UK tattoo apprentice Shaun Williams has been tattooing for 6 months, and wanted to share 10 things with us that he's learned along the way!
1) Just get down to business.
"Aside from learning to tattoo the biggest thing I have learnt is that having a good mindset for business is so important. Professionalism is key, but it doesn’t register with a lot of people. You can stand out from the crowd with a good professional attitude."
2) Have a patience for time.
"Whatever goals, timescales or expectations you set on your apprenticeship, multiply it by three. It takes longer than you expect before you use a tattoo machine, it takes longer to finish a tattoo than you expect when learning, and it certainly takes longer before you get good... I’m still waiting. It really is nothing like drawing, it doesn’t matter that you did GCSE art."
3) A clean shop is a happy shop.
"Prepare to develop an obsessive behaviour when it comes to cleanliness, even if it’s clean, you can clean it again. Hygiene has been a major focus within my apprenticeship, as it is with all. I have a girly rush of excitement when I see toilet wipes on offer in our local store. Cleaning the toilet is my job, and I own it."
4) Please people.
"Making sure that clients, boss and colleagues are happy is key to success and longevity as an apprentice/tattoo artist. The clients pay your bills, the boss lets you work, and your colleagues keep you sane."
5) Tea glorious tea!
"Learning to make the perfect tea gets you far! If I get as many complements for my tattoos as I do my tea… I’ve got a good future ahead. You'll be asked to make a cuppa just when you are your busiest, or in the middle of something that needs no interruption. I guarantee it!"
6) Get used to continuous doubt, and dissatisfaction.
"Remember me saying to keep your boss happy, well when you self-criticise everything you do, you can feel like you'll never be good enough. Your boss is the one who puts you at ease, puts things in to perspective and brings back reality. At least mine does... I love him; he’s my man crush."
7) There are never enough hours in the day.
"The studio is where you spend the most amount of time, at least awake. Especially on my apprenticeship as I tend to work my days off to tattoo. I find it extremely difficult to shut of from work/tattooing in my spare time. You get what you put in; hard work always pays off."
8) Too school to cool.
"As soon as you pick up that tattoo machine everyone wants to be your friend, they all come out of the woodwork. It's cheap tattoos they want, and they go as quick as they come. There’s nothing more diminishing in tattooing than a friend expecting it free. True friends will pay you for your hard work and even tip you. I like those friends."
9) Instagram lies.
"With selfies, fast cars and tattooed models and artists living the dream... don’t be fooled. As my mam says, they are 'people with champagne taste, and lemonade wages.' It’s just a facade, as tattooing is a lot of blood, too much sweat, and yes some tears. Choosing to tattoo is a big commitment, be prepared to marry the job."
10) It all makes sense.
"Having to go through the basics such as tribal, learning their basic rules can be quite mundane. But it really does have its uses, as I have noticed a lot of elements from Maori and Celtic work develop and inspire my own style of drawings. Whether it’s learning about flow or rules of structure, everything you learn adds to a wealth of knowledge that has its uses the more you develop."
Shaun has been a tattoo apprentice for a year and a half (tattooing for 6 months) at Nebula Tattoo, a studio in South Wales, UK. His style is neo-traditional, dotwork and Japanese and you can follow him on Instagram.