Student combines degree with tattoo apprenticeship to make her passion reality

Saige Salazar, a sophomore communication major, is currently a tattoo apprentice at A Wicked Sensation Tattoo shop. She said she believes her communication degree will help her better run her own business once she finishes her apprenticeship. Photo by Aleisha Ruiz.

Saige Salazar, a sophomore communication major, is currently a tattoo apprentice at A Wicked Sensation Tattoo shop. She said she believes her communication degree will help her better run her own business once she finishes her apprenticeship. Photo by Aleisha Ruiz.

When Saige Salazar asked herself how she could sell her art and still make a living, she said tattooing just fell into place.

Salazar, a junior communication major at Westminster College, is also an apprentice at A Wicked Sensation tattoo shop in Murray, Utah. Salazar said though many people think her apprenticeship means she is no longer continuing school, this is not the case.

Matt Kruback, an associate professor of the arts at Westminster, said creative students are typically also creative when it comes to their careers and said education always benefits artists.

Salazar said she believes having both a degree and a trade will help her be more successful in her future career as a tattoo artist.

“There is always a way to bring your passion into your job,” Kruback said.

The Forum sat down with Salazar to learn more about her apprenticeship and how she says it will benefit her after college.

Q: What got you started as an apprentice?

A: Two guys I went to high school with, their moms own the shop. It is a family-run business, which was very attractive to me because my parents are small business owners, also.

It was a really weird situation; I made friends with one of the tattoo artist in the shop and she said my art was really good and I should apprentice. I went and showed the owners my art and asked if they would take me as an apprentice, and luckily they did.

Q: Do you think being raised in Utah changed your outlook on tattooing?

A: I never thought I was going to get tattoos. Being around the LDS [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] environment, I never had friends that wanted to get tattooed. All the way through middle school, I never really thought about tattoos.

Q: What is your favorite thing about tattooing and your apprenticeship?

A: It has been really challenging learning the different types of art. I didn’t know what traditional tattoo style looked like. I didn't know what a flash page was―I have had to learn so many new things. When I first started, it was hard because it was really hard to transfer my style, which is sketchy and photo realism, into tattooing.

Q: What has been the hardest thing about learning to tattoo?

A: The weight of the tattoo machine—it's heavier than you think—and the vibration of it. So you are holding this heavy vibrating machine and you’re supposed to make straight lines with it. It helps that my mentor is patient with me.

Q: What comes naturally to you with tattooing?

A: The drawing. I have those artistic skills to bring to it. Once I get good at tattooing, I can tattoo my own style.

Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of your apprenticeship?

A: The end result when I can finally own my own business and be a tattoo artist. That is going to be the most rewarding thing about it, because when I am done I am going to have this skill that no one can take away from me.

Q: Will you continue to tattoo after you graduate?

A: Totally. This is what I want to use my communication degree to do. I have been trying to explain it to people, but they don’t understand. I want to finish my degree; I think the communication degree will only help. Once you get a booth in the tattoo shop, you are running your own business—learning how to build a website, how to promote yourself on social media, make business cards, etc.