Apprenticeship series: Rebecca Burnett

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Welcome to the 'Apprentice Series' where we speak to some of the most promising tattoo apprentices from across the globe. We'll be discussing their journey, ups and downs, apprentice life and tips on scoring an apprenticeship yourself.

Rebecca is currently learning to tattoo from Jezebel, an all female studio and workshop in Falmouth, Cornwall after recently graduating in Illustration at Falmouth University. Currently spending her days doodling flash and tattooing a lot of grapefruits, Rebecca is just about to make the transition of tattooing on skin under the mentorship of Meg (@blackbettytattoos)

Rebecca! Hi! Where and how long have you been doing your apprenticeship so far?

Hey! I officially started my apprenticeship when I finished university in May, so 5 months now! However I have been hanging out in the studio for quite a while, just drawing and chilling with the girls, before I started on my apprenticeship.

Did you study illustration at uni with becoming a tattoo artist in mind or did this come later? Would you say that your university lecturers encouraged tattooing as a career path post studies?

Becoming a tattoo artist has always been a dream of mine. A lot of people try to steer you away from a career as a tattoo artist, especially as a young girl. There was and still is a lot of stigma around the career path, however my parents were always super supportive and I grew up with them being bikers and surrounded by tattoos and a very alternative lifestyle. As a whole, my lecturers definitely did not encourage it, they tried to steer me towards a much more academic path and what they would deem more commercially viable. Having Meg as a role model who also did the same course as me and had the same experiences definitely helped me to keep up my morale throughout the final year of my degree.

Japanese art clearly has an influence on your designs, when and why did you develop this kind of style?

I grew up doing martial arts from the age of 6/7 and Judo played a big part in my life for many years. This led to me being totally absorbed in Japanese culture and falling in love with it. When I came to university and started exploring my own visual language, my love of Japanese art and culture seeped in very quickly. I am always very aware of doing a lot of research into the artistic movements that motivate my work. I think there can be a very fine line between appropriation and appreciation but my work comes from such admiration of a beautiful culture. I wrote my dissertation on the history of Shunga (ancient Japanese erotic art) and I think my work become a lot more heavily influenced during this time. Now, as I am trying to translate my illustrative language into tattooing, I am finding my inspiration comes from more avenues.

Have there been any times you have felt confidence barriers affect your apprenticeship and how did you overcome this?

ALL THE TIME! I have to have many motivational talks from Meg, my boyfriend and my friends, reminding me that my work is good enough. I still find it very hard to believe that anyone would want my work tattooed on them, and I think in an age of social media it is very easy to compare your journey to other artists who have been in the industry for years. I hope my confidence will increase when I start to tattoo and physically see people getting my work tattooed on them. But for now it is definitely a constant process of self development to overcome those confidence barriers and faking it until I make it! 

What are you most excited for going forward with your tattooing career?

Being able to meet some very cool people, travel with my work, be my own boss and develop as an artist in a completely new medium!

Can you tell us about the studio you are doing your apprenticeship at? How do you find learning to tattoo in a studio with only one other practicing artist? 

I am so lucky to be doing my apprenticeship at Jezebel. It is a studio run by two amazing ladies and I feel very privileged to have been welcomed into the team. Meg is an incredible artist with such a unique visual language and a lot of experience in the industry, especially being in the industry as a female too. I still can not get over the quality of her work and being able to have a 1:1 apprenticeship experience has been very valuable for me as it has allowed us to have a lot of time centred around my learning and development of my own visual language. As I mentioned before, Meg is also an illustrator and studied on the same course as me, we both have quite strong visual languages but can still bounce ideas off each other and draw inspiration from each other’s work. Working with two female business owners is very inspiring, it is giving me great insight into how to run a business in a very male dominated industry. Meg has been sure not to rush me into tattooing, and to have every other aspect of the job to a tee (from cleaning the shop to setting up her station) before I start.

What has been the most helpful tip/lesson you have learnt so far?

Draw what you love and don’t let anyone make you feel bad for the work you produce, even if it is not their cup of tea. Oh, and to not be scared of colour! 99% of my tattoos are black and grey so I always assumed I would work that way, but Meg is a magical colour artist and my work can be very vibrant, it would be insane not to learn to use colour!

What would your advice be to anyone thinking about an apprenticeship in tattooing?

It can often be a very long process so keep your head up and don’t let anyone tell you you can't do it (especially as a female!). Don't be scared to ask for advice or feedback on your work, you never know where it may lead to.

Excited or nervous to start on skin?

BOTH! I don't think any amount of grapefruits can prepare me for tattooing on skin, but luckily Meg is my first client so it makes it a little less scary!