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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.

Ariella, I would suggest checking out some books/magazines (magazine thread here: http://www.lastsparrowtattoo.com/forum/random-crap/956-best-worst-tattoo-magazines.html), reading some interviews and poking around online or even portfolios on here. Once you see enough nicely executed tattoos, it won't even be a question in your mind about how that dragon could be translated as anything but atrocious, even from a simple design standpoint.

What makes a good tattoo is definitely not a trade secret. All it takes is a little effort and research, and once you've been exposed to more than what's walking around your town, it'll be like a big smack on the forehead. If my little sorority sister can start to "get it" after looking at a few shop links, anyone can "get" it.

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What really pisses me off is when a tattooer comes into a thread like this talking all big like their shop is amazing just so they can get customers and good tattooers to come and guest, and then I've heard nothing but the most horrible shit about that shop and person from people who are actually good tattooers that know what's up.

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ok so it's not unknown i got my apprenticeship with a guy named miller cotton some say before he died he was a different man. this i cant say but i do know he liked speed rattle snakes and stun guns.. you can guess how this goes. have you ever been stun gunned in the nutts? its awesome. i would be sitting at the the desk making needles for two tattoo shops and then bammmmmmo i would be on the ground needles everywhere floping around screaming like a little girl while he laughed at me.. cant say i miss him but a gratefull he gave me a job. oh and he would stab me with used needles...fuck....

Jesus man, how'd you get hooked up with a twisted guy like that?

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I don't see how anyone could think tattooing would be easy or fun or anything like that. I know when I first started doing hair I was terrified and that's not a permanent thing. Even if their hair breaks off (which I've never done, but I've seen happen) it will grow back eventually. I don't really know anything about tatooing but it seems like it would be nerve wracking when you first start, no matter how well trained you are. Once you've really gotten skilled it would probably be a blast, but right out the gate? Some people are crazy.

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hi . this is not so much a nightmare more breathtakingley fucked up, there was a tattooist who opened up in a town not far from me who was doing just walkings. no custom stuff. he marked a load of people but his colours just seemed not to sit right on the skin. and gettin alot of comebacks over this and eventually the enviromental people got involved and it came to light the guy was using food colouring from a grocery store near by. fukin betty crocker ink lol with a side of mayo after care lotion.

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I got my first apprenticeship when I was 18 and had no idea what I was doing. (Funny, now I just don't know, but I know what I'm doing) I paid $1800 to a man and his wife who shall remain nameless. I'm drawing, cutting stencils, and all that stuff. They seemed like good folks. A little sleazy, but I was sorta sleazy then too.

I never got to tattoo in that shop either. Four months in...

I got to the shop Tuesday (closed Sun/Monday), early as always and stand around for a few hours. There was a pizza place across the street and I sit down and have a few .89 cent slices, and end up walking in the AC repair company office next door. I ask if they had seen them.

It was said that there was an attempted armed robbery on Saturday night after I left at nine, and _________ had shot the guy.

Turns out to be total BS. The wife, who worked there as well, had found out her husband was getting really good "tips" from dancers and had gone to town on his gear, pulled a knife on him, and scared him right out of the state.

Not my place to speak of others infidelities, but I'd signed a contract! And with that his Harley, with the blown head gasket that was oft used by all of us as a bench to sit on while we smoked cigarettes (have to give it to them, it was still the Speed Stick days, but they had a no smoking policy in the shop) disappeared as if into thin air.

I still that bike once and while... with him NOT on it. I have no idea what happened to these people but ___________ still owes me sleeves.

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I have had 2 tats done at a local shop...got talked into letting their apprentice do it. Used needles to big and I have blowouts on both. Yeahhhhhh my first 2 cover ups as well!! Seems the apprentice was sleeping with the owner and he was doing what SHE wanted to keep himself "happy"! Those cover ups lead me to Bad Apple here in town and one of the owners fixed me up good! She has been doing all of my tats since.

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My mentor told me about his old boss, he'd tell my mentor to clean the shop... so he would. Then the boss would show up before anyone else, and would write your name on whatever wasn't perfectly clean with a sharpie. So, you'd have to not only clean whatever wasn't clean enough, but then you'd have to scrub off the sharpie on whatever he wrote your name on.

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Alright, bare with me on this one. I'm about 16/17 years old and attend my first tattoo convention in Orange County, CA with my step-dad and I'm amazed. There's booths selling band t-shirts I couldn't find at the mall, bands playing, suspension, pretty much every "weird kid's" candy store because face it, that's what I was. So I begged my dad for a tattoo machine and he tells me, "You need an apprenticeship." So I schedule and appointment to go and get my labret pierced at a local shop and figured while I was down there, I might as well bring some drawings and ask for an apprenticeship. Mind you, this is right before every kid with cable tv wanted to become a tattoo-artist (pretty much two years or so before LA Ink aired). I show my art work and the old guy who owned the shop was impressed, or so he said. He asks me to come in the following monday and I'm stoked.

I start my apprenticeship the same way anyone else. Taking out the trash, keeping everything clean, working on machines, all that mess. I start doing oranges and pig skins and it seems like everyone else in the shop is encouraging me except my instructor for some weird reason. He had me do 30 min of line work on a client at times, never once reviews and never once actually instructed me beyond, "It's a pen thats heavy and shakes a lot." Alright... I've done some shading, some colour, typical stuff. Nothing too crazy. I'm content.

I tattoo him one day. Just some simple colour touch up on his leg. He pulls out a burger and begins to eat, unresponsive. I honestly think he forgot I was even working on him. I go to him for advice and questions and always get told to ask someone else or look it up. 9 months come around and everyone in the shop is telling me I'm probably decent enough to start taking small clients with my instructor watching over me. I decide the best thing to do is wait until my instructor even mentions it before I start to get that thought in my head. Not even two weeks later, he comes up to me and says, "Alright. You're done. I think I've taught you all you need to know." YES! I'M THERE! I CAN DO THIS NOW! I'm getting so excited to start doing some work on people and build a portfolio.

Sike. He tells me some shops are hiring in the area and I should tattoo some friends for a portfolio and Good luck. So I never actually did a tattoo from start to finish, most of the time I picked up his lunch from McDonalds and pressed buttons on the autoclave. I had maybe 4 hours of actual time tattooing something that wasn't dead or a fruit. A few of the dudes I had worked with were outraged. We went out for lunch and I hear nothing but complaints about how they wanna leave the shop so bad but when other shops see where they worked, they're denied. This experience was so awful, I sold my machine and went on to work as a barista for several years. I have recently started working again but I had the most sour taste in my mouth about tattooing for years.

Now the shop has been sold and renamed and it's just an average shop in a little plaza but before it closed down I went to get something pierced by an old friend. 120 bucks for a nostril. NO JOKE. And the shop minimum was 100. That meant those cute little behind the ear tattoos that are a heart .5x.5 inches girls had in this area were throwing 100 dollars down for. As I expected, over the years the shops reputation declined and they were forced to raise their prices to stay in business. Luckily, some of those artist now work privately in home studios and are doing great for themselves.

But that's my little horror story of my apprenticeship that wasn't an apprenticeship. hahaha.

- - - Updated - - -

What really pisses me of is googling "Worst Tattoos" and seeing the most horrid scratcher work alongside with some amazing work. For instance one of them has this amazing color portrait, but its done in blue and the kid has a strange expression, somehow that makes the work "horrible".

I see that so much. Like photos of Farrah Flawless or Maria Jose Cristerna and it being labelled a "bad work". Hell, Farrah gets work done by some of the best artists in America. Ever seen her skull cap. Beautiful. It's just a shame that the internet has given every judgmental prick an opinion and more than half of the time, they're just offensive and bad mouthing others way of life. *shrugs* sucks but unfortunately, we can't do much. This is where I sigh.

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we apprenticed one kid...total idiot (he only lasted about two months)

good artist, but jesus was he dumb. one time he ran around the shop freaking out for ten minutes because he thought there was an alarm going off in the shop, he was like "ITS IN EVERY ROOM WHERE IS IT COMING FROM?!?!" and finally one of our clients ruined the fun and told him the shop phone was off the hook in his pocket.

but when i say that i mean it still took 5 minutes of us all getting pissed and yelling at him that the alarm was the phone beeping in his pocket. all the while, he's like "what? the phone? but its in every room! in my pocket? yea i have the phone in my pocket. wait what? OHHH! dude. it was in every room"

one time we were listening to creed (sarcastically of course) and he chimed in "wasnt creed like the original pearl jam that came out like way earlier"

i smacked him. hard.

he also was unaware of several common terms and phrases in american society. i had to explain what "from the get go" meant. he didnt know was a freeloader was.

ONE TIME i made him freehand copy (not trace) a myke chambers piece in pen (no erasing, u mess up you start over) bc while explaining to him the finer points of traditional tattoos he said "um no offense but thats stupid, im pretty sure a 9 year old could draw that"

i immediately handed him a pen and said "okay do it." he grabbed the lightbox and i said "whoa whoa whoa. you dont need to trace that, youre 18, so if a 9 year old can do it it should be twice as easy for you" hahaha i made him draw that thing like 12-13 times.

i kinda miss that idiot now. he was kind of a loveable idiot.

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One time, young me, worked at this shop and had about 4 months of tattooing never really apprenticed because thats just the way they did it at this shop. Hustle and bustle type street shop where anything went, as long as you had a tattoo machine and kinda could draw you where in. The shop is a chicano style black and gray shop owned by a rapper/tattooer, he even had a recording studio in the back where everyone would get "LOCO". One busy day at the shop, everyone was tattooing, I was working on some dude who I can say was one of my first customers that digged the work and came back. When he came back he would always just be hammered, drunk out of his mind. Horrible way to tattoo but didn't know better, 2 forties while getting tattooed was a regular sight. So I would just struggle to get him to stand still while putting the stencil, think we where doing some lettering on his forearm, some super gangster stuff. I got it on, sat him on the chair and started working. Dude would just go to sleep and leave his arm on the rest for me to go to work on. If you have never tattooed a sleep drunk forearm before, I can tell you it takes a lot of maneuvering and handling just to keep it on the arm rest and get a straight line. It really takes a third arm, a conscious third arm. Very concentrated on the tattoo, next thing I hear it sounded like a door had just fallen of its hinges and slammed on the floor hard. Abuelo, who we called Abuelo because he looked old even though he was like 22, he was tattooing next to me, so when he stood up to see what was going on I did too and went right behind. The waiting area was separated from the tattooing area so we had to walk through a door to see what was going on. As soon as we step into the other room I see abuelo pull out his gun, which I never knew he had, and start shooting at 3 guys wearing bandannas trying rob the shop. That loud smack that I had heard before was them shooting a warning shot into the roof demanding the money, something that we couldn't hear because of the loud music. Abuelo pulling out his secret gun was more than enough to make me do the quickest mid run 360 you could imagine and go in the opposite direction towards the back door. Abuelo unloading the entire clip on them made them have the same reaction, running for their lives. Abuelo had a horrible shot and didnt hit anything, definitely Pulpfictionish. They got in a car, Abuelo and some other dude chased them on the freeway, but their car broke down about 2 exits down and they got away. As for my client he was still passed on the chair and never even knew any of this had happened, I sat down and finish it and another day of job well done was over.

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ok so it's not unknown i got my apprenticeship with a guy named miller cotton some say before he died he was a different man. this i cant say but i do know he liked speed rattle snakes and stun guns.. you can guess how this goes. have you ever been stun gunned in the nutts? its awesome. i would be sitting at the the desk making needles for two tattoo shops and then bammmmmmo i would be on the ground needles everywhere floping around screaming like a little girl while he laughed at me.. cant say i miss him but a gratefull he gave me a job. oh and he would stab me with used needles...fuck....

What a nutter!!!!

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These stories are fantastic. I'm in an apprenticeship now and the guys at my shop treat me well. I was prepared to be fucked with, but I guess that's not how they do it (which I am fine with.) I'd rather not clean up wolf piss and get shot at with stun guns. I clean stuff, set up, break down, make needles, take out the trash, line draw, set up appointments, and answer the phone.

In a way I kinda want the whole rites of passage thing, but I'm sure I wouldn't be saying that if it was happening.

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I'm about 3 months into my apprenticeship. Last week my mentor says "Set up a machine and draw up some small designs right now, I have someone coming in for you to tattoo in about 30 minutes."

"Are you sure this is a good idea? Who is coming in?" I asked.

"Just some big biker guy I know."

I was shaking so bad that I could hardly get the machine set up. Hell I hadn't yet been taught how to use a machine. I wasn't sure if this was for real or a joke, but this is definitely the kind of thing he would line up just for the sake of fucking with me. I imagined some gnarly big dude he met at the local dive bar.

I'm sitting at my station frantically drawing a spider and a skull and I hear the back door ring and my mentor say "Hey man come on in, he's just finishing up your drawing."

I walk over to the station shaking and see a grapefruit sitting on the chair.

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I believe mine was similar @Rad Kelham. I had just finished tattooing some grapefruits, and my mentor's wife came in and asked him if he had time to do some small dots on her fingers. He said "No, I've got to get ready for my next appointment." She looked over at me and asked "What about Kevin?"

They are still in there though!

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