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The tattoo apprenticeship from hell

as 18, still a senior in high school, and a newlywed, when I decided that I wanted to become a tattoo artist. I live in a city in South Carolina where tattooing is illegal so the closest studios were an hour or more away. Instead of calling I decided to visit each one and ask the artists personally if they would be willing to take me on as an apprentice. Until then I never knew how much sexual discrimination there is in the tattooing community. Most of the artists I talked to and looked at me like I was a hole in the wall that was only good for sticking their (I'm sure undersized) cock into. That or they totally blew me off as if I was a 3 year old child. I finally found a place where the artist was totally straight with me. He told me that he was an asshole right off, he said that it would be hard, especially because I am a female, but if I was really and truly interested and dedicated he would take me on as an apprentice.

The other two guys that worked in the shop never liked me. One was a pompous pretty boy who had a following of women and gay men who wouldn't let anyone else tattoo them, granted he was an excellent artist, he was also an arrogant jerk. The other was an apprentice who had been working out of his house for a few years before he finally decided to get some real training, he never liked me because I was a better artist than he (he couldn't draw a panther to save his life) and because he thought that eventually I would have his job. They both snubbed me and either treated me like I wasn't there or like I was a servant girl. They were ignorant rednecks that thought women should be at home making babies and cooking instead of tattooing.

The owner of the store, I only met once, was a nice enough guy who had retired from tattooing but still owned studios and tattoo related businesses. He though that my boss had hired me simply because I was a girl.

I was told many stories about that tattoo lifestyle. For instance, the fact that I was a girl apprentice made it evident to all other tattoo artists that I was sucking my bosses dick (NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS!!!). I was told that most women artists learned to tattoo while on their knees, I was not one of those women! I have a happy, healthy and trusting relationship with my husband and would never even entertain the idea of any other men. Then I was told that my marriage wouldn't last (still going strong) if I became a tattoo artist. Also I began to hear horror stories about what happens when an unsuspecting tattoo artist covers up someone's property tattoo (finger chopping, death, or free tattoos to all offended). Then more stories about tattoo artists messing up a tattoo and paying with their life. Women, I was told, barely ever make it as tattoo artists, although if that was true why would they have an entire magazine dedicated to women and tattoos? They all (including my boss) tried to discourage and scare me as best they could. I have to admit, it was a bit intimidating but I wanted to be a tattoo artist more than anything so I kept on.

I started off just helping people with prices and cleaning up around the shop (which was a huge mess). After about a month of working 13 hours a day for gas money and no training he finally had me start drawing some of the flash for practice, which was no big deal to me because I had been an art student and going to advanced art schools sense elementary school. He had me draw a ton of lick and stick crap (roses and hearts and panthers). I realized that it was important that I knew how to draw these things quickly and correctly because they are some of the most popular tattoos, but man was it boring!!!! About a month later he finally had me start making needles, I started out with threes and then sevens. He had me read a book, Tattooing from A to Z. I read it from cover to cover, over and over again. I asked him if I could use one of his old tattooing machines (if I called it a gun he said he would fire me) and try to take it apart and put it back together. He gave me the most ancient piece of garbage he had and didn't even try to teach me anything about it.

One day on the way back from getting my boss some coffee (I was the shop go- fer) I got into an accident and totaled my car. I wasn't hurt bad but it took me a few weeks to heal and get a new car. He said that it was fine that I take as much time as I needed.

When I came back, things felt different and I was being treated different. I had a feeling that the other two guys in the shop had been complaining about me to my boss and trying to get his to get rid of me. They had really grown to hate me but my boss had always been friendly towards me. It was around that time that he started being a total jerk and stopped even giving me gas money, I was having to scrounge change just to make it to work. He wasn't even teaching me anything any more, he had me go back to just drawing all day and didn't even really look at any of my work.

Soon after the accident, my mother offered to pay for me to go to collage instead of apprenticing. I thought about it for a while and sense I really wasn't being taught how to tattoo anymore I decided to take her up on her offer. I quit.

Sometimes I wish I had never even set foot inside that studio. Now I can't get a decent tattoo without driving for 2-3 hours to the only other studio around here that does quality work (there are others closer but none (other then the one I worked at) do decent work). Also now, if I ever even thought of trying again to tattoo, I'd have to move out of state because my boss told me that if he ever discovered that I was working anywhere else in state he would hire someone to do not very nice things to me. I learned enough during the time I worked there to know better than to fuck with a tattoo artist that works for the owner of that shop. The shop and the owner are extremely well known in the tattooing community and that's the reason I'm not saying the name of the shop or the name of anyone I worked with, I'd like to wake up tomorrow morning.

Anyway that's the story of my tattooing apprenticeship from hell. So, if any of you ladies and even guys out there are thinking about apprenticing make sure you think about everything that goes along with it. It's not very fun but I'm sure that not all tattoo artists are that bad to work for either.


submitted by: Anonymous
on: 15 March 1999
in Tattoos

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