May 9th, 2012 Myke Chambers: TLC’s Tattoo School is just like Idiocracy

I was talking with a friend the other day about the state of tattooing today, comparing it with how things were just ten or fifteen years ago. He made a really good point… a lot of people say “yeah tattooing going mainstream sucks but now there are more people getting tattooed so we’re all making a lot more money” but he then reminded me that yeah, fifteen years ago there weren’t as many people getting tattooed but there also weren’t as many tattooers either so anyone that wanted a tattoo didn’t have a whole lot of choices. Today there are hundreds of shops in a town or maybe even upwards of a thousand in a big city.

When I first started tattooing there was still a veil of mystery surrounding a tattoo shop. I fucking loved that. It was part of what attracted me to this craft. The local tattooer was like a wizard to me. I remember skateboarding down “the drag” as a little punk kid in Austin and we’d go try to sneak a peak in on Dave Lum before getting run off. It’s sad to think that that amazement and wonder I had back then at stepping into a real tattoo shop will never really be felt by another kid again….Now they’ll walk into a shop for the first time expecting NY Ink, LA ink or Whatever Ink. That mystery and awe is gone for the most part.

The milk is spilled…so the only option we have is to move forward. Tattoo television is the new trend right now and most of the shows out from what I’ve seen are mostly crap with manufactured drama and very little to do with tattooing though there are some really good tattooers on these shows. Some of which I call my friends. Then there are a few really awesome, true to the craft Indy/doc shows being put out likeTattoo Age and The Gypsy Gentleman which are a breath of fresh air. Thank god they put those out. I guess the popularity of tattooing in the mainstream is a double edged sword of sorts. I feel the mainstream shows out have brought some good things about….but then there’s TLC’s Tattoo School that has been picked up for a series. These “TWO WEEK” tattoo schools are the beginning of the end. I’m amazed at how many people think this show and a 2 week long tattoo school is actually ok.

Have you seen the movie Idiocracy? If not you should. Here’s the basic rundown. The stupid people keep breeding and having a lot of kids while the intelligent couples are only having one kid or none at all…then it jumps to the future and the human race is now totally stupid because the intelligence has been bred out….I’m seeing this starting to happen with tattooing to an extent. The good, solid tattooers are not wanting to apprentice anyone because there are already too many tattooers as it is, but the shitty tattooers that really have no business teaching anyone else much less tattooing period are apprenticing three to five people at a time. Then other apprentices are taking on apprentices themselves after tattooing a few months. Most people that take on apprentices only want the slave labor, to feel cool and above someone, or to charge money and could care less about putting out a solid tattooer. Shit’s wrong. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this happen. It’s sad because the apprentices haven’t a clue. Then you have this 2 week “Tattoo School” where you pay five grand and 2 weeks later you think you’re a tattooer. It’s madness…but it’s happening.

So what’s the answer to this dilemma? Public education so they will stop going to the shitty “tattooers”? I don’t know but the stark reality that these people that are getting into tattooing are quickly faced with is that tattooing IS NOT a glamorous lifestyle as portrayed on TV or the internet. The truth is that most tattooers are barely making ends meet. To those of us that truly love our craft we know the sacrifice we pay. The endless hours in the shop only to go home and continue to draw our next day’s tattoos into the wee hours of the night then to wake up the next morning to start it all over again. The total loss of a substantial social life. The wear on relationships with our partners and children, the mental and physical fatigue…. the list goes on. Most don’t really understand the cost nor do they have what it takes to endure year after year on the grind and hustle. So I guess in the end the weak get weeded out.

I definitely don’t have a solution, aside from maybe public education. This is my opinion, just a little food for thought and totally up for debate.

–Posted by Myke Chambers on his Tumblr

used with hopeful forgiveness froom Myke Chambers and TattooSnob!


hummm, nearly 40 views and no comment,

I will throw one out, one that is very important to you if you are going to get tattooed soon,

there are too many tattooists in the game, educate yourself, choose wisely, seek those wise old souls for advice, pay the good money, get that guy from this months tattoo magazine and book him or her……………and you wont be posting sob stories on a tattoo forum

you are special, one of a kind, treat your temple right, only the best!

you know I have an ulterior motive……………….its vicious………………..its sinister………..you may never speak to me again……………I want you to be happy………………wow, I am one crazy muther fucker


I don’t think that the crap tattooists are that big a problem.
OK, they’re a problem for the people that end up with their work but it’s still hard (in the UK at least) to get hooked up with the big names.
I was very lucky to get my appointments with David Corden, and it’s only because I spent so much time in the shop that I got jumped in so quickly, but I still had a 10 Month wait, the best you can hope for with him at the moment is to go no his waiting list for his waiting list (I’m not joking)

I’m looking forward to my journey of getting more ink, and I think I’ll be either travelling for a lot of it or catching artists at conventions, but it’s going to be a journey measured in Years because of the difficulty in getting the bookings.
Suits me though really, those things aren’t cheap and I’ve got the rest of my life to do it 🙂

Even though there are a lot of crap “artists” out there, I think most people, even if they aren’t arty like myself, can tell the difference between mediocre work and breathtaking stuff. It’s that top notch work that a lot of people want and are prepared to pay (and wait) for.
I think some other people just want tattoos, doesn’t really matter how good they look, it just matters they’ve got them.

If it suits them then fair play to them, as long as they stop keep offering to pass their artists details to me…I really don’t care…if I wanted crap and the infection risk I’d have a go at it myself 😉


of course Myke Chambers was speaking to the industry in the states, we have many more shops per blcok than the UK. Unfortuatelly there is no regulation in this industry and alot of people are ending up with work they dont like.

in america
45 million people or 14% have one tattoo or more
21,000 plus registered shops,
1.65 billion dollars spent on tattoo

5% of people have had a cover up
11% have had removal
17% regret their tattoo……….some studies say as high as 40%

49% of people think choosing the right artist is most important
43% think a tattoo should have significant meaning to wearer

I just want you to get a good tattoo, I think there are too many people working outside their abilities


Whilst there are people willing to jump in and get a quick tattoo, there will be people to tattoo them.

Reading that blog reminded me very much of buying a pedigree puppy. Lots of people decide to get a dog and once that decision is made they want that puppy now! They could take a step back, research the breeds they like, visit reputable breeders, etc etc, but not everyone will take this route. See if they go to the reputable breeder they may have to wait over six months or more for a litter to be born, and pay £1000 for the pup. If they look in the classifieds they can get the pup that weekend for half the price.

I know there will be breeders and owners debating the above on many a dog forums. Breeds go through fashions as tattoos are considered fashionable at the moment.

Where there is money to be had, there will be people trying to make it, and those willing to pay it. The person wanting that new tattoo can either go the research route and pay the rate required for exceptional work, or go via the ‘classifieds’.

Lots of people are perfectly happy getting a flash piece from guy in town. As long as he’s responsible and clean and his work is solid, I don’t a problem with that. Scratchers on the other hand have much higher chance of mutilating someone. To me that’s what a terrible tattoo is… a form of mutilation.

On the other hand, I am a tattoo snob, and will wait as long as I need to wait for the guy/girl’s work I covet. I guess that’s the choice I make as an enthusiast, rather than someone who just wants a tattoo.

I have typed all this out on my phone and its taken about an hour 😀


I am lucky to have a shop right in the town I live in, it’s the only one in town but there are many others within less than 1 hours drive. I did my research and I thought his portfolio best suited my tastes. I know some on here may not like my tattoos, but I feel they are good solid tattoos and I enjoy them.
That being said the amount of scratchers in my hometown is astounding. I am actually surprised at the amount of really really horrible tattoos around my area. I think educating the public will only cut down on the number of people getting bad tattoos, people are going to do whatever they want and can afford.

I hate to say it all comes down to money but I think that’s a big contributor. I have become pretty good friends with the local artist and I see people all the time come into the local shop and the first thing out of their mouth before they even look at a portfolio is “how much?”, when they get the price from him you can tell from the look on their face that they wont be back. I have seen a couple of these people around town at a later time and they have gotten the tattoo and its obvious it was not professionally done. It seems that a lot of people don’t want to wait and save up the money for a good clean professional tattoo, or they want to go to the cheapest professional around.


I’ve never had an LA or NY Ink type experience.

Everyone worries about their niche going too mainstream. It’s fine. No worries.


I think a lot of people get tattooed to a budget not to a standard. Personally I have learnt to save money so I can get quality even if it means I don’t have as many tattoos as I would like.
There will always be people who want the maximum coverage for the least cost and visit the less talented artists. Are these the people who later regret their tattoos? I think so.


in this professional survey 8% of people said price mattered…………I think they were lying, I think way more than that worry about price


People coming in to the shop all the time asking about prices seem shocked. As of late I’ve been charging $70 an hour because I’m relatively new as a tattoo artist and a bit slower than the other guys in the shop.

I would say that one of the other big issues is that generally, people don’t want to wait. They want a tattoo and they want it NOW. If we can’t do it, they’ll go to the next shop. They don’t care about quality until they get a shitty tattoo.

A few weeks ago a lady came in and was looking at portfolios. She liked my work. She set up an appointment. The day came and she didn’t show up. That’s fine. I did a walk in. It looked great. The lady came in a week ago asking me if I could fix up the tattoo she had just gotten from a crappy artist. The tattoo I was supposed to do in the first place. It was so jacked up that there wasn’t anything I or anyone else in the shop could do to make it any better. She was pissed at us. It was her damn fault for going to the first person who had time to do the tattoo and thinking about quality second.

As for regulations and laws… I don’t want the government in my business. I want it like it was back in the old days when if you opened up a shop without paying you dues you were visited by a bunch of guys who broke your hands with a hammer and took your supplies. If you were found to be tattooing out of your house, you guessed it…. Broken hands and missing machines. I don’t want the government in my business because all they will do is make my job harder and find ways to make even more money from me. I would like for people to just start going to solid tattoo artists and stop going to the shitty ones. That is really the only 100% fix.


it would be great if the industry would regulate itself, but too many shop owners hiring anyone who can sling the ink, I hope for change,

I spend time at brandon bonds all or nothing, people ask price but say yes, whatever price is, they are seeking quality base don the shops reputation as “the most published studio in the world”

my buddy vince villalvazo’s shop mystic owl, he just got write ups in three magazines and is guest speaker and special invited artist at tattoolapalooza in miami, people walk in get price and say yes, they came for quality

another person I know owns 13 street shops, people always asking about price, asking for better price, they are shopping for quick tattoo at best deal

So there are different views, TV made ink so damn popular everyone and their grandom wants to get inked, right now, cheap………….thats kinda fucked up from my point of view, but as a tattooist I guess its pretty damn great

I just wish people would choose better quality, DaveJednat you should be busy, you have skills, if only people would take a momment and do some research…………..but hell they wont listen to us half the time when we give them good advice or a recommendation………shit, I just realized I am pissin in the wind!


You can’t buy your way into tattooing and expodite the learning proccess in just 5 months it not barber or bartending college. This ain’t made for anyone and everyone. In my opinion it takes time learning in shops from pros and 110% dedication. To hell with a bachloers in tattooing lol. And you paying thousands for shit equipment and a license you can get on you own for under 100 bucks in which you have to re up every your in some counties and states. Looking for an easy set controlled way to buy your way in your dreaming…


A friend and I were discussing something similar the other day. I asked him if, after attending college, stupid people became that much more annoying. He told me that yes, they did, but they will eventually realize that, without education, they wont go anywhere in life. The same rule applies. Eventually, people will learn that shit tattoos are shit tattoos. And shit artists will, hopefully, get out of the game in time.


Very well said

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