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Not my gift to you

Deb Yarian



by debrayarian

We are constantly being asked by people , how either they or their family members can “get in to tattooing?” How they can obtain a license, open a shop, get a job and so on and so on and so on.

In recent years I’ve had more and more people indignantly explain, that even though they or their relatives really want to become tattooists, nobody will teach them! This is often at our initial introduction.

One person claimed in a recent letter emailed to our shop, that she had already been tattooing for the past twenty months, alone, in another state. She introduced herself, and then said that she had already moved to Alaska ( where I currently reside and own a tattoo shop, where I work with my family.) She said that she intended to get a tattoo license and she would be opening a tattoo shop , albeit in another city, and that she had heard that we were helpful, friendly and knowledgable. She went on to say that she had gotten quite familiar with our state’s requirements for obtaining a license.

Our state law requires an apprenticeship for a required period of time, under an already licensed tattoo artist, at a licensed tattoo shop! Thank you Larry Allen ( and I mean that in all seriousness) for working with Alaska state legislature so that there are some laws in place, governing tattoo licensing in Alaska.

She said that because of our state’s requirements, she would have to start at the bottom again. She asked for information regarding the apprenticeship program?? and whether we offered it in our shop and was there a fee? She went on to ask if she could complete the required hours ( roughly 400 ) without a further time commitment.

She finished her letter with an About Me: paragraph- highlighting her other artistic interests and abilities and told me that I could look on facebook to see her work.

So, you may be thinking, what’s the problem with this? She was cordial and forthright . That if I am the things she claimed I was, helpful, friendly and knowledgable, why didn’t I just invite her to our shop, get her a glass of lemonade, and sit down with her and fill out the paperwork to get her, her tattoo license.

I did in fact politely reply, that because the state law requires the commitment be under our direction, and that we are a small family owned business, we would not be taking on any tattooists or apprentices.

Many ,if not most, non tattooers are curious as to why i’d be reluctant or refuse to help someone in a situation like this. When asked why by one of my children, I answered that this isn’t a request for humanitarian aid. That if a stranger fell in the street I would certainly stop to offer my help, but if a stranger asked me to drive them to Florida, I would refuse! They laughed, saying how silly it would be for a stranger to make such a request. In my opinion though, a stranger asking me to help them get in to tattooing is the equivalent of a stranger asking me to drive them and their family to their vacation destination, as ridiculous or ludicrous as a stranger asking for the keys to my house or for access to my bank account! How could one not see the comparison?

And while I do think everybody is entitled to make a living. It’s not my obligation to see that they do so.

I”ve spent over thirty years making a living tattooing. My husband is a tattooer. My oldest son is a tattooer and my youngest son is just beginning to tattoo. It is my hope that all my children will learn to tattoo as well, and love making a living doing so. It is my gift to them. It is not something i’m just going to give away, especially not to a stranger.

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The problem of an attitude of entitlement seems rampant everywhere.. Nobody wants to work for it, everyone wants shortcuts. It's nice you responded to her but I do hope that she is in for a rude awakening. Don't let it make you nuts, Deb! Just keep on doing what you're doing.

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It's this concept that makes me thankful for every opportunity I've been given to be a tattooer and make my living marking people. My only hope is that I contribute something of substance and value and not take advantage or neglect the fact that I've been given a gift. Thanks, Deb.

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Deb, I would really like to take this blog you have, and take some of the points, and add a few more of my own... Along with what I have note wise, and recorded from artist discussions I have been recently recording... Not like a round table report, more like a 2%'r view on ethical, moral, and self preservation in this subject...

I would like to pick your brain a few times...

Great read, your heart is really big, it shows a lot in your writings, and your posts... Thanks for being an actual real female tattooer I can look up to. I'll add you to my list...

Jackie Gresham, NOLA

Annette Larue, Tampa, and NOLA and

Deb Yarian... the Great White Alaskan Frontier... That's 3...

I feel your pain, as Oklahoma has only been legal 6 years, too many asshats and thats including the law makers.

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Oh Shit, yes, Vyvyn, Jamie Eason, and I'm forgetting someone else.... These chicks were forces to be reckoned with, still are... And the thing I respect the most about all of them, was that they were not ones to ever complain about being female, they are good being who they are in a mans field, and giving people a run for their money....

The Three Above in my earlier post, I have actually met... this should be a forum thread.

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its hard to say whether the old guard can hold the wolves at bay...It would be nice to see a new guard arise and continue on with the today's social standards in mind. Legislation is good, but a slippery slope. A new regulating organization would be great, but it can only control and help those who agree to it. I really cant think of an all encompassing solution...the best I can do is keep the wolves out of my little shop. Entitlement will be our downfall.

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Thank you, I am really grateful I was sent the link to this post.

I have been trying to find my way into the industry and what I am seeing more and more, is that you need to be close to someone who is willing to bring you in, and not be some stranger without any realtionship to the studio at all.

I have made this mistake, by getting in touch with studios and not getting anything back. I have been left wondering why, as they liked my work? But again, it is to do with knowing that they can trust your commitment. Having your family grow up around it, you know what you need for your business to thrive and I commend that. An outside would upset your family balance.

What it comes down to for me is that I need to be patient and build on my relationships with the tattoo artists I know. Not just to try and get an apprenticeship, but to understand their lifestyle and appreciate what commitment I and they would have to make in moving in this direction. It is silly, but I do tend to forget that for an artist to take on an apprentice is a huge commitment for them too. Their time is valuable. This has been a real learning curve, thanks again!

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