Anti-Experience: Pt 2

December 23, 2008

Part one can be found here.



I can’t begin to tell you how important it is to take your time about the marking.  This is the time to communicate lifestyle considerations such as plans for further piercing near to the new one, purpose of the piercing, or what style of jewelry you would like to ultimately wear.


Communication is key! If you have doubts, always ask the piercer.  Often they have benefit of experience and will tell you why they want to place it a certain way.  Proper placement can mean a more stable and aesthetically pleasing piercing.


Take the time with the marking and prep work until you are comfortable.  It can be hard to assess by yourself, so having a friend give a second opinion is valuable.


Noah is doing cleaning and prep work on me, and we discuss placement.  I also asked for an unusually large starting gauge for my nipple, 8 gauge, and he had to carefully assess whether my anatomy was suited.  After looking at my other, long-healed 8 gauge nip, he agreed to do it.

Wonderful shop that had all the jewelry I needed! ‘tho the 8 g needle and jewelry had to be statim’d.


The Piercings

BD#1 went first with her Monroe.  It was very quick.  She let out a subdued moan, but was very brave.


Here’s BD#1 caught in that, “oh shit” moment, right before the piercing.  Noah is well into his aftercare speech, which he wants you to focus on instead of dwelling on the pain.


Noah asked me which piercing I wanted first.  I opted for the chest piercing–ouch with the needle + a hard painful push on my chest to get the anchor inserted. Then the nipple piercing.  That was pretty painful–it seemed to take forever, but he had to push that 8 gauge needle pretty hard to get it through.  It really only took a few seconds.

In my mind, piercing is a significant event, and should be treated as such.  Pain has been a part of human transformative rites forever. You walk out of a piercing experience a different person, transformed through ritual.

So, yeah, it hurts a bit, but it’s worth it.


The Jewelry

Dazed and Confused. Again.  Immediately after piercing, you’re so high on endorphins and jazzed and relieved it’s hard to pin down the little details.  Like jewelry and aftercare.

Make sure you know what jewelry you just bought! This can become important if you need to replace part of it, plan to stretch, or just want to buy new jewelry.  Or maybe that piercing you just got is having problems and you suspect the jewelry.   Is it stainless steel? Titanium? Who is the manufacturer?

They gave me a receipt with all the jewelry spelled out, if in abbreviations.  So, uh . . . what are all these abbreviations again? “am-at-18”? “is-tbop4”? omgwtf?

The following pics are an experiment to document my jewelry purchases.


the surface anchor


the barbell


BD#1’s labret jewelry


Bye Bye, Evolution! We’re pierced, poorer, and pumped up! Why doesn’t my town have cool places like this? We’re so podunk! Next time I’d like to have a little more time to hang out in Albuquerque.


About two hours down the road.  Badge of courage.

A great experience altogether, but I have to say that two intense piercings, plus an 8 hour drive makes for one tired Cloud and BD#1.  Now, I can concentrate on . . . the aftercare!


See ya!

Thank you, of course, to Noah Babcock at Evolution Body Piercing who very graciously let me take the photos during the whole thing.

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The Anti-Experience: Pt. 1

December 22, 2008


The Anti-Experience, by Cloud.

Featuring Beautiful Daughter No. 1 and a road trip to Albuquerque to visit Evolution Body Piercing and get a Monroe, nipple, and chest anchor piercings.

Tired of the same old “experience”?

I went to the shop . . . met the piercer . . . he was cool . . . got pierced . . . it hurt like a sonuvabitch! . . . ([or] it didn’t hurt at all!) . . . got new shinies . . . blah blah blah . . . am proud.

Me, too! so — here’s my “anti-experience.”  I like to use mind-maps sometimes–they’re great for note taking, learning, or articulating a concept. (Some delicious tags for mindmaps here.) Note: This is without a doubt the single dorkiest thing I have ever done.


Road Trip with my Bodymod buddy!

Beautiful Daughter No. 1 is my bodymod buddy. [ETA: I know it’s not “boddy” mod buddy.  No, I can’t change it now–live with it!] She’s provided moral support countless times, designed 2 of my tattoos, and even inked a few lines in another of my tattoos. . It’s so nice to have someone to hold your hand and give you a second opinion; not to mention company for the road.  I’ve driven that trip to Albuquerque and Santa Fe many times, but there’s a whole lot of Nothing out here! 4 hours up; get pierced (or tattooed); 4 hours down.



The Studio:

We went to see Noah Babcock at Evolution in Albuquerque. Beautiful place! I love going to piercing only shops.  Noah gave good directions and it was easy to find!


Here’s Angela at the counter who patiently explained the information about my jewelry three times.

anti-b-100_0785Here’s the beautiful lobby.  Water, plants, fish.  Jewelry! Noah gave me a tour.  He showed me the piercing rooms, sterilization equipment, the decontamination room door–all the stuff.

No, I didn’t ask to see the spore tests. Maybe next time I’ll ask and get a pic.


Here’s Jamie, another piercer, doing packaging. Work, work, work!


The Piercer: Noah

Noah came highly recommended and is an APP Piercer who is actively involved in developing and refining piercing techniques and jewelry, and is an industry advocate.  It’s so nice to know that the person about to stick a needle in you is very experienced and skilled. Noah has a terrific client manner, is calm, reassuring and funny.  He made BD#1 and feel I very welcome, before he shoved sharp things in us!

Tune in for Part 2–there’s still the marking, piercing, jewelry, and aftercare to go!

Profile of the Week: Chuck (Part 1)

December 14, 2008

The Bold Red Rocket Scientist!

When I asked Chuck his interview questions, his answers came back identified as “Bold Red.”  I think this is a good metaphor for him–his strong personality comes through clearly, as you will see.  He describes himself as: “45 years old, engineer/rocket scientist, living in North Alabama, heavily tattooed, currently 13 piercings, have lost/given up on about another 13 more through the years, former piercer/shop owner, tattooed for 24+ years, pierced for 22 years (26 if you count earlobes). ” (And I do!)  He’s also a thoughtful and prolific writer, so I’m splitting this interview up for ease of posting/reading.


Part 1–The Man

Q.  Where are you spending your life these days, on and off the net?  Any good body modification sites or other sites you’d like to highlight?

A.  Online–Most of my time is spent on various fora dealing with watches, knives and gadgets and guns, and on various news/current events sites and blogs.  Throw in several active email accounts and a moderately busy MySpace page and it takes up a good chunk of my evening every day.  I am also involved in a movie project, which could turn into a book project, that has periods of intense email traffic.*

The only piercing site I spend any time on anymore is Poked (which is more social than anything else), plus now I have started perusing your blog.  After devoting huge amounts of time to Tribalectic back in its early days and finally burning out . . . I just haven’t had the desire to submerge myself in the day-to-day struggle to inform the public at large about better piercing practices.  Fought that battle for years, got tired of the bloody forehead, and have turned the reins over to anyone else with the heart to continue (with my thanks!).  I never had much use for BME, so I have never really spent any time there . . . I guess I’m just not cool enough LOL.  If there are other piercing/body mod forums out there, I guess I haven’t bothered to find them.  I guess any more I’m just kind of old fashioned about the whole deal . . . I would much rather PFIQ started publishing again and I could read new issues of it every few months vs. spending time in forums and chat rooms anymore.  Yeah, I’m a piercing Luddite, LOL.

Offline–working, playing with my kid, walking in the woods, and all other fun stuff we all enjoy (hanging out with friends, going to concerts and sporting events, etc. )  Not spending nearly enough time getting tattooed or pierced these days.

Q.  I give my interviewees a choice of how they wish to be identified.  Most, like me, want to minimize public  scrutiny of  their Name+ their body art.  As Chuck puts it, with employers scrutinizing your online trail and the future being unwritten, its probably best not to put the full name.  But I’ve never had a rocket scientist before! (That’s “had” in the sense of interviewing! *koff*) So–

What’s it like being a rocket scientist with body art?

A.  Wow.  There are about 101 different ways I could approach this one.  I’ll just say that while I have been surprised at how much acceptance or at least tolerance I have encountered in my 22+ years as an engineer, I would also be lying if I said it has not damaged my career.  For every 99 professionals that don’t care about my tattoos, piercings, etc., I can find one or two who do for whatever reason.  If that one or two are in a position of any sort of power over me, then it can damage my reputation, salary, opportunities, etc.  Unfortunately, this has happened to me in the past; not enough to have me terminated, but enough to impact my earning potential for many years.  Fortunately right now it appears the folks I work for and with don’t care about my mods, at least to the extent they know about them, LOL!  I have stopped wearing short-sleeve shirts, removed my tragus jewelry, wear a glass retainer in my  nostril, retainer in my septum, and down-sized my earrings to 8 or 6 gauge (Jeez, I can’t even remember which.)

I have also learned the hard way that it is best not to talk about any specific mods below the neck with coworkers, no matter what they ask or how “cool” they seem.  That said, the professional world I work in is a whole lot more accepting of mods now than they were back in the 80s when I started.  I also refuse to play the victim and accet full responsibility for any professional repercussions any past decisions may have caused.  I have no regrets over any of the twists and turns my life has taken.

Q.  No regrets.  That’s what I like to hear!

You have a beauteous family! (Including a precious daughter adopted from China.**) Does your wife still have her septum piercing?


A.  Thank you very much . . . my family is very important to me and a source of great joy and purpose in my life.  My wife has explored the body modification world both before we met, and also along with me.  She has never had as many tattoos or piercings as me but chooses her work carefully, if infrequently.  She has chose to remove all of her below-the-neck piercings in the last few years (a few of which I was sad to see go, LOL!).  She still maintains her pierced septum and is about equally likely to wear exposed jewelry as a retainer.  In the last year or two has gotten her nostril pierced again (having lost one or two before) and has started stretching her ears after years of not wanting to (currently at 4 ga.)

My daughter, who will be 5 in January, is being raised without being sheltered in any way from tattooing, piercing, etc.  We have asked her if she wants her ears pierced when she is older and she vehemently says no! She doesn’t even notice our tattoos, and only recently once asked me, “Daddy, why do you have a earring in your hoo-hoo?” That one caught me off guard and was tough to answer intelligently.  I may have tossed out the gem, “Some people just do that sort of thing” and changed the subject quickly.   She is still at an age where privacy concerns haven’t entered into her world.  I imagine they will soon, though, and once they do the whole tattoo and piercing thing will get a lot more . . . sensitive.  My wife and I both plan to raise her as neutrally as possible regarding mods, letting her decide for herself whether she is interested, not pushing one way or the other, and we will try to be fully supportive of whatever decisions she makes whether we agree with them or not.  The only place I will be insistent is in demanding she see safe, clean practitioners.  I’ll probably also urge her to wait as long as possible to be tattooed if she goes that route.  I’ll buy the first if she follows my advice.

Q.  By the time she’s ready, it will probably be hopelessly uncool to have piercings and tattoos!

We know that people sometimes do dumb things to their piercings.  Is there something that piercees do that just makes you want to scream?

A.  I don’t know, I think I have reached a point in my life where I really don’t care what people choose to do with their piercings.  If they want to ignore the best advice and do something stupid, that’s their problem, not mine (unless it’s my advice they ignored, then they need not bother asking me again, or crying about their situation when they get into trouble over it.)

I guess the only thing that will still and always piss me off is people who know better going with poor choices in jewelry, piercers, etc. just to save a few bucks.  I have no patience or tolerance for that mentality (and its prevalence was one of the reasons I left the business).  As far as piercers go, that is where I will still get very pissed off.  I have no use for those who can’t be bothered to continually improve and be the best they can be, those who can’t be bothered to research the best aftercare for their clients, and the ones who have no business even sweeping a shop floor let alone picking up a needle, they have so little experience.

And I believe there is a special place in hell for those (fortunately rare) near-rapists who do things like insist women be aroused for genital piercings, and that they themselves must be the one to handle the task.

Q.  What’s the most important lesson about piercing that pierced consumers need to know?

A.  EDUCATE YOURSELF!!!  Know what you are getting into before you do it.  Know who is doing it to you and what makes them qualified to do it.  Know how to properly take care of it to best insure likelihood of a happy, healed piercing.

DON’T BE A CHEAP MOTHERFUCKER!  Choose your piercer based on qualification, not price.  Choose your jewelry based on sound, experienced recommendations and not price, color, or other superflous considerations.

TIP WELL, YOUR PIERCER IS WORTH IT!  If they aren’t why are you even bothering with them?

All great advice from a man who has helped me more than he knows over the years.  Tune in to part 2, in which we discuss a bit of piercing history with someone who’s been there and done that!.

*Here are some links to the movie/book project mentioned: (music warning!); paypal warning!

and here’s Chuck’s MySpace page, but you have to let him know who you are; random people won’t be “friended.” (Isn’t social networking just lovely?)

**For more info about Chinese adoptions, you can peruse Mr. and Mrs. Chuck’s blog, and see their wonderful little girl, Morgan, here.

Are your rights as a piercee being violated?

December 11, 2008

I haz rights?

Yes, thanks to the Association of Professional Piercers, who crafted and promulgated them, there’s a Piercee’s Bill of Rights.  Knowing what they are will go a long way toward making you an informed Pierced Consumer.

Have your rights been violated?  Are you exercising your rights when you’re looking for a piercer or getting pierced?   You don’t have to take it!  I want you to complain if you are not given the opportunity to have a safe, clean, skillfully done piercing. It’s up to you to take responsibility for getting safe, healthy piercings, and demand, from yourself and from your piercer, that these rules be followed. March! Protest!  Organize! Chain yourself to redwoods . . .


Okay, maybe I’m getting a little carried away. (Calm, I am calm . . . ) Anyway, without further ado, here they are:

A Piercee’s Bill of Rights

1.  To be pierced in a hygienic environment by a clean, conscientious, sober piercer wearing a fresh pair of disposable medical examination gloves.

2.  To be pierced with a brand new, completely sterilized single-use needle that is immediately disposed of in a medical Sharps containing after use on one piercing.

3.  To be touched only with freshly sterilized and appropriate implements, properly used and disposed of or re-sterilized (where appropriate) in an autoclave prior to use on anyone else.

4.  To know that piercing guns are NEVER appropriate, and are often dangerous when used on anything–including earlobes.

5. To the peace of mind that comes from knowing that their piercer knows and practices the very highest standards of sterilization and hygiene.

6.  To have a knowledgeable piercer evaluate and discuss appropriate piercings and jewelry for his/her individual anatomy and lifestyle.

7. To be fully informed of all risks and possible complications involved in his/her piercing choice before making any decisions.

8.  To seek and receive a second opinion either from another piercer within the studio or from another studio.

9. To have initial piercings fitted with jewelry of appropriate size, material, design, and construction to best promote healing.  Gold-plated, gold-filled, or sterling silver jewelry is never appropriate for any new or unhealed piercing.

10. To see pictures, be given a tour of the piercing studio, and to have all questions fully and politely answered before making or following through on any decision.

11.  To be fully informed about proper aftercare, both verbally and in writing, and to have continuing access to the piercer for assistance throughout the healing process.

12. To be treated with respect, sensitivity, and knowledge regardless of tender, sexual orientation, race, religioins, ethnicity, ability, health status or piercing choice.

13. To change his/her mind, halt the procedure and leave at any point if the situation seems uncomfortable or improper.

These are so important, that there will be more about each of these rights in later posts. But just for fun, did you know there was a:

Patient’s Bill of Rights

Library Bill of Rights

Digital Consumers Bill of Rights

Taxicab Riders Bill of Rights

Math Anxiety Bill of Rights

the sadly failed Passengers Bill of Rights;

And, just in case you slept through your Civics Class, THE Bill of Rights

Thanks to the APP, The Commons at Flickr, The Library of Congress,   The New York Taxi & Limousine Commission, and MSNBC

I want to hear from you if your rights as a piercee have been violated–drop me a comment!

5 reasons Cloud isn’t a piercer

December 5, 2008

Stick holes in people?  Nope.  Never gonna happen.  The opinions in this blog are strictly from a layperson’s viewpoint.  Here’s why:

1. You have to deal with people.  Actual, live people! Naked people!


2. It’s very science-y.  As in chemistry, and anatomy, and biology, and pathology.  Big fail here for Cloud!


3. It’s very medical.  No, piercers aren’t medical practitioners, but there’s blood.  And needles.  And blood–did I mention blood?


4. Hand strength and manual dexterity.  I don’t haz it.  Those little teeny balls and screws?  Fuggetaboudit.  I can’t even change my own jewelry, let alone insert someone else’s.


5. Money.  Piercing may be a rock star profession, but piercers don’t get paid like rock stars, unfortunately.  Tip your piercer well!


Thanks to the following peeps’ photostreams at Flickr: Ojote’s photostream; Jenn Jenn’s photostream; Image Editor’s photostream;  (is that a real person?); pareecia; and Daniel Morris

Pigskins in Podunk

December 4, 2008


Yeah, I live in a podunk town.  It’s not really all that small, but it’s poor.  There are a lot of uneducated people around.  I suppose that’s true everywhere, and there are certainly a lot of people which are uneducated about body piercing!  Even if you travel to find a great piercer, sometimes you do need to find someone local that’s compatible; that can help you out in an emergency, and perform routine tasks like changing jewelry and stretching if you are uncomfortable doing those yourself.

How do you find a piercer?  You call, you visit, you ask questions.  Last weekend, I talked to Angel at Renegade Tattoos. Renegade  is a well-established local body art studio, with a good reputation in town.  Here’s a run down of our conversation.

Experience: Angel has only been piercing for two years, and said that he basically learned because he was an EMT (or received EMT training at least), and was comfortable with needles.  It didn’t appear to me that he served an apprenticeship.  He showed me his bloodborne pathogen certificate, but didn’t show me his spore tests (although I asked twice).   He also showed me his portfolio, which had pictures of piercings he’d done, but no healed piercings.  When asked, he said he normally did not have people come back unless they had unusual piercings, like anchors.

Aftercare: We also discussed his recommended aftercare at some length.  He basically recommended cleaning with Dial soap and that’s all.  I asked him why he didn’t recommend Satin or Provon (specialty antimicrobial soaps) or sea salt soaks.  His response was that the soaps were difficult to get (but why couldn’t the shop sell them?) and that salt dries the piercings.  Furthermore, he said he no longer provided written aftercare sheets because people had just been throwing them away outside the studio.

Now this makes me a little crazy.  First, sea salt soaks are supposed to dry out the wound–the whole purpose of the salt is to draw out the lymph and other material from inside in order to promote healing.  Second, a piercee has the right to have a written aftercare sheet, because who can remember all that in the excitement of getting a piercing?  (See A Piercee’s Bill of Rights) Written aftercare also serves to protect the studio and the piercer in case something goes wrong.  Lastly, the Dial soap thing–well, it’s readily available, and that’s about the best thing I can say about it.

Best Practices: When I pressed him a little about the aftercare, he talked about how he had to adjust his recommendations “for the culture.”  Meaning the unsophisticated town we live in.  This isn’t Seattle, where you get all sorts of people really into extreme body modifications.  True dat, but I wonder about the wisdom of catering to the lowest common denominator.  Just as it’s a responsible piercee’s job to protect his or her own health, it’s a responsible piercer’s job to educate his clients about best practices, not just minimal ones.

I understand, okay?  I really do.  It’s one of the reasons the APP has propounded a standardized aftercare regime.  By proposing a minimum standard, it unifies the industry as a whole, presenting a common face to legislators, health care workers, and the public, and benefits piercees.  But best practices will never be implemented, and piercees will never be educated, if we don’t pay attention to this.

I do sympathize with piercers who have to deal with piercees who just don’t care.  Even the most professional piercer, who does everything right, and goes over aftercare carefully, gets blindsided by the dumb things people do to their piercings.

Angel told me a story about a 25-year old woman on whom he performed cheek piercings.  I could tell he was proud of the beautiful job he did on them.  He had carefully explained the aftercare, and warned the young woman to eat sparingly of easy-to-eat foods.  The next day, she came in with her mother to complain, wanting a refund.  She was in pain!  That’s what happens when you eat chicharrones and red chili with fresh oral piercings!  Ouch!


Angel is a good sport who took the time to sit down with this crazy old lady and b.s. about piercings, which I appreciated very much.  I was impressed with his sincerity, openness, and bedside manner.  He really t0ok pride in his studio and his work, and talked about the educational and promotional opportunities his studio took part in.  I would wish for a little more awareness and education, however.  For instance, he waved off going to the APP convention and taking part in the educational opportunities there as unimportant, seemed surprised by my niobium CBRs with nitrile beads, and had never heard of his namesake, Elayne Angel, one of the most prominent piercers in the world.  Nevertheless, for my town, this is probably as good as it gets.  I think he would be a good choice for some people, and a good choice for me for routine piercing tasks.  Hope he’s still a good sport when he sees this!

Yeah, I’m a piercing snob, I admit it.  You should be too!

Renegade Tattoo’s MySpace

If you don’t know what chicharrones are–take a look.

Thanks to Body Art Forms.

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How to find a safe piercing studio

December 2, 2008

Image via Wikipedia

The following is re-posted, with permission, from piercer John Lopez, who was featured here earlier.   The Pierced Consumer is all about being the smartest piercing customer you can be, and here are some pointers from the other side of the needle:

Be a Smart Customer! Yes, I’m Talking to You!

It never ceases to amaze me just how many bad customers I have.  My impression is that about 75% of the people who walk into my shop have no clue at all about what goes on in a shop.  I’d go further and say that only about 1% actually ask the right questions and investigate safety concerns.  I’m not name-calling or trash-talking, just stating my observations.

It has been over three years since a customer walked in and asked to see my Autoclave Spore Test results! [Note: The image to the right is an autoclave.] Three years and not one request to see proof that our sterilization procedures work.  I believe the vast majority of people know that sterilizlation takes place in shops, so why don’t people ask about it?  The public appears to blindly trust our industry to be honest, professional and ethical.  If they only knew the truth!

I live in a very small city right now and I’ve lived and worked in San Diego, San Francisco & Seattle as well.  It’s the same everywhere I go:  A couple good shops surrounded by many bad shops.  By “good” shops I mean “safe” shops where strict Cross Contamination Controls and Decontamination Protocols are in place.  Completely ignoring skill and quality and only looking at safety, I’ve observed very few “good” shops in my 16 years in this industry.

Be a good customer.  Here are just a few SIMPLE things to ask when you visit any shop . . . yes, even your “regular” shop:

  1. Spore Test Results. Autoclaves should be tested regularly –at a minimum of monthly, preferably weekly.  Independent Lab Results should be available upon request.
  2. OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Training (citation omitted).  Usually in certificate form, but may also simply be logged in training documents.  Ask to see the Exposure Control Plan.  Don’t actually try to read it–just the fact that its’ there says way more than you might realize.
  3. Decontamination Room. Decontamination is the process of returning a contaminated item to a sterile state.  This process must take place entirely in a designated area separate from the shop’s work spaces.  Often the Decon areas are referred to as the “sterilization room(s).”

In my opinion, if these three things are being done correctly and openly the shop takes its role seriously and most likely you’ve found a “good” shop.  Hopefully the work coming out of that shop is also good.

Don’t be afraid to ask.  Don’t be afraid to [research] and get more information if you need it.  Don’t ignore your gut-instincts.  If you are uncomfortable at all just leave.

Instead of price shopping, go out safety shopping

Thanks again John for these great tips.  Be part of the one percent!

Originally posted here at Tribalectic.


November 25, 2008


Resources: Forums

Discussion forums are a great place to look for answers to your piercing questions and talk to others. Look at the website of your favorite body jewelry retailer for forums.

But Cloud, you said back when you were Dazed and Confused to listen to your piercers, not your friends.

Sure, always try to ask your piercer directly.  Your piercer is your expert resource and should expect a certain amount of follow up.  Call your piercer up.  Go in for a checkup.  (Be sure and tip for a face-to-face consultation if this is the custom in your part of the world.)

Sometimes your piercer lives too far away, or you can’t get hold of him; sometimes the advice is simply bad.  (There are still loads of piercers out there recommending Bactine.)  These sites also have FAQs sections, articles, and don’t forget the jewelry catalogs. Get a second opinion. Find a forum where people will help you out.  Ones to try:


Steel Navel


Thank you to Rekahop on Flickr for the pic.