists than them, and picking apart HOW they made that blend so smooth, how they made that texture look so real, how they came up with that idea. When he finds a piece similar to something he’s done - he pulls them up side by side and dissects them like a mad scientist searching for some major breakthrough - the answer to some question, comparing details that the client is more than likely completely unaware of, and the average person has never even considered.
I think what it boils down to at the end of the tattoo or at the end of the day is it’s never quite good enough, but rather than rolling over and accepting defeat - they learn and push themselves harder to do bigger, better art. They force themselves to become stronger.
If that’s not the definition of loving something with every inch of your soul - I don't know what the fuck it is.
I have been noticing lately, more and more each day, that the industry standard magazines, blogs and fashion have been slowly and strategically creating an expectation of what the rebellious lifestyle looks like, and it's becoming choking. The room for different has been slowly suffocated down to the smallest details of a fashionable identity.
These sites and pages were once full of incredibly in depth articles about artists and icons talking more about their lives and struggles, politics and their views on the world and their respective industries, then articles detailing what brands are popular and what to accessorize your skinny jeans with this week.
As a model who has a decently large following of loyal fans and a track record of many years in the tattoo / alternative industry - I have never been featured in one of these 'big boys' of the industry, but I've seen many 'models' who pop up out of obscurity and then disappear just as fast, thrown into the mix just because they fit into the mold of what 'sexy' looks like in the industry that was started as a "Fuck You" to the normal society.
I've genuinely got an opinion on the culture and an education earned out of years of experience and respect for tattooing, as more than a fashion statement but as a long standing honour to be allowed within. I remember falling in love with the industry and an aesthetic that came with it, back when it was still hidden in darkness and shrouded in taboo. When it was still deemed to be for outlaws and outcasts and when those within the magazines, had a taste for blood and deviation.
I'd like to see us get back there. Not stepping backwards and out of the limelight and popular society mind you, but I'd love to see more articles written on the history and the heritage, I'd love to read about what the artists feel about where we came from and what inspired their style.
I personally still idealize the punk culture from the early 70's, the drama of their addictions, the bikers and outlaws who are the modern day vagabonds and gypsies, the nomads who live by their own rules. I still live for the Do-it-yourself DIY rather than purchasing a pair of strategically torn jeans to go with my $70 shredded t-shirt and pre-studded punk rock patched leather jacket bought from H&M's fall line.
Now don't hear me wrong, I love that moms come in to tattoo shops with their 18year old kids to get matching tattoos and I love hearing people telling us how much, even the smallest tattoo means to their lives and families, I love what we are allowed into the deepest parts of total strangers, even for 30 minutes and leaving with an idea that we are actually doing the smallest scale of good. I love that our industry is thriving and growing, and I love seeing how far the art and technology has come, but
I want to see more people colouring their hair and styling it how-ever-the-fuck they feel rather than worrying about a follower count drop due to not being "sexy enough" - I mean, really, when did your Instagram follower count really help you, besides maybe getting you a couple freebies from a brand that you actually hate but "hey, it's free shit". I want to see more people getting custom tattoos, I mean steal ideas and inspiration but I'd like to see people coming in with the ideas of what they want but the trust, to allow the artist to run with it.
Do you really like the fashion whores that we've become? Because I am pretty fucking tired of seeing carbon copies of a trend and watching everyone struggle to jump on a bandwagon of sheep, all playing follow the leader. How often do you wish to do something but are too afraid to be, different or god-forbid, weird.
We need more weird.
We need more people who are not afraid to stand out, and I for one, don't give a fuck if I'm sexy to a world of spineless fucks with no originality, I would rather be appreciated for my words and actions and my ability to not fold and roll over while chasing my tail - trying to get ahead.
Who's with me?
The tattoo industry can be one of the most rewarding and lucrative careers, but getting your foot in the door at a good shop can seem impossible, you’ll face more doors slammed in your face and you'll hear “no” more than you'll receive the silence to speak. Many would be tattoo artists refuse to listen to these rejections and chose the path of much criticism - learning at home. There are many pros and cons to both “traditional” apprenticeships and teaching yourself - but in an industry based entirely on talent, dedication and art - there is no right versus wrong - regardless of what traditional artists want you to believe.
The path you choose is the one that best suits your life and your personality type, but if you do it right and safe, no one way versus the the other will make you a better artist (now, this applies for learning to pierce as well).
Traditional Apprenticeships are the societal norm and what tends to be perceived as better, the benefits are obvious, you learn faster and make less massive fuck ups. Having a professional hovering over everything you do, from how you scrub tubes (if you even use tubes anymore!) to how you draw a tall ship, to how to tune your machine, how you apply stencils, how you clean the floor with a toothbrush (you can tell I come from a very traditional shop) - gives you a learning curve that may suck for the first few months or years till you're allowed to actually get some real needle in flesh practice but when you do start, the trial and error that comes from teaching yourself - doesn't exist.
In a traditional apprenticeship, you work for normally a year to 3 years for very little to no pay, you exchange grunt work and slave labor for knowledge and instruction, you leave with self loathing and are often pushed to break by your mentor(s) in an attempt to make you prove you're worth it. If you have ever watched Karate Kid, 9 times out of 10 - you're doing something so irrelevant to tattooing that you truly wander if you're ever going to get to hold a machine.
With a traditional apprenticeship, being young is your biggest ally - once you have a family, rent or a mortgage and have to provide - the nature of a traditional apprenticeship becomes to time consuming, however you tend to become a stronger artist faster, you don’t need to be as self motivated and you don't need to be a very independent person who problem solves and goes out of their way to achieve their goals. You have someone beside you, showing you the ropes and allowing you the safety of being in an already safe, sterile and professional environment. When you work at a shop, they have already established suppliers and a reputation that allows perspective clients the comfort of just walking in and trusting their word that you are ready to tattoo them. A traditionally taught artist has a respect and love for their industry unmatched by anyone, because they had to earn their place, through tears, sweat and self doubt - in the shop, they tend to bleed tattooing as more than just tattooing- but as a lifestyle, as their identity.
The worst thing about learning the hard way, is that it’s bloody fucking hard. You run into brick wall after brick wall, it’s long, frustrating and plagued with scepticism and regardless of how safe, sterile and clean you are - the reputation of “kitchen magician” or “scratcher” will surround you for years, if you can escape at all. You need to be smart, extremely determined and hungry, you need to become a business owner and a highly successful one at that, as you need to convince people to trust you. You will jump through endless hoops to get supplies and make mistake after mistake just trying to find out how to pull a clean line. The positives now are that YouTube is plentiful and there are hundreds of books written to teach you the basics, there is even tattoo school out there that can at the very least - teach you how not to give someone HIV. Teaching yourself something will take you at least twice the time it takes a shop apprentice, just because they have guidance. If you walk into a shop as a home based artist and ask for advice, you'll be laughed out the door, and Lord help you if you want to get into a reputable shop once you are a decent artist, as the reputation will haunt you till you become so good that people have no choice but to look past their pre-conceived ideas.
You are able to support your family by keeping a “real” job while you're learning and you can set your own schedule, which allows far more freedom than a traditional route, but you're also fighting against other home artists with ever dropping prices - that come and go like high school girls going through friends, which makes it hard to charge enough to cover your hobby - which is exactly what it is while you're learning.
You'll find that you end up learning on yourself a lot, and end up having legs like my husband (seriously, go lurk Travis Cadeau and check out some of the masterpieces he’s got on those legs….) and you'll end up looking back at your old work with such despair and disbelief that someone actually let you butcher them with that monstrosity - but hey - you're an artist, and in the end, regardless on what medium you are working with - if you don't hate your art then you're a douchebag.
In the end there is no better or worse - there are only good shops and bad shops, good artists and bad artists, and if you're going to succeed - you have to start somewhere, so If you're the type of person who thrives on other people, prefer being taught, like feedback, are patient, a good listener, believe in respect and tradition and are highly ambitious to become the best - I’d recommend the traditional path, but if you refuse to take no for an answer, if you are willing to fight day after day to learn, have a hunger that can only be satisfied by finishing what you start, if you're the type that makes their own path - then go the path of the most resistance and go with the knowledge that you are your only master.
Tattoos & Piercings are becoming more and more common and with the rise of anything, comes the rise of complications. Tattoos and piercings are extremely low maintenance IF you know how to take care of them or more specifically how not to fuck them up.
The biggest and most common mistake is to over react, over clean and over stimulate.
Basic aftercare is given after most tattoos or piercings by the artist who did the procedure, there are no real RIGHT or WRONG instructions and the artist will always try to give you the best information in their opinion or experience. For a tattoo, you will be told to take the bandage or covering off anywhere from two hours to three days later depending on the artist and the kind of covering. Wash the tattoo with a mild unscented soap and allow the tattoo to air dry or pat dry with a paper towel. You will be told to apply a type of moisturizing product to the tattoo one to two times a day or as needed. NEVER SCRATCH OR PICK the tattoo, don't soak the tattoo in any water for long periods of time, avoid dirt, swimming, hot tubs or other bodily fluids till the scabs are gone. Follow the artists’ instructions but more importantly listen to your body, if it’s dry, moisturize. If it’s squishy and the scabs are raised, moisturize less.
Piercings are sea salt and water for every type of piercing. You can use Saline or Piercing Aftercares, but a rinse or soak twice a day of sea salt + water for a few minutes will heal every piercing, as well as heal almost all complications that arise including mild keloids, infections, hypertrophic scars and piercing pimples. The mixture is approximately 1 teaspoon of non iodized sea salt to 1 cup of warm purified or distilled water.
Infections or more specifically serious infections are actually incredibly rare. In fact, it is far harder to actually contract anything from a tattoo or piercing done in a safe environment than most people believe: did you know that HIV has never been proven to have been transmitted through tattooing, while it is theoretically possible, it has never happened in recorded medical history. If you are going to a safe and clean shop, you do not need to sterilize or disinfect your tattoo or piercing as there is no harmful bacteria present and over cleaning will actually do more harm than good by killing the bodies natural bacteria and anti-bodies.
Top five most common complications
The above are extremely vague descriptions and we recommend contacting your piercer or tattoo artist if you are unsure but more often then not what you are experiencing is harmless and totally normal. We do advise against asking your friends for their opinions and NEVER EVER google your symptoms.
Hand tattoos, are awesome. It's hard to dispute, but there is a huge reason, that many artists won't touch em. It's not a snob thing, it's from our experience being heavily tattooed and being IN the industry through the good times and the bad.
We see so many people in and out of our shop everyday, and one type of tattoo - we've been getting requests for constantly and at a higher rate than almost anything else: the tiny mini finger and hand tattoos that you see on Pinterest and Facebook daily. And they, look great and could make us a killing, but in the end - they cost us, huge. And here's why:
1. they look fantastic at first, but they don't heal well, ever. I don't care who you are, a tattoo on your hand will never heal like a tattoo on your back or arm. So if we offer our standard policy of a free touchup within 6 months, it's going to come back and it's going to cost us double.
Our set up is not cheap - we use the newest and highest quality equipment :
Machine - $800
Disinfection & Health + Safety Regulations Costs $2/tattoo
Paper Towels $2/roll
Stencil Paper $1/sheet
Stencil Application $12/bottle
Green Glide $20/bottle
Gloves $12/100 gloves
Misc Supplies (ink caps, meat packs, machine bags, bottle and cable covers etc) $10/tattoo
Bandages & Wraps $2/tattoo
Artists' Time $100-$180/hr
Shop Percentage - 40-50%
TOTAL: for a $80 tattoo *our Minimum* (using 1 cartridge + 1 ink) the costs are $27.50 approx.
So if a tattoo is $80, the artist gets 50% ($40) and the shop gets $40. ($40-$27.50=$12.50)
so to guarantee a tattoo that we KNOW will not heal perfectly - would cost us another $27.50 to touch it up, so basically your artist is paying out of their pocket, as is the shop to tattoo you twice.
2. From our own experience - we know how visible tattoos affect your life. You get judged even walking your dog in your neighbourhood or getting groceries, and while that may not really seem like a big deal, it's a commitment and sometimes - it sucks!
3. A hand tattoo is a hand tattoo.even if its the smallest and cutest little peace sign on the side of your finger, its still on your hand, and in the end - you might as well tattoo a giant flaming demon eating babies because if someone is going to judge you for having a tattoo on your hand, they're not going to see the difference. And yeah, we get it - that's fucking stupid, but in a world where Trump actually has a chance to be president, are you really surprised?
4. Your future will change. Jobs shouldn't discriminate - but they do, and there is nothing you can do about it. Even if it's against their code of ethics and they promote diversity - if the person hiring or promoting doesn't like your tattoos, they'll find a reason not to hire you, or not to promote you. And if you say - "well I wouldn't want to work for someone who's that judgemental" sometimes life happens and you don't always get the choice or luxury of being stubborn. We can't guarantee your financial situation and we don't want to ruin your life. We got our visible tattoos when we knew we were stable enough in this industry that we SHOULD be ok, but truth is - it may still fuck us over. Your longterm happiness in life - comes before us making money immediately, because trust us- when we say - If you lose your job, or don't find a job after we tattoo you - you'll be pissed and people tend to say things that aren't always the full truth when they're angry, and we don't need angry clients telling everyone we ruined their life in doing something they asked us for and signed a waiver for - in the first place.
5. There are always exceptions. We do tattoo hands, necks and faces IF you're in the industry, are 30+ and in a stable career, self employed or in a trade (mechanics, labourers etc), so heavily tattooed that it doesn't matter (and we mean like 100hrs + of tattoo time or like 50% + coverage) or already have something already on your hands, neck or face. And these exceptions are by our artists' or shop's discretion.
We will always rather have the reputation of saying NO to a bad idea and turning away work then to have the reputation of taking in everything that walks through our door and having no ethics. This is our livelihood and our reputation and we have to stand up for what we believe is right, and sometimes we're wrong, sometimes it may not matter that you have a tiny tattoo on your finger or a huge skull worshipping satan on your hand - but we don't know that and we can't make any promises on what will happen in your life.
And yes, We know - you will probably walk down the street to the very next shop and get it done, but that's on you and on them, and our conscious is clear.
As the tattoo client, you have a responsibility: the responsibility to do your research.
In this age of technology - you have no excuse not to look at portfolios, check out reviews, and compare, hundreds of artists. You don’t even have to put on pants to look through thousands of shops and portfolios
You have a responsibility to not just walk in to a random shop, talk to the random artist and trust that they are capable of doing what they say they can do.
And with saying all that: If you get a bad tattoo - it’s not the artists fault - it’s yours.
This is not a conversation about GOOD art vs BAD, or if a tattoo artist is actually a good tattoo artist. If a client, gets tattooed by a bad artist and they didn't know... it's the client's fault. Period.
I personally have never walked into a shop, walked up to the counter and said “This is that I want” and just trusted that the person I spoke to is actually capable of doing the tattoo I'm expecting or envisioning. and so far, I am very happy with ALL of my tattoo work.
and here's why:
• Many tattoo shops have what’s known as a “walk in” artist or several.
• These tattoo artists vary in quality and skill between artists and shops. A good shop will have good artists doing walk ins, but the issue with most shops, is that it’s a race to the front desk for the artists: whoever speaks to the client first, is the one who gets that tattoo.
• The problem with that is simple; Tattoo Artist A - may be fantastic at traditional tattoos while Tattoo Artist B is great at colour portraits. If you go in asking for a portrait of your grandma and you talk to Artist A in a shop that runs on the premise of who ever speaks to the client, gets that client, they’re going to say they can do it, meanwhile there is an artist in the shop who would give you a WAY better tattoo. You're getting the wrong artist to do your tattoo, but had you done your due diligence, you would have walked into the same shop and asked to speak directly to Artist B, you would have spoken to them about your ideas and booked yourself an appointment (if needed) and waited happily for your appointment and you would have left happy and proud of what you are know wearing permanently. But if you didn't do your research you’ll find out too late that, Artist B would have been the right artist, and you’ll blame the shop and the artists for you not fulfilling your own part of the process.
• Tattoo artists like money, and clients hate the word “No”. So too often clients come in with an idea, that for whatever reason is not a good tattoo. A good tattoo needs to take a lot into consideration, the design needs to work on the area of the body and needs to be large enough to not end up bleeding together. They need to be held in with darks, and some body parts heal badly - like fingers, palms, sides of feet, elbows and knees.
• Some artists are better than others at saying "No" to a bad tattoo idea, but sometimes they get forced into doing something they don't want to do, because of shop rules or the clients themselves. No tattoo artist says no for fun, so when an artist is saying “No” - there’s good reason, A bad tattoo has their name on it, and regardless of WHY it’s bad, it’s bad.
• Sometimes a client leaves unhappy with a great tattoo - because it isn't what they wanted. Sometimes they get talked into a style they didn't want. They didn't understand what an artist was explaining, they didn't look at portfolios, they didn't communicate their ideas well or they just didn't really know what they wanted. Sometimes a tattoo artist is great at talking a client into believing they are more capable, or sometimes - the tattoo is just not exactly they way they imagined.
• Many times, we have had a client walk in with an idea that doesn't translate from idea to tattoo well, and we've tried to explain WHY but the client is set on their idea. The artist is then damned if they do it and damned if they change the tattoo to be a 'better' tattoo.
• Now the issue is that sometimes you see a design you love, and the stencil is perfect, it gets placed on you and you couldn't be happier- so you start getting the tattoo, but when it’s done, it's nothing like it was supposed to be - that's because your artist didn't have the right skill set to do that tattoo well. You, the client could prevent this by looking for tattoos with similar attributes to what you want, for example - if you want a realistic flower, look for photos of other things with no lines, and realistic details. Always look through their work and see their consistency, ask for healed photos, read reviews and ask every question you need too.
Regardless of skill or talent, at the end of the day, YOU choose your artist, they didn't force you to trust them, they didn't hold a gun to your head.
You made the choice to trust their word and that, is on you as a client.
If your first question is "How Much" or you strictly price shop, if you decided to push an artist into an idea they are clearly uncomfortable with, or simply wouldn't take no for an answer or just wouldn't wait, your bad tattoo, is your fault.
Please stop blaming good artists for pieces you don't like.
Stop thinking that all artist's are created equal.
A tattoo is on you for life, do your research, talk to many artists, talk to your friends, read reviews, visit the shop or just scroll through Instagram!
Please don't be one of those people who blame an artist for doing their job, because it’s not their fault you paid them. This is the one time it doesn't matter how GOOD they are, if you didn't do your job and allowed them to do theirs, that's on you. Literally.
5. PORTFOLIOS - almost every artist has a portfolio online now, so when you see an artist you enjoy, you can easily look through their work, find out where they're located and get a good idea of what they specialize in, and how consistent their work is, and consistency is so important, because if you're spending money and expecting a tattoo to look a certain way, and your chosen artist isn't consistent... you may not get what you're expecting... PRO TIP: if you see an artist online and they have portraits and ultra realistic large tattoos, they probably won't do script or if an artist only has black and grey pieces, they probably won't do colour. Now, that's not always true and it can't hurt to ask but if an artist doesn't put it in their portfolio - there's a reason, either they don't like to do it, or wont or they aren't good at it. PRO TIP: if an artist doesn't have any portraits in their portfolio, don't trust them to do a portrait! The smallest mistake in a portrait of your mom and she isn't your mom anymore.
4. THE SHOP - it won't matter how great an artist is, if their shop is dirty or makes you feel uncomfortable for any reason, chances are - you won't have a good experience. Some shops are open concept, and encourage clients to chat and mingle, some shops have private tattoo rooms for clients and their artists, some shops are uptight and more professional and some are more laid back, make sure you enjoy the atmosphere, there isn't a right or wrong - it's whatever you enjoy. I personally enjoy a open concept shop with laid back artists and a sense of humour.
3. NEVER PRICE SHOP - I can't stress this enough, but a tattoo is for life, and yeah coverups exist but a coverup will never be as good as a well done tattoo the first time! If a tattoo costs you $1000, if you break down the cost of that over the rest of your life (let's say 50 years for sake of argument) is $20 a year. PRO TIP: if you have a budget, always let the artist know what you can afford and they should be able to tell you what they could do with how much you can afford, or they can at least let you know, honestly that they aren't able to achieve the results you want with the budget. PRO TIP: the hourly price is not the only thing you should consider, some artists have a high hourly rate because they tattoo quickly and vice versa. Always ask how long they usually take to do something similar.
2. DON'T GET BULLIED BUT DON'T IGNORE PROFESSIONAL ADVICE - there is a fine line with getting what you want and getting the best tattoo, sometimes an artist doesn't like your idea and will try to coerce you into a design you're not happy with - don't give in, this is on you for life and if an artist won't work with you on things that are important to you - find another artist. BUT sometimes an artist genuinely is trying to suggest ways that will give you a better tattoo, or be trying to get you to simplify (a tattoo including 6 butterflies, 4 types of flowers, your 6 kids names, their birthstones and your family tree with your grandma's pearl necklace and your mom's favourite song's lyrics may work as a full back piece, but won't work on your foot, for example) so sometimes listening to your artist's professional opinion is a good idea, but in the end - it's your design and if you feel like the artist isn't respecting your choices - then maybe they're not the artist for you.
1. TRUST YOUR GUT, THEN TRUST YOUR ARTIST - I can't stress this enough, once you've gone to the shop, met your artist, chatted to them and decided to put down the deposit - trust them and respect them. They're human and they will try their best but sometimes your ideas and their vision of it, may not always be perfect at first try, so be honest with them and help them not get frustrated. Be specific in exactly what you like and give constructive feedback if you want something changed, but always be respectful and try and say it as soon as possible so they don't spent hours on something you hate. Respect that you are 1 client out of hundreds, and while you're excited and want it now, that you are among the ranks of every other client of theirs, so don't waste their time, don't change your mind every 5 minutes, don't be late, don't message them every day, don't message them at midnight unless you are dying and just try to be patient. A good artist - is a busy artist, and trust me when I say - we go home with our work, we don't work a 9-5 but we don't get paid unless we are tattooing, and just because you're spending $160/hour doesn't mean they are going home with that in their pocket.