Apprentice love: Emily Roberts aka tv dinner tattoo

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Emily Roberts (she/her) apprentices at Cock A Snook in Heaton, Newcastle Upon Tyne. You might know her as tv dinner tattoo (@tvdinnertattoo), here we about her “ignorant” designs, her journey into the tattoo world and her hopes for the future…

You grew a large social following through your art and flash designs before you were tattooing. Can you tell us about this? 

I started my account in 2022 – the goal was to find an apprenticeship and get into tattooing as a career. To get my name and designs out there, I was determined to draw and post every day to help me find my audience. The support from my followers gave me great motivation to keep searching for a placement and improving my drawing until I eventually find my place at Cock A Snook. 

How did you become a tattoo apprentice? When did you start? 

My account was still new when my now mentor sent me a lovely message about my profile and gave me some words of encouragement to keep pushing and building my portfolio. At the time, they already had an apprentice so there no space for me, but one year later I got a message asking if I’d like to come into the studio to see it and have a talk about a possible apprenticeship opportunity. It all went amazingly and I officially started my apprenticeship in June of 2023.

What inspires your designs? 

I look to my personal interests for inspiration – I find enjoyment in drawing things I’m passionate about. For example, I look back to things I remember from my childhood or I’ll be inspired by a favourite film, song or video game. I also like to look to the ordinary and turn everyday objects into silly designs.

How would you describe your style? 

Ignorant blackwork with some illustrative thrown in there.

What’s the studio like where you’re working? 

The studio is an absolutely amazing space to work and hang out in. All of the artists I work alongside are so supportive and helpful and it’s somewhere I can openly be myself without fear of being judged. Cock A Snook always stood out to me as a studio, even before I found my place there, as it strives to be a safe and inclusive space that is welcoming to everyone.

We’re huge fans of tattoo artist Kezz and the work she does under Tattoo Smarter, is she mentoring you?

Yes, Kezz works as my mentor and has taught me an insane amount about all areas of being a tattoo artist as there is so much to learn both on skin and off. She is also just an incredibly thoughtful, kind and caring person who wants to improve tattooing for the better for artists and clients alike. 

What’s been your favourite thing you’ve learnt so far? 

I think trying out and learning how to use different types of tattoo machines was so fun and informative but I also love the satisfaction of being able to pull a crispy bold line. I’m constantly learning so my answer is always changing…

What’s a day in the life as an apprentice like for you?

During a typical day, I get to the shop and do some of the shared studio cleaning jobs and then start getting set up and ready for whatever I’m tattooing. Any spare time I have inbetween is spent drawing and catching up on admin as well as all the behind the scenes stuff that goes into the job.

When I have time I also like to record “Day in the Life” videos for my social profiles to show off specifically what I get up to as an apprentice. Now that I’m getting progressively faster at tattooing, I sometimes tattoo three clients in a day which is great practice! I also tend to ask a lot of different questions during a day so I can learn new things to help me progress in my journey.

Do you help set up for other artists?

Before I ever went near a tattoo machine, I used to set up my mentor Kezz’s station as much as possible. Repeating the steps I was shown repeatedly was so useful in teaching me the ways to assemble and disassemble a station correctly. There have also been times where artists have been running a bit behind so I’m more than happy to set up for them and help out wherever I can!

What drew you to the tattoo world?  

I’ve been fascinated by tattoos since I was a child and I always knew I wanted to get tattooed myself. Even as a kid, I talked about wanting to become a tattoo artist but didn’t think I’d ever get there. Outside of that, I also just think carrying a permanent piece of art with you through life on your skin is the coolest practice.

What’s your first memory of tattoos or tattooing? 

My grandad had a very old-school traditional swallow tattoo on his upper arm, which I remember being obsessed with when I was small – probably because he was the only person in my whole family with a tattoo. A few years ago, I got a swallow tattoo on my arm to match in his memory. 

Can you tell us about your own tattoo collection? 

I started getting tattooed just after my 18th birthday and now I have 21 tattoos in total by many talented artists from up and down the country. I’d say my favourite tattoos are probably my matching glittery knee webs by @keelyglitters. They’re just stunning and have helped me feel so much more confident about myself and the area they’re tattooed on.

What does the future look like for you? 

My main goal is to continue learning and growing as an artist. In the short time I’ve been an apprentice, I’ve seen great growth in my art and in myself as a person, which I hope continues as I make my way. In the long term, I’d love to be able to guest spot at other studios as well as take part in tattoo conventions and other events. I’m just super excited to see what’s next and where this journey takes me.

Make sure to follow Emily (@tvdinnertattoo) on her tattoo journey and get booked in.

We’re always sharing our favourite tattoo apprentices on the blog, read more interviews here.

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