What made you want to become a professional piercer?
I don't know that it's any one thing. I think it's an entire pattern of things. When I was a kid, my father was one of those guys that had a bunch of National Geographics laying around the house. So even from a very young age, I remember being fascinated with all of the modifications and decorations that these cultures were doing. When I was in high school was when body piercing as a trend started to take hold and started to become more popular faster and faster. Through sort of riding that wave, going to studios with friends, meeting some piercers and already having this interest in it, it just all sort of meshed together.
What would you say to people who think you're just poking holes in peoples' bodies?
There are many people who would say that Jackson Pollock was just throwing some paint across a canvas. Piercing is an art form and just like any art form that exists, there are going to be those who criticize it as simple, and there are going to be those who appreciate it for what it is. It's much more than simply drawing dots. Every body is shaped differently. So taking a specific piece of jewelry and fitting it in an aesthetic way, where it's also placed so that it will heal properly, there is very much an art to it.
As an artist, how do you express yourself through others' piercings?
I sometimes use my background in sculpture to do these things. Yesterday I did a piece where I had to bend the steel specifically to suit the customer's ear. On another, I had to fit 19 pieces of hand-bent steel to create a specific look. People give me a piece of jewelry or a type of piercing and then I put together a composition for their anatomy utilizing the stipulations that they've given.
I sometimes use my background in sculpture to do these things. Yesterday I did a piece where I had to bend the steel specifically to suit the customer's ear.
How can piercing give someone “a new sensation, angle of perception or concept of themselves”?
When we stand up and look in the mirror, we see somebody different. There is now an aspect of this person that we do not recognize. I think what that does to our psyche, that all of a sudden we've changed and altered ourselves in some way and it will always be that way now—very deep down in our subconscious, there is something that ticks and gives us that idea in our head that now we are somebody different. Well, now if we're somebody different, maybe we could do this or try that. It kicks off a thought process that kind of awakens us a bit. It reminds us that we can always change and evolve and do something drastic and always have these new experiences.
Some piercers describe a sort of energy exchange during a piercing. What is that?
It's actually something that you become very attuned to and very aware of. If we want to get really philosophical about it, we all have this life force, this energy, that keeps us going. It's our consciousness, our ego, our sense of “I.” From a medical standpoint, we know that it's there, but we don't have any tangible or measurable evidence of it. Well, just like anything that exists in the universe, everything is made of energy, and so it makes perfect logical sense to think that that consciousness is made of energy also. I believe that when we are in any sort of emotional heightening—fear, excitement, love, combinations of these things—this energy that makes up our consciousness resonates a bit. And when you're in physical contact with that person, it's quite possible that that energy is going to resonate as well and that that energy is going to come into you. You're going to take some of that. And reciprocally you're going to give some to them. When that energy exchange occurs, it carries along with it all the energy that it's coming from. So, part of our job as piercers is to create that balance and alleviate some of that fear and apprehension and some of that nervousness and replace it with our own calm, ease and self-confidence.
Other than cleanliness and technique, what makes someone a good piercer?
Compassion, empathy and humor. Also charisma—you have to be friendly and easy to get along with. You have to be capable of talking with the heavily-tattooed 40-year-old biker and then turn around and talk to the nervous 15-year-old girl.
Advice for the world?
The most important thing is that we never judge anyone and whenever you meet someone, treat them with kindness and compassion. We never know someone until we understand their background, their lives and what they've been through. And we forget that a lot.