The Forgotten Apprentice
It’s a situation I unfortunately see and hear about all too often. Someone starts an apprenticeship, things are grand, everything’s going well. Then, at some point down the line, their mentor leaves. Maybe they quit. Maybe the move. Maybe it’s an unfortunate accident. Maybe the mentor isn’t gone, they are just absent. They haven’t finished training you but you are made to pierce anyway. Whatever the case, the apprentice is left in a weird limbo. They’ve been taught many things…but not everything. They can do these piercings really well! But…they’ve never done one of those piercings yet…. At a good studio, there are other good piercers to fill those shoes and finish out an apprenticeship, or good owners will hire another full time piercer to finish out the apprenticeship. At not so great studios however, it often becomes sink or swim. “Well, you know enough, you can finish learning on your own!”
For many, this is how they got their start in the industry. Thrust into things half finished, strong and proficient in some things, and others untouched in education. I get messages from piercers in this situation often, asking me for guidance and advice on specific piercings or techniques. My advice doesn’t change- stop. Don’t pierce till you have a mentor and someone to teach you everything you need to know fully. You can not learn all the things you need just shadowing someone occasionally or reading online or listening to podcasts. And when you decide that you know “enough”. To start fumbling around on clients, it’s the clients who pay a steep price.
You not only do a disservice to your clients, but to yourself. When you try to ‘figure things out’ on your own you are bound to pick up bad habits, miss important concepts, or leave gaps in your knowledge. These things will come back to hurt you down the line when you need to not only learn correct technique or fill in blanks, but unlearn bad habits or incorrect information you taught yourself. Trust me, I’m speaking from experience when I say it’s easier to learn something the right way right from the start then learn it poorly and have to build those skills. I was put in that situation myself and often had to unlearn bad methods. I realized years later as I was piercing correctly just how much harm I did I dd in thinking I had “enough” baseline to start. I didn’t- and I made so many easily preventable mistakes on clients that not only left them with bad piercings but sometimes scars. For those particularly far along in their apprenticeship it’s tempting to say that you have enough foundation to just move forward on your own. But honestly a good apprenticeship is the start, and piercing alongside another more experienced piercer for your first few years out of an apprenticeship is also going to be important to your growth and success as a piercer. I strongly encourage you to make sure your apprenticeship is finished first, and make sure you have someone you know and trust you can go to for feedback and critique so you can continue to grow.
To the studio owners who force young piercers into these situations, shame on you. It’s 2020. The industry today is not what it was 10 for 20 years ago. Theres no reason to force your piercer into a sink or swim situation. I know, being without a piercer is never an ideal situation. But you owe it, both to the clients who patron your studio, and to the apprentice who entrusted you with their education, to do things right. Get one of the many talented guest piercers who travel out for coverage while you look for a new full time piercer who can take over the apprenticeship. If you have to, limit services you offer to only things the apprentice was fully trained in- even if that means only offering jewelry changes and swaps while you look for a piercer skilled enough to bring on. I know the loss of revenue hurts the business, and I know what a hard pill to swallow that might be. But ultimately our bottom lines don’t come before our clients bodies.
It’s a difficult situation to be in, both as an apprentice and as a studio owner. But we need to always remember that we do what we do for our clients, and ultimately they come first. We owe it to our clients to give them the best, safest experience we can. And that doesn’t come with cutting corners. If you as a studio find yourself in this situation I am happy to assist you with finding coverage, and hiring new piercers to take over things the right way for the apprentice. As long as things are done right, that’s what matters most! Your clients will ultimately appreciate your ethics and dedication to their safety over anything else.