Student tattoo apprentices study unique art form

Amelia Fisher, a sophomore criminal justice major, is an apprentice at Idustrial Strength Tattoo in Youngstown. Photo courtesy of Amelia Fisher.

By Kelcey Norris 

Youngstown State University student Dylan Hawk cleans up ink and paper towels after a typical late-night shift as a tattoo apprentice. She said she’s exactly where she’s always wanted to be: in a tattoo shop. 

“I was hooked ever since I got that first tattoo when I turned 18 and my mom didn’t have to sign the form anymore,” she said. 

Dylan Hawk, a junior digital arts major, is an apprentice at DC4L Tattoo Shop in Warren. Photo by Abigail / The Jambar

Hawk, a junior digital arts major, has started tattooing at DC4L Tattoo Shop in Warren as an apprentice. 

She started by tattooing her friends, family and walk-in customers to work toward getting her certification in tattooing.  

“I’ve always been encouraged to pursue art,” she said. “My dad is an art teacher and my mom is an interior designer, so I’ve always been pushed to pursue it.”

Although some people believe pursuing art as a career is not credible or reliable, she said it’s worth taking the risk. 

“It’s something I love, and it’s something I’m passionate about,” she said. “I’d rather do something I’m passionate about than slave away at something I think somebody else would want me to do.” 

She described acquiring the apprenticeship as a perfect fit. 

“I was in art school with this full portfolio, where am I gonna go? This place took me in with open arms. I love everybody here,  and they gave me a chance that I don’t think anyone else would have,” Hawk said.

After finishing her degree, she hopes to pursue her art as a full-time job. 

“I would absolutely love and adore to do that,” she said. “I can technically take tattooing anywhere, as long as I have a solid portfolio and I know my stuff, I could transfer that anywhere in the country.”

As a digital arts major, she described her initial favorite forms of art, like character design and story art. 

She said all the skills she learned in classes with the YSU Department of Art transferred directly to learning how to tattoo. 

“Things like line weights, line depths, the difference between foreground and background, contrast and all of that fun stuff,” she said. “Color theory is a big one, too.” 

Amelia Fisher, a sophomore criminal justice major, is an apprentice at Industrial Strength Tattoo in Youngstown. 

“Tattooing fell into my lap instead of me just searching it out, which is kind of not the traditional way you’d really get into the tattoo industry,” Fisher said. “I happened to drive past the tattoo shop, it was brand new, and I thought, ‘How cool would it be to work in a tattoo shop?’” 

When she first applied, she said she was mostly expecting a desk job, with tasks such as answering phones and making appointments. 

One of the most intricate tattoos she has done is this skull and roses thigh piece. Photo by Amelia Fisher


“But I happen to doodle, I’m pretty good at drawing, so I went in and asked for an apprenticeship or a desk job,” Fisher said. “The owner said, ‘Actually, we’re looking for an apprentice, so would you like to give it a shot?’ I’ve been there ever since and loving every second of it.” 

She described how nervous she was to walk into her first day at an actual tattoo shop. 

“Shaking like a leaf,” she said, “but after about the first week, I felt so comfortable there. It became like a second home; they’re all very nice and helpful guys.” 

So far, she’s done 12 tattoos on real skin, after practicing for a few months on fake skin. Her first two tattoos were a match and a semicolon surrounded by a butterfly for suicide awareness. 

“I’m slowly falling in love with tattooing, so who knows I may go down this path, but for now I’m just taking my time and enjoying it,” Fisher said.