Today we’re excited to introduce you to Carlos Vazquez. Carlos is a tattoo artist and is also a content partner. Content partners help Voyage in so many ways from spreading the word about the work that we do, sponsoring our mission and collaborating with us on content like this. Check out our conversation with Carlos below.
Hi Carlos, thank you so much for sitting down with us again. For folks who might have missed our initial interview, can you start by briefly introducing yourself?
Hello, my name is Carlos Vazquez, I’m a tattoo artist originally from phoenix and I work in Scottsdale. I’m 24 years of age and have been tattooing now for 9 years. I branched out on my own around 6 months ago after having worked in a tattoo shop for 4 years. I specialize in large scale black and grey realism but I still enjoy tattooing small designs.
For folks who might not be familiar with the industry, can you help explain why tattoos are so expensive?
Well, as in many other industries, the more experience you have the more value you can bring to the customer. Aside from experience, cost of materials is also factored in. Generally, a person who begins an apprenticeship will usually be required by the tattoo shop/mentor to spend 1-3 years learning the basics, usually does not include actual tattooing. Personally, I spent the first two years of my apprenticeship with little to no tattooing, which meant I was not getting paid. Luckily for me, I began my career journey at 15 years of age which meant I had little financial responsibilities but that is not the case with most other artist. The amount of money it cost to create a high-quality tattoo is also very high and most of the materials are disposable which means these are recurring costs. It took me years of trial and error to develop the style and also the techniques to maintain high quality work. There is no other way to develop this besides investing the time and also money. Something that a lot of people don’t consider is the fact that most shops will charge the artist 50-60% commission fee and in some rare instances will be charged a monthly rent. In many ways, tattoos can be compared to plastic surgery. You are trusting someone to perform something permanent that’s going to be shown to the world and we all know the risks of being cheap with those things.
How are you planning for retirement?
I don’t think I’ve heard of any tattoo shops that offer any retirement plans thus far. So, most artist just save their money in savings account. Luckily, I’ve had some informative clients and family member that encouraged me to get a Roth IRA. I have found it to be more rewarding than a regular savings account.
What does a tattoo artist need in order to branch off on their own?
I would say the three main things a person would need are experience, strong clientele base, and to take into account the startup cost. Assuming you are branching off on your own from a tattoo shop, you will no longer be provided with essential amenities like printers, Wi-Fi, and stencil machines to name a few. It is important to get aware of licenses, insurance, and credentials you may be required to have before renting a studio. So, if possible, it would be smart to start acquiring these essential things a little at a time before hand so it’s not such a huge hit to your wallet at once. To ensure you’re not stressing out to pay the monthly rent it can help to have a strong clientele base to maintain steady income. Having experience will allow you to be able to tackle any obstacles that may arise since you will most likely not have anyone to rely on, on the spot. The tattoo business has its ups and downs so it’s important to have backup plans or money saved up in case of an emergency. It would also be a good idea to reach out to artist who have more experience for any advice you may not be aware of. Most importantly don’t be afraid of failing, weigh your options and be realistic with your choice there should be no rush to be on your own if you’re not ready.
Are you respected more in the industry if you apprentice before becoming an official artist?
I think seeking an apprenticeship can definitely speed up the process of you becoming a tattoo artist by saving you the trial and error process. It’s important to do your research on the artist or shop that you’re looking to apprentice under. Making sure they are creditable artist who actually have something to offer and are not just interested in getting your money, if they are trying to charge you. It is always a good idea to seek an artist or shop that does the style of tattooing you’re looking to pursue. I have to also mention that you can become a tattoo artist without an apprenticeship. There are lots of alternatives that can help you on your journey like online seminars (some seminars offer payment plans), blogs, books, and of course YouTube. All goes to say that anyway you go about becoming a tattoo artist the respect you get will be because of how you treat others and the impact you leave on them.
What have you done to improve your knowledge as a tattoo artist?
When I first started tattooing almost 10 years ago, there was a lot taboo associated with tattooing so there was little to no information readily available and the people who did have any knowledge about tattooing were not very fond of sharing. Luckily, I was about to acquire an apprenticeship with an experienced artist who right away started me on practicing the basics which were repetitive shapes and drawing routines. 10 years later the industry has changed dramatically. The amount of free information on the internet and videos on YouTube is amazing. This year I have invested in Instagram marketing online seminars as well as full tattooing courses. I have also invested in new materials like new tattoo machines, needles, and inks. Combining different techniques to develop better methods and making my tattooing more efficient.
What’s the best part of the tattoo industry?
For me the best part of tattooing is the relationships and friendships I have made. Allowing me access to different worlds and perspectives that I would have never known elsewhere. It is also a great feeling to be in an industry that has endless potential and opportunities to grow.
Alright, so before we go, how can our readers connect with you to learn more and show support?
- Facebook: Carlos Vazquez
- Other: tiktok: cv_ink