It took awhile before Leathers found the courage to ask Zulueta and Mansfield if he could learn from them. “In today’s world it is really hard to get into tattooing,” Zulueta explains. “There’s thousands upon thousands of people tattooing now. When someone comes around asking for an apprenticeship at the shop, we usually tell them no straightaway. We’ve actually had people cry in the shop.”
But this time they said yes. At first, Zulueta just had Leathers clean up the shop. He didn’t mind. He watched Zulueta’s every move and absorbed as much about the business as he could.
“There’re just so many different facets to it,” Leathers says, “not only in terms of art, but the people-handling skills. You’ve got a living, breathing canvas in front of you, and you’ve got to make sure that they’re okay.”
Last March, Leathers followed an age-old tradition by putting his first tattoo onto his own skin: a shark holding a paintbrush and palette. Stooping over his leg drawing upside down and backwards, Leathers was so excited he had to keep slowing himself down to stay calm.