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