In recent years, it’s become increasingly common for piercers to get burned out. This comes as no surprise, a piercer’s day to day life revolves around the same repetitive tasks: performing the same piercings over and over, repeating the same aftercare instructions that no one listens to, and fixing the same problems from inferior shops in their area. When one does the same things over and over, day after day, for years on end, it’s no shock that one can lose touch with what drew them to piercing in the first place.
It’s time for piercers to reignite the passion that brought them into the piercing industry in the first place. We need to look back at what sparked the desire to ask for a piercing apprenticeship all those years ago: to hang out around tattoo artists.
“I’ve never been able to draw,” says Jeff Reemy, 26, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “Tattoos are awesome, but I’ll never be a tattoo artist.”
When Jeff was 18, he was working for a fast food chain and spending all his free money on tattoos. When he wasn’t getting tattooed, he was hanging around the shop. That’s when the idea first hit him.
“I was spending a lot of time sitting around talking to the piercer, who didn’t do much of anything, ever. That’s when he let me in on the secret.”
Apprenticing to pierce not only means hanging out in a tattoo shop all day, but you can also get free tattoos by becoming friends with the artists. Once you work in a tattoo shop, all you had to do was bring in a tub of brownies or take an artist out to dinner. Suddenly you had a back piece.
“This is what being a piercer is all about,” Jeff continued. “Getting tattoos for next to nothing.”
But not all piercers think this is ethical. Sarah Proust, 34, piercer from Houston, Texas has a different idea.
“A back piece is worth so much more than a dinner at a nice restaurant,” she explained. “You’ve got to get them a new tattoo machine or iPod or something like that. Piercers today have no idea what a good tattoo is really worth.”
Many people chalk these differences in opinion to the extreme generational gap between these two piercers. Sarah was piercing in the mid-90’s, while Jeff didn’t get his start until 2002. Back in the 90’s, piercing was so popular that there was almost no time for a piercer to get tattooed. Piercers often found themselves in a dilemma.
“If you turned a piercing away in order to get tattooed, the owner would simply fire you and get a new piercer. And then you wouldn’t be able to get free tattoos. You didn’t have a choice.”
Every year, since 1995, the Associate of Professional Piercers (APP) has held an annual conference in Las Vegas. This event draws piercers from all over the world together in one place, where they are able to share the passion that bonds them all together.
“The APP conference is great,” explains Crystal Heathers, 29, a piercer from Ontario, Canada. “You get to see so many different people’s tattoos. It’s simply amazing.”
Crystal even argues that the annual APP conference is better than going to a tattoo convention.
“Since piercers get tattooed for free, they’re able to get ridiculous tattoos that no one in their right mind would ever pay for. I’ve got a tattoo a of squirrel shitting a rainbow onto a big plate of bacon.”
In today’s modern world, many piercers learn more about their craft through tools such as the internet. Websites such as Body Modification EZine (BME) and BodyMod.org provide places for piercers to get together and really talk about tattoos. Many piercers find these communities an invaluable resource for learning where all the best tattoo artists work.
“I’ve learned so many great things from BME. Even if there aren’t many tattoo artists with websites there, there are tons of knowledgeable piercers who know exactly where I can do guest spots in order to get great free tattoos.”
However, there is a downside to online communities. These websites can also be extremely frustrating for today’s modern piercer who just wants to learn the best places to get free tattoos. There are numerous distracting forums dedicated to the specifics of different piercing techniques and the values of different aftercare solutions.
The forums can get quite heated, with piercers arguing over the superiority of piercing free-hand versus using tools. They’ll discuss the ingredients that make up different aftercare solutions, arguing minute details such as individual enzymes and the chickens they come from.
“These piercers are losing touch with what really matters in piercing,” Jeff claims. “At the end of the day, it’s all about having a job that allows you to get free tattoos. I think that we, as a community, have lost sight of that.”
In a world where navel, nostril, and ear piercings have become mainstream and almost no client wants to venture beyond that, it’s easy for piercers to lose faith in their chosen career path. It’s at this point that we, as a community of piercers, must return to our roots: the passion for free tattoos. It is only then that the piercing industry will get the refresh it so desperately needs.
*Every person quoted in this article is a complete work of fiction, as are all the views and opinions expressed.
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