Writing on the body is as old as time. Artists learn how to do it in multiple ways, including apprenticeships. Gabe Joyner is a second-year apprentice at a tattoo shop in Madison.
Joyner had always drawn and thought she wanted to be a tattoo artist as a teenager, but friends persuaded her that that path was impractical. So she got a science degree and landed an office job. But after nine years in the workplace, Joyner was miserable and decided to do what she really wanted.
It’s hard to find apprenticeships but Joyner was persistent and landed at a shop in Madison.
“It’s different for everybody,” says Joyner. “Some places make you pay and others don’t. You’re indebted to them.”
Joyner cleans equipment and the shop, answers the phone, runs errands, and takes the trash out.
“I pretty much do whatever they ask me to,” says Joyner.
And in return, she gets the skills and training she needs to be a tattoo artist. She gave her first tattoo to her best friend. It took hours but Joyner was thrilled by the experience.
“It was like amazing,” says Joyner. “It was great. It was the best.”
There’s always more to learn. That’s part of what Joyner loves about the art.
“I love to learn,” says Joyner. “This is the kind of job where you’re just never done. Ever. I think it’s good to always be pushing youself to be better.”