Hi, I'm Syd! As you could probably conclude, I'm a writer here at BuzzFeed. HOWEVER, when I'm not hunched over my computer screen scouring Reddit for all the good things that happened that week or the hottest take from Hooters employees, I dream of being a tattoo artist.
I've always been fascinated by the world of tattooing — the traditions, the different styles, the simultaneous appreciation and reinvention of the old — and so I got inspired to start drawing tattoo designs during the height of the pandemic.
Since falling more and more in love with art and design, all that's been on my mind has been getting behind a tattoo machine. Needless to say, when High Hopes Tattoo Shop said they'd let me apprentice for a day — and even let me do one of my own designs!!! — I IMMEDIATELY said yes!!!!!!!!
When the morning came, I hightailed my tush to Brooklyn. I was so excited to learn to tattoo and to get to do so in a kind, inclusive environment.
E! / giphy.com
Please also note that I do not claim to be a professional tattooer. I was under strict supervision and followed all safety and sanitation protocols while in the studio. Do not try this stuff if you do not have a full understanding of these protocols.
Once I arrived, I was quickly thrown into my "apprenticeship," where I got to talk to and learn from several artists: Ilia, ET, and Szabla. For your reading pleasure, here's everything they taught me during my experience (which is one I wish I could relive 10 times over!!!):
1.First off, the amount of times you need to "re-glove" before, during, and after tattooing is EXHAUSTING (crucial, yet exhausting).
2.NEVER touch your cellphone while tattooing unless you've wrapped it in a clear bag or something.
3.Once you get behind a machine, you have to practice tattooing on fake skin, or sometimes even pig skin.
4.You can't tattoo over birthmarks, moles, or any other skin condition.
5.The most common tattoo requests they get are butterflies and roses.
6.Unsurprisingly, you should never get tattooed while you're drunk or hungover.
E! / instagram.com
Doing so 1.) is not a good look, and 2.) will make you bleed more.
You should also make sure to eat and be well-rested and hydrated before getting tattooed as it's very draining on the body.
7.Color theory in tattooing is an art in and of itself.
8.Promoting yourself on social media is an overlooked part of the job.
E! / giphy.com
These days, tattooers' portfolios are essentially just their Instagrams. It's not just word of mouth anymore because a lot of clients find you online. For a lot of artists, it's a necessary evil.
"We have to know how to make Reels, and we spend more time making posts," Szabla said. "I like to finish work when I finish my tattoos, but sometimes, I have to spend another two hours on social media to promote it."
9.There are a bunch of types of tattoo machines, with the two most popular being coil and rotary.
10.There are lots of different kinds of needles, with them either being for outlining or shading.
11.Apprentices usually spend months working on their craft before ever getting behind a machine.
12.A common exercise for apprentices is tracing their designs over and over again until they're perfect.
13.Every artist sets up their station with their own personal preferences, but across the board, setting up involves a lot of disinfecting, re-gloving (over and over again), and saran wrap.
14.There are certain tattooing necessities every table needs.
15.You have to wrap your machine — and its cord, if it has one — in plastic wrap and then apply a grip.
16.You sometimes have to retrace your stencil with marker if it comes out too light.
17.The power you feel when first holding a tattoo machine is nothing short of EXHILARATING!!!!!!!
18.It takes a second to get used to the machine's vibrations, and it'll most likely throw you off.
19.Technique is EVERYTHING, and there's a lot of it.
20.You run out of ink quickly, and it pools up, so it can be hard to see what you're doing.
21.Shading is a lot easier than line work (IMHO).
22.Shading comes out SOOOOO MUCH lighter than you'd think it would.
23.You have to be just as hygienic with cleaning up your station as you were setting it up.
24.And lastly, my biggest takeaway from this experience was witnessing firsthand how empowering tattooing is, and just how much care, artistry, and heart goes into it.
All in all, my day apprenticing at High Hopes was everything I'd hoped it'd be and so, SOOOO much more, and I couldn't be more grateful.
E! / giphy.com