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An Interview with X – Pierced Professional

When it comes to learning how to perform intimate piercings, finding people who trust your ability as a trainee can be a challenge. Thankfully, I met a client who not only trusted me to perform my first ever horizontal clitoral hood (HCH) piercing but then added two more! After many discussions and consultations, I was able to sit down and chat on record about how this project came to be and why they put their trust in Rogue and myself. 
*For anonymity, I have changed names and locations. 

G: Let’s start at your beginning.

X: I grew up in the 1980s in rural East England. As a kid, I would get on the bus, go to school, get on the bus, come back from school. And that’s it. I lived so far from everything, I was stuck at home. I was very quiet and just kept to my own company.

I had my ears pierced when I was about 11 and it was really, really painful. I had butterfly back earrings, as was the norm. Laying on those earrings was painful so I’d take them out at night and then, when I had to put them in the next day, it was like re-piercing my ear all over again.

After school I joined the Armed Forces so I couldn’t have any piercings. Most of us went off and got a tattoo, secretly. I just remember going out one night and we were like “let’s get tattooed!” So we went to the pub and then on the way home we stopped at this tattoo studio. It was a case of looking at flash pieces and deciding what to have based on what I could hide. I had the predictable small rose done on my hip!

The first tattoo I saw was when my brother came home from the army. He had a piece on the top of his arm. I just kind of thought, “oh, you can do stuff like that when you leave home, when you’re a grownup.” 

When I left the Forces, I started collecting piercings all the way up my ear. I had my nipples pierced when I was 22 and it was a sort of, “I’m free of your clutches, Mr. Government man, and I’m gonna stamp my own identity on myself!” moment. 

G: How was that?

X: I went along to Birmingham for a tattoo and asked the artist if he could pierce my nipples. He said yes and did I mind if the other guys there watched. There wasn’t a private room or anything. And I remember thinking, you know, I’ve been in the Forces, I can be tough! So, I was laid on a bench and had my piercing and I remember looking at these four guys and being amused at how they were so impressed that I didn’t scream while being pierced. Now I was out of the Forces, I felt this was me being independent and stating my own identity in a way.

A lot of life happened, and over the years I’ve had various tattoos but when I hit 50, a long relationship ended, I was diagnosed with diabetes and I kind of just felt a bit adrift.

I wanted to move away from what had been “we and us” and move into marking myself as an “I” again. I’ve always viewed tattooing as a way to anchor my identity but using piercing in the same way was more recent and more empowering.

So I’d hit 50 and I was talking to one of my friends about how I used to have my nipples pierced. And I got home that night and I thought, “I wish I still had my nipples pierced. Why haven’t I got my nipples pierced?” I went online and looked at repiercings and I was so excited when I saw that there were all these stories of people who’d had their nipples repierced. 

A couple of years later I was talking to a nurse and saying I thought I had a high pain tolerance because I’d had my nipples pierced – and, now,  repierced. She told me she had “down there” pierced. It was like an epiphany. I’d known for a long time that you can have “down there” pierced and I’d always wondered what exactly because I figured there wasn’t much to pierce through! But as soon as she said it, my brain just exploded. I’ve got to have this done. I’ve got to go and have this done right now. About a week later I got in touch with Rogue Piercing.

I couldn’t stop thinking, why have I never had this done before? Why have I never felt like I need to have this done before? All those feelings that came with it were really sort of weird and new but in a positive way.

Illustration by Jennifer Klepacki in “The Piercing Bible—The Definitive Guide to Safe Body Piercing” by Elayne Angel

G: What made you decide to come to Rogue for your intimate consultation?

X: I looked at a range of studios and there wasn’t anywhere local doing intimate piercings. I wanted somewhere that was experienced. I researched a lot of studios and I came across a blog post by Rogue. That’s how I ended up reading about the studio and the team and decided to book a consultation.

I knew I wanted a HCH (horizontal clitoral hood) piercing because I know my anatomy well and thought that it would be more aesthetically pleasing than a VCH (vertical clitoral hood). There’s a YouTube channel I watched a lot of, where they talked about the pros and cons of intimate piercings and it was one of few places I found information about the HCH. 

G: You came very prepared for your consultation with me! How did you find the experience?

X: The consultation was great because I was able to bring any questions that I had from watching the videos and reading about the piercing. A lot of what you said during the consultation was reinforced by my own research so that made me feel confident in the process.

It was really nice to meet and chat with the team, get to know you all and feel welcomed. Gemma gave me lots of information and Aiden would chime in with little facts and knowledge. At the end of the consultation we talked about you doing the piercing as part of your training. It would be one of your first HCH piercings and Aiden had been doing them for over a decade so he would be supervising. 

G: I really appreciate the trust you put in me and the studio to perform an intimate piercing that is a first for both of us. It means a lot. And I’m so grateful to have been able to work with you since then on expanding your project! What was the piercing experience like for you?

X: I felt quite comfortable because I’d already met you at the consultation and I trusted that it would go well. I was still very nervous because although I have a high pain tolerance, I didn’t know what to expect. I just thought “I’m gonna have a needle stuck through my clit hood. This is gonna hurt. And I’m going to do it.” And I did! 

I think I already knew I wanted lots more straight away. It seemed like if I’m gonna be in for a penny, I’ll be in for a pound. I was just waiting to see what the first one went like, I didn’t know how the healing would go or whether I’d have problems.

Healing was absolutely fine and so I decided, well if I have the anatomy then I’m going to get more! 

X always brings the good music vibes to the studio!

G: We’d briefly discussed it during your anatomy check as part of the intimate consultation and we decided to add two more HCH piercings to create a triple of BCRs. As a piercer, I was very excited about this project because it’s very rare to find a) a person with the anatomy for 3 HCH piercings and b) for that person to actually want to get and heal 3 HCH piercings!

X: I don’t understand why anybody who has the anatomy to, doesn’t want more than one piercing! If you want one, surely you want two or three or four, whatever you can have. The first one was painful and then when we added the others, the pain was barely comparable, It’s a little pinch.

I like the secret nature of intimate piercings. No one knows you have them unless you decide to tell them. 

G: You work in the education system, are visible tattoos and piercings viewed as unprofessional in your workplace?

X: So you’d think it might be fairly traditional, especially in the private sector, but some of my colleagues do have visible tattoos and to date they’ve not been officially commented on as ‘unacceptable’.

I was having a conversation with a colleague friend about the visibility of tattoos, piercings or just self expression in general. The main thing that came up was that we wanted students to see that this is what ordinary people do. This is just as usual and acceptable and part of the fabric of life as anything else.

I think back to my upbringing in the 80s… there were tattoos, there were piercings, but I never got to see anything of them. If just one person in a profession like education or medical or whatever, had visible piercings or tattoos, it might have felt more normalised and not “othered” or “taboo” to a lot of people. 

Instead, it again can be that act of rebelling against the institution. It’s a way of saying to the institution, “you don’t own me, I’m not yours, I’m mine.” 

G: Is body modification your rebellion?

X: There’s an addictiveness about it as well. You get a little buzz, not necessarily a physical buzz but a mental buzz.  I’d be tattooed and pierced all over my body if I could, for the buzz of it.

But you see, for me, it’s about going through the entire process to have the end result [of a modification]. I want something solid. I want something tangible where I go “that’s mine, I chose it and I’m really proud of that”. 

It is such a privilege to be part of someone’s journey of self expression and I cannot thank my clients enough for helping me to learn and grow. Rebel well!

If you would like more information on intimate piercings you can view our blogs here

If you would like to book for an intimate consultation, you can do that here

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An Interview with Loreia – Unknown Pleasures Piercing

I first met Loreia at the UKAPP 2022 conference and immediately knew she was an incredible person. A hardworking, passionate piercer who owns Unknown Pleasures Piercing in Stuttgart, Germany and travels the world attending and teaching at international conferences. Loreia was kind enough to spend an evening talking with me about her origin story, her career path and her amazing insights into why we do what we do. Loreia is a powerhouse of a person and I am eternally grateful to know her. 
Loreia Unknown Pleasures Piercing

Gemma:  When did you first become interested in body modification and piercing?

Loreia: It was really early but sometimes you’re not aware that you’re interested in something until later when you find the label for it. As a child I really loved to play around with looks.When I drew myself, also as a little child,  I drew myself with a lip ring. I really liked to draw punks and people with coloured hair. So my interests go very far back.

When I was 13, my first piercing was a nose piercing and I just loved it. I really felt badass and from that time, my passion was growing. Early on in my life I became interested in corset training. I really love the way it shapes my body. So I guess this was really my first body mod experience because I had my first corset when I was 15 or 16.

Later, I started playing around with needles.

I wrote my bachelor thesis about why people try to change their appearance. Body modification is not just things like horns, implants, scars or tattoos and piercings. But also like dyeing your hair and playing around with your figure. Clothing could be kind of a temporary body mod because you can totally change your appearance, your height etc.

G: I had no idea about your bachelor’s thesis, what was your experience in education? 

L: Yes, I have a Master’s degree in philosophy. My Bachelor thesis was about why people are changing their appearance and what are their motivations behind it. Of course, I examined the classic bodymod scene that we are in, like tattoos and piercing but also the fitness industry, plastic surgery, cosmetics, diets etc. All the things you can do to really change your appearance. I looked at it from a philosophical point of view. It was pretty interesting. 

And for my Master thesis, about 5 years ago, I wrote about how to become the person you are –  I had a deep dive into Foucault’s  philosophical view of the world. Also, Nietzsche a lot. And I looked at the question of how you can live your life as a piece of art. The topic was: “How do I become what I am? – Self love and self care by Foucault based on the Nietzsche’s philosophy of the art of living.

I guess the first step was looking more at the physical appearance and how society affects this – so more an outside observation, and the second step was the personal state of mind and looking at your point of view of  the world – inner observation.

ear piercing curation
Beautiful work by Loreia

G: I have this conversation a lot about how body modification is not just the extremes like tongue splits and branding. There’s so many ways that people modify their bodies. It’s fascinating, humans are strange creatures. 

L:  Humans are totally strange creatures but so is society – because society labels what is good and what is bad and what is nicely looking and what is not. You cannot complain about the  person with the horns when you have lip filler and a boob job, you know what I mean? Because you’re kind of the same! 

G: Breast implants, absolutely fine. Horn implants, that person now can’t have a job.

L: Indeed. And it does not have to be this “extreme” look – fun fact: I grew up in the north part of Germany where I experienced people who were a bit more open minded to different looks and I moved to the south about 16 years ago now. Back then I tried to find a job just for the summer and I applied for a job in an ice cream parlour. I had blue hair at that time and people were like “no fucking way you’re working here with that appearance”. This was kind of funny and shocking at the same time.

The thing is, we are living in an oppressive system. Doesn’t matter if we are aware of it or not – we are.
And not everybody is able to free their minds and also to accept themselves as they are and their needs and how they want to be. Maybe because they never learned to, maybe they are afraid to face their truth and not to fit in this system anymore.

The result of that is that they often have a lot of anger, stress and real tension. I see people and they are maybe fascinated by someone who is living their life modified in some way, and I guess an inner voice tells them “you are not able to, or you’re not allowed to [have that piercing or hair colour or tattoo]” and then the anger really hits and this stored bad energy comes out. 

I really believe if people would, take care of their needs, like really see what they want and what they want to be and what they need and what they don’t and not give that much of a fuck about what societies want them to be – we would live in a more peaceful world.

G: What was it like growing up in northern Germany? Was your alternative aesthetic accepted?

L: I was an outsider. I grew up in a very religious family so I’m the black sheep. My parents split up when I was 13 and they sent me to a boarding school. Before that I really had a hard time at my school. In the boarding school I had a fresh start, I didn’t want to be there but It was the best thing that could happen to me when I look back now. It was a boarding school for talented kids, there was a  wild mix of gifted children and sports elite. 

G: What was your career path like?

L:  When I was in the boarding school, at 18 I thought “fuck this shit. I’m out of here. I don’t need any education at all.” I started an apprenticeship and after a year I met my now life partner. Because of different things that happened before in my life, I needed a fresh start so I moved to the south of Germany where I could continue my apprenticeship in another place and start a life with my partner. But over the summer I decided  to throw that path away, finish school and go to university. I had to finance myself and I started to do different mini jobs. I worked at Lush for a while, I worked in a creative market for paintings. I also did a lot of photo shoots, make-up and modelling. 

This went on and I became friends with a photographer and his girlfriend. She worked in a BDSM dungeon and I started working there with her while I studied. There, I actually started playing around with needles and also learned to work sterile because when you do, for example, a catheter, you really want to be sterile.

dungeon ropes
Loreia is a professional in all her roles

This is where I really began to be interested in piercing and a friend of mine in Munich at that time, she said she could show me some piercing things, as she worked in a piercing studio there. 

I’m totally self taught and this is also why I aim for more and for higher and for better. I had been to several studios in my area, but I didn’t like how they treated me as a customer. I knew I should be definitely better.This is how I came to professional piercing, I guess. 

After a while I had the idea in my mind to open up my own shop and when I have an idea I’m normally going to do it.. So I reached out to a nail salon, actually that had a spare room in the basement and that’s how I opened my shop.

G: I love that you became a professional piercer because of your experience in the kink world because those two industries are so intertwined.

L: I had the luck that sterile working was a natural thing for me because the ladies in the dungeon came from a medical background and so I was aware of the dangers working with needles and blood. This was a good start for me. Before I opened my piercing studio, I read a lot of anatomy books and internet forums. I was always on the hunt for better quality, nice looking jewellery and equipment. I did a lot of research but it was not that easy. 

My first contact with other professional piercers was the BMXnet conference in 2012. There I also met Mark from Neometal and he introduced me to safe jewellery and materials. I was so proud when I brought back my first little bag of high quality piercing jewellery.

Back in those days I also met Thomas Stolte, online first, who worked with jewellery from Industrial Strength –  I emailed him and he was super friendly, super kind and he really helped me to get things going. He explained to me what to look for and what to aim for and how to make a proper order. To place an high quality order back then was a bit like trying to cast a spell – you had long lists with ordering codes and put it all together by yourself including all the specifics of colours, gauges etc, crossed your heart three times that you did it all right and waited like a child for Christmas to get these shinies. Today everything is a lot easier with the online systems and lower wait times.

G: Tell me about your conference experiences.

L: The first conference you are going to, is often the one that has the most impact because you don’t know shit and then you’re aware that you didn’t know shit. Jane Absinth phrased this really nicely, she said when she was at her first conference, she really wanted to go back and just burn her whole studio. I really understood that.

I’m really grateful for the many people I have met through conferences and for the ideas that have helped me to grow and find my path in the community to better my career.

In 2015 and 2016 I was a scholar for the APP conference and it was my first time going to the “big one”. I applied first for the Al D scholarship [now legacy scholarship]. I was refused in the last round and I applied for the No Excuses Scholarship, which I got. Las Vegas was really, really overwhelming for me. It was really tough shit, but more on a personal level (is there anything “real” in Las Vegas?!).

I’m really grateful for the peers that made it possible for me to attend twice as a scholar to the APP Conference. I really worked hard to get to that moment. But at the beginning of 2016 my mother had passed away and I had to attend to those matters, the community came together and I was granted the scholarship for a second time.

Conferences are very important, networking is very important, but most important are the conversations you have in between and after classes. I’m an extroverted introverted person (INFJ) but I actually met my best friend for life, Jane, at my second APP conference in Las Vegas. 

She met me sitting a bit aside at the pool party and we started nerding out all evening. We got into some really deep talks about everything. This is what I appreciate about conferences: you have the opportunity to speak with people over days about topics that are in your daily life and maybe they can also change your point of view or give you a bit more inspiration 

G: What was the No Excuses Scholarship?

L: I really wanted to desperately go to Las Vegas and I was so sad that I was denied from the APP at the last moment. I guess it is my personality but when I don’t reach a goal, I get motivated to try and try again. Back then, to apply, I had to send a huge PDF with my reference letters and answers about who I got inspired by in the industry and why, and who am I and why do I need this and why do I need to go. So a committee of piercers decided that they wanted me to go. I thought it would be like the Al D scholarship and I would be part of a volunteer team but it wasn’t. I wanted to be there to work so I sneaked myself into the volunteer group and said “I’m here so I am working.”

G: Was that your first time outside of Europe? 

L: Yes and I am very grateful for the scholarship because it was a shit ton of money I had to spend for the flights so this was a really huge deal for me back in 2015. I had my shop, of course but I also did my studies and worked at the dungeon. I worked at my shop, appointment only, but I wasn’t booked all the time. I had to work out how to have enough money to manage all that.

Jewellery collection Unknown Pleasures Piercing
Unknown Pleasures have a wide variety of stunning jewellery

G:  It sounds like you’ve always been one of those people that has a goal and will work endlessly to achieve it. 

L: I guess it depends on what you’ve experienced in life. And if you have been able to make some decisions. When I graduated, I could have studied political science because I was very good at it and it would lead to a career. But I thought, I won’t do that, I will study philosophy to do what I am really interested in because I can earn money in whatever way I want. There was a point in my life where I decided I just wanted to do the things that fulfil me. I will not sell myself and will not do stuff that I don’t want to do because I experienced that a lot in my childhood and also in my teenage years And so, when I made the move to the South, I built myself a new life.

Of course, this sounds really powerful, but you know, sometimes you have to be powerful to keep yourself alive and protect your sensitive self.

G: You’re an incredible woman. How did you get involved with the VPP (Verband Professioneller Piercer)?

L: The VPP was the brainchild of Thomas Stolte and me. I was aware of the Ask a Professional Piercer group on Facebook and I wanted to do something similar in German. In this conversation, the idea was born to start an association that isn’t only about educating piercers but clients as well. I really love the idea to connect people, share some knowledge, grow with each other to set some standards and to avoid trouble for the client

We spoke to Andre about the idea and we started writing down our standards and guidelines. But to start an association, you need more people to be on board. So this is where other people came in to start the process.

G: You also host Now We Talk seminars at your studio, how did that start?

L: Actually, the NowWeTalks are clients aimed. Piercers are totally welcome, but they are client focused. I started with the hashtag #pussybling, because I did a lot of vulva piercings and I was so sad because I had so many wonderful women sitting with me who never ever had a proper look at themselves. I explained to them their anatomy and then explained how beautiful they are. Then I thought, okay, I have to do something. The first NowWeTalk was about vulva piercing and what is possible but most of the work I do is around educating clients about anatomy. 

It’s more for empowerment. I host female identified-only evenings but I also had a version where couples could come in, so that both can ask questions. It was really really nice, I started inviting other speakers like Andre or a friend from my philosophical study to talk on different topics and it grew from there

G: Especially in the UK, education around genital anatomy is so lacking. It’s really amazing that you are empowering people to learn more about themselves.

L: What I realised pretty early, and this is something I’m really grateful for, I was able to listen to Elayne Angel and also speak with her –  she always talks positively about genitalia and anatomy. And this is really something that I grabbed and started doing myself. I had more than one client who was tearing up because nobody had ever spoken that nicely about their anatomy before.

Studio space
Unknown Pleasures is a safe space for everyone

G: I think a lot of people with vulvas are made to feel like their anatomy is “wrong” because it doesn’t look a certain way. 

L: A client of mine, she came in with inverted nipples and she was really nervous about getting them pierced. We had a few appointments where we discussed it and when she finally had the piercings, I really had to stop her from running out of the piercing room to show her friends. She was so proud! At her aftercare appointments she said “I should have done this so much earlier. I’m so confident.” I really love what  piercing can do to you and how it can help you to really find peace and find beautiful things in your body.

G: There’s a lot of crossover between empowerment, piercing, kink, reclamation, gender identity etcetcetc. Can we talk about the links between your career as a Dominatrix and a Professional Piercer? 

L: I had the luck to work in a nice BDSM studio with a lot of really awesome ladies – a matriarchal bubble. And what I learned there for life, is to embrace yourself and embrace the way you are. That you don’t have to be ashamed of your body, you don’t have to be ashamed of your feelings, you don’t have to be ashamed of your sexuality. I had the wonderful opportunity to learn all that and this shaped me. It taught me that naked bodies are just bodies and of course, it can be arousing when you’re in a private setting but beside that, it’s just a body, you know? 

And this acceptance of bodies and being totally okay with however you are, is what I try to give to my clients of whatever gender. It also taught me about accepting that you don’t have to be friends with everybody, you don’t have to be like everybody, but you can accept the differences and you can see what you have in common and work with that.

The bottom line for both industries is acceptance and taking proper care of people’s needs. You’re the one in power, as the piercer or as the Domme. You are the one who is leading and who is responsible for a safe environment, for a safe experience. You guide a person through the process. And these are totally different processes but you’re guiding them through it.

You have to be really aware of your responsibility and to make the experience as nice as it can be. And “nice” can be defined differently, of course. In the piercing room, I do not want my client to feel pain at all. I try to breathe with them, I try to guide them, I really like to calm them. But when I work with my guests, of course it’s different but it’s all about trust. It’s not like, “oh yeah, I’m a sadistic person, so let me stick needles into you.” That is not what’s happening in either room.

In any setting, as a professional, you need to be aware of yourself and the different aspects of your personal needs and also your work environment needs.In both. In the piercing room or the dungeon room, you’re totally confronted with people that already have an opinion of you without knowing you.

For example, I’m highly educated. But when you tell random people that you are a piercer, people often assume that I must not be educated. I was a problem child with dyed hair who pokes people for fun, because there is no other option possible career-wise.

G: I never considered it that way, but it’s true. When you tell people you’re a body piercer, they immediately make an assumption about you. 

L: So I work piercing appointments only and of course people are asking me what I do the other days. A new client came in and she was referred by a friend. She heard that I work as a nurse when I’m not in the studio. I was like, “I do, but not as you think.”. It’s funny what people make up because they really, really need to put you in a box.  It’s something we definitely have to stop because it helps nobody to have predefined opinions of someone. 

G: How has the body modification scene changed in Germany?

L:  Well, it changed for good. This is what I can say. In Germany, there are more followers than leaders. People are more inclined to keep working and piercing the same way they have for the past 20 years and not update things. There’s also more education available for clients and I’m really happy to see how in the last few years things have changed. The new generation of piercers are aiming in the right direction and connecting to each other 

There was a time when piercers only connected to shit talk others piercers. And this is something I never liked. It’s now one of the VPP guidelines: “Der VPP kann nur als Einheit bestehen – dementsprechend ist kollegialer Umgang untereinander die Grundvoraussetzung.  Dies beinhaltet konstruktive Kritik anzunehmen, wie auch geben zu können ohne dabei persönlich zu werden.” 

“The VPP can only exist as a unit – accordingly, collegial interaction with one another is the basic requirement..This includes accepting and giving constructive criticism without becoming personal.”

Unfortunately there are a lot of people offering body modification services in Germany, using bloody and graphic IG posts and live streams to promote. Please, please use your brain and stop this! This can really fuck up things for the whole industry. Bodymod is more accessible in Germany but it’s not necessarily a good thing – so it is always important to choose the person that is allowed to modify you wisely!

I had a conversation about this at the APP conference, that all Germans are so modified and all are so extreme. We’re not. It is just as always: what you’re looking for, you will see. 

G: Especially in American and UK media, we’re presented with this “extreme” image of the German alternative scene. If it’s some freaky fetish hardcore shit, it’s probably German. 

L: Actually this is something that gave me a hard time as a young woman to be okay with identifying myself as a FemDom, because I had all these false impressions/assumptions in mind. I was trying to find who I was but basing that on these impressions of what I should be (or better what I definitely do not want to be). 

There’s social constructs everywhere. It doesn’t matter if you go to the supermarket, if you’re thinking about how life should be, if you’re thinking about how a relationship or sex should be. Or how the alternative scene should be – you face these ideas and impressions that have been constructed for you. 

Loreia Unknown Pleasures Piercing Stuttgart

I’m quite often asked why I don’t have a lot of facial piercings when I am a piercer. I have piercings for aesthetics, and this is, at the moment, the aesthetic I’m aiming for. More subtle, I still know my shit, I know how to modify your body more than you can imagine. I just choose right now to modify myself more subtly for my own aesthetics. 

Humans have this concept of people in their mind, and we really have to lose it because it doesn’t make sense at all. Preconceptions give you a hard time, but it also gives the other person a hard time.

Another example, when I started piercing, I just worked one day a week because of all the other stuff going on and because we have a health insurance policy that says you’re not able to work that much as a student or you lose your health insurance. A lot of piercers, and this is something that really happened often in my career, would question if I am a “real” piercer because my studio was only open one or two days a week. They’d say I would never sell only high quality jewellery because the customers wouldn’t want it. They’d tell me that appointment-only studios would never work. 

People really had this concept in their mind, how the (piercing) world should be and how it works. And didn’t believe that there would be anything outside of that.

I’m a living, happy example of being able to work two to three days a week with my clients in person in my shop. I’m happy that this allows me to really concentrate on my clients and connect with them and also be a little bit of part of their lives. I have a good work-life balance where I can focus on myself and my needs as well as those of the people around me. 

G: That is really fucking aspirational. You do a lot of ear curation projects, can you tell us about that?

L: This is the beautiful thing about body piercing, self expression can be wherever you want. It could be genitalia work, getting your navel pierced, facial symmetry, heavy mod work. But it can also be a finely curated ear with specific pieces and placements to suit that person’s anatomy. This is really beautiful because you can help people to be how they want to be and they are deciding the path. They decide what and they decide how to treat themselves for just being themselves. And as a piercer, you are a part of that. 

This is what I really love, I really love this kind of piercing client that is going for a concept. An artistic curation. 

I’m on the high sensitive spectrum. I can really feel what people feel. In both of my careers, I can enjoy the joy that people are having. And it’s really like flowing through me. For example, a client gets really excited about a piece, I’m really getting excited about a piece. I’m really thankful for all the trust that people put in me and my work and also my taste.

What an amazing person. I am forever grateful for Loreia’s time, energy and insights. A powerful lady that has a lot to offer of love and passion. Be sure to follow Loreia’s work online and visit her beautiful studio in Stuttgart! 

Click here to read more of our interviews!

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An Interview with Sacred Debris – Lynn Loheide & Ari Pimsler

It’s always daunting to speak with people that I really admire so I was incredibly honoured to spend some time chatting with Lynn Loheide and Ari Pimsler on behalf of the renowned archivist team at Sacred Debris. Sacred preserve and document all aspects of piercing and body modification past, present and future. Working alongside historian Shawn Porter to share the invaluable history of our industry, Lynn and Ari are integral entities in this world and it was a privilege to hear their take on body modification. 
Lynn is a worldwide travelling piercer and educator. Ari works to support animal rights and piercers at Marigold Adornment in Vermont, USA. 

G: Lynn, you’re involved in the body suspension world, do you want to talk a little about the global history of suspension?

L:  I think one of the coolest things about being in suspension, especially modern suspension, is that it’s currently a very global thing. There’s teams literally all over the world. There’s international events. You can work with folks from everywhere. But also historically, it’s a very global thing. 

Lynn during a suspension with their team Skynthesis

I really like some of the more anthropological looks at piercing and modification. It’s so fascinating just how many different cultures had some variation or version of suspension or hook pull or flesh pull. It just really speaks to the amount of understanding and awareness. Of catharsis and awakening that the process of suspension brings to so many different people, across so many different walks of life. Across so much time, people still find so much solace in it. 

The suspension community is a very small but pretty close knit community that does a really good job of working well with each other and sharing information.

G: What types of people do you meet in the suspension world, is it mainly body modification folks?

L:  I guess I would actually say it’s a really even mix of people. If you work in the industry, you have easier access to suspension, to tools, to supplies, to knowledge. And to practitioners and groups through networking and connections. 

But my team’s Skynthesis Body Suspension, particularly works with first timers. A lot of people would be surprised by how many folks are not really into body modification and are still called to suspension.

I think one thing that is very well proven, is that suspension is for most folks, a way of processing and dealing with trauma. Some of the really unique subsets of people we get in suspension, who aren’t in the piercing/tattoo/body modification industry, are a lot of veterans who’ve experienced PTSD. And people who experienced a lot of horrors in that line of work. A lot of folks who have different abilities or are disabled. Suspension can be a way of freeing their body or a way of experiencing pain that’s in their control. People who’ve experienced interpersonal and relational trauma and domestic violence. 

There are a lot of piercers and a lot of tattoo artists and a lot of body modification enthusiasts and clients, but it’s also a lot of people who see the act of suspension and it just speaks to something very deep within them. I think that’s part of why we also have seen it so cross-culturally through all of history and so many different groups and cultures and religions have turned to acts like suspension as a way of dealing with trauma and processing difficult emotions and experiences.

G: How far back can we trace acts of body modification?

L: I would say it’s old as we have written history. We have one of the oldest recorded records of cultural piercing in the Bible. And we have records that date back further than that, there’s writings from the time of the code of Hammurabi where we think they’re talking about things that relate with either scarification or piercing. 

We know that throughout history, piercing was not only a religious rite but also a business transaction. Piercing was a sign of marriage and it was used to denote slaves and type of slave and quality of slave. We know that that goes back to the Middle East and to Africa. 

But if we expand our viewpoint on what constitutes body modification and we start to incorporate religious rituals that include acts of self-flagellation, removing of a limb, removing of a finger, removing a part of the scalp, trephination, foot binding, skull lengthening. All of these forms of body modification date back thousands and thousands of years. If you expand your perception of body modification outside of just tattoo and piercing, this has been happening for a long time. The oldest mummy we have has tattoos and 0 gauge ears.

A: There is a decent wealth of information on these things, it’s not a subject that’s necessarily shied away from. There are tons and tons of books both written by piercers and not-piercers that cover that subject -it’s very accessible. Early body mod history is fascinating for a lot of people, even if they want nothing to do with getting a piercing or a tattoo. I think that’s a big reason why we don’t tend to focus on that too much. If anyone’s looking for books, there are some great ones that are accessible. Marks of Civilization is a fantastic book.

In my opinion, one of the best books out there was written by Blake Perlingieri who ran Nomad, A Brief History of the Evolution of Body Adornment: Ancient Origins and Today. There are awesome resources if you’re interested in really going far back. But that feels oddly much more accessible than the last 30 to 40 years of our version of body piercing and what we’ve kind of has come to embody as the industry.

G: Why do you think that is? 

L: Because that was stuff that happened far enough ago that now it’s interesting to people again, right? At the time that people were practicing this scarification and this piercing, it wasn’t really something that people thought to document very well because it was a very normal part of culture back then. Enough time passes and enough people die out, and we lose enough connection and then it becomes interesting again. Back then, whatever cool body modification they were doing was akin to writing a detailed journal about how you toasted your toast for breakfast in the morning. But we’ve had enough experience with watching history disappear that we know that if we as Sacred Debris don’t take our time now to document what happened in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s, then we are gonna lose it. 

Right now, people are looking at stuff way back then and also what’s happening right now and things within, usually the last 50 to 70 years, we look at it as too recent to consider. So what happens is, people have hundreds of thousands of photographs and journal entries and original tattoo art and blood play prints just sitting in bins in their garage because they’re from 40 years ago. And they think no one cares about it because It’s not old enough to be history and it’s not new enough to be cool.

Then that garage floods or then someone passes away and their kids don’t know what to do with it. They throw it out and 40 years from now, people are gonna go, ‘oh my God we have like five pictures of Bud Navaro and we don’t know anything about him, but we know he was cool. We’re trying to prevent those same mistakes that we’ve made in the past and document the things that to a lot of the people that we’re interviewing and talking to, is basically like talking about high school and remembering locker combinations.

We know that in a couple more years it’s going to be incredibly important parts of our history that we could have easily accidentally lost. 

A: I think it’s also fair to chime in and say this is something that comes out of the queer and fetish community and you are always gonna have a significant whitewashing of things that come out of those communities.

You can go back and find plenty of records of things that as a community we like to say these things are ours – we invented it! Obviously things like scarification and piercing etc. are pulled from other cultures, but a lot of the gay and fetish community were doing that before piercing was a business and embraced it. So as progressive as our industry may seem in context to, for example, Wall Street and as progressive as we may be as more varied people and identities enter the field, you are always gonna struggle with getting a really coherent, unbiased look when the starting point comes from groups that have historically been under fire. 

G:  In your time researching the history of our industry and the subcultures that encompass it, what significant changes have you noticed over the last few years?

A: I feel like it’s hard to answer that without sounding too salty but it feels like piercing has gotten significantly more conservative. That’s not to say that after any experimental phase things start to get more dialled in and there’s less of a need for outlandish things because we know what has a better chance of working than others. But it’s that sentiment of this dogmatic mentality, that this is the way things are done, no ifs, ands, or buts, black and white right or wrong. You stifle the voices, whether it’s in person or online from trying to question or say otherwise, and in turn stifle creativity.  It stops forward momentum.

Ari performing a pubic hook pull many moons ago

 I think a really good look at that is with jewellery. You have essentially the same few companies that we’ve had for years now. It’s wonderful that these companies are thriving but severely limiting input is actually to our detriment.  The last true game changing innovation was with Neometal – thats 1997! Without new ideas and fresh eyes we’re doomed to just repurpose what’s already out there over and over.

If we are telling people it’s do or die, do not go outside the box or you’re gonna get dog-piled for doing it, that sucks. That makes it really hard for piercing to grow and evolve from where it is. We sure as shit could use a lot more kindness to make the sort of upper echelon “standard” that we want people to be at more accessible and inviting. It’s hard to want to be in the thick of anything when you know the attitude is borderline fanatical. 

L: I think Ari is right. I would phrase it as like we’ve seen the commodification of body piercing, especially in the last couple of years. I would say the last five where body piercing, especially the piercing we look at and write about at Sacred Debris, was experimental.  It was weird. it was a niche community of people doing something because they really loved it. It was kinky, it was queer, and now piercing is luxury and expensive, and it’s about how it looks on Instagram. Somewhere in between Instagram posts and Statim cycles, we very much became very conservative and very sanitised.

I do think we are seeing a resurgence, especially since Covid, that is mirroring what happened to piercing in the 80’s and 90’s during the AIDS epidemic where we are seeing a lot of anti-trans legislature, a lot of anti-trans rhetoric at the same time that we’re seeing this amazing growth in visibility for the trans community.

Lynn facilitating a suspension

And just like what happened with the gay community, when one group was very harshly ostracised and pushed aside and told that they don’t matter and they’re not important. It’s really easy for people to say, ‘fuck you. I’m not gonna conform to what you want me to be’. I think we’re seeing, especially a lot of trans youth and trans clients, really starting to push boundaries. We’re seeing a resurgence of genital piercing, of cool large gauge, custom genital work, of people starting to talk online about how they can do weird, cool things with their genitals. And in the past it was gay men who wanted to do weird, cool, kinky stuff and now it’s trans kids who wanna have weird, cool genitals that don’t look like any gender.

These same kids are out there, getting and they’ve made rhino piercings popular in 2023! Paired centre eyebrows, large gauge cartilage stuff is on the rise. We’re gonna see that continue because for the last couple of years, it’s been trending towards skinny, conventionally pretty models in gold and diamonds. Now, we’re definitely seeing that resurgence in the trans community of people who are already willing to say, ‘well, you hate me because I look and express my gender the way I want to. You’re already gonna treat me like shit for who I am so I might as well get the fucking face tattoo, put the horns in my forehead and split my dick while I’m at it.’

I have a little bit more hope that it’s, once again, going back to queer and fetish roots, that we are gonna see that more. And hopefully it’s a less experimental, maybe more controlled experimental renaissance. Focus more on gender affirming work and what we can do with genital piercings and body piercings that push the boundaries in a safe way, but create specifically non-binary or masculine or feminine effects or looks.

While piercing has moved in a very commodified, very capitalist direction recently, I think we’re starting to see that cycle back.

G: I can only speak from my experience in the UK but we have certainly seen the increased demand for larger gauge and genital work.

L: And that aspect of piercing was always queer and kinky. I think throughout the late 2000s and 2010s, piercing became just mainstream enough that it was all nostrils, ears, gold and diamonds. And the industry really encouraged that narrative. It used to be that any piercing was pushing back against ‘The Man’. Then for a while any piercing was ‘The Man’, it was even cooler, more rebellious, not to have piercings or tattoos. I think now we’re seeing that resurgence of people who feel comfortable looking and having these really extreme modifications because they’re already dealing with discrimination for how they look.

We are also seeing that resurgence of queer fetish spaces. I think it overlaps with the fact that there was a sanitation of the queer community over the last 10 years. How much ‘Kink at Pride’ discourse have we all seen on the internet? We did see a sanitisation of queer spaces and I think also kind of aligned with the sanitisation of body piercing and body modification. Now that we’re seeing that swing the other way, I think it’s happening in piercing.

G: What would you like to see in the future of the body modification industry?

A:  I think American piercing in particular has a real problem with working with children and they don’t realise it is not a worldwide view. I think if people really give a shit about safety then hopefully they will start to embrace working with children. It’s a really critical component of piercing. It’s one of the last sectors that is almost entirely experience based at a time when piercing has shifted to more heavily focus on the aesthetic end.

They are there to try something new. As a rite of passage its easily the most common and widespread in all cultures. It’s all about learning consent for their body and getting over something scary and a really incredible experience for them that I think lasts a lifetime, even if they take the earrings out at some point. It feels really sad that we exist in a place where not only do people not want to work on children, which caveat is fine if you are not comfortable with it, but it’s so hostile in some  aspects that you can’t even get a recommendation on who to then go to. I think some people are actually worried about putting it out there because they don’t want blowback from the community, which in turn makes it difficult to get a network of people for certain age ranges together because they don’t wanna take a bunch of shit for it. 

I would love for that to be something that we fix moving forward. That at least it’s a comfortable place where people who want to pierce young children, babies, anything like that, can be more open about advertising those services and help others who are interested in learning them.

G: We see it in the UK too, a lot of piercers aren’t comfortable with doing or discussing piercings on younger children.

A: For most populations it’s a tremendously important rite of passage. It’s something that no matter how much shouting the piercing community does you are not gonna prevent people from continuing that. And so to me the actual safe thing to do is to embrace it and provide a place where they can get it done in a sanitary environment with good jewellery, rather than saying “don’t fucking do that” which is really just pissing in the wind (and disrespectful to those communities).

L: As an extension of what Ari said, I would love to see folks approach each other with an assumption of at least neutral intent, if not good intent. Rather than always assuming bad intent. I feel like, no matter what you post about in a piercing only space, people immediately assume that you had the worst intentions or that you didn’t do anything right, that you didn’t care to run anything by your client. Even when it’s a really good, really well-respected piercer posting something like an experimental piercing they did or asking for help with finding a referral for piercing a child or a client in a certain situation. There is a lot of automatically assuming negative intent.

For me though, the really big thing I would like to see is  the continuation of restructuring apprenticeships and front of house positions.  I would love to see even more studios doing paid apprenticeships and taking better care of their apprentices. And I would love to see more recognition for front of house in the industry. I would really love to see the APP or the UKAPP offer, a membership type that is specific to the front of house, that acknowledges it as its own career. As opposed to just lumping everyone in this associate member form. I would love to see more classes directed towards the front of house and towards apprentices.

We’ve made a lot of strides in the last five years in regards to abuse in apprenticeships and mistreatment of apprentices. But I think we still have a long way to go before most of the industry is on board with that. I hope positive change keeps moving in that direction. And I hope people who have a lot of influence in the industry and organisations that have a lot of influence, step up and start acknowledging these positions in bigger ways. The APP released their apprenticeship guidelines, which are great and I hope that they do something similar to that in the future with front of house, and I hope we see that from the international organisations as well.

Words can’t express how grateful I am for the powerful insights and time that Ari and Lynn shared with me for this interview. I hope some of it resonates and that you enjoyed it as much as I did. Special thanks to legendary Shawn Porter for all of his support and for all the work he continues to do. Please consider supporting Sacred Debris and be a part of preserving the history of piercing, people and practices.

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An Interview with Phebe Rose – Junior Body Piercer

I first met Phebe when she came to guest with us at Rogue this year. Although she’s not been piercing long, Phebe has grown abundantly as a piercer and a person over the past few years. She has put herself out there, worked hard and flourished so much. Phebe is currently piercing at Factotum Tattoo & Body Modification Studio in Norwich, UK.

G: Let’s start at the beginning, when did you start piercing?

Phebe: So I started an apprenticeship in May of 2021 just after I turned eighteen. Everything happened very quickly which I wasn’t expecting as it usually takes some time to get into the industry. I’m so grateful that I was given the opportunity to begin my piercing career at a young age.

G: As always, tell us about your first piercing experience. 

P: I begged my mum to let me get my ears pierced but she wouldn’t let me until I was 11. I got those done with a piercing gun in a hair salon as you do when you don’t know any better. In high school ear piercings started becoming quite popular. It took me a couple of years but I eventually convinced my mum to let me get another piercing. I went to see Olly Todd at Factotum and he pierced my helix. That would’ve been 2018 I think. I went on to get my rook and forward helix pierced later that year. 

G: When did you decide you wanted to be a piercer?

P: Throughout high school I struggled a lot with my mental health, especially in my final year. When I left I intended to study languages at college but things didn’t quite work out as planned and I ended up being admitted to hospital. 

Being in-patient – especially through Covid when all visits and leave were stopped – was really difficult. To try and distract myself I spent a lot of time watching piercing content on YouTube. As I found out more and more about piercing I started thinking about it as a career although I never thought it would become my reality. I never planned for a future because I didn’t think I’d have one so when I got my apprenticeship it was as though I’d been thrown a lifeline. 

G: It’s strange, the roads that lead us to this industry. How would you describe your apprenticeship?

P: I didn’t really know what a traditional apprenticeship was to be honest and going into it I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t have a ‘mentor’ as such. I hadn’t even done my first piercing when the studios piercer left. Luckily one of the tattoo artists helped me with the basics and was on hand while I practiced. I started out using externally threaded, lower quality jewellery but quickly realised that this wasn’t ideal. My boss was really supportive and with the information I bought back from conferences and classes we made a lot of changes to how we did things, including switching over to using internally threaded jewellery.

However, I eventually got to a point where I needed more support piercing-wise. Although my colleagues were wonderfully supportive, they couldn’t teach me to pierce which is what I really needed. It was spending time with other piercers that changed things for me. Seeing how other people do things is invaluable and that’s what made me realise that I needed to move on.

G: Shadowing is super important, it allows you to see and learn from other people and share their experience as well. I mean, you taught me some stuff when you came up to shadow at Rogue. Everybody has something to offer. 

Piercers Piercing Piercers. Aiden performed 6g lowbrets for Phebe during her visit to Rogue!

So you start piercing in May 2021 and then took yourself to the UKAPP conference in September?

P:  Yes, I went to UKAPP a few days after I’d done my first ever piercing. It was the best thing I could’ve done for my career and it really opened my eyes as to what piercing really was. I missed out last year due to illness but I’m volunteering this year so I’ll definitely be there. I’m very excited. 

G: It’s unbelievably brave of you to attend a conference alone when there’s people there who have been piercing longer than you’ve been alive. And at 18! You should be incredibly proud of yourself Phebe!

P: It was so scary, you know, going in and seeing so many people there. Especially when you’ve just started piercing and you don’t know anyone. You feel as though everyone is so much more experienced and knowledgeable than you which can be pretty intimidating.

G: Do you have any advice for people attending the UKAPP conference? 

P: Look after yourself and do whatever you need to do to make yourself feel comfortable – for me that means bringing a Jellycat to sit with me and putting my headphones in when my brain gets too loud.

Double tragus pierced by Phebe using NeoMetal
jewellery at Factotum

While it’s important to try and socialise, try not to put too much pressure on yourself. Take as much time out as you need. I took the opportunity to go outside for walks between classes to decompress which I found really helpful.

I know it can be scary but try and talk to people, even if it’s just one person a day! As you start getting to know those around you everything will become easier.

Take a notebook and pen with you – and try not to spend all of your money on jewellery. 😉

Also, remember – going to conference is a massive step in itself so just by being there you’re doing great. 

G: Good advice! Last year was my first time attending and I definitely took as many toilet breaks as I could to just have a moment to breathe and decompress. 

I do think it’s important to try and show your face at the social events, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

P:  Absolutely! I found the social side of things easier at the Piercer Trade Show this year as I knew a few more people. I actually went out for dinner and did things with others. At my first conference I was far too scared to do any of that because I didn’t know anyone and everything felt quite overwhelming. 

G: It is such a small industry and it’s easy to start comparing yourself to others but everybody’s on a different journey. There’s piercers that are highly regarded today for using the most advanced practices and top quality jewellery that used to pierce with acrylic and not wash their hands properly. We all start somewhere. 

How have you found the industry so far? 

P: Everyone that I’ve encountered has been so supportive and helpful. For example, you lot at Rogue have been wonderful. You make me feel so welcome and I learn so much from you when I come to visit. Similarly, when I went to shadow Mike at Broad Street in Bath he took me to his home and treated me like family. He gave me so many useful tips.

Play piercing beautifully performed Dawn!

I hung out with Dawn, she pierced a massive heart on my back with 72 blades. That was so much fun. So much fun. I also experienced body suspension when I visited Ipswich which was magical! This industry is so full of beautiful humans – I could go on forever. 

G: How are you finding your new position as Junior Body Piercer at Factotum?

P: Amazing! Everyone – both staff and clients – are lovely and I’m really enjoying it. Olly and Joe are great! They answer all of my weird questions and have been very patient with me while I settle in and find my feet in a new environment.

They’ve also been supporting me when it comes to making progress with piercing by taking the time to demonstrate new techniques and support me as I try new things.

G: Aside from volunteering at UKAPP this year, what’s on the cards for you?

P: I’m not sure I’m confident enough to take on guest spots yet but I’d love to do more shadowing. I’m planning to return to Rogue but also want to branch out and visit some new places. I’ll be at the Piercer Trade Show later in the year and at UKAPP conference in September as a volunteer. 

In terms of piercing, my main focus is on expanding my portfolio. I’ve recently started piercing eyebrows and navels and will soon begin working on nipples. I’ve also begun transitioning from cannula needles to blade needles – something I’ve not felt confident enough to try in the past. Long-term, I really want to perform some large gauge piercings. I also love working with kids so I’d love to gain more experience in that area and make piercing as comfortable, safe and accessible as possible for younger clients.

On the side I’m definitely going to do some more suspension and play piercing as it makes my heart so happy!

G: What advice would you give to younger piercers and also to people that want to move studios?

P: To younger piercers: Baby steps! Don’t feel like you have to do everything all at once. As long as you’re making small steps to better yourself that’s all that matters. If you can’t use verified jewellery, work on your angles and techniques. If you can’t make it to conference, join some Facebook groups. All and any progress counts, no matter how small.

Triple vertical helix pierced by Phebe using NeoMetal jewellery at Factotum

To those wanting to move studios: Be honest with yourself. It was very hard for me to admit to myself that I wanted and needed to move studios. Making the decision to leave was very difficult for me, I didn’t want to upset anyone or let anyone down. It took me a really long time to accept that it was the right thing for me to do. Ultimately it was my life and my career and if I wanted to move forward I had to move on. Try not to beat yourself up .. sometimes you need to prioritise yourself and that’s okay.

Most importantly, please look after yourself. Reach out for help, talk to people. There are so many of us out here who will listen – you are not alone. ♡

Phebe is a wonderful human and a very passionate piercer. Be part of her journey by booking in with her at Factotum, Norwich. Thank you for your time and your vulnerability. Your gonna go far, kid! <3

You can read my interview with Olly Todd here.

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An Interview with Ryan – Clinical Nurse Practioner

There’s something special about a smoking area. Leaving the chaos of an afterparty to stand in the cold and smoke, Machester drizzle in the air. Piercers everywhere. It’s September 2022 at the Stilleto Piercing Supplies party, the smoking area is refuge for those needing a breather. Initiating inebriated chatter, I’m drawn to Ryan’s calming demeanour. Who is this man I’ve seen loitering in the background of industry events? Who does he work for? Where does he pierce? What the fuck is that on his head? Ryan was kind enough to share his time with me month’s after our initial meeting to talk about what he does, why he loves body modification and how he works to promote self expression and body autonomy.

Gemma: First thing’s first, tell us what you do for a living.

Ryan: I am a clinical nurse practitioner and I work in a high security mental health hospital. I predominantly work with men with personality disorders and possibly other comorbid mental illnesses who have committed serious offences. There’s thought to be a link between their mental health, their personality and their risk.

G: That’s heavy. And although it’s not entirely related to the body modification industry, you’ve been around this scene for a long time right?

R: There’s definitely a cross over there in the mental health and body mod worlds. As a mental health professional and at the grand old age of 42, I realised that I was autistic. Hence the feeling different and not really fitting in etc. In my late teens I’d been exploring what that was about and came across BME and saw people doing all these awesome, incredible things that I was too scared to do. It gave me a bit of an idea about ownership of your own body.

When I was growing up, I didn’t really feel like I fit in or that I was accepted. Almost like my body wasn’t mine. I began getting pierced, experimenting with self piercing, things like that. I just really fell in love with body modification in general.

Speaking of BME, it’s fitting that it’s 10 years today since Shannon Larratt passed away. I’ve got a ritual planned later.

G: What was your first experience with body modification?

R: My first piercing, at the tender age of 19, was a labret piercing with a ridiculously long spike. Well, I say ridiculously long – it certainly was for the time. It was maybe 18mm. And then flood gates opened.

My ex partner wasn’t really supportive about some of the things I wanted to do. I sort of compromised and then got divorced at 28. I said “well, I can just be me. And that’s alright. Maybe some people will accept me for that.”

I’m overly geeky and research everything to death. I had fairly normal piercings to begin with. My original labret piercing is now 16mm. I stretched that, it’s never been cut. It was a little bit uncomfortable, but at the time you couldn’t really buy a labret plug. It was very hard to get hold of. I ended up getting into woodworking to make earplugs and labret plugs, and got working with Delrin and Teflon. Most of my large gauge jewellery I’ve made myself over the years. 

My tragus was punched at 4mm originally and that’s stretched up to 10mm now. Basically the swelling in my ear canal meant that I was deaf for a week after every stretch. I did it in half millimetre increments., I mean, it’s ridiculously silly that you make yourself deaf temporarily for a piercing.

G:  It looks cool though. Can you tell us about your tongue split?

R: Yeah, I like it. It’s something different. 

The tongue split.

I have this odd thing sometimes that if something scares me, I’ll stop and think about it and go, “why does that scare me?” If there’s actually a rational reason for it,  you know, serious risks or things like that. I think, well yeah, that’s a stupid thing and I’m not doing that.

But if it’s just a stupid thing, but not necessarily that risky then I start to think, “well maybe, I could”.

I got my tongue split I guess about 14 or 15 years ago.I don’t know if anybody was offering it in the UK at the time. I’d seen it on BME and it was kind of a new thing. There was talk in the modification community about “Was it okay? Isn’t it cool that the body can do this thing? What’s the better method? How safe is this?” A little bit of experimentation. I had it done with an electrocautery scalpel. 

It was one of the most painful experiences of my life. It is not to be recommended. Tasted weird and smelled like burnt scrambled eggs. I had to sit on a little pad to ground myself as well in case I got electrocuted from it. A very unpleasant and weird experience.

G: That’s really hardcore. Have you been on the other side and performed any piercings or modifications for other people?

R: I made a decision never to do it professionally because I love it and I’m really geeky for it. I didn’t want it to become work and I didn’t ever want to think like “God, just another piercing I have to do”. I like the specialness of it.

I might have had opportunities but it’s not really where I wanted to take my life. When I discovered the field of mental health, I knew that was my vocation. I absolutely love it. It’s such a privilege to get to know people in that depth and share some of the most intimate and difficult parts of their life and try and help ’em with it.

Modification I guess is a hobby. Having said that, I’ve self pierced, I’ve pierced family and friends, I’ve thrown hooks [pierced in order to insert hooks] as part of the suspension team. I enjoy the ritual of it. Procedural stuff I’m not so keen on to be honest. So yeah, I’ve done a reasonable bit of stuff and then when I first started hanging around a lot of professional piercers it was slightly terrifying that I knew more about their industry in a lot of the cases. I hope that’s changed a bit now.

At the first UKAPP conference, people would ask me questions assuming that I was a professional piercer. I kind of had to pretend to be a professional piercer to be the first one because they changed the rules at the last minute. Initially it was open to everybody, so I got a ticket and then they said you have to be a professional piercer. My friend was trading there and he told me to come anyway to help him out and he’d vouch for me. Everyone’s just assumed that I’m a piercer ever since. 

G: How long have you worked in mental health?

R: This will be around 23 years I think.

I’d done the typical thing of going to uni as you’re expected to do, and I studied law. I’m kind of a nerdy for the law and always found it interesting. But I knew it would lead to a life of being sat in an office for an awful lot of time, doing a lot of paperwork and memorising a lot of information.

Not things I enjoy. So I dropped out of university and as a person in their early 20s, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I was doing a lot of animal rights protests, I lived and helped at an animal sanctuary where I was living in a caravan. The caravan flooded and I became homeless. I thought, “you know what, I’m a little bit bored of being poor and not doing something.” I randomly found a job as a mental healthcare assistant. I was kind of blown away by it and really just found it fascinating.

G: Some people might consider you quite heavily modified. Can you talk about how that has impacted your professional career?

R: When it comes to qualifying as a nurse, there’s still this weird sort of ‘Florence Nightingale complex’ where if you are a nurse, you should be female and you should be prim and proper and look a certain way.

Even in mental, forensic and secure mental health services, there’s still a degree of that. I think I quite deliberately sort of pushed the boundaries a bit. There were quite a few conversations with managers along the way but I think at the hospital where I work, as I became more experienced and established, I hope people think I’m good at my job and polite and respectful, and how I look has no impact on my job at all.

In fact, if anything, it’s often a bit of a help for engagement. The people that I work with have often come from prison. They’re likely tattooed and pierced themselves. More tattoos than piercing I guess. A lot of the guys I work with are really institutionalised. They’ve never really been outside some kind of care or custodial setting a lot of them, or not for long.

They’re interested. You look a bit different maybe, or not like other people they’ve had bad experiences with. I was doing a review at Broadmoor Hospital, auditing and giving them some ideas on how to work with some patients. The patients I met were absolutely fine with my appearance. Some were a bit wary, but they’re gonna be wary of meeting a new person, regardless of how they look. A lot of people were really interested. But the staff were in uproar. “How have you let this person in?!” The staff were not allowed any facial piercings at all, tattoos couldn’t be above the collar, below the sleeve sort of thing. 

It’s a little pride that I’ve got, certainly at my place of work. I’ve seen there are more staff that have come through over the years, and they’ve got stretched ears and facial piercings. I kind of think, maybe I’ve changed the environment a bit. People have accepted me for how I look so it’s really hard for them to tell somebody else not to have modifications. 

G: It’s good that you may have opened that door for other people because I’ve spent a lot of time in hospitals and it’s always the nurses with piercings or tattoos that make me feel comfortable. They feel more human.

R: Being human is the absolute crux of a healthcare job, which sadly people sometimes forget for a number of reasons. You are a human trying to help another human and that commonality is sort of where you start. I think certainly in terms of my patients, they’re interested in how I look. I’ve talked about suspension with some of my patients, and this might be people that have really seriously self-harmed for example, and they’ve often received a really negative response to that. For understandable reasons, they’ve felt shamed and then we’re trying to figure out what this is about. For some people, particularly with trauma, there is an element of self ownership in that and maybe there’s some crossover with modification in that way. 

I’m not suggesting anybody should self harm or that self harm is a positive thing, but I do think there is a big cross over with modification and harm reduction. I’m a relatively healthy expression of that. 

G: This dialogue comes up a lot when we talk about body modification. What we do is sort of facilitate a form of self harm through modification. Not only does it fucking hurt, people are in a very vulnerable place when they come in and they’re putting their safety in your hands. A lot of people go through a difficult time and they want to get a piercing at the end of it or a tattoo to commemorate that experience. 

Do you think, as an industry, that we have a positive effect on mental health?

R: There’s potential for an enormous amount of positivity. There’s potential for an enormous amount of harm as well. It’s what you do with it. Like you say, people are at a vulnerable point potentially. Practitioners need a really rigorous understanding of consent, having trauma informed practice. Things like that are getting better in my opinion.

It’s always gonna be a real mixed bag. Remembering to be human and remembering that’s part of your job when you’ve got 20 clients booked in for a day. That’s hard. I mean, that’s part of why I’ve not wanted to pierce professionally. Because I don’t wanna forget the bit that’s important.

G: I think as an industry, and society as a whole, we’ve got much better with talking about mental health and why it matters. Have you noticed that from your side working in the mental health field?

R: I think it’s definitely become more of an open conversation. In terms of the modification community, it’s always been there. People that choose that as a career or are heavily modified, I suspect are more likely to have experienced some difficulties with mental health than the average person in the population. Or at least are dealing with it in a different way and I think there’s always been an awareness of that. Traditionally, the industry has been made of people who feel they don’t fit in very well. They tend to be outsiders. There’s been change in that as well for sure. 

That kind of links to the point of thinking about trauma and thinking about the significance and meaning to somebody. If you pay no attention to that, somebody could have an absolutely appalling experience. If you pay a lot of attention to it, you could make it something that’s life-changing and quite memorable for somebody. 

G: What changes have you seen in your time both working in mental health and being around the modification industry?

R: In terms of the industry, semi regulation seems to have become a thing and I suppose maybe I’m biased by the people that I know and come into contact with because I’m sure there are lots of terrible shops out there. Piercing’s such a new industry, there has been a learning process. I think some of the procedures that I’ve had, some of the things I’ve experimented with and thought that might work in hindsight, it’s absolutely ridiculous. Once upon a time it was a bit more wild west. It was a case of “let’s find out.” Something on paper sounds like it might be a good idea. Let’s see if that works or not. 

The internet communities were where people were sharing their experiences and their information and that’s what really brought us together. It seems that now we have a more professional, slightly more uniform set of standards. It’ll be interesting to see if that becomes some kind of actual regulation or licensing at some point. But I’m very much two minds about that. The wild west part of me wants to say no, let’s all just experiment and that’s wonderful because it’s consenting people. But yeah, I think that’s possibly a minority of people. The majority of people that come into a shop to get pierced, just wanna know that it’s safe and it’s gonna heal.

G:  Absolutely, as a piercer we aim to give you the best possible chance of healing. We make sure the procedure is safe and clean and that we’re using the highest quality jewellery and equipment. But then it’s on the client to follow the proper aftercare and keep in touch if there’s any issues.

R: I suppose that’s part of the problem. You can do the absolute best procedure in the world and if somebody doesn’t take care of it then it can ruin the whole piercing. It’s a relatively unique thing, it’s a collaboration between the practitioner and their client.

And I think it’s really important as a professional to remember that this experience is significant for that person. It might just be your 11 o’clock appointment and you might not remember their face but they know who you are. I’ve experienced that in mental health work as well, I’ve had people thank me for what help I’ve provided them and I’ve honestly not had a memory of them. It can be really awkward at that moment but I’m also really happy that I’ve managed to touch their lives. I suppose, as that relationship develops and you see the same client or a patient over a period of time like some of the guys I’ve worked with now, I’ve known a number of ’em over a decade. So it is a real intense relationship and you know someone inside out.

G: What changes have you seen in mental health care over the years? 

R: It’s become less industrialised. I think it’s better with individual care than it used to be, I’ve been in high security for a long time so I’m not really at a ‘street level’ where you’re working with the community. But I think there’s now a better understanding of trauma in particular, and I think that’s something that absolutely has to be pushed through because my personal view is mental health and trauma are essentially the same thing. That’s not something I managed to come up with myself.

I was doing some teaching and we put together a presentation for a panel of people that use services. Experts by experience. And there was a slide that said, somebody’s mental health problems can be directly impacted by trauma. And trauma may be the root cause of difficulties for people. I think it was the only correction on the whole presentation that they wanted to feed back. They said “no, we don’t think trauma and mental health are linked. We know they are the same.”

In the past I’ve said that I work with people who have committed violent offences or people that have this diagnosis or that diagnosis. But essentially I work with exceptionally traumatised people that have then gone on to traumatise other people. As a society, a lot of our problems are that we’ve got these little cycles of trauma going on. 

In mental health it used to be almost like you’ve been hit by some kind of illness stick. You’ve just got a mental illness and that’s it. I think it’s difficult to accept trauma because it’s harder to deal with than just giving somebody a pill.

G: From my limited time in piercing, everyone seems very accepting and supportive of mental health struggles.

R: There’s perhaps more of an understanding of difference and that need for individuality. I suppose particularly when you’re looking at heavy modification and more extreme stuff, you have to be an incredibly open and curious person to do that. 

G: Can we talk about your experience with body suspension?

R: Getting into suspension was a similar journey as my tongue split. It was something I saw and immediately thought, “That’s scary, I couldn’t do that.” And that became “Why can’t I do that?” I started researching and finding out more. I had another friend and knew a couple of people who were interested, and we sort of got together and talked about it and just decided to really learn. We were deliberately self taught. I think the suspension community tends to sort of build by rote. So somebody’s done it and it’s kind of worked, so this is how we do it then. You’ll get other suspension teams who do it their way and they’re not very good at knowing why. Which is a real contrast compared to the body modification community, particularly when heavy modifications were something of an industry. You have to know why. Because if you don’t, you can really hurt people. 

Ryan faciliating a suspension for a friend

With the suspension team, every team member started to learn all of the different roles and we came up with our own protocol. And then when we finally went out and met other teams that were doing it and started talking with them, nobody knew why they did things the way they did. That’s just the way it’s done. Everyone had their own methods and reasoning but didn’t really share too much.

G: It seems that suspension is a very closed and tight knit community.

R: I guess there’s not many people that do it. It is something that is potentially really quite dangerous. So people can be cagey about giving information and letting people in. And there’s fear of judgement with it as well, it’s something not many people understand. I think most people can understand tattoos as a form of art even if it’s not for them. But you want to hang from hooks?! There’s not always that kind of understanding. 

I think what often gets people involved in suspension is seeing the aftermath for people. Or hearing people that have done it talking about it positively and when you just look at it, it’s not just a performance. I’m sure there’s people that for them it becomes just a performance. But I think it’s probably quite hard to do that because it’s instant mindfulness when you’re suspended. That’s how I think of suspension. You can’t think of anything else. You are there. You’re right here, right now, and this is what’s happening and that’s all your brain is gonna manage. You can’t be thinking about a shopping list or the fact you go on holiday next week, did I leave the oven on? Your brain’s totally not geared for that and I really like that. It’s incredibly zen and there’s things that might float up in your mind. My experience with suspending people and being suspended, is you can’t always predict what things will float up. Your subconscious just kind of puts it out in the moment and you can kind of work through it then. I’ve personally found it an incredibly healing and a powerful experience.

But you can’t go into it going, “I’m gonna have this kind of suspension” because it doesn’t work like that. For me, I’ve seen people go and think they’ll have a happy, high energy suspension and then actually it ended up being almost like a memorial. They’re thinking about that and just the energy from it’s so powerful.

That’s why I love doing it and being around it and being part of that process for people. I do all the bits, I’m geeky about aftercare, I’m geeky about rigging and stuff like that, but talking somebody up, guiding them through the process. It’s almost kind of shamanic because they’re having this transformative process that you are never gonna fully understand but you get to facilitate and you’re there for that. 

Even just piercings, tattoos and other modifications, it’s a similar kind of thing. It can be that. To understand that you can be overwhelmed and that is okay, and that you’re strong enough to do it. It’s often quite euphoric as well for both physical and spiritual reasons, I guess. 

This is the bit that’s the crossover between my professional work as a nurse and the modification world. It’s that real, intimate core of who we are, that transformative experience and that wanting to guide somebody through their bit of the journey. 

G: The patients you work with, are they in hospital long term?

R: Yeah, by any kind of ‘normal’ standards it’s long term. A really quick admission might be a couple of years, something like that. Most people would go on to another secure facility, either a prison or more often they’ll go to a medium secure hospital. It’s kind of handing them off on that part of their journey and trying to guide ’em through that and prepare them for it. You never really get to know the end outcomes for people, it becomes a bit fuzzy as people work further through the system. I know there’s guys I’ve worked with that have been completely hopeless and never thought they’d get anywhere, but they’ve got partners and families and jobs and just cracking on with life now. So it does happen and it’s important to bear in mind. It’s not fast and the rewards often aren’t immediate in my job. Remembering that this can happen and holding hope for people, that’s a big part of it. 

Things can get better for people however bad it’s got. 

Image courtesty of Church of Body Modification

G: That is incredible. You are doing such an honourable service to people. What else do you get up to?

R: Since 2010, I’ve been Minister for the Church of Body Modification. I’m the only minister outside of North America now. I don’t talk about it a lot and this seems like an opportunity. 

Essentially all the stuff that we’ve been talking about, that bodily autonomy, the spiritual transformation that can happen through modification -that’s basically what we believe. Whatever else you believe is up to you, but that is the core tenant. It is your body and you can utilise that as part of your spiritual journey.

I think people hear the word church and think it’s going and doing hymns or having to believe in a certain dogma or whatever. In this sense it means assembly in terms of, you know, we are a group of people that believe this and I think that’s important. It’s really sad that it’s not always recognised in the modification industry. I think it’s a real shame that in terms of heavier mods and things very much in legal grey area, but the consensus seems to be no we won’t invest in this industry after Mac’s trial. And that was it, it was never raised as a defence. I dunno whether it was pertinent to those cases or not but actually if that is a spiritual practice for somebody, in this country’s legal system, we’ve got human rights to have access to that. And I think some of the downside of the commercialization of the industry and it becoming bigger, while standards have improved as a result, I think it also can become more like a purchase or a fashion accessory. Which it always has been for some people and that’s fine. But it sometimes belittles the fact that modification could be hugely important to people. 

G: The more clinical and the more restricted that we get, I do think it takes away that human element of it. We’ve improved as a industry but we’ve lost a bit of that experimentation and that grassroots, punk edge. 

R: And it limits people’s ability to explore the body. The weird irony about our legal system is not only can you not consent, you can’t now do things with your own body or you can’t do them safely. You know, if you want to chop your own hand off, not that I’d recommended it, you can legally. But if you get somebody else to do that, definitely not fine.

Obviously that’s an extreme example, but when you’re talking about a tongue split or ear pointing it’s a pretty different thing, isn’t it? It’s not so obviously permanently disabling, which is maybe why it might get the judgement. 

G: I’m a big believer that people should be able to do what they want with their bodies as long as it’s safe. But who is to say what is safe? Where do we draw that line? 

R: To an extent, that should be the individual’s choice surely. If you wanna do something unsafe with your body, as long as it doesn’t impact others, well that’s okay. I think it’s different when you’re doing something unsafe with someone else’s body and this is when we get into a lot of blurry grey areas with it.

G:  There’s a lot of heavy modification going on in places like Southern America at the minute. If you want to cut the tip of your nose off, you are well within your rights to. But is that disabling to you? Is that then impacting on other people? Is there a safe way to do that? Should there be psychological intervention? And who gets to make those rules. It generates a very interesting conversation about body autonomy. 

R: There’s something arbitrary and there’s something cultural about it. Certainly in terms of the extremity that people will go. A part of me does think, why are we making rules about what people can do unless we need to protect somebody from themselves. Which I guess sometimes we do, but we probably need to do that less than we think

I suppose all types of modification, no matter what the extent, have an element of permanence. In some regards even a piercing, you are kind of disabling yourself. If you’ve got a lip piercing for example, it might cause some dental damage. A tongue split, you might have a bit of a speech impediment. But on the grand scale of things, it’s not a big thing. 

G: Are there any meet-ups or events within the Church of Body Modification?

R: Not really anymore, it’s exceptionally small now. In the BME days it had more hype. And what you’ve got now is a handful of people that identify in their free time and do a little bit with it. Occasionally in the States there’s been advocacy in legal cases. A lot more, it’s just kind of an advocacy role, letting people know it’s okay. Really just educating that, yeah, this process can be a spiritual experience if you want it to be. Don’t limit yourself if you don’t want to.

I think people see it cynically and some of the origins were cynical on part of some of the people. But even with that, it doesn’t mean that the basic tenants aren’t true. 

I must admit, in my early conversations with my work and management, it was very much “What are these piercings about” and I knew that they were really strict on dress code. That was much more important than someone’s performance. And I didn’t lie, but I did say, you know, primarily it’s kind of a religious thing for me. That person left me alone from that day.  

Generally each one of my mods encourages that sense of self ownership and identity. There are certain things that are aesthetic. I’m afraid I’m mostly one of those people that everything has a little story for me. It’s an aspect of myself, it’s a reflection sometimes of my life and my relationships. It might seem weird but I’m a bit shy. I wouldn’t have things written in script on me that are easy to identify. I’ll have a picture or a pattern or something that’s in runes, glyphs that the vast majority of people would never be able to figure out. 

There’s an odd dichotomy of being a visibly modified person, and in part I think it’s the cost for me of being happy in myself. It gets complicated because, if I’m honest I kind of want people to notice that I’m a bit different and have set myself apart and I like challenging people’s perceptions.

They think I’m gonna be a violent thug and I think I’m actually quite a kind, reasonable human being. As reasonable as any of us get. I think something that I’ve come to appreciate as I’ve got older is people will ask me questions. I’ll have strangers stop me in the street and ask about the markings on my head. “Is that a tattoo? Is it branding?”. It’s great that people are curious and I can maybe educate them a little bit or bring something a bit colourful to this sometimes dull world. That’s no bad thing

I like being a modified professional. Something I’ve found interesting, as I’ve got promoted and mixed with people higher up the food chain, they’re people who don’t ask anymore. And my guess is they kind of go, “well, you’ve ended up at this meeting, so you must be a relatively sane human being.” I’d like to think that any misconceptions or judgments they had, I’m able to demonstrate that I’m okay and maybe they’ll go away with a little bit of that in mind.

G: I think it is really important that people see somebody expressing themselves the way that you do, in a professional role. You might have to work a bit harder than other people, unfortunately, but if you’re good at your job, your modifications will not hold you back.

R: Being one of the early people to do something you are gonna get discriminated against, but hopefully people will be less so in future.

I remember a really interesting conversation with Anna when she said about how hard it had been as a woman in the industry and she was kind of okay with it being hard. I don’t wanna speak on behalf of Anna and she may have changed her mind on things now. But I think, it’s great that she’s worked hard to be respected in her industry but it shouldn’t have to be harder for people because of how they look or identify, 

I can’t really complain in terms of discrimination because I’ve deliberately set out knowing it would make my life harder. A lot of people that get discriminated against, don’t have a choice. That’s just how it is.

G: So we pierce a lot of teachers and they always comment about how they have to punish students for having body piercings because that’s the policy. It’s unfortunately hypocritical and it’s policing autonomy in my opinion.

R: What the hell are we teaching people as a society that you can’t express yourself and you can’t be yourself. It’s an awful message culturally.

It’s definitely a value that I hold dear, you should just be able to be you. Whatever the hell you are, whoever you are. I would love a society that’s more accepting of each other.

If you ever get the pleasure of meeting Ryan, he sure is an incredible human and a wonder to be around. Very grateful for his time and yours if you made it to the end. Keep being you, whoever the hell you are.

A kind message to the Church of Body Modification from BME founder Shannon Larratt. Rest in peace.

You can read more of our interviews here:

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An Interview with Aiko Hosten – Piercer, Podcaster, Practioner of Suspenion and Shibari

Sunday can be an odd day. A cold Sunday morning at Rogue was quickly warmed up by the wonderful energy facilitated by Aiko Hosten, Alicia and our very own Aiden. Body modification in all its many forms, brings people from all over the world together over their shared interest in the weird and wonderful. Aiko has traveled the world learning and sharing his experiences as a body piercer, suspension practitioner, shibari rigger and podcast host. It was an honor to hang out (pun intended) with Aiko and chat about their experiences on both sides of the pointy end.

Gemma:  Tell us your origin story Aiko

Aiko: I have always been interested in piercing and tattooing since I was younger. I was getting tattooed and pierced a few times before I applied for an apprenticeship at the studio I’m working at now. I never got the apprenticeship but I started piercing at home and then a local studio where I was living was looking for a piercer. I applied for it, and they offered me an apprenticeship which was more like, “here’s a needle, there’s a customer, do your thing.” 

It was a biker shop, so there were a few bikers that did some piercings back in the day, which helped me in the beginning, but was not really an apprenticeship. So I started educating myself through BMXnet, APP etc. I was 22, so that’s about eight years ago. I worked there for almost a year and then quit the job cuz it was too much stress working for a biker. 

That was a gap of a year or two until I found some people to start our own studio. After a few months, the tattooer and the other piercer quit. So I took the studio on myself with my best friend and ran the studio for almost three years right before the pandemic hit. We pulled the plug  because a lot of renovations needed to be done and it was not really worth staying there for me.

Right before the pandemic hit, I switched to another studio where I was piercing. Then I broke my foot so I was stuck at home for two or three weeks. But the good thing was, I was still working part-time at a supermarket so I still had money coming in monthly and I had to work two to three days in the supermarket, which kept me sane.

G: When did you first get into suspension? 

A: My first memory of seeing a picture of suspension was in the library when I was passing through books of ancient history, African culture, North American culture and everything. I think it was one of the National Geographic books about the Sun Dance ritual. So that triggered me when I was young and I always wanted to know more about it. I researched more, got on BME back in the day. I start scrolling there, clicking around ‘Are you allowed to be here? Are you 18? Definitely. Yes.’

And then it wasn’t until I was like 21/22 when I got the opportunity to suspend myself. It was with Indy Voet, a piercer who is now a hand-poke tattoo artists and Kevin Garcia who now works at Contraseptik

Lift yourself up.

They did my first suspension and it wasn’t bad, but it was not what I was expecting it to be. Maybe it was just location wise that wasn’t good enough for me. I wanted more of a ritual and this was more like, ‘Hey, let’s have fun, just being friends together figuring it out’  which is perfectly fine and I can do that now. But for my first time, I was more hoping for a ritual experience.

 It took about another year until I got the opportunity to be suspended by Beto and Eugenia together with the Pink Flamingo Crew, and that blew my mind. To me, that time feels more like a first experience than my actual first time.

G: What made the experience so much better with Pink Flamingo Fly?

A: It all started with the location. it was a squat somewhere in Brussels, it looked like an old ruin. The garden was so filled with plants and nature,it was so beautiful. It was great weather and it was sort of an outside experience because the building was like ruins.

The connection I had with Beto and Eugenia at that time, helping me suspend it was mind blowing to me. It gave me more of an outer body experience, more the thing that I wanted to experience for my first time.

G: How did you get started as a suspension facilitator? 

A: I suspended a few times with the Flamingo crew and it triggered me to learn more about it. I just started talking with a few practitioners in Belgium including a tattoo artist friend of mine and some other practitioners in the world. At first I just did some suspensions with a friend of mine who used to do suspensions, who taught me the basics of how to prep the skin, how to find a great spot and everything. Then I did some seminars at BMXnet, went to some conferences and that’s how I rolled into it.

G: What do you enjoy about facilitating body suspension for people?

A: For me, it’s a look in the eyes. When you suspend someone or help someone suspend, you can see the light change in their eyes. It’s a magical feeling. You can just feel the energy. You put a lot of energy into that person to help them. But you get so much love and connection back and that’s what I love about it. It is amazing to do. I can say the best thing to do in the world for me. I love piercing, don’t get me wrong, I would never stop piercing. But suspension that little more.

G: I can really see that connection between the two worlds of body piercing and body suspension. For me and for a lot of piercers I speak with, our favorite part of the job is after you’ve done the piercing and that client looks in the mirror and they’re like “fuck yeah, I did that scary thing just for me.” And you’ve helped facilitate that. I guess with suspension, it’s a bit like that on a bigger scale. 

A: Yeah because it’s guiding them to get through the pain, to get over the fear. The fear is understandable especially the first time you do something. Guiding them to that next level is amazing. 

G: Can you tell us about some highlights from your suspension journey? 

A: There are a few. A top one for sure is  the first time I met Charlyne. I went to “Hang You” in Galicia organized by Alex Pereiro, I was in Madrid and I got on the plane by myself to fly to Galicia.Charlyne was on the same plane and she already spotted me. I was going to meet up with some friends to take a cab together and I was waiting outside. Charlyne walked up to me and she was like, “Hey, are you going to the Suscon (suspension conference)? And I nervously said yeah, why? I knew who she was, but I didn’t think she knew me but she asked to share a ride. We got a big cab for six of us, me and Charlyne were already talking and she asked if I wanted to do a spinning beam with her. I’d never done it, but sure. And just the connection me and Charlyne made there and during our first suspension together was, it was like brother and sister connecting together. That was one of the best experiences I’ve had during a suspension myself.

Throwing hooks in tandem. Such a powerful moment.

The second top time is also with Charlyne. Well, most of them are involved with Charlyne actually. It was my first Suspension Sunday, like a real small event, I organised because Charlyne was coming to visit. It was at a local club that hosted BDSM parties, and because of that – I was able to rent it to do suspenion there. It was just so fun doing that, organizing that myself and that started me doing it more and more. 

Another top experience was doing a suspension here in Belgium, it was at a huge squat. They had a skate pool and everything built inside. Me, Joan and Charlene went there, and did a few amazing suspensions there. It was fucking cold there, but it was so warm at the same time. All the people living there came to check it out.and some even suspended for the first time. It was amazing to just be able to do that.

Of course the Pirate Piercing suspension hangout was a great time. My boss had bought an old piece of land, a big wooded area, and we did a suspension there. We had a few first timers there. It was nice to be hanging out, drinking, chilling, placing hooks, making mistakes, doing stupid shit.

G: Can you tell us about some of your experiences traveling and volunteering?

 A: The first traveling I did was a Galicia convention, which was actually right in between Covid lockdowns. I volunteered at the APP convention in Las Vegas. I’ve been over to the UK, Germany, and the Netherlands. I’m trying to travel way more cuz I’m tired of just staying in Belgium. I love Belgium, but traveling is so much more fun. Meeting a lot of people and suspension gives me the opportunity to do it. 

G: What’s the body modification scene like in Belgium compared to other places you’ve visited?

A:  Honestly, we’re a little behind. Quality jewelry isn’t that big in Belgium or the Netherlands compared to places like the UK, US or Canada. I was one of the founders of the APP Benelux, which for personal reasons I’m not involved anymore. I still think quality jewelry should be promoted a little bit more.In Belgium, I think there are like four or five studios that really promote quality jewelry. There are a lot of studios that are working up their standards. 

Tattooing is big in Belgium, especially in Antwerp. It’s really huge. A lot of quality tattooers. There’s a lot of other people doing it safely.

G: I’d love to talk about your suspension performances and events.

A: I rolled into it. A  friend of mine here in Antwerp is really big in the BDSM community and he also does some suspensions within BDSM, more hook play and needle play. He was talking to me one day about trying to promote health and safety in the BDSM community and I said if you ever need somebody to talk about hygiene when it comes to blood play/piercing etc, I’m totally up to that. A few weeks later he messaged me about doing a performance. 

I like being on a stage so we worked something out. A friend of mine helped and  we did the first performance where she was suspended in a scorpion position and then we dropped her to a two point back placement, just to show the possibilities. The day after, they got sick so I had to do something by myself. I pierced myself on stage, did everything safely by myself and it just rolled from there.

Suspending from the knee

Now, they keep asking me to come back to do some small performances, which is perfectly fine. I love doing it, it’s fun. I have an excuse to suspend myself. With the performances, I’m not good at shocking people. So I try to do what I would do for somebody in a sort of ritual setting. I’m not gonna say it’s a ritual that I do, but I just try to focus on the suspension and not on the pain and the hooks, which is always involved but it’s not the main attention. 

G: So it’s not performative, it’s not for the shock value, it’s just like sharing an experience with a room of people. In a BDSM club. 

A:  I love the audience but I’m not really involved with the BDSM scene really. But the piercing world, the suspension world, a lot of it became what it is now because of the BDSM world.

G: Any upcoming plans for 2023?

A: Charlyne is coming back in May and we’re doing a suspension Sunday here in Antwerp. I have a lot of travel plans. I’m going to Italy for SusCon as a guest. Then after that there’s APP then I’m going to Oslo. I hope to go back to Croatia to suspend above the sea again, but we’ll have to see. Travel is expensive. I also want to go back to Canada to do some suspensions because I’ve been there in the past. to meet up with Alicia but I want to go back and do suspensions there as well. We’re looking for a location, looking for people who wanted to help, cuz traveling there with all the gear sucks.

Thank you Aiko for your time, your incredible work and your passion for what you do. It was such a privilege to have you visit Rogue and share your knowledge and experience with everyone. Safe travels for the year ahead and we’ll see you soon!

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An Interview with Elizabeth Moore – Piercer

I first met Elizabeth around ten years ago when we both worked in a call centre . We bonded immediately over our shared love of piercings, tattoos and all things alternative. Throughout the years, Elizabeth has navigated the turbulent path of ADHD and ASD whilst immersing themselves fully into an industry that they are now thriving in. When we first met, Elizabeth struggled to talk with strangers and now they’re hosting talks at both the UKAPP and Piercer Trade Show events, speaking to rooms full of piercers about Apprenticeships in the UK and Neurodivergence in Piercing! On a personal note, Elizabeth was the first person to encourage me to start piercing and I am eternally and whole-heartadly grateful that they gave me that push and overwhelmingly proud of the person and piercer that they are.
Elizabeth works at Body Alter, Worksop

Gemma: How did you get started in piercing?

Elizabeth: I was being pierced a lot as a teenager, then I got normal jobs because I thought that was what you were supposed to do. I started getting pierced again in my early 20s but I’d never been pierced by anyone who wasn’t a tattooist so I never made the connection that it was a job.

Then I saw somewhere advertising for a body piercer and I didn’t get the job there but it was the first time I was like, ‘oh, this is someone’s job and I could do that?!’ I very much hated corporate life. This was maybe 2016 and it all kind of unfolded from there. When clients ask, I tell them I got started by accident.

G: What started your interest in piercing?

E: I was on MySpace for most of my teen years. There were all these ‘scene queens’, with snake bites and septum piercings, and I was like, shit, I want all of those. Then it all kind of went a bit nuts from there. 

G: We’ve been friends a long time, I know your piercing career and your journey with mental health and getting your diagnosis sort of began simultaneously right? 

E: So I have Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, dyspraxia and depression. I’d been diagnosed in maybe 2014/15. I’d given up work because of what I thought was a mental health crisis and happened to see a GP who was actually understanding. I was like, basically I just need you to give me drugs to get me through this crisis, and then I’ll look for a job again. And she asked if I’d ever considered that I might be autistic. She put that in motion and I saw a mental health nurse, then an autism specialist at a place in Chesterfield. The specialist thought I had ADHD and I laughed at her and said no, that’s not what it is. I’ve been reading about autism and it’s definitely that. 

I had an informal diagnosis from the GP initially, but then it took a long time to see a specialist who confirmed what I had already accepted by that point.

Fred the little terror

G: You’re very open about your experience being neurodivergent both as a person and a piercer.

E:  I’m just not ashamed of it. My diagnosis explained a lot about myself and it feels like a big part of who I am. I think it’s a lot of the reason why I’m good at what I do. It’s the reason why I’m not scared to have an opinion.

I have opinions on everything and I think anyone who’s ever talked to me on the internet very much knows. But that’s because I know myself well now, and I think knowing myself well came from a diagnosis. People are often a little frightened to seek it out. It doesn’t really change your life that dramatically if you know, but it’s a nice bit of validation. I don’t think it’s anything to be ashamed of. I don’t think there’s any condition that you should be ashamed of but I understand people want to keep things private. 

G:  You were diagnosed and then immediately started in the industry under not the most ideal circumstances, how was that for you?

E: I was newly diagnosed, I’d been masking for most of my life anyway so I’d not quite learned how to drop that completely in a way that I feel like I can do now. I was still very much in that headspace where I’d worked in call centers and a corporate world where I felt like I had no choice but to pretend to be a functional human being. 

Masking is exhausting. So it was really hard at the beginning to do it and learn not only how to pierce but also how to interact with people in a customer service setting. Piercing is a customer service industry that happens to have treatments attached to it. But then I also had to learn how not to get too invested.

We talk about imposter syndrome a lot on the internet. People talk about having it a lot and that’s especially true when you’re a neurodivergent person. These people are never gonna forget anything. Every mistake or every weird thing I’ve done in my career, I can remember, I can very much call back to that, but I’ll never remember the good stuff.

That was really hard to balance at first, and now I just dump it all on Paddy and make him deal with the things I’m stressing about

G: Have you found within the industry, there is quite a sub-community of neurodivergent piercers?

E: Yeah, privately a lot of people have reached out and said they’re either neurodiverse and are struggling with it, or they think they might be. But also I just polled the UK Professionals group just to see and yeah, loads of people have various personality disorders,

I think what draws us to this industry is that it’s not necessarily needing to mask all the time. There’s not very many people where I feel like I know they’re not hiding their intentions, but that is true of someone that is neurodivergent. Generally, I know that they’re not hiding their actual intentions because it’s not always something that we can do. Like lying is difficult. Building emotions is difficult, so then you kind of have to be yourself around them. And I think like calls to like in any part of your life. I think neurodiverse people are drawn to each other just because they’re neurodiverse and everyone tends to have a bit of a sense of that in someone else.

Lobe piercing by Elizabeth using the “LA baby” by @buddhajewelryofficial

G: What advice would you give piercers who are struggling with their own mental health/neurodivergence but also who have clients that are?

 E: From a piercer perspective, be kind to yourself and patient with yourself. Understand your own boundaries and recognise what burnout is for you because burnout is not the same for everyone. Give yourself longer appointments. Do whatever it is that makes your life easier.

There’s zero point struggling, particularly when you are in an industry or a job that you have so much control over. I appreciate that not everybody has as much control but particularly if people are diagnosed, autism and ADHD are recognised as disabilities in this country and your employer has a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments. But you have to know what those reasonable adjustments are. You kinda have to take some ownership of it or advocate someone to speak for you that understands.

My huge, big, giant thing from a client perspective,for anyone who is piercing someone who is neurodiverse, is don’t patronise them. I see so much performative activism on the internet that’s like, ‘oh, we do this thing for our autistic clients.’ It just feels really weird. ‘I’m gonna put lots of different cloud lights in here’. Fuck no. Everyone’s sensory issues are different as well. You’ve just gotta listen to your client. As a client, I just wanna be treated as a person and just be pierced the way that you pierce everyone because I can tell if you are out of your comfort zone as well. I see heaps of people really infantalise people with neurodiversity issues.

I like it when people give the option to have a silent appointment, but again, don’t just assume that your autistic client might want you not to talk to them because my ADHD wants you to chat.

As a piercer, I will try and make those accommodations, but also I can’t make any promises. There’s not always gonna be an option where I can do that either but I’ll try my best. We don’t do small talk in my piercing room. We do big talk. Always big talk. What superpowers would you have? I don’t know how to do small talk. 

G: What’s the weirdest superpower someone has said?

E:  People tend to just go for the power of flight or invisibility. Some guy wanted to make money with his hands and we ended up talking about economics for like 25 minutes. I always wanna ask people what they’re reading, but then not everybody reads

Another good one that I ask people is, what’s the weirdest fact they know. That’s fun because they are always excited to tell you. Did you know an octopus’s mouth was also its anus? It’s true for squid as well. 

G: You’ve been doing some work around piercing apprenticeships in the UK. Can you tell us a bit about that and why you started the UK Piercing Apprentices Facebook group?

E: I wanted there to be piercing specific information for people who were looking to start an apprenticeship either as an apprentice or as a mentor. It’s not a particularly active group, but I think there comes a point where it doesn’t really need to be. I wanted it to be a live-in resource.

I get asked all the time if I’m taking on a trainee and there was nowhere to point people for UK specific information about what a piercing traineeship is. There’s a couple of really good blogs but a lot of them are American so the information wasn’t always relevant to the UK and /UK legislation.  

Also it’s a group where people could ask questions in real time. There’s experienced piercers there, there’s piercers who are learning and there’s people who want to be piercers in there. Before I started the group, all the Facebook groups were for professionals only so we’re in these little echo chambers where we’re saying the best way to learn to be a piercer is to do an apprenticeship and learn from another piercer, but we’re also saying it to each other. That information wasn’t getting any further really. Piercers were also saying, you should find a piercer that you like and hang out at their studio, which was creating a huge issue for me personally. I can’t deal with that so I was having to say no to clients wanting to hang out and I came out of that looking like the bad guy even though I had done nothing wrong.

Performing a tandem piercing with Nathan at The Piercer Trade Show,

G: Unfortunately, the piercing and tattoo industry has a bad history of apprentice abuse. People would take on apprentices who were maybe naive or vulnerable, not pay them for their work and expect them to just be grateful that they’re a part of the industry. 

E: People didn’t know that they were being exploited either and that was the big thing for me. People were being treated appallingly, but they were just being told to expect that because ‘that’s how it’s done, that’s how you learn.’ And it just felt super weird because these people are often women, people of color, disabled people, people who are already vulnerable and who would then be further exploited just for the chance to do something that they enjoyed. I think there’s real ego rooted in it as well, the mentality that a mentors knowledge is enough payment, That won’t pay your bills.

Piercing is a cool job, it’s a fun job and I find myself incredibly lucky that I get to do it every day, but the reality is it’s just not that important. So to abuse someone and treat them poorly, to do that job is bizarre to me. I worked in a McDonald’s and they paid me from day one, even when I didn’t know how to make a Big Mac. Why would it not be the same for piercing training? 

We have got away with whatever we’ve wanted as an industry for far too long, and if we don’t sort this apprenticeship thing out as an industry and teach people what they’re entitled to and what they deserve and what they’re legally obliged to have, the government will do it for us.

G: Under UK legislation in 2023, what should a piercing apprenticeship look like?

E: They should be an employed member of staff who’s being referred to as a trainee or a junior member of staff. But they’re not apprentices because they’re not going to college and they will not receive a qualification at the end of it. We’re not an accredited industry. They should be paid at least minimum wage, not an apprenticeship wage. In the UK, an apprenticeship is a lower paid position because you are learning from an accredited source, usually a college, and you receive a qualification at the end of it.

Hairdressers are a really good example of that. It’s gonna be somebody who’s going to college however many days a week, every week, and then they’re going to work in a salon on other days. That salon is being funded to pay for their apprentice, and their apprentice will be on three or four pounds an hour.

Not to scare everyone off, but if piercing apprenticeship went the same route and we were qualified the same way, it would mean anyone with a teaching degree could teach piercing. My mom has a teaching degree and she was a hairdresser. She refers to labret piercings as chin piercings.

I love Elizabeth’s mom but we don’t need her teaching people how to do chin piercings. Hi Megan! <3

G: So you did a roundtable at the UKAPP conference on apprenticeships and also a class at the Piercer Trade Show, can you tell us what that was like?

E: I kind of wanted to cover both aspects of it. At the Trade Show in Ireland, there was a good mixture of piercers and apprentices already there. For  piercers looking to take on an apprentice, I wanted them to know where they could find that information and to make sure that they’re operating within the laws. 

In my talks, I try to encourage people to rethink their standpoint on if they actually need an apprentice. Do they actually need a cleaner or maybe a studio manager? Maybe you actually need a cleaner to focus solely on that task. Or if you’re struggling to pierce and run your reception, do you need a receptionist? Because your front of house is actually probably more valuable to your business than any other member of staff because they’re seeing your customers first.

I do talk about Rogue a lot in this because I think you’ve got a really good balance of who does what. Instead of people who take on an apprentice to be a general dog’s body.  I think it was Jabba that said this, but he’s totally right, if you’re a piercer who works on your own and you want to take on an apprentice, do you have enough work for two piercers? I want to encourage people to evaluate what they actually want from another member of staff. 

In the talks as well, from an apprentices perspective, I just wanted them to know what they were worth and have people understand what exploitation is in the workplace. And for them to know there’s people that have got their back, my inbox is literally always open if anyone wants to talk about it. 

Question everything applies to everything. So when we talk about technique or why have we chosen to do internally threaded rather than externally? As an industry, we discuss and we work things out. But that applies to the situations as well. No one deserves to be exhausted for the chance to do the job they want.

G: I think for a long time piercers have just sort of gotten on with piercing and a lot of us tend to keep our opinions to ourselves for fear of backlash. But if we don’t have the discussions, there’s no progress for the industry. 

E: I was really scared to speak in the Facebook groups for a really long time, for fear of being told that I was wrong. But also being wrong is really the only way that you learn. I think also not having a fear of being disliked is a hard lesson to learn, but it’s one that I’ve definitely learned a lot in my life. 

I understand that, particularly on the internet, I will seem potentially quite abrasive and opinionated and loud, and I don’t think that’s necessarily true in real life. I’m caring and I will fight someone’s corner if I think that they’re being wronged. I don’t mind if industry peers aren’t my biggest fan because my clients are important to me. My friends are important to me, but also I have a life outside of piercing.  I think that’s really important that we don’t live in this echo chamber where the only people we interact with are industry peers and the only thing we do is industry events. You have to create a life outside of it or it will consume you.

Particularly again, as we’ll go back to neurodiversity. It’s really easy for me to get obsessed with anything, so I have to work really, really hard to make sure it doesn’t take over my entire being.

G: I’ve known you for nearly a decade and there was definitely a time period of a few years where piercing was your entire life. 

E: Yeah. It was constant, All consuming. And it nearly killed me,

 I can’t let it do that again. But I think where I am now, I’ve got a really good work-life balance, which was a thing I didn’t think existed. I’ve got a lot of good support. 

You’ve gotta make those things for yourself sometimes. Be an advocate for yourself. 

I’m so thankful to Elizabeth for their time not only in this insightful and honest chat that we had, but for always being so supportive and caring. It’s been a turbulent decade but I’m very excited to see how much they will continue to grow over the next one! Thank you always.

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An Interview with Olly Todd – Piercer & Educator

Anyone who is involved in the body modification world will know Olly Todd. Based in Factotum, Norwich, Olly has been involved in the piercing and modification industry for around 15 years and now runs Cognition Body Art Education where he hold seminars to help educate piercers across the world on techniques and safety. Olly also provides both site and industry specific First Aid training courses across the UK. Both Aiden and Anna (Revenant Tattoo) have worked with Olly over the years and it was a pleasure to have him visit Nottingham recently for some training with our team.

Gemma: What did you do before piercing?

Olly: I was a lifeguard and  a swimming instructor. Basically, when I hit 16 the options were work at the swimming pool or stack shelves in the supermarket. I went and became a lifeguard because the pay was better

I worked at a couple of leisure pools and was teaching kids and adults to swim. I started getting tattooed at a studio that was close to where I was working and one weekend the studio called me to see if I wanted to come and sit on the desk and answer the phone for a few hours because the receptionist hadn’t turned up. If I did, he said he’d knock a few quid off my tattoo session.

So I jumped at it. And then it happened a couple more times, and eventually the guy just turned around and said, ‘well if you want, I’ll just show you how to pierce.’ By that point, the people at the swimming pool were getting a bit more antsy about how tattooed I was getting. I still had nothing on my arms, it was all on my torso mostly hidden. But yeah, it was becoming pretty much a once a month visit for more ink so I got the whole, “if you continue this way, then you’re not gonna get very far in the leisure industry” conversation a few times.

At this point I was life-guarding, teaching swimming lessons, junior life saving and I was also doing the lifeguard training as well. So I was getting to that point where I was gonna have to put a suit on soon and  look presentable in that industry. I’m so glad I didn’t go down that route.

G: Did you have piercings at that time?

O: I didn’t get  my first tattoo until I was around 20, so my first piercing was probably just a bit before that. I did not know back then what I know now. I’d been just toying with the idea of getting a piercing for a while because when I went through college and stuff, I always had bright pink hair, and I was always a bit of a punk, I just hadn’t taken that step to get some holes through me basically. But Norwhich has always had a really good punk scene, all the way back. I’m lucky enough now to be good friends with some of the original, like eighties punk lot that were around. 

My first piercing was my lobe, like most people. And I did everything you shouldn’t do on the list other than going into a high street chain shop. I got them done at Download Festival in the middle of a field. It was done with a gun, I wasn’t sober and I’m sure the person doing it wasn’t sober. It definitely wasn’t clean for three or five days. 

G: Did you have an apprenticeship when you started to pierce?

O: Most of it was kind of watching this guy do one or two of set piercings and then just getting on with it. I had enough friends that would come in and ‘practice’. Largely, I’d say I was more self-taught than anything else. I think anyone that’s been in the industry for like 10, 15 years probably has a similar start. We all, all kind of figured it out as we went along.

G: How did you transition into body modification?

O: I was piercing loads and then I just stumbled across people like Samppa, Steve Haworth, and at that point Mac and a few others. I  really liked what they were doing and luckily I got to do some training with Mac over the years and without his help and support, I wouldn’t have progressed the way that I did. So, special thank you to Mac. I went to a few seminars about modification, I did one on skin branding. I loved branding. It’s always gonna be my favorite modification. After I started piercing, I started realising more about myself. So, I don’t get tattooed for any reason other than I don’t feel complete yet. I couldn’t tell you what the picture is at the end, but I just don’t feel complete and I’m working towards that. In my head, the body mod stuff was really appealing because it was a different way to add and alter myself I suppose, until I found what  I needed to look or feel like.

I learnt a lot about body modification from speaking with Mac and then people like Iestyn as well. I went down to London for a scarring class with Iestyn and Ron Garza at one point and that was a really interesting day. And then at BMXnet, taking as many classes there as possible. 

Live guiche piercing by Cristiano at BMXnet

The first year I was at BMXnet, I was lucky enough to attend a class that Elayne Angel did on genital piercing. That was something else. Being able to take that class and then later on in the day, witness her piercing people as well. It was great.

There’s always the comedy moments at places like that as well, I distinctly remember taking a male genital class with Cristiano teaching and he had someone up on all fours doing a live guiche piercing in front of probably 50 people. I caught up with Cristiano over in Dublin at the Piercer Trade Show last year actually, he didn’t realise I’d been to his BMX class all those years ago. 

G: You’ve worked at Factotum for almost 10 years now, tell us how you started.

O: I’d been drinking with Joe regularly for a while because we all kind of lived in the same area and we all hung out at the same pub. Jokingly for ages, he was like, “you should just come and work for me”. And then, it just kind of happened, which I’m very thankful for. Very thankful to him and without him I don’t think we’d be anywhere near where we are now. He made a lot of things very easy. And working for a piercer makes life so much easier. Joe learned to pierce when he was traveling in New Zealand and he came back to England to set up Factotum. And having the fact that Joe was taught with industry standard jewelry, I mean he was already using brands like Industrial Strengths when I was piercing elsewhere in the city. I think he was probably one of the first people to get NeoMetal as well. It’s been really nice to just be able to step up the game and use all these wonderful companies and not really have to worry about it too much.

G: You now teach at international piercing conferences, can you tell us more about that?

O: I do, it’s becoming a bit more of my life now. Weirdly enough, when you think about it, it’s kind of come full circle from when I used to teach people to swim. I think it’s gonna become more all consuming as well. The balance is shifting for me to start teaching rather than piercing,

I think, seeing the variety of courses and classes at BMXnet got me a bit intrigued about teaching because it wasn’t an elite standard of piercer that teaches the classes. It’s anyone that has something valuable to say. And then going to the UKAPP conference as well, back when it was still in Birmingham with Nici, every year she would poke me, like, ‘so when are you teaching something? When are you teaching something?’ And eventually, I gave in.

CBAE provides piercer education and classes

The first class I ever taught was a color theory class at BMXnet. And then that was followed a week later by the same class at the UKAPP conference . So it all started from there. 

G: I really loved your bevel theory and septum classes. How do you decide on a subject to address in your classes?

O: So to start with, I looked at the classes that I’d taken from other people. The bevel theory one, for instance, was done in a very specific way because I learn by doing things. I’d taken Brian Skellie’s bevel theory class year after year, just as a refresher. It’s a brilliant class, but it’s very word heavy as opposed to anything practical and that’s not how I can take things in. So I thought I’d try and create something for people that are more like me, I suppose.

And then the other ones I’ve been doing like the septum one and there’s one on tricky ear piercing, I just keep an eye on the piercing forums and if something is constantly coming up and people are asking for tips or struggling with a specific thing then I’ll focus on doing a class or seminar for those. Like septum techniques. 

I think it’s important to keep it relevant to what’s going on. 

G: You launched Cognition Body Art Education last year, hosting classes, teaching at events and offering First Aid training. 

O: We’re doing First Aid courses after both the Piercer Trade Show and the UKAPP conference this year, which is awesome. There’s the Bloodborne Pathogens training which is in its final stages of being accredited. Everything I’ve done for the BBP course is based on the UK Health and Safety Executive. It dawned on me the other day that the annoying thing is, because I wrote it, I’m gonna have to do a different one course anyway for it to count.

But yeah, other than that, I’m excited for The Sharp End magazine coming to fruition, that’s definitely a plus for the industry, having a trade magazine. I’ve not seen what’s going in it yet either. I wanna keep it all as a surprise but, we’ve been really, really surprised with the people in the industry that have got involved. We’ve just been blown away with the support by not just friends but the industry as a whole getting involved.

There’s potentially gonna be a rather large announcement at the Piercer Trade Show in April as well, but that’s all I can say for now.

G: I’m excited for what this year holds for the industry in general. I have positive feelings.

O:. Yeah, definitely. There’s so many people that have got so much going on that’s just making everything better. Like Nathan and the guys doing all the work with the Trade Show and bringing over some amazing speakers. The fact that there’s now 3 events in the UK with the two Trade Shows and the UKAPP conference on top of anything that anyone else puts together.

Olly & Louise on their wedding day, 2022!

Once again, a huge thank you to Olly for his time and his continued hard work in this industry. Be sure to check out Cognition Body Art Education, his seminars and courses are invaluable and we are eternally grateful for all the work Olly (and Louise!) are doing to push our industry forward.

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An Interview with Jamie Biggers, Piercer

Jamie is a body piercer and APP member in San Francisco, Bay Area. He is a volunteer for the Body Piercing Archive which works to preserve piercing history. Jamie has been piercing around 11 years and has travelled all over the US, guesting at a wide variety of studios. After spending some time in Europe, Jamie visited us in Nottingham and took some time to chat about his travels, volunteer work and his journey to becoming a studio owner.

Gemma: What drew you to that industry initially?

Jamie: I always liked piercing and I had some piercings but it was never an intention to be in the industry. I was living in Florida and working, doing pressure washing and painting out in the sun. It was awful. There was a shop that was hiring and so I applied work the front counter just so I would be in air conditioning,

G: What was your first experience getting a piercing?

J: The first one I had, I pierced myself. I pierced my lip with a safety pin but I didn’t keep it in very long. And then the second piercings I ever got were my ears. It was in a friend’s garage and the person who pierced my right ear, the person who pierced my left ear, and the person who was hanging out in the garage with us, all four of us ended up becoming piercers at separate times.

G: Did you have an apprenticeship when you started?

J: It was called an apprenticeship. But like, I didn’t know any better at the time so I thought that’s what an apprenticeship was. But now, knowing what I know, it was definitely not a good apprenticeship whatsoever. It was the owner of the studio, he did piercings but he wasn’t a piercer. The business was about making money. He didn’t care about the industry at all, he didn’t have any piercings. he didn’t have any tattoos. It was a business for him. So yeah, a lot of my learning was on the internet and then leaving Florida and moving to California and being around piercers in the Bay Area.

G: What year were you piercing in Florida?

J: 2012. I’m from California originally. I had moved to Florida, after living in New York. I went from California to New York, then New Orleans, then Florida, and then back to California.

Until moving back to California, I had not really known about the APP, I had not known about quality jewellery and materials. I knew there was different kinds and that some was really expensive and some were not expensive, but like, as far as like the quality between them, I had no idea. It wasn’t until a friend of mine told me more about them and I still didn’t really look into it very much. But then when I moved to California that I realized that there was a difference in quality in studios and in education and quality of jewelry.

I learnt things mostly online, Facebook forums, I had like been on BME when I was younger, but never really while I was piercing. I think it kind of died out by then. And then visiting other studios because I was really close to San Francisco where there are a lot of really good studios, and going down there and talking with people. San Francisco has a lot of piercing history which I was also unaware of when I was getting into the industry. I didn’t know anything, who people were and what studios were like, famous or historical or whatever. No idea.

Which I think helped me not be scared of asking those people who worked there because I didn’t know who they were, so I didn’t realize like who I was asking these questions to. I wasn’t nervous because to me, they were just another peer. But turns out some of them were well known. And then I got encouraged to sign up for the scholarship for the 2016 APP conference and I ended up getting the scholarship going to Las Vegas.

Jamie and Aiden at APP, 2016

G: Was that your first conference?

J: Yeah. And I also didn’t really know what the conference was like. I was still unaware, I knew that it existed, but also, like no one had really talked about it. I’d seen it on forums and stuff but I didn’t know what it was, and then I got there and I was like, oh shit. This is like a big deal.

The whole thing, it changed my mindset about everything. Meeting people there have given me opportunities that like didn’t even know existed. , and just like meeting people and like being able to like do guest spots. Now help out with the conference. and, continue to volunteer and volunteer for different groups and the body piercing archive . Wouldn’t have happened if that wasn’t for conference

G: How did you get involved in the body piercing archive?

J: I’ve always been into history and the more I had been exposed to the industry, the more I realised there’s a real history here and I wanted to help with it. I went to the exhibit at conference and, having already met Paul King and Becky Dill, who were some of the main people doing it at that time. I just asked Paul, “hey if you ever need help, like, let me know”. And he put me to work.

G: What’s your role at the archive?

J: It’s a lot of organizing things, preserving things, making sure things are gonna stand up to the test of time. Most of these things, were never intended to last very long. A lot of this stuff is just like, ‘oh, here’s a magazine that someone bought, read and threw away’. And flyers that like are printed on cheap printer paper or photos that have been sitting in someone’s cabinet for who knows how long going through weather changes. It’s mostly just like making sure that these things will exist in the future.

G: Is it mostly American piercing history that you archive?

J: It’s global. Being where we are, most of it is more local to the US, but it’s not exclusively us. We have a lot of stuff from the UK and unknowingly along the way, it led to us being able to publish a book, the Alan Oversby book. That was mostly Paul King and Devin Ruiz. Hopefully we’ll be able to do more of that. Just to get that history out there.

Paul puts Jamie to work preserving piercing history.

A lot of what we have in the archive, had no intention of ever being saved and when those historic things were happening, I don’t think any of those people thought that anyone would give a shit about what they were doing in the future. A lot of the stuff that we have, we’re lucky that it exists. And there’s so much more that we know of, that doesn’t exist anymore. It got thrown away or you know, ended up in like a flooded basement or rotted away. Or when families have been contacted, they’re like, ‘no, we threw all that away, we don’t want people knowing about that.’ Which is understandable, but also kind of sucks. We have things from the early 1900s and it was such a different time. People were ashamed of being different.

It’s more modern day western body piercing but we do have some artifacts from people indigenous to the Americas, that are much older. Our focus is more modern stuff that maybe universities and museums and other archives don’t give a shit about yet, but one day they will. And hopefully when that time comes, the archive will still be the place where that all that stuff ends up. Or if there’s a better place that has a better way of archiving everything, it’ll go to them.

G: You’re opening a new studio right?

J: Last March we signed a lease, and we’ve have been working with architects and trying to get permits from the city. Now it’s just the city dragging their feet and not communicating with each other. It’s just taking forever. But we have a space we have the layout. We have the materials, we have everything except the ability to construct.

I haven’t always wanted to own my own studio but I didn’t want to move out of the area that I live in and I don’t want to work for other people anymore. I just want to make an environment that’s different than a lot of studios, the way it’s structured and how the pay structures and the hierarchies in the studio. I don’t really want that, l I just want to do it differently than I’ve seen. I’ve seen things I don’t like at other studios and I want to make sure that those don’t exist for someone else.

G: You’ve travelled a lot while guesting as a piercer, can you tell us more about that?

Enjoying Alaska

J: I go to Hawaii a lot to go guest spot, I’ve been up to Portland a bunch of times, Alaska recently. I went out to Boston, a bunch of places in California. It’s cool seeing how other people do things. Pretty much every time I go on a guest spot, I learn something. Even if it’s just like something little. Most of the time for me guesting is a great reason to go somewhere or hang out with friends. Most places I’ve worked at I’ve known someone who worked there or had friends in the area.

G: What sort of differences have you seen in the industry while travelling?

J: Different areas like different jewelry styles more than others. Same with the size of jewelry and people wanting dainty things or people wanting gems or not gems or gold. Even within the Bay Area where I live, it’s drastically different depending on what part of the Bay you’re in and what people are willing to pay or what people are looking for.

It’s definitely a big range of clients. I’ll have, you know, an 18 year old student coming in to get a little diamond in their nostril. And then the person after them is a much older person and wanting big ol’ jewelry in their genitals, and then the person after that is a 20 year old with a 10 gauge septum, and then the person after that is an older, more professional person wanting a dainty helix. It very much ranges at the studio that I’m at. Other studios it’s more consistent with one or the other. But I think just where we are and our established clientele, it’s like very wide range.

We have a lot of clients seeking gender affirming piercings as well. It’s cool and I’m really glad that they feel like our studio is a safe place to do that and that we can help facilitate that .

G: Have you attended conferences outside of the US?

J: Last year was my first time at BMXnet, it was a lot different than the APP conference, in a good way. At least from my perspective, it was more about networking and meeting other people and being part of the community, as opposed to the APP conference where you go to class and then you go do whatever with the couple people you know. I had a descision to make between going to BMX or LBP last year, and I was convinced to go to BMX. I would love to go to LBP though, I just need to get better out Spanish.

Angie and Jamie at BMXnet, 2022

G: Do you have any words of wisdom for other people in the industry looking to travel or guest?

J: Network with people. Just reach out, people aren’t gonna reach out to you so reach out to them. And go in with the understanding that you might not make money. Reach out to people, look at forums and be honest about what your capabilities are. They’ll find out and they’ll find out real quick if you can or cannot do something.

It’s a small industry. Everyone knows everyone, and if they don’t, they will. The internet remembers forever.

Don’t settle for shitty bosses. If you’re being exploited or abused in any way, don’t stay. It’s not worth your mental health. There’s other studios that aren’t like that. Don’t work for shitty bosses.

Huge thank you to Jamie for spending time with us at Rogue, we wish you all the best and hope to see you around the world soon!

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Interview with Andrenalin Body Art

Andre is a body modification artist living in Berlin, Germany. He met Rogue founder Aiden at the Las Vegas APP conference in 2015 and they have been close friends ever since, travelling around Europe and guest at the same studios. Although not his first language, Andre speaks English amazingly and while guesting with us in Nottingham, he took the time to chat with Gemma about his experience as an artist. Andre is a wonderful person, piercer and all round sweetheart. We were very privileged to spend time with Andre this year, both at the studio and at the UKAPP conference in Manchester this year. You can find him on Instagram at @andrenalinbodyart

G: What was your first experience with piercing or body modification?

Andre: My first not professional experience with body piercing was in the late nineties, I would say 1999 when I got my eyebrow pierced, because that’s what we did. I think it might have been even the same year, I saw the music video for Fire Starter, The Prodigy. And that was the first time that something clicked in my head and I got my tongue pierced. I still say that The Prodigy did a very big thing of bringing me into body piercing. I’ve always wanted to be a body piercer, even in my first apprenticeship where I was a caretaker for disabled children. Whenever somebody asked me, what I was gonna do after the apprenticeship, I would always say that I’m gonna be a body piercer. I started to harass the body piercer that would do all my piercings to please gimme an apprenticeship.

Andre in Mexico , 2019

 When my apprenticeship as a caretaker was over and I took on a job where I was working in a school for disabled children, my workday ended at 2:00 PM so I went back to the studio and told her like, “Hey, I’m not joking, I really want to become a body piercer. I have a job, you don’t have to pay me, you just have to teach me.” And then she said “you’ve been annoying me now for two years or even longer and at some point I’m gonna need somebody.” So she gave me the chance and that was that was in the beginning of 2010.

G: Whereabouts did you grow up in Germany?

A: I’m from a small town called Schwäbisch Hall in South Germany. Like 40,000 people lived there and I lived there until around 2012. I would say for the size of the town, we have a very big alternative and left wing scene. There’s a sort of organised club which opened in 1966 and has been open ever since. Self organised. There was a small, independent cinema and we have an alternative radio station. So there is a lot of, I would say, punk rock stuff going on. I wouldn’t say that there was a particular piercing scene, but if you take the circle of piercing scene and punk rock, it is quite a big overlap. So that studio where I first worked was going really well. There was a lot of work to do, which gave me the chance to get a lot of experience within a really short time. We were super busy and also now when I go back there sometimes to do body modification guest spots, I’m surprised every time how many people are interested even in those small towns.

G: Was your journey into body modification a natural progression from piercing or did they happen simultaneously?

A: In the beginning, I was only interested in body piercing. But I always had a very big interest in medical procedures and I think if I wouldn’t have been that lazy in school, maybe I would be a surgeon today. I find cosmetic surgery especially interesting. When people in my small village got their nose done, some people would judge them and I would always be like “how did that work?” So, it came shortly after I started piercing, when I started doing research in magazines and online. There is a magazine in Germany called Expand. It was really cool because it’s the only magazine I’m aware of that was in the German language and was covering all sides of body modification. Piercing, tattoo, heavier body mods, performance art, suspension. And it was really nicely written. I think there was like 12 or 13 issues. BMEzine made me really curious about body modification as well. When the topic of body modification comes up, someone will always mention BME because it brought us all together. I wasn’t a part of the BME community, I have to say, I was just looking, reading and being fascinated, but I didn’t really talk to many people on there. Then when I dug deeper into the body mod world, I found copies of the book Mod Con: The Secret World of Extreme Body Modification by Shannon Larratt and it opened my eyes to a whole new world of body modification.

And then I think it must have been 2010 we went on a tattoo convention in Berlin and I had a seminar about Introduction to Body Modification by Lukas Zpira. Pretty quickly during that seminar of him, I realized I am not ready for that. Before attending, I thought “hey I’m a body modification artist now.” And he actually showed me like, no, you’re not. And I’m still thankful that I left that seminar with that knowledge that I am definitely not ready to offer body mods like implants, at that time. It’s a whole different game to piercing. And I’m very thankful that Lukas was very open. He didn’t promote it. He gave really good information and I had the same experience the year after at BMXnet. I had a scarification seminar with Ron Garza, one of my big heroes in the piercing and scarification world. And I had the same feeling, I wanted to do scarification. And after that seminar, I knew, okay no you are not ready. You have to increase your knowledge about hygiene and wound healing. Nowadays I offer both procedures. I started years after when I finally felt safe and found a mentor.

Hand implant performed by Andre.

G: Did you have any body modifications when you started learning to perform them?

A: I had tattoos and piercings before for sure. I think in like 2003 I did a small branding on my own hand, which faded because it was too shallow. In 2012 I moved to Berlin and in 2013 I started to work at Naked Steel. Naked Steel at that time was a dedicated body piercing Studio. So we didn’t have any tattoo artists and it was one of the top addresses in Germany for heavier body modifications. I’m not sure how much they do nowadays, but in those days, that was the studio to go to. I started assisting on several kinds of body modifications. I was actually assisting on implants procedures before I got my implants on my hand. I was assisting on scarifications before I got my own, so I think I learned about body mods before any.

G: What was the first scarification you had done?

Andre’s original logo, peeled onto his chest

A: It was a skin peeling on my chest. It’s my logo, well a version of my logo. We changed it to a needle blade, back in the day as it was a cannula needle. It’s an anarchy sign made from a circular barbell, a barbell, a scalpel blade, and a needle. I had that logo way before I was planning on opening a studio or becoming a traveling artist, but that logo was in my head for a really long time and that was the first scarification I got on my chest.

G: Was your experience learning to perform body modifications, in terms of scarification and implants, similar to your apprentiship as a piercer?

A: Well I have to be honest, my piercing apprenticeship was different. I grabbed the needle before I knew the theory. Back in those days I was happy that I could do piercings really fast. I didn’t have to wait months or even years until I could do piercings. When I look back at it now, I would do it different. But with body modification, I did it the proper way. I learned about the do’s and dont’s before I started doing it. At Naked Steel we did many ear reconstructions, making lobes larger or smaller. We would do like cartilage punches, tongue splits. I did magnet implants, which was also the first procedure I ever did on my own. My first one is not there anymore, it rejected really quick. It was my best friend and he knew that this was my first procedure. I put in a second magnet in the same finger after the first came out and that is still in there today. Must be like 9 or 10 years ago now. We didn’t do any ear pointing because I think ear pointing is a top of the art procedure. I’m only aware of one artist in the world that I would trust to point my ears, and that’s also the only person I would recommend clients to and that’s Samppa von Cyborg. Most other ear pointings I see either I don’t like the aesthetic of it, or you mainly see ones where there’s so much tension on the ear that I’m doubting that they will heal nice. Samppa’s work is very impressive. He would come to Naked Steel back in the day, like once a year he would guest with us. I didn’t learn from Samppa, but still he helped me a lot during my career. Especially in the first years because when We met in person, I knew I could ask him all the questions and he would always take time to answer it. So he didn’t teach me, but he was a big supporter to me.

G: Your hand implants are awesome, and your coin slot too! What other modifications do you have and how has that changed over the years?

A: To be honest, I’m scared of getting a piercing. I freak out on a regular basis when I get pierced. And I have the same with all kinds of body modifications. So if somebody would’ve told me 15 years ago that I was going to have implants on my hand, I would definitely not have believed that person. For me, curiosity kills the cat, and for me it was the deeper I got into a topic, reading about it, talking with people and seeing the procedure, the less scared I became. So I got a magnet implant and scarification pretty early on, then I got the implants in my hands. I have a huge question mark and exclamation mark on my hands. I dunno why, but I wanted to get them tattooed for a really long time. And when I then saw that silicon implants were an option, I decided to get them as implants.

Any modifications that I offer to clients, I usually try to get them done first on myself. It’s important to know what I’m actually doing to those people and to have the theory knowledge as well as the practical experience on how things feel, how things heal. The coin slot is pretty much the last thing I got done. I had it done, but I had genuine keloid, not an irritation bump, a keloid that I had to have removed about one and a half years after I got the coin slot. I think that must be like 4 years old by now. And since then, I had a couple suspensions but haven’t had much more modifications done.

Andre receiving a tongue split, 2015

G: How was suspension for you? What was that experience like?

A: I always struggled to explain how it is for me. Everybody will have different experience of it. I can only talk about my experience and for me, I have some issues focusing on things, especially focusing on myself and on things that are important to me. I always forget to take care of me. And body suspension, I would always say for me, it’s like a reset button. During the suspension, everything is on mute. It’s just about me. Having a suspension usually feels like restarting the system. And I have to say I love the adrenaline, the serotonin that you get afterwards. After my first suspension, I was totally high for another 24 hours , in a very good way. It was Easter Friday, when Jesus got pierced, me and my best friend in that time had our first suspension and I had to work the day after. I just remember it being one of the best days I’ve ever had at work. I was so cantered. I was just super happy. And I remember that in the evening I had the last client of the day and my co-workers were already finished sitting in front of the studio, having a cigarette, having a beer and I went out just like smiling and said “Wow! That was such an amazing day!” And I will never forget the faces of my ex-boss and my co-worker. They were looking at me and like, are you kidding us? So they obviously had like a really stressful day, but for me there was no stress at all. It really balances me but I have had some suspensions and times where I didn’t feel good. That’s where that idea of my reset button comes from. When my feet hit the ground again, it always feels like, “okay, I’ll start over again and get my shit together”. I think I’ve done 5 or 6 suspensions in my life and all of them were just two hooks in the back, the so-called “suicide suspension” position. I keep thinking about trying something else, but that position gives me so much so I know that it’s very good for me. When I’m suspended I like to swing around and jump around and be like a little kid on hooks. And so the two points in the back just gives me all the freedom to move and jump.

Suspending with the Gorilla Glass team in Oaxaca, Mexico 2019

G: Germany has a bit of a global reputation for having quite a hardcore kink and fetish scene, do you see that expressed in body mods?

A:  I would not necessarily say in body modes, but we can definitely see that in genital piercings. I was working in a studio in Berlin. And that area is a very rainbow pride, very open, very kinky area. And we could see that reflected in our clients. Heavy genital piercing projects are not very common, but it’s definitely around. So I would not say no to that question, but I don’t get to see heavy like Mod Con style genital work. Which is probably out there, but I think especially those people that have that experience with their own body, they’re so very often not so outgoing about it. You might see an old guy wearing a proper business outfit and you never know what body mods they have.

But that’s where body mod comes from. Back when Jim Ward opened the first piercing studio, Gauntlet, it was a different time. It was the seventies and body piercing was not very common. And especially on men, it was even less common. So they would start piercing their nipples and their genitals and you wouldn’t see that if you see pictures of them. And I find that fascinating.

G: The stigma around body modification has started to get better, but we still see the remnants of it. Especially when it comes to men and piercings.

A: It depends on where in the world you are. I was traveling quite a bit the last 15 years and I had really weird conversations about my piercings with people. In Zambia, when I was traveling through East Africa in 2011, I was looking different than today. I didn’t have my hand implants, I had less tattoos, I had still all of my facial piercings. And I got into situations like, “what about you remove your piercings and start becoming a real man”, and then I’d tell them to go fuck themselves. That’s the end of the conversation. But the last few years, I have been working for a very fancy jewellery company, a piercing company and I see that people are way more open towards modified people than like 10 or 15 years ago. And I really like to play with that as well. I really like to show that I can be super professional, that I can be super compassionate and a nice person still looking the way I’m looking and I really enjoy when I’m sitting in a packed underground train in Berlin and I’m the first one to get up if there’s an older person. And I enjoy their faces when when you see that, they just learnt something about making assumptions.

G: Can you tell us more about your travels?

A:  What was really impressive to me was when I was traveling to countries where several kinds of body modifications are not a modern thing. Meaning in Germany a hundred years ago, I’m not aware that people would do scarification, for example. But when you travel to countries like Zambia where scarification has been practiced for many thousands of years, it’s really interesting. I tried to get in touch with someone offering scarification or someone who could tell me a little bit more, which I couldn’t manage when I was last in Zambia. It was easier in Tanzania, for example, I met a young boy from the Maasai tribe and he would tell me about stretched ears. He loved that I have my ears stretched. He didn’t have his stretched and we were talking about it and he told me “that’s something my grandmother would do.” And that was cool for me to hear. It’s very different in the western world.

Fakir Musafar, Andre, Jim Ward and Elayne Angel at the APP conference, Las Vegas, 2015

I was traveling to Borneo aswell where tattooing is a really old practice and they would pierce apadravyas for a really, really long time. So that was really interesting getting in conversations with people, learning the history of it. I’ve not travelled too much outside of Europe but I think the piercing and body mod scene, especially the last couple years, it’s getting more together. In Germany, for example, 6, 7, 8 years ago, hygiene was a very big topic. Also with all the different associations, in Germany, in England, Poland, Benelux etc, I think the piercing community is getting closer together.

G: You’re a founding member of the Verband Professioneller Piercer How did that come to be?

A: I’m a co-founder and I have to be honest, it wasn’t my idea. I have a very close friend, Loreia from Stuttgart and also my friend Tom who’s not offering piercing anymore and we had a Whatsapp group where we would just have an exchange and talking about piercings. One day, we were thinking that we should start something similar to the Ask A Professional Body Piercer forum on Facebook. Then the idea just became bigger and bigger and we were like, this needs to be more than just a Facebook group, we are starting an association now. That was in 2015. The most important thing with starting the association was bringing back my experience from the APP conference in Las Vegas the year prior. I wanted to help people come together, it doesn’t matter which standards you are working to right now, the only thing that matters is do you want to get better standards? Do you want to become better? And just trying to bring people together and sharing knowledge. In general, it’s not easy to get good information online. There is a shit ton of good information out there, but especially when you’re a newbie, it’s really hard to to know what is good information and what is bad information. And many people wouldn’t know all this information. I don’t blame people for not knowing things. I would blame people for knowing things and still not doing it better. Then we came up with the piercer round tables. So every three months, we would have piercer meetups. We would meet in a random city, or a coffee place and get some piercers in. We usually had like a 20 minute seminar, some topic just to break the ice and then we would have piercing conversations afterwards. Couple years ago, we set up a hygiene seminar for body piercers with Dr. Helge Hanitzsch. It was a five day, seminar and you got a European wide certification so you can prove all over Europe that you learned those things and then you can apply them.

A round table meeting of the Verband Professioneller Piercer (VPP)

Then Covid hit. During Covid, our board changed. Elected positions were changed. I was vice president for two years, then I was president for two years and I left the board around 2020. I did it for five or six years and sometimes it’s just time to step aside and let somebody else do the job. So at the moment there is not so much happening with the VPP. We’re still getting new members and we’re planning on going back to offering the round table talks. I see many body piercers in Germany growing their standards. So I think maybe in the next year or in two years, there might be a ton of applications.

Many things are changing at the moment. I mean, we all know about the jewellery ordering situation from the US for example. It’s hard, especially when you first ordered high quality jewellery and then maybe the first batch doesn’t sell so quick and that’s scary. A few months ago I started to work as a sales representative for NeoMetal and we opened the warehouse within the EU. So jewellery will be shipped from the Netherlands and it’s gonna be shipping in 2 to 4 days in Europe. I think that can make a huge, huge impact in the European industry because now we have Anatometal, Industrial Strength and now NeoMetal in Europe. I think in 2014, I started to work with NeoMetal, fell in love with that company, with Mark and then John immediately and I’m promoting that company ever since. But now it’s just official. I’m really excited to work and to see like a whole different field in body piercing and to work for a company that I really admire.

G: Whats in the future for Andrenalin Body Arts?

A: At the moment I want to focus on traveling a bit more. Because I love to be working, traveling and hanging out with friends. So whenever I’m in Nottingham, it’s like amazing. I wanna focus a bit on that. But the idea is to open my own little studio in East Germany, towards spring. And finally do it before I’m too old to. I don’t want a huge studio, I want to have a small, nice studio where everybody feels welcome. And I Need a place where I can finally showcase all the artefacts I have collected over the years from the industry. At the moment they’re just in my apartment so it would be nice for people to see my collection.

Check out Andre’s work at @andrenalinebodyart

Once again, big thank you to Andre for his time and for all he has done for our industry over his career so far. A true talent, kind soul and a good friend. We hope to see you soon! – Love, The Rogues x