Updated: Sep 29, 2019
Over the past 5 years, I have almost yearly, from every step of the process, revisited the question: "What qualifies someone to be a professional tattooer, permanent makeup artist, and more importantly teacher?"
I am concerned for my industry. Let me clarify, I am a weird cross-over doing both PMU and Body Art. My concern mainly lies on the permanent makeup side of things. Over the past 5 years there has been a mega influx of PMU Techs into the market (thank you social media and the internet) , who have taken a random way-too-well-publicized speed 2-day 101 training course, who turn around and nearly immediately begin teaching. It is horrifying.
TATTOOING OF ANY TYPE IS NOT A SKILL YOU CAN MASTER OR BE FULLY EXPERIENCED IN, IN 2 DAYS, or even 1 to 2 YEARS. READ THAT AGAIN, and again....
This is what I call an "old world" art form. It requires patience and skill to execute well, AND to see it healed both immediately AND after 1,3,5, and 10+ years.
I’m humbled to professionally be “in skin” for nearly 5 years now. The journey of tattooing has transformed me personally more in the past 5 years, than any other period of my life. (Check out my humble beginnings, lol. I'm dieing going through old photos right now).
Tattooing has been around since humans began poking themselves, making tools, and getting creative with them. Its persisted through the ages and cultures because it’s downright magical and powerful. It’s one of the rare artistic practices that connects body, mind, and spirit. It requires personal responsibility, talent, and a fork lift full of dedication and grit.
I’ve been an artist my ENTIRE life. From childhood, to collegiate/graduate studies in both 3D and 2D mediums. I worked as a full time professional oil painter and artist for 4 years prior to tattooing.
After my fathers death and shortly after my mothers diagnosis of breast cancer, I took a sabbatical from fine art. To say I was artistically shut down and exhausted is an understatment.
I took a breather to heal from life's punches, and decided to go to makeup school in NYC to stay creative professionally, and life as I now know it, began.
By working in makeup professionally, and experiencing my mothers breast cancer journey, I ended up pursuing permanent makeup and paramedical work (despite my deeply rooted fear of needles). After 2-3 years of persistent cosmetic needle working, the sleeping fine artist in me woke up...with a vengeance.
Hello body art. My first few.... Lord I was so scared, and I wanted so badly to do a good job. I knew from researching tattoo traditions I had to tattoo myself first. So I choose "I can", a message I will always need to see. I learned white ink lettering, isn't the best idea lol, but It was a good start.
My first mentor figure was a challenging personality. Although working with her was on par with taking an emotional and mental beating, I am grateful for her part of my journey. I learned the importance of “paying my dues” and respecting the never ending journey of becoming a tattoo artist. An artist is always evolving, and it's not for the faint of heart. Her influence forced me to examine what I was made of, and to start protecting and loving myself.
My second body art influencer became my biggest supporter at a time that I needed encouragement. I learned a lot more about the culture of tattooing from him and those around him. I got valuable feedback that allowed me to break through mental barriers and push my confidence and skills.
It is only now that I can start to be proud of the route I had to take, to enter this world I am so passionate about. I am proud and grateful to have the humble grit, tenacity, and the pre-existing professional artistic skill needed to train myself to be a solid and responsible tattooer, baby step, by frustrating baby step.
What concerns me, the girl who took an unorthodox path, is seeing people picking up a machine with no prior fine-art training or skills, no experience with various skin types, theory knowledge behind safe and effective body tattooing (IT IS DIFFERENT FROM PMU), or plans to commit themselves to this challenging art form that involves other people's bodies and confidence.
I am concerned seeing permanent makeup technicians without prior artistic training or skill, marketing “tiny tattoos” that are naively executed, (yes I can tell by looking at them). Working with the wrong equipment, practical technique, or knowledge of traditions surrounding the art they are attempting to do. It is not serving them professionally, or their clients they are tattooing. I want better for BOTH parties.
While I never want to exclude someone from body art who is passionate about investing themselves into learning, and is committed to the practice of “paying their dues" patiently while developing their art, I DO firmly believe that tattooing is an exclusive art form that not everyone is qualified to attempt, or practice. I passionately believe it's a profession one must be "called" to, have certain foundational skills, and be prepared to work really hard to execute safe, solid, and respectful body art.