Welcome tattoo students, graduates, apprentices & newbies!

TATTOOING: The glamor! The fame! The rock star attitude! The artistry! The TV shows! The big money! You’ve decided you want to be a tattoo artist or you just started your career. Mwah ha ha. Shit, if only it were that easy. First things first; forget everything you’ve seen on tv, those tattoo scandals you’ve heard about and the 1% of world renowned tattooers dominating the magazines and convention circuit. Clear your preconceptions and be willing to take the baby steps you will need to venture into your own personal journey to becoming a solid tattooer. And embrace the fact that there are a kazillion freakin opinions on how it SHOULD be done in the tattoo industry…and still FIND YOUR OWN VOICE to make your art. ( Cue: “I did it MYYYY way!”) Becoming a tattoo artist involves hard work, dedication, determination, devotion to your craft and just like your Mama said, practice, practice, practice. There are several paths to becoming a tattooer. Here in Oregon, where I live, you are required to attend tattoo school. And the schools here are regulated by strict STATE LAW requiring 360 hours of basic training to be eligible to take the state licensing exam. And once licensed, graduates spend their first few years learning under more experienced tattooers in a studio. (I started Garden of Ink Tattoo school over 5 years ago and have been lucky enough to work with some amazing artists and truly love watching their careers flourish!  Shout-out to all my former students–more about them later.) In other places people learn through a traditional apprenticeship style of training. This may involve many months (or even years) of drawing, cleaning, customer service and assisting other tattooers before an apprentice begins practical procedures. Many tattooers have attended fine art school or even have a degree in art before they pick up a machine. In my experience, students who have a lot of art experience or training become better tattooers much faster. And still others are self-taught, through painstaking hours of reading, watching videos, practicing on fruit or friends and perhaps online webinars and videos. This can be extremely dangerous for people who don’t understand the very serious health considerations involved.

Important note:

I do NOT advocate trying to learn tattoo on your own. Learning to tattoo requires specialized hands-on training. I firmly believe you need a mentor or instructor to guide you and assist you with the physical and technical aspects of this craft. PLEASE DO NOT tattoo people in an unlicensed facility or at home. It doesn’t matter how great of an artist you are, or if you “use new needles”—VERY serious health consequences can occur from a lack of understanding of sanitation, sterilization and infection control. If you are in a location that does NOT require licensing or tattoo school, find an experienced mentor or SEEK OUT A QUALITY APPRENTICESHIP! This blog will simply be a supplement to your journey. A way for me to share what I have learned along the path to where I am today and hopefully help you avoid some of the mistakes that I’ve made. I have a great desire to be of assistance to other artists, newbies and beginners who might be unaware of current sanitation practices, struggling to improve, or can’t find a solid mentor in this industry.  I also want to hear from you–your struggles, questions, thoughts and fucking adventures! Feel free to ask questions or suggest topics. And as always, keep your comments kind, curious or helpful, no “dissing” other people,  and please try to contribute in a meaningful way. Welcome to the journey. ~Shelly

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