Q&A Time: This week, Jem’s ‘Mature’ Apprenticeship

image[5]I had originally intended this post to be a general Q&A session, where I try to answer some of the more popular questions people ask around tattooing. However, Tattoosday UK regular Jem posted a really interesting question, so perhaps a weekly Q&A post which does into a little more depth will work a little better than this. I’m more than happy to have people use this site to ask questions, gain information and have an outlet for tattoo artists to speak out about what they feel is important. In fact, it’s pretty much the reason this site exists! So, on with this week’s question (yes, there will be time at the end to put your hand up and ask your own!).

Jem asked on our Facebook page:

I’d like to know how common it is for apprentices/tattooists to start out tattooing quite late? When I read a tattooist’s biography, 90% of them time they have been practicing their whole lives (some as young as 14). At lot of them seem to land apprenticeships in their teens too.
I often worry people in the community will not take me seriously, as I’m approaching the game quite late (at 21) and probably wont even land an apprenticeship till my mid-to-late 20’s with the way things are going in the Tattoo world at the moment.

As someone who’s never done an apprenticeship, I felt that I couldn’t fully answer this question. Thankfully, I know some people who I can count on to help me out (friends are great, aren’t they?)

Lee Reynolds, who works at Rude Tattoo and Piercing in Leeds, started his apprenticeship when he was 25:

I was a little put off at first thinking i was too old and daunted by the awesome artists already in the industry, but I was determined on my goal and respected the industry more than my own mother, so I drew and painted my heart out and went on an endless visit to tattoo studios to seek an apprenticeship… Being more seasoned and more mature I was serious about my profession which I think some kids at 18 don’t really get; most are more interested in the title "tattoo artist" and want a rock and roll lifestyle, which tattooing really doesn’t bring. It’s all about hard work, dedication and commitment and respect for the industry yourself and your clients. If a guy at 30 came to me wanting an apprenticeship and had a good attitude and respect for the industry I’d probably be more wiling to take him on…That’s not me slating the younger folk mind, it’s all on the attitude and how that person is going to represent you as their mentor and pass the knowledge that we all slog are guts out to earn, bob Tyrell started at 30 so there’s no bars to be set on age I don’t think, so anyone "mature" doubting whether they’re too old to get into it then don’t! Go for it and put everything you have got into your trade and it will pay you back ten fold :)

Katriona, who I refuse to believe is actually 40, is currently apprenticing under Jan Moat:

Older tattoo apprentices, whilst not exactly commonplace, are not unheard of. In fact, having a few years under your belt should hold you in greater stead on many levels- a potential mentor will value a particular level of maturity, and you may be more level headed dealing with the daunting, mundane tasks rather than feeling it should all be a rush and a race. Early to mid twenties is not exactly late to the game, at 40 I am apprenticing and there are several older again than myself. Utilise the time in the interim to do your research and build your strong portfolio. Go to the conventions you are able to, and be a sponge for how the community interacts.

Finally, Peter Morrison is really old (haha!) and apprentices at The Ink Well in Romford:

My experience of being an older tattoo apprentice is one of it being even more harder than it would have been if i had started out when i was 18- however i do feel that due to my age i get treated differently than if I was a younger person….although I do clean the bogs and pissed soaked bog floors I don’t get told to like if I was a slave. As I have got older things have happen to me where by I have met my wife and got a mortgage, which has brought a lot of responsibility my way and I have been working in my full time job since I left college, as you can imagine trying to combine a fulltime night job with a tattoo apprentice ain’t no picnic…. and trying to find time to relax with my wife is even harder, then you have to find time to do your normal day to day things as well as practicing your drawing and drawing up designs for people…..you can get pretty tired most days haha. But, if your as passionate about tattooing as i am then you will do it but I do wish I had got an apprenticeship when I had no commitments. Oh did I mention trying to fit in tattoo conventions, its a must for any apprentice to get to a convo to watch other artist at work.

There is a lot of great advice in each comment here, how fantastic! Through this, I hope you can see the good and the bad points and make your mind up about how hard your apprenticeship may be. It seems that really, it won’t be too bad! As a final thought, I thought I’d just throw this into the mix: personally, I’ve known people my age (under 25s) who have managed to get apprenticeships and then completely pissed them up the walls due to a lack of commitment or a feeling of entitlement over tattooing. It works both ways, and your age shouldn’t really be an issue at all. If your art and your attitude are both on top form, there’s nothing stopping you getting a great apprenticeship.

Thank you, Jem, for such a great question!

Do you have a question about tattooing you’re dying to have answered? Whether it’s a common question you’re hearing a lot about or something a little more specific, nothing is too big. As always, I’d never dream of pretending I know the answers to everything- but as you can see, I usually know someone who does, haha. To send something in for next week, the best way to contact us is through the Facebook page (link is near the top of this post!), or searching on Facebook for “Mel Noir”. Alternatively, you can take a look at the other ways to contact us on the contact page at the top of the site. Remember: there is no such thing as a stupid question.

4 Responses to “Q&A Time: This week, Jem’s ‘Mature’ Apprenticeship”
  1. Jemmy says:

    This is fantastic! :D Thank you for answering my question, I didn’t expect such a response!

    It’s such a relief to hear this out of the mouth of Tattooists and Apprentices. So far I’ve only had friends assuring me that no, I am not too old to start and that yes, age is a state of mind. But it is far more reassuring when you hear it from people who know the industry well.

    I feel like I will be going into the game quite late, as I want to travel a lot after university, and I respect Tattooists so much so that currently I will not approach them with my inferior artwork. Hence another reason why I will be travelling a lot, to gain inspiration and new skills. Once I return I will hopefully have some well-earned confidence and some great artwork, and I will finally be able to approach a studio with the intent to gain an apprenticeship.

    That’s not to say I wont approach studios anyway, for advice and experience. One of the best things I’ve ever done was watch a Tattooist friend working on someone. You can’t really write about it, you just feel… “Wow! This is amazing… I want to do this!”

    So thanks again Lee, Katriona and Peter for your awesome insights. And a big thanks to Mel, as usual, for your wonderful blog, which I can’t seem to live without! :)

  2. Mel Noir says:

    Jem, you are awesome, I am so glad we managed to help you out! Y’know, with the travelling, there’s nothing stopping you from going to many conventions too! Great stuff! :) In fact, if you’re ever going to a convention in the UK, get in touch, I might be there too! :)

    So happy we managed to answer your question, you’re very welcome petal- any time! :)

    Mel x

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] Q&A Time: This week, Jem's 'Mature' Apprenticeship « Tattoosday UK […]

  2. […] This was part of a Q&A idea that, frankly, never really took off. However, the one and only Q&A post was, if I say so myself, pretty awesome. Jem wanted to know what it was like to be an older apprentice, and we had some really great tattoo artists who apprenticed themselves when they were, *ahem!* slightly more mature than some. You see, I’m not lying when I tell you guys I probably do know someone who knows the answers to your questions, haha. Read more >> […]

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