My Tattoo, a local tattoo parlor in Alhambra, will represent family system tradition next weekend when the 15-year old shopâ€™s artists join more than 350 worldwide tattooists at the Body Art Expo in Pomona.
Owned by Jesse Yen, My Tattoo operates on a family system rather than an American system, explained Assistant Manager Andy Tran. In the American system, artists will either pay or work for an apprenticeship and are free to work wherever they choose upon completion of their training. In the family system, training is passed down by “generation” from teacher to student, and each student pledges a lifetime commitment to their teacher.
More than 50 artists have sought apprenticeships at My Tattoo since it was taken over by Yen, the first generation teacher, 10 years ago, but only five students, who are now considered second generation artists, have survived the military-style training offered.
“The success rate is less than 10 percent,” Tran said. “Our training is very extreme.”
My Tattoo apprentices receive no pay and no time off for a year. They are not allowed to have any relationships, cannot drink or do drugs and must adhere to a vegetarian lifestyle.
“Itâ€™s totally like a Zen movement,” Tran explained. “It is a system based on respect.”
Yen, born and raised in Taiwan, chose to employ this system because it is tradition for tattoo shops to operate on family systems in many other countries, Tran continued. Everyone who works at My Tattoo is directly trained by Yen, Tran said, and when Yen retires, he will pass on his name to those artists, the second generation family.
Now one of Yenâ€™s second generation artists, Tran first received training under an American apprenticeship. He worked in the Bay area at different shops for two years before he moved to Los Angeles, but “didnâ€™t feel complete” until he began to study under Yen in 2007.
“The other shops were easy, they were a breeze,” he said. “There was no room for growth, there was no motivation. It wasnâ€™t as disciplined or strict. Over here thereâ€™s a lot of respect and tradition. Thereâ€™s a different mentality.”
“I found myself here at My Tattoo,” Tran said.
My Tattooâ€™s artists take their business seriously and travel around the globe to showcase their skills at international conventions. In 2009 alone they have journeyed to China, Taiwan, Italy, Germany, Ohio, Los Angeles and Long Beach. Next week they will represent their business locally at the Body Art Expo in Pomona.
To be held on July 17-19 at the Fairplex in Pomona, the expo will feature more than 350 national and international artists. Visitors can opt to get tattoos or piercings or just stay to see live performances by bands and belly dancers and a variety of contests, including a “hot ass” contest and a “best orgasm” contest.
My Tattoo is attending to “take care of our local customers” and to enter into the tattoo contests offered, Tran said.
“We go because itâ€™s in our area,” he said. “We have to go and show our face because we are the oldest shop in Alhambra. It has a long history, the shop, and the people here have evolved over time.”