Tattoo Artist jobs(Also known as Tattooist, Body artist)
A tattoo artist designs and applies images to people’s skin using indelible inks. Tattoos have existed in human culture since time immemorial. Before the introduction of the written word, the ancient Europeans painted themselves and their surroundings with ornate designs. Likewise aboriginal peoples all over the world continue to use a variety of natural materials to indelibly mark themselves. In doing so they delineate heritage, authority, achievements and a myriad of other concepts. Modern day tattoos and indeed the word itself are inspired by the Polynesian word for inserting indelible ink onto the skin to make permanent markings, ‘tatu’. Eighteenth century sailors were the first to come into contact with this culture, popularised it and so became inextricably associated with the practice. Today, tattoos are at an apex of popularity, with many celebrities, artists and musicians sporting impressive designs. Once a subject of taboo, this alternative culture has become more mainstream and tattooing is increasingly regulated, creative and popular.
SalaryMany tattoo artists are self-employed and salaries vary widely depending on the amount of trade they receive. Summer months are traditionally the busiest.
- A trainee tattoo artist starts on around £12,000 per annum.
- An experienced tattoo artist may earn between £18,000 and £30,000 per annum.
- A tattoo artist owning his own business and employing others can earn in excess of £50,000 per annum.
ResponsibilitiesA tattoo artist’s daily duties would include the following:
- Cleaning and sterilising tattoo equipment and work areas.
- Devising new designs in spare time.
- Keeping up to date with the latest fashions in the world of tattoos.
- Meeting clients to discuss their desires.
- Applying a pre-made or bespoke designs to clients’ skin.
- Keeping up to date with the latest health and safety procedures.
QualificationsA tattoo artist trains by becoming an apprentice. This usually takes between 2 and 3 years. The only way to do this is by approaching a working tattoo artist and applying for the position. You will expected to buy your own equipment and sterilising kit and will not be paid for the apprenticeship. Expect to work around 6 hours a day for 6 days a week. Over time, greater responsibility will be awarded, until you can tattoo unsupervised. Once enough work experience has been amassed, a licence to practise must be obtained from the local council. The catch is that you must be working and have experience to obtain one and you have to obtain one to work. That is why the apprenticeship is necessary. Working without a licence incurs a heavy penalty. Once the apprenticeship period is over you work on simple designs, moving to more complex work as your experience progresses. Most professionals in the industry state that a tattoo artist is only fully qualified after around 5 years full-time working experience.
SkillsA tattoo artist is a very specialised job and requires a unique set of attributes, such as:
- A flair for design and creativity.
- A steady hand.
- A love of alternative cultures.
- Patience and dedication.
- Good interpersonal skills.
- Extremely good attention to detail.
- Empathetic nature, and the ability to turn clients’ ideas into reality.
Working ConditionsTattoo artists usually work from a tattoo studio. This is fitted out with books of designs, all the equipment necessary and dedicated work and preparation spaces. Ink pens have to be sterilised daily and after each use; a variety of coloured inks are used to create different effects on various skin types. Tattoo studios must be registered with their local council. Hours of work are usually 9 – 6 or later on some days. A six-day week is common, working Saturdays and often Sundays. Each session with a client lasts between one and three hours depending on the job in hand. Due to the permanent nature of tattoos, a single session requires intense concentration so the job can be mentally tiring. The artistic nature of the job, the variety of people that one comes into contact with and the constant challenge of creation make being a tattoo artist a rewarding job. However, hours are long and mistakes are out of the question, so it is a demanding job and by no means an easy career path. Most tattoo artists are male but with an increasing number of women sporting tattoos and becoming interested in them, this is changing.
ExperienceTo gain a position as an apprentice, a potential employer will want to see evidence of creative ability. Be prepared to present a portfolio of your artwork and make it as rich and varied as you can. Many tattoo artists have a background from other fields of art. Any experience in graphic novel, logo or other types of design would be helpful.
EmployersTattoo studios employ tattoo artists. Sometimes these shops offer other services such as body piercing. Check on the Internet for studios in your area. With experience a tattoo artist may build up a private client base and work in clients’ own homes.
Career ProgressionThe only way to become a tattoo artist is by working as an apprentice and shadowing a professional at work. Many tattoo artists go on to open up their own studios and make extra money by renting out space to others.
Tomik Koziel, 29 years old is a Tattoo artist working in central London.