Not All Tattoo Apprenticeships Are Created Equal — Tim O’Connor

Submitted 12.13.23

Not All Tattoo Apprenticeships Are Created Equal

[10:00] “If the traditional apprenticeship is the only correct route that assumes that all apprenticeships are created equally, right? Even if there are some shortcomings to a tattoo school, at least there’s some type of curriculum there.

— Jake Meeks

Many tattoo artists advocate for the traditional apprenticeship, emphasizing its undeniable merits such as personalized attention and guidance based on years of industry experience. However, teaching is a skill not inherent in every seasoned tattoo artist. Mentors, lacking a teaching background, often find it challenging to effectively guide emerging tattooers. And oftentimes, their own apprenticeship was filled with poor leadership and questions unanswered.

There exists a prevailing view among artists that tattoo schools may be detrimental to the tattooing craft. Criticism stems from concerns about these schools mass-producing apprentices, saturating the market with new tattooers who aren’t equipped with adequate skills, leading to skepticism about their overall effectiveness. While current tattoo schools may have their shortcomings, the concept itself draws inspiration from more traditional apprenticeship programs like those found in union training centers. For instance, apprentice carpenters typically undergo a 2-4 year program involving both classroom instruction and field training before earning the title of journeyman, allowing them to work independently. Perhaps a reevaluation and revamp of tattoo schools are needed.

So what should the tattoo community do? If potential mentors aren’t provided with the correct tools and teaching skills and tattoo schools aren’t equipping apprentices with enough experience we need to find some way to properly educate artists to enter the tattoo industry. As the desire among artists to become tattooers continues to grow, there's a corresponding demand for more mentors and improved tools to aid these aspiring tattooers. The industry may benefit from establishing a curriculum or standardized teaching framework, providing the necessary structure for tattooing to evolve and thrive.

Watch the full episode: 

What Makes a Great Tattoo Aprenticeship? | Tim O'Connor | EP 275

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