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Why tattooists are saying NO to tattoo schools

Above: a recent video from tattoo vlogger, Lauren.

Well-respected tattoo artists from all around the world have launched a campaign to educate the general public about why tattoo schools are damaging to the industry.

The ‘No Tattoo School‘ movement has been formed by US tattooists Eric Perfect, Myke Chambers and Chad Knight and messages have spread further across the globe this week, with artists in other countries also speaking out about tattoo schools.

Photo: No Tattoo School

Photo: No Tattoo School

‘Tattoo schools’ are courses that claim to teach the craft of tattooing, often in a short space of time. Essentially, if you have the cash, you can be taught how to tattoo.

After their increased emergence in recent years, this band of reputable tattooers felt the time had arrived to speak up about why these companies are far from accepted in the industry.

This is NOT a real school!! That’s what you people don’t understand!! There is NOTHING that credits this as a real school. It’s a guy that doesn’t do good tattoos trying to teach hundreds of people things he’s not qualified to teach. No “teacher at these school has been tattooing longer that 3-4 years if that! Most less than a year!! He is taking thousands of dollar from people and telling them the ONLY tattoo shops they will ever be able to work in are shops he owns. If he fires them they will never get a job anywhere else. They are paying thousands to be his slaves. Even if the schools that are popping up were teaching proper tattooing (which they’re NOT) and not just ripping off people it is the death of tattooing. The people signing up for the schools should be concerned themselves as with what schools are doing is completely flooding the market with tattoo shops because the people that go to the schools cannot get jobs in shops and have to open their own shops doing subpar tattoos and endangering the public because of poor training. So every year 20 to 30 bad tattoo shops will be opening in one city alone into an already overstated market. What happens then? Tattooers can’t afford to pay their bills or support their families because everyone will be forced to lower prices to complete with hundreds of other shops. I, personally, am in no way threatened by this. It won’t effect me at all. I have great clients but it will definitely effect future generations. And I do care about the future of tattooing even when I’m dead and gone. SAY NO TO “TATTOO SCHOOLS”!! Do it the right way and get an apprenticeship. Yes it’s not easy to get one. That’s for a reason! To try to get an apprenticeship GET TATTOOED!! A LOT! And get the tattooer to like you. Don’t just walk in and ask. That’s not how it’s done. Yes it’s hard and not everyone will make it. Most won’t actually but that’s life. #academyofresponsibletattooing #respecttattooing

A post shared by Myke Chambers (@mykechambers) on

“Tattooers around the world are coming together to put an end to the bastardisation of our sacred craft,” says the No Tattoo School website.

“A traditional tattoo apprenticeship is an honour bestowed on a person after years of loyalty and dedication. A sacred right of passage that can not be bought and sold. It must be earned. Tattoo school founders make a mockery of that honour by offering a ‘fast track’, bypassing a very necessary journey into our culture.”

“That road leads nowhere. These would-be tattoo apprentices are being lied to and taken advantage of with the false promise of success in our trade. No student of these schools will ever be taken seriously, or hired by legitimate tattoo shops. Period.”

Above: No Tattoo School on YouTube share a recent interview with the founder of The Academy of Responsible Tattooing, the business through which these tattoo schools has been created.

Tattoo enthusiasts and members of the campaign have been protesting outside seminars in Philadelphia, USA, in order to spread awareness. They wish to save future aspiring tattooers from being exploited by the schools, making it clear in their communication that any ‘qualification’ from these establishments holds no value with the reputable tattoo shops of today. 

US-based tattoo schools also made a recent appearance in VICE’s Needles & Pins tattoo documentary – watching the episode in question definitely encouraged us to question, are these tattoo school owners just taking financial advantage of a growing generation of artistically un-skilled ink-lovers who fantasise about life as a tattooer?

Photo: No Tattoo School

Photo: No Tattoo School

Any anti-tattoo school campaign has the customer and artists at the heart of its missions. In order to create the best tattoo any apprentice will be taught key skills from experienced tattooers as part of their training in a studio: from hygiene and preparation, to customer care and communication. But there’s also one thing that all brilliant artists have in common that will always set them apart from any clinical business endeavour… passion.

But many schools exist in the world that teach other skills, so why should tattooing be any different? – I hear you ask.

The truth is, tattooing just isn’t like any other industry. With no disrespect to record shop owners or hairdressers, getting a tattoo is much more of an emotional and physical investment than buying a CD or getting a haircut. Not only is it traumatic for the body and has to be taken seriously in terms of medical safety, but getting a tattoo is also a huge mental and often spiritual commitment that requires a level of passion and dedication from wearer and tattooist.

Those I am close to in this industry, those whom I’ve featured on this site from day one – tattoo artists, tattoo collectors, bloggers, vloggers, product creators, convention organisers – live, sleep and breathe this craft. It takes our blood, sweat, tears, time and money, and what we receive in return is absolutely priceless.

As tattooing has increased in popularity in recent years, a divide has most certainly emerged in the industry, Those who believe and follow everything I have just mentioned above, and those who don’t. The latter includes people who want to make a quick buck, or who aspire to tattoo because they see it as a ‘rock-star’ lifestyle – I hear this phrase time and time again from artists who are approached by young people looking for an apprenticeship. A large portion of aspiring apprentices pour their life and soul into art, but a larger percentage of them want to be handed the opportunity to tattoo with little effort or input. They desire to be part of this industry, an artistic industry, for un-artistic reasons that don’t embrace tattooing in its true, beautiful form.

For me, it boils down to one simple fact – tattooing is an art, NOT a business. Don’t get me wrong, there are many successful and profitable tattoo businesses that have been born out of an appreciation and devotion to the art-form, but the commitment always comes first, and the reward second.

Unfortunately, many tattoo brands do operate the other way round, and often have profit at the centre of their operations. These tattoo schools claim to exist in response to how difficult it can be to find an apprenticeship these days, but, hey, who said anything worth having in life came easy?

Instagram @eric_perfect

Instagram @eric_perfect


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