Dave Walin of Tattoo Culture (Brooklyn, NY) on his apprenticeship: I learned to tattoo starting in 1990 from Robert "Hack" Hackney in Dallas, TX. I came in early every day. Cleaned everything. Studied hard. Mixed pigments. Soldered needles. Ruined a lot of my clothes with black ink and purple powder, but no hazing, luckily. Then I started practicing on skin after six months of hard work. I brought in my friends and roommates who wanted free tattoos. My first one was a clean-up of an old Marvin the Martian tattoo.
Bob Tyrrell of Night Gallery (Detroit, MI) on his apprenticeship: I got an apprenticeship at Eternal Tattoos in Detroit, which lasted about three months. It was cool. I was going five days a week after work [making kitchen countertops], and after three months, I quit my job and started tattooing full time. I know it was quick. My apprenticeship was with Tramp, but I learned from everyone there. Tom Renshaw was working there and kinda took me under his wing. He really taught me everything, going way out of his way to help me out. It was the best apprenticeship I could've had because Tom is one of the best portrait tattooers in the world. He taught me everything from how to deal with customers to promoting yourself, to technique, the types of needles he uses. I was ready to scrub toilets and clean puke, but on my first day, Tramp showed me how to make needles, and after that, he really wanted me to watch and learn. One night, Tramp was mopping the floors and I said, "Dude, you want me to do that?" and he said, "No, you already know how to mop the floor, you need to learn how to tattoo." And he's a pretty old-school dude, so I had too easy of an apprenticeship, I think.
Shanghai Kate Hellenbrand from Pikes Peak Tattoo (Colorado Springs, CO) on learning from the legendary Sailor Jerry: I knew from the very beginning that he was a very important man in the history of the world, not only in tattooing. He was a giant. And so my moments with Jerry and anything I have from him are touchstones to something very real. He didn't let very many people get close to him and work with him. Only a few people, really, and I was one of them. He hated women tattoo artists. Why he liked me, I don't know.
Wallin on how he apprentices artists: I apprentice artists for about six months. It's really self-paced, and some are fast learners. The apprenticeship continues for two years, regardless of when they start tattooing. Training involves constant drawing, studying, observing, learning responsibility, and even some basic psychology and customer service. I see it as: They are learning how to run their own shop one day, so it needs to be comprehensive. The most important lesson is respect: for the customers, your teacher, the traditions, and yourself. Give back something and move it forward.
Gene Cofey of Tattoo Culture (Brooklyn, NY) on his apprentice duties under Dave Wallin: During my apprenticeship I had to get coffee and lunch for everyone, clean the shop, help the customers, set up appointments, clean the bathroom, clean and set up the stations, paint the walls, paint the sign out front, scrub tubes, make needles, do supply runs, read, study, draw, draw, draw, watch everyone tattooing, come in early every day and stay late, work every day, water the plants, change light bulbs, hang paintings, and pretty much anything else that needed to be done was put on me. I didn't mind. Hell, I got to learn a craft that is awesome to get to do for cash. Now I get to earn a living making art all day. I think my apprenticeship was pretty easy compared to what some people have to go through.
Myles on hazing apprentices: Pretty much everyone that comes in to Dare Devil gets hazed. My shop is like a pack of wolves. They chew you up until you are accepted as one of the pack.
Hellenbrand on having to learn to pee standing up: I had to learn to pee standing up. Jack Rudy taught me that if I was gonna be one of the boys in his shop, I was gonna be one of the boys. So I learned. It's a little trick that comes in handy once in a while.
Coffey on his hazing: When I was apprenticing and not making any money, strange and funny things happened a bit more frequently, like the time the guys here put two $100 bills in a condom, tied it in a knot and had me swallow it. I got to keep the money when it came out. I'm not sure, but that may be considered hazing.