Tag Archives: Piercing

How we learn, How we teach

Apprentice: Lynn Loheide, 2013.

A History of Apprenticeships.


“I want to be a piercer! How do I get an apprenticeship? Where do I learn to pierce?”

 This desire has been expressed by thousands of people over the recent past. What was once something barely thought of as a viable career blossomed into a huge, multifaceted industry in the last few decades. As if out of nowhere, piercing became a legitimate job one could make a comfortable living at. But the path to get there has been as ever-changing as the industry itself. You don’t go to school to become a piercer, there’s no classes or degree you can hold in body piercing. Traditionally, like many other crafts, piercing has been trained by masters, to apprentices. Someone already skilled at the craft takes a beginner under their wing and shows them the craft one on one. But how did we get there? Where did the first piercers come from? How did the apprenticeship evolve to what it is today?

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Stick ’em with the Pointy End.

Stick ’em with the pointy end: A brief history of the piercing needle.

How is a piercing done? With a needle. It seems like a pretty easy, straight forward answer. But it hasn’t always been that way. While modern body piercing has access to some of the best, most well-crafted needles we could ask for, such wasn’t the case twenty or thirty years ago. In fact, just having access to needles was unheard of for a bit. The needle is one of the most important factors in a safe, correctly done body piercing. Without a good needle, the entire piercing experience can go sideways (or crooked). So, let’s delve into the history of the piercing needle, and how we got to the modern design we all use today.

In the ’60s and ’70s piercing was still very much underground. We were a few years away from the opening of the gauntlet in 1975 by Jim Ward. Piercing was primarily a fetish in the Leather/BDSM scene, practiced in the darkest corners of already forbidden back rooms and clubs. Since this was being practiced by people who wouldn’t dream of going out and trying to get supplies for their extracurricular activities, they made use of what they had. Sharpening wire, and using modified ice picks and nuts and bolts was common.

“There was nothing available at the time so it was crude. I’m not sure about the years, but in the ’60s and ’70s, that’s what they would use. The material was the same LVM surgical stainless steel but they would polish with diamond dust on a wheel to get rid of any porousness it had called orange peel. By the time they were done, it looked like a mirror! I can’t imagine the level of determination these people had. The ice pics were solid of course, and I never saw use of any of it. I came after that, but I imagine it was horrible.” –Ken Dean, Silver Anchor.

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Bosoms, Body Modification, and the Beau Monde: A Look at Victorian Nipple Piercings

1600-1800’s France was an interesting and wild time, historically speaking. Everyone was partying at the palace of Versailles, a symbol of all the opulence the world could offer. King Louis was regularly drawing the ire of the church for the debauchery his palace and it’s infamous parties were known for. Fashions were getting outrageous and necklines on gowns were getting lower and lower till it was fashionable to show a whole breast at court. 1 This style was sometimes referred to as “Garments of the Grand Neckline” referencing how low the neck of these dresses would dip- sometimes to the navel.  Continue reading

BSTA: Vaughn

Since it’s 1989 release, RE/Search Publications’ seminal issue #12 – Modern Primitives – has become one of, if not the most, nodally significant cultural studies of western body modification ever printed. The pantheon of influential body art figures interviewed includes Fakir Musafar, Jim Ward, Ed Hardy, Raelyn Gallina, Lyle Tuttle, Hanky Panky, Leo Zulueta – you could easily get lost following the ripples of influence from any one of them. But Modern Primitives also featured some younger personalities just getting their start in the world of body art; mostly notably Greg Kulz (a pioneer of black graphic industrial tattooing) and Bay Area piercer/tattooist Vaughn, who at the time of publication was trying to make a name in the industry. Thirty years later, and Vaughn’s legacy – the opening of Body Manipulations and the shift to a more diverse clientele – is easily worthy of inclusion with the best of the industry.

In honor of his birthday, BSTA’s Ari Pimsler interviewed Vaughn, along with friends, former employees, and clients for the new issue of our print project NODAL POINTS. The supporting interviews – Melissa & Joey from Body Ms, Greg Kulz, Duncan Van Luyt, and Blake Perlingieri – are available exclusively in the zine, which can be ordered here:

https://www.blurb.com/b/9773006-volume-3-nodal-points

-SP

(special thanks to Bobby Neel Adams for the amazing outtake photos from his Modern Primitives shoot with Vaughn! http://bobbyneeladams.com)


 

Ari – For an introduction let’s start with where you started piercing, be it business or just experimentation

Vaughn – Probably about 1985. I moved to San Francisco in 1984. What I wanted to do was pierce my lip and I couldn’t find any outlet to do that. I had been pierced down in LA by Jim Ward at The Gauntlet originally because I was living down there. When I got up to San Francisco there was really no one there doing anything. I wanted to pierce my lip, couldn’t find anybody to do it, so eventually I did it myself. But as far as taking on clients I would say, 1986? I just printed up business cards that said, “Vaughn” and had my phone number on it. That was it. If I saw people who had their own piercings I’d approach them like, “hey I can do noses, I can do navels, I can do this kinda deal.” I would have people over to my apartment and pierce them there. I also would set up a little portable kit and go over to peoples houses pierce people in their homes or businesses or wherever. I did that for a couple of years. I can’t remember exactly when I met Esther but she was a big influence as far as pushing me to make it happen as a business. One of the driving forces behind that was we had heard a rumor that Gauntlet was going to try and open up in San Francisco and I wanted to break away from the stigma that Gauntlet had. That stigma was very much in the West Hollywood gay community. I wanted to see piercing move out more into the underground, like the punk scene and the music scenes. That was my main drive. Esther was kind of in the same mindset that drove me – she wasn’t really oriented on the sexual aspect of it but rather the aesthetic orientation. For about three or four years I just pierced privately and did in-home visits and portable visits. In 1989 I ended up getting a little bit of inheritance. I opened Body Manipulations with seven thousand dollars. Rent on the space was like $300 a month – it was super cheap. That all worked out because I knew the tattoo people who were in the space originally – Erno tattoo. They moved upstairs and then I rented from Erno because he still had a lease on the space for a short time. We just sublet it from Erno and turned it into a piercing studio.

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Fakir in Kodachrome

The good folks over at Yellow Beak Press (who put out some of the best tattoo history books on the market) sent SD a Kodachrome slide from the collection of photographer Bob Hanson last year; taken in the 1970s or early 1980s it features Fakir Musafar performing a then rare navel piercing.

Bob’s photos of the tattoo scene of the 70s/80s are highlighted in YBP’s Lost Love 2.

BSTA: Blake Perlingieri

Ari – Let’s start this off with your introduction to Fakir.

Blake – I got a hold of the ReSearch book in 1989 and it blew me away. Obviously it was the only cultural document at the time for an emerging subculture. There’s a lot of stuff in the book I was “meh” on but Fakir’s chapter really grabbed me. I was already piercing my friends in San Diego; people would go up to LA Gauntlet and buy a needle and barbell and I’d do them up in the park under a tree. My band had finally gotten signed and I came to this crossroad where I really wanted to do something meaningful and I knew I had a lot of learning to do so I quit the band and rolled up to San Francisco. The first time I went up there there was Body Manipulations – they were the first piercing studio in the area, they opened before Gauntlet. I went up and peeked at Body M and didn’t really know who they were but I recognized that the handsome guy out front leaning on his motorcycle having a cigarette was Vaughn. I knew he was the guy from the ReSearch book. I ended up making a couple of trips to San Francisco. My folks took me to the Gauntlet in the Castro and I went in, walked upstairs, and it was the first piercing shop I had ever been in. The term “piercer” didn’t exist yet – you were just a guy who did piercings at this time. I walked up and I said, “hey, my name is Blake and I am looking for Fakir and maybe some earrings!” I got the biggest attitude from the guy behind the counter. He didn’t even have visible piercings! He says “well we don’t have any jewelry in your size, honey.” I was like, “alright, fuck you,” and I started to walk out when I hear Fakir say “excuse me young man, I can help you!” I turn around and there he is with a porcupine quill in his septum. I just looked at him and told him he was the reason I came – but that I felt like this wasn’t a very welcoming place for me. At the time this was either summer or late 1990. Fakir took me to lunch. He put his arm around me and said, “well I have never seen the likes of you, young man., Tell me your story!” At the time I had 2” earlobes with huge dreadlocks- just a jungle kid from Southern California. How weird to walk into my first piercing shop to have some guy with no visible piercings be a dick to me. I was put off from the beginning. I didn’t consider myself professional at this time – I had only done genital and septum work. I had never done a nostril or navel. The stuff I was doing on my friends was all “Genesis P-Orridge” genitalia aesthetic. Fakir and I had an immediate connection and I told him I wanted to be a piercer. The first thing he said was, “well you sure don’t want to work at the Gauntlet, trust me.” I think we ate at Cafe Du Nord and it felt like I was coming home so to speak; he was just so welcoming. This is twenty-nine years ago. He literally says, “I think you’re doing something completely unique.” I didn’t understand his historical importance yet, I just intuitively knew he was the Granddaddy and if I was going to start a career I was going to go to the source. That’s a value that doesn’t exist anymore. There is a tattoo school is Vegas that cost $40,000 and guarantees you an internet following by the time you graduate, and you’ve only done like one tattoo. It shows you how ass backwards this culture is. The thing Fakir instilled in me in our first meeting – there were no personalities then, all I was was just a jungle kid, there was Gauntlet and Body M, that’s it for the whole US; there was no measure of what other people were doing. My experience at Gauntlet was very telling- Im sure they all had 00g PAs but they didn’t have the look I wanted to be a part of or was already doing, the things my grandmother introduced me to on her world travels. Continue reading

Color Grading. (NSFW)

By the time I finally click upload on the video that’s currently in my editing queue- a video that will clock in with a runtime of somewhere around the eighteen minute range- I’ll have spent roughly ten hours on task time for the final edit. Most of that will be spent color grading the footage, which was shot on VHS tape at Sailor Sid Diller’s Florida home/studio in 1985. Continue reading

Mad Hatters: Face

During the mid 1990s I was occasionally contracted to attend tattoo conventions on behalf of bmezine.com;  while content was being contributed to the website, BME’s editor Shannon Larratt figured that targeted content- particularly the kind that was often photographed in hotel rooms on a more discrete section of the modification community- would be worth the cost of plane tickets, hotel rooms and an incredibly humble per diem.

This being the age before digital cameras were in common usage, all he asked was that I try to get at least two rolls of film per event. Forty-eight images. Before it was a community driven site (a process which started with the password wall on BME/extreme and took hold with the creation of IAM.BME in 2000) the acquisition of content was king at BME; if people didn’t have dynamic images to view, they’d move along. Having strong photos to hook viewers into sticking around long enough to encourage them to share their own was a major focus of the boom-years of the site.

This photo was taken on one of those sponsored trips, on the convention floor at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in Portland, Maine. At the time, facial tattoos and body piercing were frowned upon at some conventions, so a gentleman like this was a welcome sight.