Why Chad Knight is saying NO to tattoo schools

Photo: No Tattoo School

Photo: No Tattoo School

Earlier this month I posted a blog on why tattooists all over the world are standing up against tattoo schools. This week, I chat to tattoo artist Chad Knight about why this campaign is so important for the industry.

Chad works at Black Vulture Gallery in Philadelphia. Along with tattooists Eric Perfect and Myke Chambers, he’s been committed to educating the public about these tattoo schools and why they are, in fact, irresponsible and damaging. Read the original blog for background information and now, I’ll let Chad do the talking…

Chad Knight, Instagram @mr_nicenasty

Chad Knight, Instagram @mr_nicenasty

Why are tattoo schools so bad for the industry?

A school bypasses the sacred journey of apprenticeship. The knowledge passed down from a real experienced mentor can not be substituted in a classroom run by inexperienced students.

These students are basically left to their own devices to slowly figure out over the course of weeks and months, what actually takes many years, patting each other on the back for any little bit of progress they might achieve.

This actually stagnates true progress because under the guidance of a true professional less time is wasted teaching essential skills.

Beautiful Hannya Mask tattoo by Chad

Beautiful Hannya Mask tattoo by Chad

For anyone that doesn’t know – explain why an apprenticeship is so valuable.

An apprenticeship is valuable to not only the student but the mentor as well. This person is chosen to represent their tattoo lineage and carry on a time-honoured and sacred tradition.

The journey of apprenticeship instills a feeling of pride and protection of the sacred art of tattoo. Not everyone who wants to tattoo is suited for the job. The mentors first course of action is to make that determination so as not to waste valuable time and energy on someone who might not make it to the end. It is his gift to give and pass on. It’s not something that everyone is entitled to.

Tattooing is not a job – it’s a life and a family that you are entering into. The concept of a tattoo school waters this process down for a profit and misleads even those who don’t have what it takes and keeps milking their money until it’s all gone. This only wastes the time of the individual being victimised and is very profitable for the school.

Getting shit together and educating the public about the pyramid scheme known as #arttattooschool We will be at every seminar they hold to make sure people are well informed of what they will be in for attending a phony unaccredited “tattoo school” All the bullshit going on in tattooing is going to be dealt with one at a time because the interlopers and culture vultures have been allowed to rape this craft at will and we will not let these things go unchallenged any longer!! My new mantra is “BE THE CHANGE!” I really like that! So my brothers and sisters, let’s BE THE CHANGE!! Next up will be tattoo suppliers not run by tattooers or nontattooed people that are supplying these schools as well as tattoo conventions that allow these schools to recruit students there!! FUCK IT!! We’ve had it!! The link for the site is in my bio, help support!! #academyofresponsibletattooing #arttattooschoolfuckoff #fuckfakes #fucktattooschools #fuckapprenticemills #fucktattooschools #fuckcorporatetattooing #fuckcorporatetattooculture #oursnotyours #maketattooinggreatagain #peacefulprotest #istandwithphilly

A post shared by Eric Perfect (@eric_perfect) on

//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.jsDo you think these schools have profit as their main mission?

Absolutely. It’s an obvious pyramid scheme where all profit goes to the top. The labour is free and actually paid for by the victims – it’s a win win for the head CEO.

This is corporate tattooing, accessible to everyone willing to take any short-cut, compromising their full education into the tattoo community. Real history isn’t even taught because their philosophy of not protecting the art-form goes completely against everything a real tattooer would ever believe.

For me it all comes down to quality of tattoo art and it feels like some of these businesses aren’t concerned with this, and are potentially teaching bad skills sending bad tattoos out on bodies of the world. Would you agree? Does quality come into it?

The quality of work from the school is vastly diminished due to the lack of experience in the staff. Their definition of quality is much less than that of the eye of a veteran skilled tattooer. The new standard set by the school is much lower than where it should be. Anyone with two eyes and a brain can look at pictures and compare good and bad.

The graduates are ill-prepared for real world experience due to the watered down version of the business they have been taught. They aren’t completing masterpieces but rather copyright infringing others’ artwork and doing horrible renditions of Pinterest designs often brought to them by a customer. The school sees no real problem with that which is unacceptable – it’s not considered a way to make yourself a legitimate artist.

Instagram @eric_perfect

Instagram @eric_perfect

Your campaign has had an amazing response so far! It feels to me like the entire industry would back something like this. Has it been a long time coming?

Definitely. We as tattooers sat idly by and allowed this type of thing to happen. It’s our industry and now our responsibility to educate and stop further pillage of our craft. If we don’t speak up now our voices won’t be heard in the future. We’ve waited too long already. It’s now or never.

Photo: No Tattoo School

Photo: No Tattoo School

How can we help spread the word as tattoo enthusiasts?

Check out the website on which we will update when victims of the scam come forward and are pointed in the right direction. Once these scammers see a decrease in their pockets they won’t want anything to do with tattooing.

Anything else about the project that I haven’t touched upon already that you want to talk about?

This school is a pyramid scheme praying on the hopes of and dreams of anyone wanting to get into the tattoo world. The students quickly become tattooers and then educators. They make false promises and are attempting to create a corporate counter-culture to existing tattoo culture.

Their business model cannot survive without the school. They are adamantly against us. They say they are responsible, inferring we are not. They hope to bleed tattooing dry by eventually becoming the standard of tattoo education.

They have patent-pending text-books and a clear curriculum and pathway to tattooing laid out. Getting into the tattoo world is not that easy and that’s for a reason. The time and effort that it takes to become a great tattooer takes more than a classroom environment can really nurture. It’s a one on one intimate environment led by a skilled mentor that protects the art and the time together that can be intense.

Watering down an already over-saturated craft with sub-part teaching and unskilled workers is not beneficial to actual growth in this industry. It is flat out irresponsible.

Work in progress by Chad

Work in progress tattoo sleeve by Chad

Some of these schools are more than just schools – they are closer to being cults, discouraging students from associating with any tattooers not from the school, it’s an obvious case of brain-washing. Former students have come forward and disclosed this to us.

We are not just a group of disgruntled old-timers. We have no problem with a new shop in our area. We welcome growth and good, responsible good tattooing. The school is not that.


For more information visit notattooschool.com.

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