Caring, Sharing and Gate Keeping | Fireside Blog
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Caring, Sharing and Gate Keeping | Fireside Blog

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As I’ve been getting caught up on all the cool stuff Jake has been putting out from the Star of Texas Convention, I’m really digging the latest post with Zulu. As he mentions, he just sold his shop of 23 years in Los Angeles to open a private studio in Austin. I really liked his comparison of the two tattoo communities and thoughts on having a more “open” industry.

Traditionally, tattooing has been a closed industry. It is has been and still is a rather difficult career to get into. This comes from the mindset of previous generations that have played a role of “Gate Keepers” in a way. I was warned early on from a friend that was already tattooing that I would meet my share of folks that want me to believe they have some sort of mystical knowledge and that you had to pay your dues in a sort of indentured servitude of apprenticeship before you could learn anything.

One of the more positive results of a younger generation with a larger number of formally trained artists cranking out more and more phenomenal work is that we are starting see a sort of Darwin effect. Older artists are either being pushed out of the business or forced to step up and change how they choose and apprentice the next generation, although not necessarily fast enough. As Dave said, “I can teach a monkey to tattoo, but I can’t teach you to draw.” So we see a lot more already accomplished artists getting into tattooing and less young, naïve and untrained tattooers.

I believe this will slowly continue to evolve into a norm as artists and the general public become more educated. Higher expectations and demands will rise. I don’t think this will make it any easier to become a tattooer, but I think it will raise the bar on what is preconceived as needed to get into the field. This will be a major function of the current generation.

As Zulu mentioned, the younger generation is not just more open to sharing as a community, but also more willing to take chances. This sort of goes hand and hand. I like that he seems to see the Austin tattoo community as more open than L.A. Austin has a large amount of really quality artists who seem to know and respect each other.

Memphis is very similar. It is a lot less cut throat than my experience in a more small town shop environment. Most of the artists in our city know and respect each other. There is a small circle of shops that unintentionally rotates out artists who have history together and maintain a professional respect for one another. I have seen firsthand the professionalism that Zulu describes in not being afraid to refer a client to another artist that you think might be a better fit. Of course, I have also seen some of the older mindset as well, complete with bickering and trash talk. So it goes without saying that we still have a ways to go.

So I’ll get to the point of all this. Take a que from Zulu and lose the ego. Tattooing can be a unique and bountiful profession. As Jake said, it is never good for everyone to be so closed and guarded. Everyone can all grow together and be professional. If you are willing to send someone to another artist, then it shows the client you are putting them first, not to mention it is just professionalism at its best. If you have to be cut throat and undersell your competition, you should really find another profession. If you are truly competent and good at what you do, then money won’t be an issue. Of course, the real professionals probably won’t complain. After all, your quick buck will eventually still end up being their long term business after they clean up your work.

So as always, we love to hear your thoughts. I’m guessing that if you are here reading and watching our material, then you value you the newer generation mindset of open sharing of knowledge that we are trying to promote. So give us your thoughts and experiences. Share boys and girls. Share.

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