There are several reasons why you might find yourself interviewing a tattoo artist, and the context will affect what type of interview you should conduct. If you are the owner of a tattoo studio and are interviewing potential employees, the style of the interview and the questions you ask will be serious and probing. If you are a journalist doing a human interest story about a tattoo artist, the tone of your interview will be lighter and more engaging.
How Did You Get Your Start?
Although tattoos are far more common than in years past, being a tattoo artist is still an unusual occupation. Finding out how someone got into the field will give you insight into his motivations and thoughts. Many tattoo artists began as tattoo enthusiasts, which is why most tattoo artists have tattoos themselves. Others began as fine artists working on paper or in oils, and branched out into tattooing. Since the work is done on another human being, tattooing is unique among the visual arts in that it can't be done alone.
What Style of Tattoos Do You Do?
Like all forms of visual arts, tattooing can be categorised into various styles. Vintage tattoos feature ships, pin-up girls and hearts. Tribal tattoos are usually abstract designs in dramatic black ink. Fantasy tattoos are an outgrowth of fantasy comics and art, which are heavy on women in metal bras, muscular men fighting dragons and orcs wielding battle axes. While a talented artist can work in multiple styles, most tattoo artists tend to focus on and master a single style. An interview that gives an artist the opportunity to talk about her particular style can teach you more about both tattoos and your interviewee.
What Problems Do You Encounter?
The tattoo industry is filled with horror stories of one kind or another, many of which are probably exaggerated. A tattoo artist who has been working for a few years probably has a few of his own. These stories can range from amusing stories about a man wanting the name of an ex-wife removed from his bicep to chilling stories about drunken neo-Nazis wanting swastikas put on their foreheads. There are also more serious issues regarding underage clients, the risks of blood borne pathogens and the difficulty of making a living in an increasingly competitive field.
What Advice Would You Give?
Getting a tattoo is a serious decision that, unfortunately, many people don't take seriously enough. The Internet has a wealth of pictures to prove this point. Responsible tattoo artists will recommend taking a long time to consider options before committing to a tattoo. If you are a potential employer, this question is a good way to gauge the level of maturity and good sense that an artist has. A tattoo artist who doesn't take the craft seriously isn't necessarily someone you would want working in your studio.