The apprenticeship, traditionally, was incredibly hard to obtain, and tattooing was often times kept in the family. Teaching outsiders was a practice very looked down upon.
Today, one is able to pick up an apprenticeship pretty easily, as long as they have money and time to spend, dedication, and talent.
It is easiest to get a tattoo apprenticeship in the winter months, when the owner has some free time since business has slowed down. They might also be looking to pick up a little extra money and get someone ready to go once the warm season comes and business gets busy again. A good way to get your foot in the door is to get tattooed at the shop and by the person you are looking to have apprentice you. This way you will be a familiar face.
You should also be building an art portfolio to bring in when you ask to be apprenticed, as you’re going to need to show your abilities in art. It is wise to have a variety of work and styles and mediums, but do focus on finely executed linework. Sloppiness is not something that will help make your case for you. If you have gone to an art school, or taken more than high school classes, mention these also. Be familiar with names of good tattoo artists, current and otherwise, because it will be good to show that you’re interested in tattooing as a whole, and not just for you to avoid having a desk job. In most cases, they will not say “yes” on the spot, so expect this.
It is best to start saving a long time in advance for an apprenticeship, as it will be unpaid work for quite some time, and it’ll be your main focus, making having a full time job on the side impossible.
An apprenticeship costs different amount depending on where you do it. Sometimes it’ll cost $2,000-$5000, and sometimes it’ll be free, with a contract stating you need to continue working for that shop for x amount of years after completing your apprenticeship. These prices and contracts are usually negotiable, and you might be able to find better deals in smaller towns rather than cities.
A normal apprenticeship will take anywhere from a few months to almost two years. There is a lot of work to do and a lot of ground to cover. Most shops will take you on as an unpaid worker for a while first to see if you’re dedicated and will do well. You can expect to do everything from answering the phones to taking out the trash. Then you could move up a step at a time until your instructor feels you’re ready to start tattooing. Although this isn’t the case in every apprenticeship, it is a basic idea of the hierarchy involved in becoming a tattoo artist.
Most apprentices will shadow their instructor while they set up their equipment, do tattoos on customers, etc., before they ever start tattooing themselves. Next you will have to start cleaning your instructors equipment and setting up for them. Before you do a tattoo on a human, you might be asked to practice on a grapefruit, or a fake skin, or even a (dead) turkey. This will give you a feel for the machines before you attempt to tattoo real skin.
Even after you’ve tattooed a few volunteers, your instructor and the owner of the shop may not let you tattoo real customers until you have shown a solid understanding of the basics of tattooing. You are a liability to the name and image of their shop, so they have to take every precaution to make sure you’re good enough before you start working for them.
For a more detailed look at how to go about getting an apprenticeship Click Here