Talk about well-rounded! John Lopez describes his occupation as “piercer/tattooist/painter/dad.” (That’s one of his paintings to the left.) Regardless of what hat he’s wearing, John’s professional and blunt advice on piercings and body jewelry has helped countless in-the-dark piercees. He’s all about professionalism and safe practices, and that’s what I like to feature!
Q. Tell me a little about your career as a professional piercer. Are you actively piercing now? Is the economic slump affecting the piercing business in your area?
A. It’s been 17 years of full time piercing and I’m a little burnt out. I’m learning to tattoo and piercing is sort of taking a back seat in my priorities. But I am doing the piercing at the shop still. Piercing is very slow right now and I do think some of the reason is related to the economic slump. It’s possible that since I’m not exactly enthusiastic these days, I could be part of the reason for the slow down in piercing business.
Q. I know what you mean. Burn out is a problem in any profession. You’re also performing other flesh enhancing modifications, aren’t you? Like cutting and scarification–can you talk about that a little? What are your favorite body modifications to do?
A. I absolutely LOVE doing scarification! It’s so artistic and intense. I was dong quite a bit while in Seattle at Slave to the Needle, but here in Eureka, there’s not much of a market for more extreme body art. I also enjoy doing Pearling and Implants,* but again, not much of a market lately.
Q. I can understand that. I’ve been to Eureka! I have to say that as a person with a lot of natural scars, the scarification kind of disturbs me. Maybe I’ll change my mind on that, though.
A. I watch people look through my portfolio and I can tell when they get to the genital piercings, then the scarification. Most people have the same sort of gasp. It’s sort of funny. But every once in a while someone will just get quiet when they get to the scars and I know I’ve either found a possible new customer or someone who’s just too disturbed to deal with it.
Q. Do you design jewelry? Do you see a lot of innovation and progress in jewelry design still being made?
A. I designed jewelry specifically for Vertical Clit Hood piercings, which were prototyped by Industrial Strength and they were awesome. But I.S. was very busy getting Surface Anchors produced at the time and they just didn’t have the time to invest in such a piercing-specific, small market. I asked another company to try making them and they sort of just forgot about it. So who knows what, if anything, will ever become of them. I think they’re perfect for VCH piercings and would make a lot of women very happy.
I also helped I.S. in the design of Surface Anchors by doing product testing and reporting. I was able to use a whole bunch of Anchor prototypes and help I.S. fine-tune their design.
I also hand craft Heart Shaped jewelry for Daith piercings. The idea was originated by Nick Steinmetz (a coworker at Slave to the Needle) who asked me to make them for him. They were so successful that they’ve already turned up in some catalogs.
Q. If someone wanted to contact you for a custom-made piece, can they?
A. I’m not the guy to ask for custom jewelry. I’d suggest they contact Drew or Jason at Tribalectic to seek out a custom design.
Q. I’m thinking about getting a surface anchor, but I’m nervous about them, because they are not removable by the piercee. Can you address these fears?
A. Technically, you’re right. But at the same time, they are VERY easy to remove as long as it’s done in an aseptic manner. While I’d never suggest someone take out their own Anchors, I’ve had customers bring in jewelry that they did remove themselves without any negative effects.
Q. Speaking as an older person, our skin does not have as much collagen and resilience–would that mean a surface anchor is a bad idea?
A. Part of a piercer’s job is to ensure the placement of a piercing has a significant chance to heal well. I hesitate to answer that question with a yes or no because if you were my customer I’d want to examine the skin where you want the piercing. Young or old, skin is different from place to place on the body.
Q. Do you have any tips for consumers on how to evaluate a piercer’s skill?
A. Unfortunately, portfolio pictures aren’t enough, because those photos are almost never of HEALED piercings. So if it’s possible, I’d suggest observing a piercer at work. After seeing 2 or 3 piercers at work, significant differences in style, proficiency, and skill will be very obvious. A highly skilled piercer is really easy to spot when you compare them to a less skilled piercer. It’s like holding and comparing an imported, cheap barbell purchased in a mall to one made by Industrial Strength or Anatometal . . . OBVIOUS quality differences that are really only obvious when compared side by side.
Q. That makes it hard for a novice to tell, though. There’s that learning curve again.
A. All a novice needs to do is ask. A shop that carries good quality jewelry always has some crap jewelry to use as a comparison. I’ve never known of a good shop that didn’t have some “common” jewelry to use in this example. I also think good piercers enjoy showing off their knowledge of jewelry and standards . . . especially guys. The male ego is funny that way.
Q. Are “rock star” piercers–those with a lot of exposure in the industry, splashy portfolios, APP membership, etc., a better choice for the customer than your average street-corner piercer?
A. Usually, but not always. There are many GREAT piercers out there who will never be “known.” And there are plenty of piercers who are members of the APP who just suck at piercing. It’s “buyer beware” for sure!
Q. I remember your career as a pinup boy. Are you going to be on another Tribalectic calendar?
A. Oh boy. I’m probably going to be pictured in a Tribalectic brochure/pamphlet pretty soon, but it wouldn’t bother me in the slightest if they went with a younger, hipper, better looking piercer. I really don’t care or need the attention. My mouth gets me more attention than I should get anyway.
Q. LOL! Okay, if you could tell the pierced consumer one thing, what would it be?
A. GIVE A SHIT! It’s your body, it’s your responsibility to keep it healthy and safe. NOBODY else is looking out for your well-being!
Q. I really appreciate this.
A. Any time. I have a feeling that your blog will end up being a good thing for the industry. You seem to have the energy and enthusiasm I used to have.
Q. It comes and goes, you know? Thing is, this information IS out there–but few people care enough to do the research, until they get a fubar’d piercing.
A. Which brings the circle all the way around . . . unless customers wise up, they are at risk. Period. No regulations or laws can change that. It truly is up to the customer to care about more than price. I know it sounds dickish, but I believe you get what you pay for, you get what you deserve, you get what you ask for and the “system” won’t help you.
John is currently performing body art at Instant Gratification in Eureka, California, 411 5th Street, 707-442-6736. You can also contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org. John tells me they’ll have a website up soon!
*You can find info on pearling and implants (as well as scarification and pretty much everything else relating to body art) at the BMEzine Encyclopedia. VERY NSFW!