There is a myth that you must have a ‘license’ in order to purchase tattoo machines, supplies, or piercing supplies. In California, there are no requirements (other than being 18 years of age to purchase needles) for purchasing tattoo supplies and equipment. Now that you have been enlightened to the truth, it’s time to delve into where this ‘license’ misconception originated from, and more importantly, why it has propagated.
Many budding tattoo artists and body piercers in their naivete, have attempted (in vain) to purchase their own tattoo equipment from tattoo shops, not realizing that the tattoo shop considers them future competition and thus, threats to their livelihood. Disinformation and discouragement is the norm for such struggling tattoo shops, and they will outright lie to you to try to prevent you from not only obtaining the equipment you need (that they themselves have), but also to delay and thwart your rise as a tattoo artist. The worst example of this scenario is the recent practice of shops charging ridiculous fees (as high as $5000) for taking on apprentices. This recent exploitative twist seems to have caught on recently with the advent of the recessionary times, and goes even beyond the old-school year-long apprenticeships that were offered (without pay of course). Now, if someone wants to become a tattoo artist or body piercer, the shops demand that they pay thousands of dollars up front, then work for free for months without pay, doing clean-up work or running meaningless errands, in the faint hope that they will be actually taught something valuable during those months. The truth is, there is no such thing as a ‘license’ offered anywhere by any kind of county, state or federal entity. There is a permit required for tattooing and body piercing (issued by the county health department) with additional licensing to operate a business from the city you reside in. If a shop tells you that you have to pay them for an apprenticeship, that shop is struggling and should be avoided at all costs. Real body artists never charge their apprentices any more than the time invested to be there.