The middle school era of contemporary body modification culture was a time of constant innovation; the work of controversial pioneers like Tom Brazda, Jon Cobb, Blake Perlingieri and Steve Haworth blurred the lines between heretical and genius with new techniques, materials and ideologies replacing standard accepted practices. The evolution of 3D implants, for example, a field largely driven by the efforts of Phoenix, Arizona’s Haworth, went through constant genesis- pearls to stainless steel to teflon to silicone with each success and failure spawning further investigation on why it worked or why it did not.
This implant, performed by Steve while doing a guest spot in Philadelphia, was done with a large sculpted piece of medical grade teflon made to resemble the great state of Texas. Teflon offered advantages over stainless steel- the ability to go beyond basic shapes and the presumption of greater bio-compatibility- but for larger more detailed pieces came with a much larger incision required for implantation and problematic issues due to it’s rigidity. Still, it offered the chance for early 3D Art clients to push the boundaries with more creative designs which no doubt influenced the move to bio-compatible, ultra flexible silicone implants which are now the standard.
These photographs were taken by BME founder Shannon Larratt and submitted to the spcOnline sit in 1997.
In 1995 I received an email from BME’s Shannon Larratt asking if I had heard about the controversial body piercer who performed a modification at the Houston Tattoo Convention; he had use a technique similar to pearling 1 to implant teflon “horns” into the forehead of Jim Rose Circus Sideshow personality The Enigma. It caused quite a stir; both the public nature of the modification (facial modification always inspires a certain level of concern) and the openness with which he did it- modification which had existed on the fringes of the piercing scene was now being brought out into the open.
Shannon and I were fascinated; while the aesthetics of a split penis or smooth crotch could certainly be appealing to the niche members of our subculture, these modifications were generally done for functionary purposes like sexual gratification and fetishistic value. Moving implants from the penis to the forehead (or wrist, the site of Steve’s earliest implants) was making a statement that the times were about to change.
The same can be said for Steve’s contributions to the scarification world; feature articles in Tattoo Savage, 2 In the Flesh 3 and Body Art 4 would introduce his branding technique with an electro-surgical unit (or ESU) which allowed for a more detail oriented healed scar. The abstract design choices that were popular at the time- chevrons, geometric shapes, modern interpretations of tribal symbols and sigils- were replaced with more representational choices; and with each healed scar Steve was able to refine his process to allow for more detail and longevity. Were it not for his ESU brandings (and the tattoo oriented aesthetic of scarification artist Ron Garza) it’s unlikely that scarification would be as popular (among a certain subset) as it is today.
Over the last two decades Steve’s name has become synonymous with 3D body modification; he’s continued to innovate and his work has had a lasting impact on the generation of artists who’ve come after him.
Photo: Steve Haworth, ESU branding 1997 Philadelphia. Scanned from ink-jet printed 4×6 print, collection of Shannon Larratt.
Inserting pearls or steel balls into the skin of the penis to add aesthetic and sexually functional texture. Pearling was reportedly a tradition among the Japanese mafia- the Yakuza- with one pearl implanted for every year spent in prison. Legendary tattoo culture personality Tatu Scotty had been interviewed about having pearling done in Japan, and Southern California’s Cliff Cadaver detailed the procedure in magazines as varied as PFIQ, Hustler and Body Art. Piercer Sean Philips did a fantastic series of articles on Cliff for BME News that’s worth checking out: http://news.bme.com/2011/02/25/cadaver-chronicles-episode-3/↩
Artist: Steve Haworth (implants)
Year: 1998 (September)
Location: South Beach, Miami (Eden Roc Hotel)
Photographer: Shawn Porter
I first met Hiro in September of 1998 at the Crowe & Dwyer Tattoo Tour in South Beach Miami. Even surrounded by heavily tattooed people, Hiro stood out; his large forehead implants and stretched nostrils were pretty far out for a tattoo convention in 1998 and every time I tried to introduce myself I’d find him surrounded by photographers.
Steve Haworth finally got us together in his hotel room, and with the help of his interpreter we were able to get to know each other as I documented his modifications. He was in the States collecting work; tattooing from Grime and Guy Aitchison as well as implant and modification work from Steve.
When I ran into him several years later he had added beautiful facial scarifications to his already impressive body of work.
Out of the five and a half ModCon events held between 1999 and 2004, ModCon3 holds the title for most guests invited and most modifications performed. When we finally closed the doors on the last day our practitioners and staff were exhausted and in need of some down-time, so we headed to Shannon Larratt’s Bathurst Street house for a night of tellin’ stories and last minute suspension.
I did my first that night, along with my friends Sean and Andy who is seen here getting pierced by Blair Mclean and Steve Haworth. I’ve been to a lot of suspension events since that night but the simplicity of a bunch of friends goofing around in that back yard after a hellish, stressful weekend sticks with me as one of the best.