The Tattoo Profession has always been a “closed profession”, usually passed down from father to son, or kept “in the family”. Tattooists carefully, and jealously guarded their secrets like Houdini. They only “turned out” blood relations, or people that they “owned”, so as not to educate a potential competetor. Ask a leading question at another slinger’s joint, and he’d let it be known that if something unfortunate were to happen to you, that it would make his day, and he would be grateful to whomever might be responsible.
As to becoming an Apprentice, now “Such a Deal we got for You!” It was easier to Prospect for an MC Patch. First, you had to “hang-out” around the shop, and befriend the guys that worked there, be a “Go-Fer”, and draw designs when everybody else was busy, or just didn’t feel like doin’ it themselves. If the guy liked you, and you had a little talent, after 6-8 months, he might ask you if you’d ever thought about being an apprentice.
If you said, “Yes”, then he’d hit you with the Price of your Education, usually $5000-$10,000, in advance, and that was a lot of Jack in those days! If you could come to terms with the man, then you got a couple of more years of the same old shit, only now it was your Job, and if you didn’t do it to his satisfaction, then it was your Ass! You also got to clean, and service the needle bars, (when, and if, he did change them), make needle bars to replace the ones that ripped up more skin than they put in ink. If you were a good boy, after a year, or so, you got to tattoo on Mr. Potato Head.
And, while all this shit was goin’ down, you also had a Quota of Design Sheets, or Flash, to deliver to the Massa, unsigned, of course, which he would go through and steal for himself. He got all he could out of you, before he gave you anything you could use to compete with him. You might get to tattoo for money in 5-10 years. “Such a Deal!”