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Apprentice Introducing Myself


spencerdeacon
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I'm currently working as an apprentice, and have recently found out that my mentor is infact just a business man and not a tattoo artist. I've been with him for almost 18 months now and I'm embarrassed to admit that I dont know alot about tattooing. I understand that this early in I shouldnt know everything about the industry, but anytime I've asked my mentor simple questions he dodges them or talks alot of crap, and if I was to ask the same question a couple of days later he would contradict his previous answer and talk a different amount of crap. Obviously as an apprentice I have to do all the shady work, and I don't grudge it at all, I would scrub every inch of the studio with a toothbrush everyday if I had to,(basically do) and if I knew I was getting valuable knowledge in the end.

I've never seen a tattoo my mentor has done, and as much as I have searched for his work I cant fine anything about him. He has a couple of studios and covered in tattoos, so I never questioned the fact he was a tattoo artist until now, and speaking to different artists in the area I've heard he's never been a proper tattoo artist and is just a business man. Which isnt a bad thing at all, I know there are a lot of studio owners that dont tattoo!

I have already tattooed a couple of people (they werent the greatest) but the lack of knowledge I got from my mentor prior to it was ridiculous.

I thought as an apprentice, the most important thing I'd be taught would be sterilisation, when I asked him how to properly set up and break down without cross contaminating etc he told me to use youtube and teach myself. I had already researched a lot, and tried to study as best as I could from online resources so I could be prepared and try my best to prevent any infections, is it normal for a mentor to expect this from his apprentice? I research most nights, from different styles/artists/machines/culture and I'm always trying to know as much as I can but I thought a mentor would know these things and have a specific way they like things done? During my first tattoo he watched youtube videos on his phone and stopped me to go and get his lunch for him, I didnt feel like he had my back at all.

I understand the first couple of tattoos anyones does arent supposed to be masterpieces, and I know that my confidence isnt supposed to be shooting through the roof, but I personally dont feel like I should be tattooing anyone yet. I know that tattooing techniques and tricks come with practice and that right now I should be making mistakes and learning, but I genuinally have no idea what I am doing and anytime I ask for help he tells me to do my research, its hard to learn how to tattoo online, hard and stupid! There are other artists in the studio but I'm not allowed to use them for help because "they're not my mentor".

I've considered looking elsewhere, and starting from scratch with a new mentor but Im at an awkward stage where someone can't take me on as an artist and alot of people will avoid taking me on as an apprentice because I already have 18 months experience, but I'm in the door somewhere and I'm going to continue sucking it up until I can confidently leave the studio I'm in.

I've joined LST because I think I might learn alot about the industry that Im not learning from my mentor. I know its not about learning techniques on here, but I'm so isolated in my apprenticeship (I'm not allowed to follow/speak to other artists in my area or nearby cities via instagram or facebook) that a forum like this would open my eyes a little bit to the industry and I've already read alot that has interested me!!

:)

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Welcome. Hard luck story bud. The only thing I feel I can suggest (3rd year apprentice) is visit other shops. If he has other shops, go talk to the other tattooers. Hang out. Get tattooed. If you're serious, you'll make connections with better tattooers and go from there. And by the way, worrying about your first few tattoos not being good? You're always gonna feel that way. That is why we try to progress.

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  • 3 weeks later...

That sounds like a terrible situation. I realized shortly after starting my apprenticeship how important it is to develop a relationship with your teacher. You spend a LOT of time together. You also need to respect your teacher. It sounds like you have neither of those. I know some old school tattooers will really test your resolve by taking things slow, but your situation sounds a bit extreme. Did you pay into your apprenticeship? If so, you should be honest. I mean, you are putting your future into his hands, so if you can't be honest with each other, how can you trust him with an honest critique of your work or ask for help when you need it?

Actually, to be perfectly honest, in writing all of this, I just realized that you need to find a new place to learn. Holding an apprentice back from tattoo techniques is understandable, but not teaching proper sterilization, aseptic technique, cross contamination, etc. is downright irresponsible. You are putting yourself, your teacher and your clients at risk. If he doesn't care that you know safety, that's a red flag. You sound dedicated and loyal, which are marketable traits for an apprentice. Reach out to other artists and shop owners for an opportunity. BE RESPECTFUL. The tattoo industry is extremely small and talking bad about your old teacher will get around. Good luck.

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Yeah you definitely need to leave and pursue other options. The idea of undertaking a tattoo apprenticeship from someone who doesn't tattoo is... nonsensical. By the sounds of it, you have too much potential for this clown and he doesn't deserve to have you around. It kinda just sounds like he wants a shop bitch who will make him easy money, and that's not what tattooing is about. I know it's hard to have the confidence at this level to put your foot down and say "hey fuck you man! I'm leaving!" (you don't literally have to say fuck you ;)) BUT YOU SHOULD! Even if you have to keep learning and studying on your own time, it will still be time saved not learning bad habits and bad business practices. And yeah what Kevin said, go hang out at other shops, be polite and respectful, keep your ears open and your mouth shut. Get tattooed! It will work out :)

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