Apprentice Interview

When I first started tattooing people who were looking to learn to tattoo were treated as suspect. The shop that I started out in would throw you out for asking about learning. They actually wouldn’t even consider talking to you about it unless you had been thrown out at least a couple of times and come back anyhow. They figured that showed dedication to learning. I always thought it ensured that you only wound up with candidates who were obnoxious or dense.

So I try to take everyone who inquires seriously. I try to talk to them about their expectations and where they are at currently; to give them advice to help them along. Most times this is not the advice that they are looking for, but I am honest with them about my experiences and what they can expect. Often I will sit with someone and go through their portfolio to give them pointers on where their strengths and weaknesses lie and what they might consider working on.

Enter Timmy (yeah, that’s not his name, but honestly I wouldn’t use is name even if I could remember it and I don’t know anyone who goes by Timmy).

My first contact with Timmy was a phone call. Timmy wants to learn to tattoo. He wants to learn to tattoo the right way. He has been offered an apprenticeship somewhere and he doesn’t trust some things about that shop. He just wants to talk to me for a little bit. He wants to make sure that he going about things the right way. He is exceptionally humble on the phone. Tells me how much tattooing means to him. He does admit that he bought some equipment off of e-bay, but that he knows enough not to use it until he has learned to tattoo from a professional.

He says that he will do anything. Offers to just hang out at the shop and watch… sweep floors… clean tubes… anything to get his feet on the path of learning to tattoo the right way.

I tell him that he is welcome to stop in sometime and we will go through his portfolio and I can give him some input and suggestions. I’m not offering or promising anything other than talking. He is grateful for the opportunity.

The evening that Timmy is supposed to stop in – he calls and says that he is running a little bit late. He has to get a ride from someone and he wants to make sure that I am still going to be there. Yes, I assure him. I will be at the shop until 8 anyhow.

Little while later Timmy and friend arrive at the shop (as I was expecting) both of them have half done HORRENDOUS tattoos on their hands (which I am confused about) and they both appear to be drunk. Not wanting to make assumptions about anything I start talking to Timmy without mentioning either the hand tattoos or the apparent state of intoxication.

Timmy volunteers up the info. You see, we’re running late because we were working on each other’s tattoos – Oh yeah, this is my friend, I am teaching him to tattoo. <What?!?> Really? This is your apprentice? Yep. I thought that you were here to look for an apprenticeship? I am.

So you are here to ask me to teach you to tattoo… and you are teaching this guy to tattoo?

Well, I don’t have a lot of photos of work that I have done, so I figured that I would bring in someone that I tattooed, so that you could see my work in person and since he doesn’t know how to tattoo yet it took a long time and that’s why we are late.

< Timmy is obviously completely missing the inappropriateness of bringing his apprentice to an “apprentice interview”. His choice of words by the way, I never insinuated that I would apprentice him, just that I was willing to talk to him. >

I tell Timmy that I really can’t comment on the tattoos that he and his friend have done on each other as I can’t figure out what they were supposed to be. He assures me that this is because they aren’t done yet. <Egads Dude, quit while you are ahead, maybe if you are lucky they will fall out and you won’t have to look at that crap for the rest of your life!> So he offers to show me the photos that he has on his cell phone of work that he is done (he has brought no portfolio, no artwork, none of the things that he told me that he had on the phone). He hands me his cell phone and tells me that I better hold it and scroll through them myself as he is too drunk to hold it still.

Well, there it is. Suspicions confirmed. He is drunk, and admitting it.

I try to look through the pictures on the phone. I can’t even tell where the tattoo is supposed to be in some of the pictures. Blurry photos of body parts, some of which might be tattooed. Some look like there might be a tattoo there, but they are covered with such a thick film of vaseline that there would be no way to figure out what it is supposed to be.

Visions of cross-contamination and filth and disease float through my head. I try to watch Timmy and friend to make sure they aren’t touching anything with their weepy hands that I can’t spray down after they leave. I can’t believe I am touching this phone.

I hand it back to him. I wash my hands. Timmy and friend just stand there drunk and weaving ever so slightly on the apparently tipping floor that only affects the extremely inebriated.

I run this back through for him.

You called and said that you want to learn to tattoo the right way. You told me that you had equipment, but weren’t using it on anyone. You said that above all it was important to you to learn the right way. So much so that you didn’t want to take on the apprenticeship that you were offered because you didn’t think that shop was up to your standards. You then show up here drunk (he nods), with your friend who you are teaching to tattoo (they both nod) and with a cell phone full of pictures of tattoos that you have done out of your house. (Yep.) Have I got all of that correct?


I can’t help you. (Confusion) Get the hell out of my shop. (Really?) Yes, really.

Oh, Okay. That’s cool. Thank you so much for meeting with us.

Out the door into the night they go – all grins and happy with the way that went apparently. I don’t think either one of them noticed that I was disgusted, appalled or that I had been yelling at them.

Back into the shop to decontaminate everything and close up for the night.

You can’t make this shit up.

~ by justteejay on December 10, 2010.

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