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Piercing apprenticeship in a UK APP studio.

6 months into my 3 year piercing apprenticeship.

It’s officially been 6 whole months (and a bit) since I started my piercing apprenticeship here at Rogue, so I’m writing this blog detailing my time so far here. Mainly so I can document how far I’ve come and what I’ve achieved, but it’s also good for those of you wanting a piercing apprenticeship to really know all the stuff that goes on, even before you pick up a needle. Piercing apprenticeships (especially good ones) can involve a lot more than initially expected, and your day to day activities can majorly vary from what you may have considered.

 So let’s start from the beginning, before I was allowed anywhere near the inside of the piercing room there were a million and one things I had to learn, and my first memory was spending an entire day doing the Blood-borne pathogens training. The BBP training was an online video course set up by the APP that I was able to do from the studio and from home. It was 8 hours in total, in which I had to watch videos separated into different topics, such as donning and doffing PPE, the difference between contaminated, clean and sterile, and Epidemiology and Exposure Management and then answer questions about that section. This was my first sort of introduction into keeping myself safe at work, preventing cross contamination, and working in a sterile environment.

My first week also consisted of a lot of shadowing, and watching Aiden prep for piercings, watching the piercings happen and how he uses different techniques. 

I also spent a lot of time with Kat, learning how desk works! At first it started off with doing the post office runs, and learning the aftercare speeches, taking trips out to get stuff for the shop, learning all the different jewelry, even learning how to take photos of jewelry. This also included how to set up the shop in the morning, and close the shop at the end of the day. Everything from doing the helix tests, hoovering and mopping, running the water distiller etc. It was really surprising to find out how much stuff went into everyday life of piercing, without even doing actual piercings! My favorite example piece to talk to people about is changing bins! Because of contaminated waste, there’s a whole procedure to safely change out the clinical waste bins to keep yourself safe, but also prevent any type of cross contamination. It definitely was not something I expected to have to learn. 

The biggest challenge that completely exhausted me, was when I first went through the process of cleaning and sterilizing the jewelry, while doing stock takes, and making sure everything is still in date. It has become a huge part of my day to day work life now here at rogue, but when i first started the task i spent a solid two days doing it, and it was a lot mentally! Now I don’t think twice when doing it, and can do it a lot faster and with greater precision.

The first few months of my piercing apprenticeship were very repetitive as I learned the ropes! Every week I had a new section of information to study and learn, as Aiden had written a sort of learning manual for me! Each week was a new section, which I had to read through, physically demonstrate, and then answer a small quiz! This ranged from lots of things, from sterilizing jewelry and tools, to learning COSHH and MSDS safety protocols! 

My favorite stuff I started to learn along the way, is the ongoing learning of piercing history! The traditions, culture, heritage, and the origins of body piercing. It’s really amazing to learn where piercings have originally originated from in different cultures of the years, how the industry as a whole has made body piercings very westernized, and how over the years it’s slowly started to become more socially accepted. The learning of piercing history is not something you can sit down in a day and learn, it’s an ongoing teaching session through your career, and that is genuinely so fantastic to me. 

The month leading up to Christmas was a very interesting time! Rogue introduced another guest piercer to the shop, which was the lovely Krista! This was my first time meeting another member of the industry outside the studio. This was really interesting to me because Krista is not a UK piercer, she’s a traveling piercer, and a resident in Honolulu, Hawaii! Her whole vibe and atmosphere is so kind, caring, friendly and energetic! Definitely a little bit different to the calmer, quieter, more ‘introverted’ UK atmosphere. It was an absolute pleasure to work alongside someone who works in a slightly different manner, with different experiences. It’s always exciting to meet other industry members and learn new things! 

Krista also repierced my bridge piercing for me, and introduced me to marking piercings as she helped me and let me draw the markings for my own bridge! This was my first proper physical introduction into piercings, rather than just watching and learning, and being really involved in my own piercing was really gratifying. 

Coming back from christmas was very exciting, it was the first introduction of me picking up needles! We originally started with larger gauge needles and sheets of foam, looking at how bevel theory works and how to pierce without removing tissue, just displacing! Working with larger gauge needles initially was very helpful in terms of being able to see what I needed to do and how to do it with the shape of the needles! This then gradually moved on to me piercing bananas and oranges. I pierced the fruit with the skin on and off. This is because it was similar to working with skin in terms of feel and movement. Working with the skin on helped me get a feel for depth of layers in the skin, and also the toughness of skin. 

And then, it was time! I got to do my first ever piercing! Aiden got to be my first ever client as such, and we started off nice and easy with a helix piercing! We did a mid helix, with Neometal high polish threadless balls! He talked me through the entire process, showing me how to mark, how to work with the client, how to check my angles, and where to place my fingers for my own safety! I was definitely nervous, however I also felt super confident thanks to all the gradual training, and when it was done I had every right to be confident! For a first ever piercing, it was super impressive. The angles were super nice, and it came out straight! There was a slight bit of bruising during the healing process due to my technique, but definitely nothing to complain about for number 1!

That first piercing was then followed by a second helix piercing on Kat! I was definitely more nervous for this one, probably due to the adrenaline rush from the first one, but this time it was a much smoother process, and healed even better! And then Gemma also enlisted her trust in me, and she let me do my first ever conch! This was then followed by Gemma piercing my flat for me, learning new techniques! And then later in the week, I got to perform a double lobe piercing on Breo, which was slightly more challenging due to Breo already having stretched lobes. It was a really good bonding moment for the studio.

And then, we got to open my calendar and I started offering apprentice piercings! Starting off nicely with helix piercings, and then conch piercings! It was really great meeting new clients, and previous clients, who trusted me enough to perform new piercings on them!  I was pretty confident from the start, although I definitely did have my nerves, but I think it was mainly because I have such a supportive and knowledgeable team around me! The most nervous I have been for a piercing so far was my first ever pair of nipples! It was my first freehand piercing, and it was also a slightly different technique than I was used to, and it was also one of my close friends! A lot of pressure! It went pretty well, however I did have to re-pierce one as it did not come out horizontally. Thankfully, my client was super amazing about the whole thing and her patience and kindness was highly appreciated. I’m still working on nipple piercings, alongside nostrils and lobes as well. My favorite lobe piercings I’ve done so far are the couple I’ve done working around already existing larger gauge/stretched lobes. I love seeing the second and love adorned with something small and contrasting to the larger piercing! It’s definitely a style favorite of mine. 

Alongside my piercing apprenticeship with Rogue, im currently being tasked with helping the social media accounts! I’m working on weekly instagram reels, in terms of filming, editing and uploading!  If you’ve been a fan of the current How It Works series, then thank you! Having to be the brains behind it was not as easy as I expected. I used a variety of apps when I first started experimenting with the design of how I wanted the reels to look. I’m still playing around with the design, and trying to make them more inclusive! I’ve recently found closed captions which was a really important addition. I’m also working on building a Rogue tik tok account, which I want to make the vibe for this one a little less serious than the instagram! I want it to be a bit more loose and for people toi laugh and have fun, and see the not always so serious side of the shop! 

We’re currently moving forward to opening my calendar up one day a week for junior piercings! This means I’ll get to work 1 on 1 with clients, without full supervision as I’d have completed my training on these piercings with the current technique! And that’s not the only exciting thing to look forward to this year. In September we are heading to the UK APP conference which is very exciting! It’s going to be a really great opportunity to meet new piercers across the industry and make connections, and to learn so much more stuff! The future is definitely looking shiny.

Good piercing apprenticeships can be very hard to come across, and they’re not necessarily what you think they might be! There’s so much information that really helps further your training than you would think. A good piercing apprenticeship should take between 2-3 years, with a very experienced mentor. If you’d like to understand why, read our other blog post detailing why they take a long time!

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Why Does a Piercing Apprenticeship Take So Long?

Today we’ll be discussing why apprenticeships take so long and why you shouldn’t pay for online or in-person piercing schools. A full, comprehensive piercing apprenticeship lasts 2-3 years. In this blog we delve into why that’s the case, and why you shouldn’t settle for anything less.

What is an Piercing Apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is the best way to learn to pierce. During an apprenticeship, you will be trained by an experienced older piercer in all aspects of safety and technique. Choosing your mentor is a big decision as their experience and reputation will follow you into your professional career. Make sure your mentor is qualified, experienced and a respected member of the industry. For Aiden’s rundown of piercing education, click here.

Aiden has been working in this industry for over 10 years, and was a founding board member of the UKAPP. This is the kind of experienced mentor you should be looking for! (However we might be a little bit biased.)

What do you Learn during a Piercing Apprenticeship?

In short, you learn an awful lot!

You will first learn all the safety aspects of piercing: Bloodborne pathogens training, cross-contamination, how to clean and sterilise jewellery, how to safely reprocess tools, which chemicals to clean your station and clients with, and the correct use of a sterile field including sterilised gloves, needles, tools and jewellery. This first stage prepares you to confidently handle a clean environment and prevent infection of yourself and your clients with harmful pathogens. 

The second stage would be learning to handle your clients, organise your day, organise jewellery orders and keep up to date with the financial side of piercing. You will need to know how to take bookings, organise your finances, handle your clients from the moment they step in the door and how to keep a polite and respectful environment to work in. Most piercers work alone or in small studios, so it is important that you know how to be self-employed and confidently run your business. It’s vital that we take care to teach our apprentices everything there is to know, and how to become a good piercer.  Not only this but it is vital that we teach our apprentices about the history of the industry and where we come from. If we don’t pass on the knowledge of Jim Ward, Fakir Musafar, Mr Sebastian and all the founding greats then we are at risk of losing our history altogether.

The third stage of a piercing apprenticeship is the piercing itself. You will be taught how to prep your clients skin, how to open and handle your sterilised gloves, how to approach your client and how to correctly pierce them. You will be taught which jewellery is appropriate for which piercings, how to safely fit them and how to manage your clients when they come in for their checkups and downsizes. Learning to pierce straight, at the correct depth, angle and with your clients anatomy in mind is hugely important for a successful piercing and an uneventful heal for your client. You will be taught to pierce and master a few basic piercings such as conches, helixes and lobes before moving on to more complex piercings. This can take months of work and practice!

Finally, once you have shown you are adept at all piercings and can work cleanly and safely, you will fledge and become a junior piercer. It may take upwards of two years to get to this point. Yes, upwards of two years! There is so much more to piercing than simply pushing a needle through a client and taking their money.

In addition to piercing ears and noses, to be a solid piercer you do have to consider piercings other areas. Intimate piercings are an important part of what we do and if we don’t pass on the knowledge of how they should be pierced, then we risk letting intimate piercing die out in the UK. Being taught to be an ‘ear piercer’ only is a dissatisfying apprenticeship.

Why You Should Never Attend a Piercing School

At Rogue we have seen many piercing schools come and go, but we are yet to see a single school provide a course that gives its learners an acceptable skill level to begin piercing. There are far too many piercing schools or other people who feel that they can teach piercing but they simply do not grasp the scope and depth of knowledge that must be learnt.

Piercing Schools are not the way to go. Don’t fall into the trap!

The average piercing school course in the UK lasts 6 days. 6 days! 6 days is not enough time to learn the basics of hygiene, nevermind become a fully fledged and skilled piercer! There is no way that you will become a confident, adept and knowledgeable piercer with only 40 hours of training. Often these schools are teaching outdated techniques and training you to use low-quality jewellery. As a learner, you may not even realise you are being taught dangerous techniques until it is too late.

Apprenticeships are usually unpaid and usually free of charge. You should not be attending a piercing school that costs thousands of pounds to end up with a ‘qualification’ that actually devalues you in the eyes of the piercing industry. Most high-end piercing studios will reject applications for work or apprenticeships from someone who has taken a piercing course. Some piercing schools claim that a short 2 day course is enough to prepare you for an apprenticeship, but this simply isn’t true. A good studio will think twice about taking you on as an apprentice as they will have to sink time into retraining you out of bad and potentially dangerous habits. It’s simply not worth it.

So How Do I Get An Apprenticeship?

We understand that apprenticeships are rare and incredibly competitive to get. It’s like applying to a university that doesn’t tell you what A levels or grades you need! However, you should not get discouraged from trying to enter the piercing industry. 

In order to secure an piercing apprenticeship, you must first find a piercing studio that is qualified to give you the valuable education that you need. The best way to do this is to find your local APP or UKAPP member studio. This proves that they are working to a high standard of safety and do not compromise their clients safety in order to increase their profits. Some studios are not members and yet exceed the standards set by the UKAPP, so do your own research if you cannot find an APP studio. An piercing apprenticeship from a low quality studio that is not willing to teach you to be a high quality piercer is no apprenticeship at all. Be careful of studios that simply want unpaid labour!

Once you have found a studio, it is important that you attend the studio and get pierced by them regularly. Studios are often overwhelmed by apprenticeship requests, often from total strangers, so it is important that you become a recognised and valuable client first. If you have the funds, purchasing high-end jewellery and showing you appreciate high-quality items is a very good way to set yourself above the competition. Becoming a known client is good in that even if that particular studio doesn’t take you on as an apprentice, they can often recommend you as an apprentice to a studio who is looking to take someone on. At this stage you should also be familiarising yourself with high-quality jewellery. Read up on internal threading or threadless jewellery and why external thread is dangerous. Learn about ASTM regulations and why ASTM F-136 Titanium is the safest metal! Find out why sterling silver is not a safe material, and why jewellery must be a certain gauge or thickness in order to be safe. If you really want to impress, memorise the conversions between gauges and inches and metric millimeters!

From becoming a valued client, the next step is to offer your services. This is not a guarantee of an apprenticeship! You can simply ask the piercer if you can help clean up at the end of the day, answer the phone and generally make yourself useful. Quite often as piercers work solo, they will appreciate your offer!

From here, you can ask about an apprenticeship. Taking on an apprentice is a huge financial burden to a studio as you often cost them more money than you make. It’s a big decision to make and your studio may have to think about it. If they offer you an apprenticeship- Congratulations! You are taking the first step to becoming a piercer. If they refuse your offer, don’t panic. They may not be in a position to offer one to you now, but they may reconsider in the future. If not, you can always ask them if they would recommend you to another studio who can take you on. 

As an aside, piercing is a very hard job both physically and mentally. Yes, you can look however you want and be the person you want to be but only to a point. Even within piercings there are limits to how extreme you can look and still maintain a strong client base. Piercing is a fairly unstable job, and the pandemic has only made this more obvious. You don’t become a piercer if you want to be rich! Piercing is also a hugely demanding full time job and a lifestyle. Burnout is very real and mental health issues are a topic of constant conversation within piercing. Make sure you are certain that you want this life before delving into an apprenticeship.

So there you have it! A pretty comprehensive review of what a piercing apprenticeship looks like, and why you should not fall into the trap of piercing schools and courses. Thank you all for taking the time to read this and we will see you again next Friday for a new blog!