So yes I’m 36. This might seem a little late in life to be staring an apprenticeship, so how did I get here?
I have always enjoyed Art, I spent much of my childhood drawing, until hormones kicked in where boys and booze were much more interesting that pencils. After spectacularly failing my GCSE’s (due to just giving up going to school/boys/booze) I found myself in a pretty challenging situation; as my art GCSE was the only one of the four I sat that I passed, it felt like it was the only thing I was good at so I managed to get into a Fine Art GNVQ course.
It was wonderful, I spend all day everyday drawing and making and I really fell in love with modern art. I moved more toward sculpture and after going on to a 2 year BTEC. I got a place and Camberwell College of Art and then moved to Falmouth to do a degree in sculpture.
After Uni I wanted to stay in Falmouth where I worked in a clothes shop. It was an amazing few years and I made some of the strongest friendships of my life, but I was doing less and less art. Mortgages, and grown up life took over and I got a job at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall where I became the informal learning officer. I programmed all the holiday activities and created all the templates for the craft activities. By this point I had really fallen out of love with contemporary art. I felt each exhibition I went to became more and more about the accompanying artist text and less about the art, which is fine but not when to create something that was pleasing to the eyes was not valued, was not seen as proper art. I found this very frustrating and I pretty much stopped drawing all together.
In 2015 I got the opportunity to co-curate Tattoo – British tattoo art revealed. By this point I was getting tattooed quite regularly, I love traditional tattoos so I had a small amount of Knowledge of the history and was reading all I could on what was, to me. a fascinating subject. Throughout the two year lead up to Tattoo opening I was incredibly lucky to be given access to some of best private tattoo collections in the country and found myself completely fascinated by the history and enchanted by the Art. This is what inspired me to start drawing again. I stared reproducing existing flash, and with the guidance and encouragement of one of the artist I had met through the exhibition I began to learn how to draw traditional style flash.
When Tattoo opened, as well as being super proud at what we had achieved with this ground breaking exhibition, I also began to mourn the creation of it. I realised that I couldn’t bear to leave tattoo behind. I began drawing and painting more and more and began to find my own style. I began to start seriously think that I would like to train up as a tattooist.
Bearing in mind I am 36 I have two kids a mortgage and an established career path with in museums, the decision to change direction, and find an unpaid apprenticeship was not taken lightly, it was terrifying. Apprenticeships are really hard to come by and they are pretty much the only way to get into the profession. You’re asking someone to give up their time and share their knowledge with you. Hence why apprenticeships are usually unpaid and you are doing all the dirty work for a long time before you even get to pick up a tattoo machine. You have to be a good artist too, wanting it badly just isn’t enough. It also seems many studios have had fairly bad experiences with apprentices, with the dropout rate being very high. But I really did want it badly, so I had to take a deep breath, and with a lot of self-doubt on my part and some serious encouragement from family and my friends I stared to look for an apprenticeship.
Secret Ink were one of the first studios I contacted. I really like that they seemed to be a good all round studio. Yes all my paintings are traditional style but I want to learn how to do other styles too, I wanted to be a better artist. I emailed (because I’m chicken), a selection of my portfolio and note asking if they would consider taking on an apprentice, or could I come and do some work experience. They sent me an email back with ‘we aren’t really looking for anyone but you can come in have chat’. I went in with a pile of drawings and after I answered a lot of questions and reassured them that I wasn’t a dick, I was serious, and I could support my self during the apprenticeship they agreed to give me a go. So here I am, Secret Ink’s newest apprentice. I have reduced my hours at the museum to three days a week and I’m at the studio three days a week.
So that’s how it stared, I hope that this blog will give you an insight into what a tattoo apprenticeship involve. Let’s hope we all enjoy the journey!