This guest post was written by Brandon Collins at Nightmare Studios Tattoo in Reno, NV
With the invention of tattoo “reality” shows, the average un-tattooed or mildly tattooed person is led to believe that tattoo artists are superheroes: they can draw an entire back piece in 15 minutes, go out to the clubs all night and still come to work on time, able to tattoo whatever you want, wherever you want it.
That sounds awfully appealing to some kids–but it couldn’t be any further from the truth. Anyone who has spent time in a tattoo shop knows that most tattooers are your average hardworking dads and moms with mortgages, car payments and phone bills, not prima donna rockstars that get VIP everywhere and drive Lamborghini’s. Those TV shows make a mockery of our profession and because of them, our trade has been diluted by half-ass, mediocre tattooers. Not only have these hacks not paid their dues, but they pump out crappy $20 tattoos that the average joes doesn’t even realize are shit.
Before deciding you want to be a tattooer, think about this: Say my appointment for the day doesn’t show up, so that $400 I needed to pay rent and put food on my table will just have to wait. If YOU go to work and no one shows up, YOU still get paid and so you can afford to sit home home and watch “TATTOO SCHOOL” and say to your stoned roommate “bro, I can totally do that shit!”. You get breaks and paid holidays, insurance and an guaranteed paycheck every week. We don’t. We work 50-60 hours a week tattooing, drawing and painting with no medical benefits and no retirement funds.
Don’t listen to your family. That skull with the lightning bolts and a joint in its mouth you drew in the 8th grade ISN’T amazing. Your parents, close family members and friends are always going to tell you that you are a natural artist. Their biased encouragement will only give you the false confidence to go into a tattoo shop and get your feelings hurt. Tattooing isn’t a hobby or something just to pass the time. It is a profession and a sole mean of income, so if you think we will welcome you and your “tat guns” into our trade with open arms, you are sorely mistaken. Apprenticeships are meant to be hard–to weed out the undeserving. If you are lucky enough to get one (and I do mean lucky) you will be taught a skill that can carry you for the rest of your life and you are forever indebted to the person who taught you. There are those dip-shits that don’t have the balls to go into a tattoo shop and try to get an apprenticeship – or they did and were tossed out, just order some “guns” online and “do tats” out of their house. Not only is this completely disgusting, unsanitary and unethical, but also illegal. Don’t even think about doing that. Those fucktards can do some real and irreversible damage to someone not to mention potentially spread disease.
Most tattoo artists don’t make a lot of money. Tattooers get paid by the hour but that money isn’t dumped right into our pockets. We have to give a percentage to the shop and pay for supplies and what-not. In reality we only get a fraction of what we charge for your tattoo. So when you tell me, “Dannnng $100?… Thats a lot, you must be rich!” and I want to run a steel spike through your head, you will understand why. As I mentioned before, if an appointment doesn’t show up or you don’t have anything scheduled, you don’t get paid. Imagine going to your job at Home Depot or where ever and working a full day without pay.
So next time you have the urge to be like Kat Von D or whatever rockstar tattooer is the flavor of the week… remember this: Countless hours of work for minimal pay and no benefits is the life that we have chosen and will defend with extreme prejudice. Do yourself a favor: keep your day job, and leave our profession alone.
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