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As the Seasons Change.

As we slowly start our transition from Summer to Autumn, and the pace in the studio slowly starts to change with the return of students and the hustle and bustle of city life, the team at Rogue are distracted with big plans. September is officially conference season! You may remember a blog from last September (Conference Time!) that was written by Gemma, detailing everyone’s learning experiences. Well, for this blog post I’m going to be sharing all my excitement from my very first conference (and travel) outside of the UK.

Earlier this year I attended the UK Piercing Trade Show alongside Inari Organics as a vendor. I got talking to the wonderful Damien from Neilmed and StockoThePiercer, who were both trying to convince me to travel to Germany for this years BMXnet. I had absolutely no plans to do any travelling outside of the UK this year, and definitely had my eyes set on the UKAPP’s conference in Manchester once again.

Around a month or two later during a monthly staff meeting, we were discussing this years conference season. It was decided that we as a team were all travelling to UKAPP together. Aiden, Breo and Kat are all teaching classes this year, and Gemma and myself are helping Hika (QueenofTheAshes Jewellery) on the vendor floor, as well as attending other classes. Because Gemma had recently travelled to the APP conference in Vegas (feel free to read about that here) after gaining a scholarship, and Breo has attended the the APPE conference in Spain, that meant that Aiden, Kat and myself got the opportunity to travel to Berlin for another conference.

And so I had to start planning. After only getting my passport in the January this year, traveling to Berlin was going to be my first time every leaving the country AND getting on a plane. I had absolutely no idea of what to expect (which does not work when you are a massive over planner).

I travelled to Manchester’s conference last year with a big suitcase and a big backpack, absolutely overfilled with everything I could possibly need. For Berlin, I had only a carry-on backpack! I genuinely thought it would be impossible. But, I did it! Packing only one outfit for each day, pyjamas, and a spare pair of shoes (which were very much needed in the 30+ degree heat) plus my very thought-out liquids bag. And thus the show began.

Alongside the three Rogues travelling to Berlin, the lovely Anna and her apprentice David from Revenant Tattoo were travelling for the Berlin Tattoo Convention. We got to book our hotel together, and we all got to be roommates in a sweet little hostel style hotel. They had a really good breakfast buffet included (although I did somehow manage to nearly break their toaster and start a fire by losing a slice of bread in the gap).

We also got to travel together, and even go an extra travel buddy with us too! Armelle from Death Ray Tattoo was also attending the Berlin Tattoo Convention and was booked on the same plane with us. We all met at the studio at 8 in the morning before getting a taxi to Manchester airport and flying out. I was super nervous about getting through the airport, it was very overwhelming and there was a lot to take in. Thankfully I was with very experienced travellers so I just had to follow the group and keep my cool. I got through airport security easy-peasy, and after only a small delay in the take off time, we were in the air! I was slightly nervous on the way up due to the pressure pushing me back into my seat, but once we levelled out I was absolutely fine! Well, until the descent… Everyone had forgotten to mention that I needed to ‘pop’ my ears, and on the way down I was not having a good time and was really struggling to hear for a few hours! Thankfully a nice comfortable sleep that night left me feeling well rested and back to normal. Once we got checked into the hotel we went and met Andre and Hika and a few other guys for a cheeky couple of drinks!

Fresh and excited faces! Ready to travel!

And so began my actual learning! Waking up at 7am Thursday morning, Rogue and Revenant split up. Aiden, Kat and myself caught the tram (the S-Bahn) to the gorgeous building where the conference was being held. Grabbing a Redbull on the way, we got to check in, grab our lanyards and some super sweet tote bags before going to town on breakfast. Scrambled eggs and bacon was a very much needed and appreciated start to my weekend in Berlin.

My first class was a really amazing bondage demonstration. We were outside in the gorgeous warm sunny air, and I genuinely couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. I then headed over to Andre and Jane’s class on the 101 basics of cartilage piercings, an Open Piercing workshop with Beppe, Cristiano and Sala, and finished off my first day with Nahuel’s history class on Body Piercing before the 20th century! Overall I couldn’t have asked for a better start. I had some super cheesy pasta for lunch, followed by cheesy potatoes for dinner and way too many Fritz-Kolas and Spritzers. Unlimited access to fizzy pop is a dangerous game!

In the evening Aiden, Anna, David, Armell and myself decided to have another cheeky pint in Berlin. We found a really cool little pub where we tried some German Bier, before deciding it was definitely food and bedtime. Doner Kebab in Germany is so much better than in the UK!

Friday was an absolutely insane day! I woke up feeling super ready, had some more eggs and crispy bacon and got started. I had some amazing classes such as the History of BodyMod in India by Jason (my absolute favourite class I’ve yet taken). I got to meet some amazing people and got talking to some new faces who I haven’t met yet! Friday was promptly finished with an early night in bed, fast asleep for 10/11pm!

Saturday morning I decided to take a browse around Berlin and have a small tour of Alexanderplatz. This was something I was really proud of. I’d never even left the country before and now I’m having a mini adventure in a random European city all by myself! I got myself an iced coffee and headed around. I got some sweet little fridge magnets for my family and got to see just how beautiful the city of Berlin is. I also took a sneaky little trip to the skate shop Titus, and had to stop myself buying a million new things that I definitely would not have been able to squeeze into my backpack!

I shortly headed back to the venue to finish off some more classes. I treated myself to some gorgeous new weights from Symmetry Body Jewellery (Queer/Revenge hearts), and some cute little Hinged Jewellery Hangers (The Ties That Bind) from Queen of The Ashes Jewellery! Saturday night was also show night, with performers from the Hullaballoo Cabaret, and it was absolutely phenomenal. I’m still absolutely amazed at the performances. 10/10!

Sunday was kind of heart breaking. Realising it was the final day, and the weekend was nearly over, I was determined to make the most of it. I attended some more amazing classes and spoke to some more amazing people before making the travel back home Monday morning.

With the sun beating down, and everyone basking in the heat like lizards on a rock, I even got a slight tan! Who would have thought! I had such an amazing time, I could talk about it forever (but this blog is already getting pretty long). A massive thank you to Aiden for giving me this opportunity, and to all the speakers, teams, volunteers and leaders at the conference who made it possible. I can’t wait to return in the future and do it all over again.

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Association of Professional Piercers Conference 2023 Las Vegas

Under any other circumstances, Las Vegas is one of the last places I’d opt to visit. I don’t cope well in heat or humidity and gambling is not my jam. But in January 2023, under guidance and support from Aiden, Andre and Loreia, I submitted my application for the 2023 Legacy Scholarship to attend the APP conference, hosted at Planet Hollywood, Las Vegas, Nevada.

The process included filling out an application, having two industry peers write a recommendation, a video submission and a series of interviews. These were examined and discussed by a panel of APP members and 12 people were chose as scholars (due to unforeseen circumstances, two scholars have been delayed until next year and so we were only 10). Despite all the support and reassurance from everyone around me, I never believed that by the end of February I would receive a call from Ryan Ouellette to confirm my place on the scholarship programme. The feeling was indescribable. I was excited, anxious, in a state of disbelief. It took awhile for the reality of the opportunity to sink in.

Vegas Babyyyyyyy

Cut to June 8th, I drove myself to Heathrow airport and boarded a 10 hour flight to Las Vegas. If you’d have told me last year I would be navigating a trip like this by myself, no way would I believe you. But I did it. A short taxi ride later, I was throwing my suitcase into Planet Hollywood and heading out to meet a group of piercers, headed by the wonderful Caitlin (back-bone of the conference and overall incredible human being) for some food and a wander around the Vegas Strip. Holy shit Vegas is wild. It’s huge, it’s overwhelming, it’s hot. The sheer amount of people, noises and lights at all times is insane. It’s not a city for the introvert. But I was swept away immediately.

The way Legacy Scholars were a diverse, tight knit group but we were welcomed with open arms and open hearts by the APP Volunteer Group. Piercers from all over the world, joined together as a little team to make sure the conference was a success. Every single volunteer was helpful, kind, thoughtful. It was incredible to be part of such a wonderful family. I miss you all always. Work started for us on the Friday evening, and over the weekend we helped to set up the conference area to be ready to host over 1400 piercers from around the globe for 5 days of classes and events.

Sunday night was registration and hundreds of piercers filled Planet Hollywood to register for the conference, collect their badges, purchase merchandise and catch up with friends they haven’t seen since the last event. After the initial rush of wrangling hundreds of excited people, the Volunteer Team had a pizza night to decompress and get ready for the first full day of classes Monday morning. I’m thankful for the quiet times with good people and good pizza. I’m especially thankful for Jammie Biggers for taking me around Vegas in his car and giving me a break from the bustle.

Legacy Scholars 2023

Monday started with a meeting at 8am and then right into attending classes, working class doors, assisting the attendees, working on the merch booth and at 8pm, we headed to the Flamingo for the opening pool party. I’ve never been to a pool party before, it was nice to see people in a more relaxed setting. And the tacos were good. I also met the legendary Brian Skellie which was a party highlight for sure! The volunteers cleared down the party at midnight and we headed back to the hotel to recover for Tuesday.

In between classes, I worked various jobs around the conference, always supported by other volunteers. It was a really wonderful experience to work and learn from new people every single day. I’ll insert a list of the classes I attended over the week here:

Outside of the classroom, I bonded with so many amazing people. I met a lot of people that I really respect and admire as industry professionals. I met a lot of people that I hope to see again soon. It’s really hard to express the impact that the Scholarship has had one me. As a piercer. As a person. I feel so privileged to be a part of something so wonderful. I’m looking forward to hopefully being able to start to repay this industry for the experience, knowledge, support and family that it has provided me with.

Oh, did I mention I went on a guided tour of the Punk Rock museum. Guided by Fat Mike himself! He liked my hair, I liked his sense of humour.

Until next time Vegas, thanks for having me.

The list of people I want to thank is endless. But I will list and link the profiles of the 2023 Legacy Scholars and their respective countries. But to each of the Volunteers both this year and all yeats, thank you for being the best family some of us have. Once a duck, always a duck, right? Wouldn’t be possible without ya.

Ebs from Birthright Adornment, Melbourne Australia

Honza from Atreya, Czech Republic

Jonathan from RAW, South Carolina USA

J’son from TATAU, Mubai India

Laura from Maria Tash, Paris France

Matt from The Tattooed Gent & Onyx, UK

Nate from Diablo Rojo, Texas USA

Tais from Gold Heart Studio, Sweden

Angy from Mayduna, Berlin