The double life of a tattoo apprentice and SLU student


Chloe Williams

Senior marketing major Zoe Burns sitting at the front in Monsters Ink. Burns leads a busy life as a full time student at SLU and a tattoo apprentice.

Zoe Burns, a senior marketing major, works hard on and off campus as she balances her life as a student and tattoo apprentice at Monsters Ink in Ponchatoula. 

Burns started apprenticing in November of 2021 after she began working as a marketing assistant at Low Road Brewing.

The shop owner of Monsters Ink was close to the owners of Low Road Brewing and took note of Burns’ designs. 

“I was coming up with beer logos and apparel, which I still do. Then Ray, Monster Ink’s owner, came in the picture and started to help me with the design software. He told me ‘Look, I think you can do really well and we just had a spot open up, so is this something you’d be interested in?’ I was like ‘Absolutely I’m interested,” Burns recalled. 

 Tattooing was a career that Burns always thought would be cool to pursue, but she never imagined it would become a reality. 

Burns’ mother has been a constant supporter of her creativity. As an artist, her mother taught her and her sister about drawing, and Burns felt inspired by her mom’s accomplishments, such as painting murals in New Orleans. 

With support and the connections she made, Burns felt as if the tattooing apprenticeship was meant to be. 

“Once I started pursuing what I actually enjoyed and found that as long as it was something I could be creative and myself in, that’s when I felt opportunities start to open up. That’s one thing I tell people now: follow what you want to do, but get a business degree,” Burns said. 

The length of an apprenticeship can vary, according to Burns. It can last anywhere from a year to three or four years. In Burns’ case, she plans to finish hers by November. 

A day’s work for an apprentice differs from that of a tattoo artist.

All artists start as apprentices and must practice on other objects before they practice on real skin. Rather than using fake skin, she began her journey by practicing on bananas and oranges. 

Burns said, “Fake skin can be kind of a hit or miss. Some shops encourage their apprentices to practice on it, but I wasn’t because fake skin is very thick and tough. It’s a lot harder to tattoo on fake skin than real skin, so I practiced on things like fruit and had to learn to be super gentle with them.” 

Burns emphasized that all shops treat apprenticeships differently. At Monsters Ink, the artists charge an hourly wage, while she does not. Her charges are based on the time it takes her to finish the piece, along with the size and detail.

There have been some aspects of tattooing Burns did not expect at first, including the bonds she has developed with her clients through deep conversations.

“Whether you’re prepared for it or not, you’re suddenly someone’s therapist because getting tattooed is a very cathartic experience,” Burns explained. 

Burns has also faced negative experiences at work, including an instance of a person taking a screenshot of her design and going to another shop because they weren’t happy with the price she gave or scam artists posing as her online.

Zoe Burns prepares her station for tattooing in the shop. Burns will be finishing her apprenticeship in November at Monsters Ink. (Chloe Williams )

When it comes to managing her apprenticeship, school and her job at Low Road, Burns was honest about how it can be difficult or overwhelming some days. 

“There’s some days where I don’t want to do anything or get out of bed. But I know I have an assignment to do, flash sheets I want to put out and posts that need to be scheduled for Low Road. I try to keep a consistent schedule as best I can and that’s where Google calendars comes in,” Burns said

She has created three separate calendars for these parts of her life to that she can look at each individually instead of seeing them all on one calendar. Burns found that this helps her figure out her deadlines as well as give herself rest so that she is able to do her best work. 

For those considering doing an apprenticeship, Burns advises to go into it 110% and to keep up with your art, try different styles and make a portfolio. 

She added, “Not every shop is going to have an apprenticeship position open, but being diligent about it and showing that you have the skills to start will get your name out there.” 

Despite the less desirable facets of the tattoo world, Burns still finds much joy in her work.

“One of the things I enjoy is when people come to me with their very personal tattoos, like something for their dad, things in their mom’s handwriting or a situation where their grandmother gave them items with frogs and teacups. Getting to figure out how we can pay homage to whoever it is in a cool and personal way to the person. It can be a very rewarding job,” Burns added.

If you are interested in supporting Burns’ work and getting tattooed by her, check out her Instagram @, her Facebook Zoe Burns or her Snapchat zoe.elii.