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No real horror stories for me. I do have to say a big thanks for having trusting friends and a mentor that's understanding. My apprenticeship so for is more home based than anything thanks to local laws.

Since I have a home, family, and already broke, I couldn't commit to dropping everything and dedicating 2 years without earning money and paying $5,000 to an apprenticeship at a shop. Instead, I'm working full-time as an EMT and getting tattoo experience whenever I have free-time(whatever that is). My mentor lives kinda near me and we get together as much as possible. Anyway, he's taught me anywhere that we can. Sometimes at the shop he works, at his house, or my house. It's hard, but I believe that it'll be rewarding when I'm done. I'm hoping that I'll be able to move soon and get into a shop and earn a living from what I love.

Just a little history on my search for an apprenticeship. The nearest shops to me are in Augusta, GA. The shops with the best rep said that unless I had at least an Associates degree in art, they wouldn't even consider it. The next best shops either had commited apprentices, or wanted $5,000(this included "everything I need") and 2yrs without earning money. The cheapest wanted $2,000. These prices were to be paid in advance. The bottom of the barrell shops said that they didn't do apprentices because they just steal everything. I walked out of one shop without asking because the owner was passed out drunk on the floor. I did get one offer but it was at the shop inside the flea market(a friend mentioned to them I was looking). He said it would be 1yr, all the money in that year would go directly to him and then if I stayed he charged 60% of earnings. I would have to provide all supplies including ink, needles, gloves, paper towels, basically everything that I could possibly need. He only provided and autoclave(but no bags), a copier, and room(more like a closet about 6'x9') that I would share with another artist.

Also, I'd like to add that the lovely state of South Carolina only just made tattooing legal about 2yrs ago. However, the law states that you must follow the local ordinance for the county you are in. Aiken county has not written an ordinance, so therefore a shop can not be open. There is only about 3 counties in the state that allow tattooing, so you can imagine how hard it makes it for people to even get a tattoo.

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I'm currently an apprentice. As far as the shop is concerned, I have it pretty easy. I have a full time job, so I only work nights and weekends. The guys don't treat me like absolute crap, but they are serious about me pulling my weight. I occasionally get shot with an air soft gun or assigned a horrible task to keep me in line, but that's how it goes so I don't mind those. What I consider my worst experiences come from the customers.

story 1:

We had a walk in one day when the wait was kinda long. She and her male friend decide to wait. The friend went back to use the shop restroom. He was in there a long time and he came out right as I was moving tubes to the back. I heard the door chime, and noticed they had left. This does not bode well. I head back to the restroom, and the toilet lid is down. I lift the lid to see a toilet full of paper. We're talking atleast a quarter of a roll. So I grab the plunger and discover that there is a full deposit waiting under the paper. 20 minute later I finally have the toliet unplugged. It was so bad that at one point I was afraid the plunger wouldn't be enough. And it smelled horrible. About 30 minutes after that they come back in, and they have a bag full of Krystals. I guess he had some room to fill. To top it off, when it's finally time for the chick to get tattooed, she says she's gonna run next door really quick to use the restroom, because her friend says "there's some kinda leak in ya'lls restroom." I was stunned. I said "oh no, our restroom is fine." The dude would not look at me.

Story 2:

We had a lady come in and decided to bring her 8yr old with her. Everythings going okay, then suddenly the kid pukes, right there at the artist 'sfeet. Then again in the hallway. Then in the restroom, all over the sink and toilet. It was on the mirror, the magazine rack and even the walls. Then she puked once more for good measure in the hallway. Lady stayed to finish her tattoo. I had to fight the urge to hand her the mop.

Story 3: I don't even like to think about story 3. It involves a clogged toilet, a bent salad tong, a broken a/c in the shop and a lot of gagging.

After the last, my teacher said "what is it with your apprenticeship and toilets? It will all be worth it one day, but damn! that's alot of gross!"

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Did story 3 involve some counciling as well? The possibilities of what you listed are endless and horrible.

oh it was horrible. It required a night of heavy drinking to erase the memory. I still can't look at salad tongs without feeling queasy. :)

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my horror story is that i never apprenticed or tattooed out of my house. i lied about having years of experience and got hired at a shop and started tattooing the general public for money in a shop my very first day. it was awful, i couldn't ask for help because i didnt want to give away that i didnt know what to do. i didnt use rubber bands for my first couple of tattoos and even when i started using them i didnt know why i just saw that everyone else was using them. my first tattoo was "ranch industry" written in 1 inch old english and it took me almost 5 hours. every tattoo i did was lined with a 3 but looked like it had been tripled lined with a 14 round because i kept going over the lines thickining them in an attempt to "clean" them up. when asked why i was doing the outlines so thick i claimed that i was also a graff artist and that that was the style.

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i doubt it would work now a days. back in the 90's when i started there was no facebook. hell, there was no internet. or cellphones and digital cameras. it wasn't so unusual to not have a portfolio.

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this is more a potential horror story in the making. one of my best friends of well over a decade wants to be the person responsible for attached tattoo's 'apprentice'.

i've told him this person 'teaching' someone else is like the blind leading the blind, and tattooing doesn't need someone like her, let alone her taking on someone else.. he (friend) knows what good tattoo's look like, he's been tattooed by Eli Quinters, Nikki Balls, Curly, and others.. trying to talk him out of it is pretty much wasting my time though.

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JoKno

I may be wrong but your post sounds like you feel somewhat entitled.

---- best shop wants two years of art training

While art school is not a necessity, a lack of ability can often be seen in a portfolio.

Do you think this is an unreasonable request?

----next best shops wanted $5000 and 2 years of unpaid training time

Do you think they should just teach you at their expense and supply you with equipment free of cost and then allow you to practice on their customers -- doing substandard work while profiting from it as well?

-----the cheapest wanted $2000 paid in advance

Should they teach you, a stranger, I'm assuming- without any commitment ---- Really? $2000-- how much was your EMT training.

-----next shop said they don't hire apprentices because they just steal everything

You don't think that your walking in to a shop and expecting them to teach you at no expense to you coming and going as you please because of your limited time doing shitty tattoos on their customers amounts to anything but stealing?

-----next, the drunk asleep on the floor

Maybe he was pretending so you would go away?

-----next, flea market guy

You shouldn't be getting any money,YOU DON'T KNOW HOW TO TATTOO! Perhaps you expect him to pay for all of your supplies , teach you at no cost - tomorrow- and then give up 1/2 of that 6x9 space that you scoff at?

And last but not least --- the people of the great state of South Carolina have been getting tattooed for years --- do you know how? They drive. They cross county lines.

Perhaps you should go to a university and then law school - ask them if you could attend it for free---- provide legal services while attending and keep all the money you get paid. They can supply your text book,briefs, research material, maybe even a new laptop --- also at no expense to you ---- so that you can get your law degree and rewrite the ordinance in Aiken County!

Sound reasonable? Really?

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This sense of entitlement really irks me.

"You don't know how hard it is to get an apprenticeship, my son can really draw but nobody will give him a chance"

Well, why don't you just send him over to my house, let him eat my food, rape my kids and he can use my car too.

Really!

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my horror story is that i never apprenticed or tattooed out of my house. i lied about having years of experience and got hired at a shop and started tattooing the general public for money in a shop my very first day. it was awful, i couldn't ask for help because i didnt want to give away that i didnt know what to do. i didnt use rubber bands for my first couple of tattoos and even when i started using them i didnt know why i just saw that everyone else was using them. my first tattoo was "ranch industry" written in 1 inch old english and it took me almost 5 hours. every tattoo i did was lined with a 3 but looked like it had been tripled lined with a 14 round because i kept going over the lines thickining them in an attempt to "clean" them up. when asked why i was doing the outlines so thick i claimed that i was also a graff artist and that that was the style.

Yeah just saw this -- fucking terrifying -- for you and the customers both!

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JoKno

I may be wrong but your post sounds like you feel somewhat entitled.

---- best shop wants two years of art training

While art school is not a necessity, a lack of ability can often be seen in a portfolio.

Do you think this is an unreasonable request?

----next best shops wanted $5000 and 2 years of unpaid training time

Do you think they should just teach you at their expense and supply you with equipment free of cost and then allow you to practice on their customers -- doing substandard work while profiting from it as well?

-----the cheapest wanted $2000 paid in advance

Should they teach you, a stranger, I'm assuming- without any commitment ---- Really? $2000-- how much was your EMT training.

-----next shop said they don't hire apprentices because they just steal everything

You don't think that your walking in to a shop and expecting them to teach you at no expense to you coming and going as you please because of your limited time doing shitty tattoos on their customers amounts to anything but stealing?

-----next, the drunk asleep on the floor

Maybe he was pretending so you would go away?

-----next, flea market guy

You shouldn't be getting any money,YOU DON'T KNOW HOW TO TATTOO! Perhaps you expect him to pay for all of your supplies , teach you at no cost - tomorrow- and then give up 1/2 of that 6x9 space that you scoff at?

And last but not least --- the people of the great state of South Carolina have been getting tattooed for years --- do you know how? They drive. They cross county lines.

Perhaps you should go to a university and then law school - ask them if you could attend it for free---- provide legal services while attending and keep all the money you get paid. They can supply your text book,briefs, research material, maybe even a new laptop --- also at no expense to you ---- so that you can get your law degree and rewrite the ordinance in Aiken County!

Sound reasonable? Really?

Deb, i think there's not quite as clear of an understanding about what an apprenticeship entails (as well as conflicting "reports" or testimony) to those of us who are not tattoo artists. i think most people see it as a normal, unpaid internship, where you supply free labor in return for knowledge and experience, or other trade apprenticeships that you don't always have to pay for (especially if they're based on the same internship concept i just mentioned).

while i agree that JoKno's response reads as if he has a sense of entitlement, i also think it's hard to know (and prepare) for what you're getting into if this is the road you're deciding to travel down. even from the experiences he described, there's a range of what is expected from someone who is approaching a shop about becoming an apprentice. it's not like most schools where the fees and tuition are spelled out for you on website so you can spend several months or years saving up the money to attend the school of your choice. instead, it would appear that you approach a shop, ask if they are willing to take on an apprentice, show your portfolio, hear their price (and to be fair, i had no idea you had to pay for an apprenticeship, which is ignorance on my part, but i definitely understand why a shop would charge you essentially tuition), and then if you don't have the money in the bank ($5,000 isn't exactly a small amount), you have to give yourself time to save it, and then hope that the shop is still willing to take you on after you've saved over a period of time. boo fuckin' hoo i guess.

ok, i'm done playing devil's advocate. i dont think tattooing is the best second career choice unless you somehow have an "in" to the industry, or you're good enough to establish yourself artistically and technically right out of the gate. otherwise, it seems like it could be pretty risky economically, but hey, what the fuck do i know? i don't tattoo. also, i'm not trying to argue with you Deb. just thought i'd share a different perspective. i see both sides surrounding this, though i'm leaning towards yours.

also, does the shop not get to keep the money that is spent by the customer when an apprentice is tattooing? that's always been my assumption, but after reading this, i'm guessing it's wrong...

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this is more a potential horror story in the making. one of my best friends of well over a decade wants to be the person responsible for attached tattoo's 'apprentice'.

i've told him this person 'teaching' someone else is like the blind leading the blind, and tattooing doesn't need someone like her, let alone her taking on someone else.. he (friend) knows what good tattoo's look like, he's been tattooed by Eli Quinters, Nikki Balls, Curly, and others.. trying to talk him out of it is pretty much wasting my time though.

Are these supposed to be examples of super-aweful tattooing? Hot Stuff looks a little crude, but pics 1 and especially 3 are really bad? Sorta liked the eagle a little. Lines look pretty clean(Its intentionally broken where the wing is highlighted or at least thats how I am seeing it) and shading looks pretty smooth and developed.

I have seen much, much worse in my experience.

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Are these supposed to be examples of super-aweful tattooing? Hot Stuff looks a little crude, but pics 1 and especially 3 are really bad? Sorta liked the eagle a little. Lines look pretty clean(Its intentionally broken where the wing is highlighted or at least thats how I am seeing it) and shading looks pretty smooth and developed.

I have seen much, much worse in my experience.

yeah, i'd say they're near enough as bad as it gets when it's actually done in a 'studio'..

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also got a message from him this morning saying he's not gonna seek her for an 'apprenticeship' as he got tattooed by her last week and it's all fallen/dropped out.. this is someone who has plenty of perfectly healed tattoo's.

this is by Chad Koeplinger, there's a world of difference between the two.

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yeah, i'd say they're near enough as bad as it gets when it's actually done in a 'studio'..

I beg to differ...these are from a studio in the Bay Area. At least the ones you posted, especially the eagle show at least some artistic concept to them. The photos you posted were pretty low rez, and not healed so maybe they are worse than what I am seeing. But check these out. Pretty sure they are all fresh and still look aweful. Would you believe she has almost 20 years experience?

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I dunno. I almost like the dragon on the left. Okay, I might not have the most experience/knowledge, so take this from a complete layman's point of view. The lines on all three are choppy and uneven (and the scroll lines on the gob of roses are really NOT great at all), but it almost works for the dragon, which looks sort of like a watercolour painting. If she said she meant for it to look that way, I'd believe her.

And the three tattoos that abees posted aren't too bad, especially the eagle. I noticed that, too, that the lines on the feather tips were thickened or broken to add to the shadow/highlight effect. The only thing I could really pick out that might be improved is that the lines could maybe flow more smoothly. It doesn't look fluid, like Chad Koeplinger's eagle. That one shows an obvious deep knowledge of and comfort level with tattooing. The lines all flow and taper nicely, shading looks amazing, placement is perfect... And for a tattoo that could easily just be black and white when it's in a style like this (leaves are green, sun is yellow, sky is blue, etc.) the use of colour is terrific.

So again for what it's worth, I'm just saying this as a layman, and it's just the way other people on the outside might see it.

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I dunno. I almost like the dragon on the left. Okay, I might not have the most experience/knowledge, so take this from a complete layman's point of view. The lines on all three are choppy and uneven (and the scroll lines on the gob of roses are really NOT great at all), but it almost works for the dragon, which looks sort of like a watercolour painting. If she said she meant for it to look that way, I'd believe her.

And the three tattoos that abees posted aren't too bad, especially the eagle. I noticed that, too, that the lines on the feather tips were thickened or broken to add to the shadow/highlight effect. The only thing I could really pick out that might be improved is that the lines could maybe flow more smoothly. It doesn't look fluid, like Chad Koeplinger's eagle. That one shows an obvious deep knowledge of and comfort level with tattooing. The lines all flow and taper nicely, shading looks amazing, placement is perfect... And for a tattoo that could easily just be black and white when it's in a style like this (leaves are green, sun is yellow, sky is blue, etc.) the use of colour is terrific.

So again for what it's worth, I'm just saying this as a layman, and it's just the way other people on the outside might see it.

Sure..................but there's a lot wrong with that poor dragon.

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Yeah like the fact that's is fucking atrocious!

Been tattooing 20 years and her shit still looks like someone who's apprenticing under a methed out biker who also learned from another methed out biker who taught himself with a Chinese machine.

Ugh. Why is it that the general population has the worst fucking taste.

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Yeah like the fact that's is fucking atrocious!

Been tattooing 20 years and her shit still looks like someone who's apprenticing under a methed out biker who also learned from another methed out biker who taught himself with a Chinese machine.

Ugh. Why is it that the general population has the worst fucking taste.

Because the general public doesn't know any better. We're ignorant and we're not allowed to ask why it's particularly bad, because that's the equivalent of asking artists to divulge trade secrets.

You're right, most of us are "tourists", and we don't spend enough time immersed in tattooing to know the difference. So...we walk around in blissful ignorance, proudly showing off tattoos that are, in reality, pretty crappy. And you know? the people we show them off to are impressed because they don't usually know any better either. In return, they show us their fabulously fucked up tattoos, too. And we politely compliment them on them (even though we are comparing them to the some of the prison tattoos that we see so often, thinking to ourselves, "I guess I've seen worse.") I guess we're just used to seeing so much junk that we've lowered the bar. Maybe that says something about the quality of work that's being done out there in general: lots of people doing tattoos who shouldn't be. Truly exceptional tattoos really stand out from the crowd, but I haven't seen many walking around. I'd have to say about 80-90% (or more) of what I see in my area looks like that dragon or much worse.

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Yeah and that is because of people like you who don't have more than a couple tattoos who think becoming a tattooer is the cool new easy job to do. Those are the tattooers that are putting out all this horrible garbage most of the time.

If you honestly think that dragon is a passable tattoo then you have a long long way to go before you should even consider drawing a tattoo for someone.

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