There is passion in tattoo. Indeed, tattoo has arguably some of the most passionate levels of devotion to be found in any art form or craft out there. People who get tattooed differ – some just get tattooed out of a spur of the moment thing without thinking anything over. The regret usually surfaces several years later. A lot of those who get tattooed however, plan it out and seek out great tattooists because of the reputations these artists have. A lot of people will travel thousands of miles or kilometres to get that perfect tattoo and that dedication itself is a true form of passion. Then you have the tattooists themselves who spend years – lifetimes, even – honing their skills and learning about the craft that they so dearly love. The passions encompassed within tattoo are not easy to shake off or dismiss and I wouldn’t recommend even trying it. When people tangle with tattoo without first really knowing what they’re getting into, there can be problems.
And by problems, I mean enraging the very people who understand and strive to keep tattoo the mentored craft that it is. This past month in Ottawa, Canada, Algonquin College learned the hard way not to mess with what you likely don’t understand. The college was offering up a new programme to prospective students, specifically a tattoo artistry programme that would equip students to enter the tattoo industry upon graduation. The programme would be an alternative to the time honoured tradition of internships that tattoo has always based itself upon. According to David Fairbanks, a representative for the Algonquin hospitality and tourism department, the programme follows the “existing three to five year apprenticeship model.”
If you find it hard to believe that a college course could even remotely replicate the tutelage gained from a genuine apprenticeship, then you’re not the only one. Numerous tattoo artists from the area banded to together against what they feel is little more than a cynical cash grab by the college and created an online petition against the programme.
‘Alyssa Iswolsky, who manages the Dalhousie Street studio and helped with petition, told Metro tattooing has historically been handed down from artist to apprentice and is not something that should be taught in a classroom.
“The idea of turning it into a cash grab for Algonquin College is a little bit insulting and a little bit worrisome,” said Iswolsky Monday. “(Graduates) might not find their way into a shop after paying this money.”
Just before giving a customer her first tattoo Monday, tattoo artist Alicia Alderson said that with more than three years’ experience as an apprentice in the industry, she still has a lot to learn.
“Apprenticeship has always been the way people have been taught to tattoo. If you had more people being taught something without proper guidance, then there’s going to be more people doing the practice potentially not safely or just misguided,” she said. “Having a course for whatever length of time that they’re choosing to do probably wouldn’t cover everything you need to know.”’
Personally, I think that with tattoo’s constantly growing popularity, people forget to think that what they are experiencing whenever they get a tattoo is a craft that has been passed down and learned and that it doesn’t just come out of box with a certified how to booklet. The more common and popular something becomes, the less valued it is often destined to become. This is why I support the petition and why I hope that Algonquin College does not go through with the programme after all. Some things just need to be left alone. Left alone to the people who know how to do it and those who are willing to take an alternate path in life to learn. College is fine for perfecting pursuits that can be defined and quantified through books and lectures. But not all routes lead to college and tattoo is one of them. It takes a special kind of person to become a tattoo artist and if you want to do it, then you need to do it just like all the others that have come before you.