Collaboration was the heart of the Scarwars events; different artists working on the same client, sometimes in tandem, sometimes employing different techniques of disciplines of scarring- with each artist taking the role of student and teacher oftentimes during the same procedure. It was immensely satisfying watching different personalities working together to make their client happy.
Ok… tell me this… why were you dressed up like the easter bunny, driving me and a few other people around in a boat in one of my dreams last night?? You took us to a little island where you had hidden a bunch of rather large easter eggs for us to find… you didnt slow the boat down as it was coming into the beach.. just went full throttle and tipped the boat, flinging everyone aboard it out onto the sand. ~Wayde Dunn
I have stacks (ok. digital files that take up no physical space) of photos of cuttings and tattoos made by Australia’s Wayde Dunn; each one better than the next. I have some great procedural photos of him working at the second Scarwars event 1 that are probably much more in line with what people want out of a body modification blog. I even had a big piece written about the parallels I see between Wayde and Keith Alexander- both being people who never accepted being the best at something- when they’d achieved the goal of working towards perfection both gladly move on to something new and start back at the bottom; the thrill of knowing something new being much, much more important than the accolades for having done it.
But a photo of him looking cheeky and him telling me about a dream he had where I was the Easter Bunny is a much truer snapshot of our friendship, so I went with that.
Wayde Dunn, photo by Rachel Larratt 2006.
- Los Angeles, February 2006 ↩
According to my external hard drive “Wintermute” there are somewhere around 1,500 official photos from the ScarWars2 event that took place in February of 2006. That’s not counting the photos from artists/clients/attendees that I’ve never seen.
These images- #974 and #972 from event photographer Atom Moore- features Ron Garza working on a client’s back with the assistance of Thorsten Sekira.
Over the course of the three Scarwars events- two in Philadelphia and our Los Angeles outing in 2006- thousands of photographs were taken by our incredible staff of photographers that captured every aspect of the shows; procedurals, portraits, candids and even after hours hotel chicanery and there are probably still dozens if not hundreds of photographs from attendees that even I haven’t seen. It’s almost impossible to pick a single favorite but I always said that if/when we ever do a Scarwars book this 2006 photo by Rachel Larratt of Richmond, Virginia’s Josh Burgh 1 would end up on the cover.
I’m not sure if that makes it my favorite, but if not it’s damn close.
I wrote a long winded and absurdly sentimental piece on the impact the first Scarwars event had on my life that can be found here: https://sacreddebris.com/scarwarsten (as well as an ‘evolution of a subculture’ piece that can be found https://sacreddebris.com/evolution-of-a-subculture-scarwars1-2005) and had considered doing the same for SWII for it’s tenth anniversary; instead, I’ll share what my friend JL had to say about it:
I went to ScarWars for a lot of reasons. I went because friends I don’t get to see all that often would be there. I went because I’d never been to a modded convention and I was curious to learn what they were about. One reason I chose to go to ScarWars specifically had a lot to do with the fact that scarification has meant a lot to me individually, and I wanted to see scarification as a basis of a community. Beyond the intense amounts of fun to be had with the artists, organizers, participants and spectators, I think the thing I really loved about ScarWars was the sense of acceptance that took me in from the minute I arrived. I’ve always believed that preps, punks and hipsters are much more discriminatory toward the non-conforming than certain subcultures are to the mainstream. This was undoubtedly true of the people I met at ScarWars. The simple fact that I showed up and was interested in the work was all that was necessary for me to feel like I had every right and everything to gain from being there. My own experience with scarification gave me something to love about my body. Beyond that, it gave me a focus for graduate work. And at ScarWars, it gave me a community.- J.L.
We always did our best to make the events about more than just modification; the sense of community was equally important and letting everyone know that they were on equal standing- from artists to clients to the volunteers who made sure that the event went smoothly- was always our top priority and is why when I go back through the stacks of photographs (digital, which is never quite as satisfying as analog) my eye is most frequently drawn to the candid moments of the Scarwars guests and artists casually chatting, sharing a story and a laugh before blood was drawn. A decade later and that’s what I remember most; the Storm Trooper (in full Imperial White with a blaster ready for action) guarding the door, “Coop fishing” using our friend Walnut as bait, sitting around the complex bar after the event ended of the night and raising hell… all of that stands out more than a cutting or two.
Thanks to the staff, artists and clients who made the event what it was- I truly couldn’t and wouldn’t have done it without them.
- Scarification by Brian Decker, NYC ↩
Another highlight from the February 2006 Scarwars event in Los Angeles was meeting and getting to know a piercer named Samantha from Northern California. She had a collaborative cutting done on her chest that was documented by photographer Atom Moore while it was in progress, but this portrait by Rachel Larratt, while significantly less bloody, is still my favorite of her from that weekend.
You can check out Samantha’s stone jewelry here: http://thestonewitch.bigcartel.com/
After the success of the inaugural Scarwars in 2005, we decided to take the party to the west coast less than a year later and in February 2006 found ourselves at a private studio location in Los Angeles California continuing the concept of cutting and branding artists sharing information and collaborative scarification projects.
This photo, taken by the event’s official portrait photographer Rachel Larratt, features modification artist Thorsten Sekira. Thorsten is wearing one of the event’s official t-shirts with a design by New Hampshire’s Nick Kelly.
Event: Scarwars 2.
Location: Los Angeles.
Year: February 2006.
Photographer: Rachel Larratt.
Subject: Dave Gillstrap.
My wife and I took a much needed week long roadtrip for Thanksgiving; Philadelphia to Asheville North Carolina, Asheville to Atlanta Georgia and back to Philly, checking out the sights, seeing family and just unwinding from all of our responsibilities. I had packed my laptop and had a few blog entries ready to go out, but you know how it goes with vacations…
I’ve been focusing a lot on the 1970s lately, so I figured a 2000s post may be a welcome change. This 2006 photo, by BME’s Rachel Larratt, features scarification artist Dave Gillstrap at the second Scarwars event in Los Angeles. For the event portraits I asked our photographers to go very simple, white backgrounds and neutral lighting to let the personality of the subject stand out.
Dealing with technology that’s older than some of the readers of this blog comes with a certain level of frustration. Courting donations, finding the tech we need and buying it, waiting for it to arrive to find that it’s defective or doesn’t suit the needs of the project, starting the returns/refund process and then sitting in a holding pattern before you start the whole thing over again has burned me out a little on regular updates.
I have a replacement 8mm VCR en route to Philly and am scouting some digital8/DVC platforms as well, but in the meantime…. I’m enjoying the slack. I should be scanning photos, there are VHS tapes I could be importing… but eh. I think I’m going to let Slack win until the 8mm project gets underway.
I hadn’t planned to update until I had some good news, but once I started thinking about Slack… Flashback to 2006, Los Angeles for Scarwars2- Dave Gillstrap did this fitting tribute to the prophet of Slack himself, J.R. “Bob” Dobbs.
“Moses parted the Red Sea, Oppenheimer split the atom, but “Bob” cut the crap.” – Steve Antczak
Ten years ago today I was nervously pacing in a Port Richmond 1 warehouse, hoping that the months of planning the inaugural Scarwars event- from assembling the artists, hand picking the attendees, making sure the photographers had what they needed and praying that the warehouse owner believed my ‘we’re shooting pornography, please give us our privacy’ cover story- would be enough to make sure that the weekend would go off without a hitch.
We made some amazing memories that weekend; the artists made some beautiful scars and while there were some glitches (the gentleman walking around dripping blood comes to mind) by and large it ended up being one of the most laid back events I’ve ever hosted. In the decade that followed we’ve seen decorative scarification flourish; while not getting the same widespread acceptance that tattooing and body piercing are currently enjoying people are finally starting to come around to the idea that a cutting isn’t always mutilation and that sometimes our scars make us stronger. I hope that in some small way we had something to do with that.
I’ve asked SW1 staff, artists 2 and guests to share a memory from the event- here are their stories:
Angela (Medical Liaison)
As someone who was relatively new to the BME community and also now as “modified” as others, this event was extremely inclusive. I attended as a spectator as well as someone on the medical/biohazard team. A very distinct memory, may it be good or bad, was of a young gentleman who had just got some work done and was walking around shirtless. He happen to drip blood EVERYWHERE. I followed the blood trail to him, cleaning up as I went. Finally as I got to him, I drew a circle on the floor and told him he wasn’t allowed outside of the circle…. Over the years of scar wars, this def happened less and less as people were much more aware of themselves… But that was the first… Oh yeah, and I was topless for most of it.
Brian (Staff Fixer)
When you asked us to look back at the inaugural Scar Wars, I literally had to go through pictures and re-read diary entries to jog my memory. After being flooded with nostalgia and thoughts of “I miss them”, I searched for what it was like those important days. It was hectic. I remember being the first ones there and the last to leave almost everyday. My role in the event was a catch all. I documented what I could, helped wherever possible, and most of all was privileged to witness amazing humans enduring painful experiences that ended with huge smiles. Being part of the chaos was grueling at the time, but come 10 years later it stands out as a defining moment of my life. i also can’t believe how many titties there were.
My memories of Scar Wars are mostly about the people who attended. Many friends from around the world who I was meeting for the first time or seeing together in one place when they usually were so far apart. I had seen scarification done many times, but not in such a concentrated group of skilled practitioners, and it was great to walk around the room and watch them all work. The collaborative spirit was something that struck me as well- so many artists with different styles and techniques, all willing to share information and learn from one another. It and the subsequent Scar Wars events are some of the most positive memories I have of any body modification event I’ve ever attended.
Jesse Villemaire (Scarification Artist)
Scar Wars had so many great memories! 10 years later and I’m still proud to be friends with many of these great artists. I remember connecting with Ron Garza immediately as he put a camera crew in my face to interview me as soon as I arrived. Ron then made me comfortable and allowed me to ask as many stupid questions as I needed too in order to excel my techniques.
I also had the honor of collaborating with Brian Decker on a large bamboo scar piece on Corinna’s back. Corinna dealt with every emotion possible as many friends were coaching her through this intense project…still so unreal. It wasn’t just about cutting people, it was about bonding on a level that’s hard to describe.
The enjoyment of learning with many others, realizing there’s multiple ways to create a scar, watching Dave create “shading” with his cross hatching technique, seeing other artists collaborating for the very first time…it was all very inspiring.
Scar Wars is a significant part of our history. Thanks Shawn for having a vision that brought so many talented people from around the world to showcase the art we were truly passionate about.
Ryan Ouellette (Scarification Artist)
Scar Wars was the first time that I felt like I was part of a larger scarification community and that I really had colleagues in it. I knew there were other people out there doing it and getting it but I was in this little bubble of only seeing my pieces and only knowing my techniques and aftercare. Being able to watch other people doing it really helped me expand my own methods. I grew a lot from that experience and scarification really came into its own as a respectable art form, rather than just an internet fad.
Allen Falkner (Photographer)
So many fond memories form that weekend. Sadly most stories cannot be shared with the public due the nature of the indiscretions and the people involved.
Scar Wars was an intensely personal experience among friends and strangers, unique in a way that doesn’t feel possible anymore. I got cut at Scar Wars and love it ten years later, but it was not the most memorable thing about the event. What I remember most was an inherent trust in the people I was surrounded by that I’ve since learned is rare. It is hard to put succinctly into words how this event (and others like it) helped me personally grow. I’ll leave it to a simple thank you to everyone involved.
Shawn Porter: (Host)
The first Scarwars was fun. It was supposed to be serious, life changing, important.. but more than anything it was fun. The staff worked overtime (literally) to make sure that by the time I walked in the door everything had been taken care of so I was free just to enjoy myself and have a good time. Everything lined up perfectly and I was humbled to be part of something that meant as much to the artists and guests as it did for me.
I’ve just put the finishing touches on the latest installment of the ‘Safe Guide to Professional Piercing’ series of videos pulled from an instructional and critically out of date 1980s VHS produced by Sailor Sid Diller and Jack Yount, but before I post it I thought I’d break it up a little and add some recent content for folks who want to see more modern modifications being covered.
Eight years to the month after the original SCARWARS event was held in Philadelphia, Ron Garza brought together some of Europe’s best scarification artists for his inaugural SCARCon event in London, England. I had officially retired from hosting the SW events so I was pleased when Ron decided to carry on with the concept- this time moving it to the UK and inviting new artists to work in a collaborative environment.
It wasn’t much of a stretch to continue in the footsteps of the groundwork that had already been laid by Shawn’s events, but adding international artist and bring all of us together again to share ideas, techniques, tips and tricks once again. This time with some new blood! -RON GARZA, Bizarre Magazine
The artists from SCARCon came from Norway, the US, Hungary, the UK and Italy- which is where Brenno Alberti (pictured here) plies his trade. One of the most common questions we get about scarification is ‘does it hurt’- the look on the clients face may help answer that.