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TELL US HOW YOU REALLY FEEL!

23/01/2014

By: Robyn J. Williams

With a new year comes new things, and I-Kandy has plenty of them in store. One of the biggies is a new website, which will be launched in the next week. As we put the final touches on the site, we’d like to hear from you!

What would you like to see included on the website? What blog topics are you hoping to read about in the new year? What are you hoping to see in our soon to be launched online store? Let us know in the comments of this post.

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TATTOO CONVENTIONS AROUND THE WORLD

16/01/2014

By: Robyn J. Williams

It can be assumed that most of our readers are from the lower mainland, and therefore already know about the fantastic Vancouver Tattoo & Culture Show, scheduled this year for April 25-27. But what if you live elsewhere, or are prone to world travel? Here are 6 must-visit tattoo shows happening around the world this year.

  1. The 10th annual London Tattoo Convention. Scheduled for the 26-28 of September, the London convention features international artists (last year boasted tattooists from China, Spain, the US, the UK, and Greece), a wide variety of bands, and vendors from all walks of life.
  2. Urban Ink Fest, held in Belgium, is coming up fast. January 25 & 26, European body mod artists, as well as musicians, fire breathers, breakdancers, and custom auto & BMX enthusiasts, will be showing off their best work.
  3.  South Africa’s Annual Cape Town Tattoo Expo is keeping this year’s artists hush-hush thus far, but if last year is any indication, it’s a show you won’t want to miss. Past artists include Bob Tyrell, Warren Petersen, and Benjamin Moss, and events include local bands and artists, burlesque dancers, and documentary showings.
  4. Thinking about running away somewhere warm next winter? The Australian Tattoo & Body Art Expo runs from December 5-7 this year, and boasts an alternative fare, dancers, pin-up models and contests, world-renowned body mod artists, and even a “kid’s corner”, where future tattooists can practice with finger paint and crayons.
  5. The Boston Tattoo Convention, held from Aug. 29-Sep. 1, features a huge group of incredible artists, as well as contests, door prizes, burlesque shows, and tons of live music. One of the largest conventions in North America, this show is a must-see.
  6. Held on Friday, June 13th this year, Northern Ink Xposure will be hosting a “Tattoo Horror Story” contest, and featuring artists from all over the world. Guests can even take seminars hosted by Bob Tyrrell and Larry Brogan, but you may want to sign up now – these tickets are sure to go fast.

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HOOKED

09/01/2014

By: Robyn J. Williams

“Why?”

This simple, one word question captures the most prevalent attitude towards all sorts of body modification, but none so much as suspensions and hook-pulls. For those outside of the modification world, it’s difficult to imagine just what would tempt anyone to allow large hooks to be pierced through one’s skin so that they may hang, tug, and pull. Pictures of suspensions and pulls are most often met with gasps and cringes, and YouTube videos of these events garner far more negative comments than positive.

Like most forms of modification, however, suspensions and pulls do not originate with masochists or weirdos, but with ancient tribal rituals. As far back as five thousand years ago, and in many unrelated parts of the world, people have been engaging in these practices. Some, like the rituals of ancient India, were meant as an expression of debt and honour to the gods. Certain Hindu devotees would (and still do) use skewers rather than hooks – a symbolic nod to the spear that Shiva’s wife gave to the war god to kill demons – and attach ropes to them so that they could either be suspended, or pulled. Native American tribes, such as the Mandan, had similar suspension rituals involving hooks, skewers, ropes, and weights, both to prove their strength and endurance, and to celebrate the creation of the Earth. Their suspensions came at the end of a four day ritual of fasting, prayer, dancing, and tests of will. Participants would hang until they fainted, and elders would then release them. Upon waking, the initiate was said to have been approved by the spirits.

Modern versions of these rituals have been practiced since the 60s, when Fakir Musafar and other early members of the “modern primitive” movement began exploring ancient customs and body modification related rituals. For the modern primitives, suspension was about rites of passage, and bringing back traditions that had since been lost or replaced, such as the Mandan rituals. For others, it was about pushing one’s body to its limits, and exploring feelings and sensations that would otherwise remain locked away in our subconscious, much like the ancient Hindus.

We are, of course, separated from these rituals by both culture and time, but the reasons have not changed much. Participants in modern suspensions and pulls speak of the meditative and healing qualities of the act, and describe a strong sense of euphoria and peace both during and after the event. While no gods are being appeased in these modern suspensions, the feeling of oneness with the universe and rising above our day-to-day concerns remains. And, much like the ancient practitioners, initiates walk away with the knowledge that they can endure and overcome any challenges or pain they may face in life.

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VINTAGE TATTOO PHOTOS

02/01/2014

By: Robyn J. Williams

A few of our posts have discussed the history of mods, explained that full-body tattoos or heavily tattooed women aren’t near as recent as you may think, and delved into ancient methods of tattooing – going back as far as 10,000 years ago. What you may not have seen yet, however, are the countless vintage tattoo photos circulating the internet and museum archives. Here are a few of our faves:

Famous tattooed lady, Betty Broadbent, early 1930s. Credit : Getty Images/Vintage Images

Famous tattooed lady, Betty Broadbent, early 1930s.
Credit : Getty Images/Vintage Images

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lyle Tuttle tattooing an unknown client. Photo signed to fellow artist Les Skuse. Credit: unknown

Lyle Tuttle tattooing an unknown client. Photo signed to fellow artist Les Skuse.
Credit: unknown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maud Wagner, tattoo artist and enthusiast, 1907. Credit: The Library of Congress

Maud Wagner, tattoo artist and enthusiast, 1907.
Credit: The Library of Congres

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mrs. Williams, circa 1897 Credit : Everett Collection

Mrs. Williams, circa 1897
Credit : Everett Collection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tattooed Couple, 1940s Credit : unknown

Tattooed Couple, 1940s
Credit : unknown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emma de Burgh, 1897 Credit : Everett Collection

Emma de Burgh, 1897
Credit : Everett Collection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Captain Elvy with a full back piece by George Fosdick, 1943 Credit : unknown

Captain Elvy with a full back piece by George Fosdick, 1943
Credit : unknown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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GIFTS YOU SHOULD (AND SHOULD NOT!) GET FOR YOUR BODY MOD ENTHUSIAST

18/12/2013

By: Robyn J. Williams

It’s that time of year once again. Eggnog and rum, regrettable boxes of chocolates that never made it under the tree, divorce-causing games of Monopoly, and, of course, the panicked frenzy of last minute shopping. Some people are harder to buy for than others, and when we run across that person on our list, we tend to think about what interests them most, what they’re like, and what we think they might enjoy. If your hard to buy for person happens to have a lot of tattoos or an 8g hoop in their septum, you may be tempted to go in that direction. Here are a few tips.

DO! Buy gift certificates – I-Kandy sells them in any denomination you so desire, so you can pay for anything from a piece of jewelry to the price of a full back piece.

DON’T! Book them an actual tattoo appointment, unless they’ve already had a consultation, and you know the artist’s name and schedule. A lot of people change their minds, or want to discuss things, several times before actually getting tattooed, so forcing them to commit isn’t a great idea.

DO! Get them hoodies, toques, coffee mugs, or anything else that sports the logo of their favourite shop or tattoo/piercing company. We body mod enthusiasts love our gear, and we can never have too much of it!

DON’T! Guess about the size of their jewelry. The ideal is to buy them a gift certificate so that they can pick their own, but some people think that’s a bit of a cold gift, and would prefer giving an actual, physical present. If this is your case, try to bring in a piece of their old jewelry to compare it to, or buy something you’re sure you’ve seen them wear before. Guessing about the size is never a good idea – there isn’t just the gauge to worry about, but also length/diameter, and bead size. Everyone has their own preferences, and you may not know what they are.

DO! Buy them aftercare, such as Tattoo Goo or saline, particularly to go with their gift certificate. The fun part of a new mod is…well…the new mod. You providing them with their aftercare means they get to just sit back and enjoy the experience, knowing everything else has already been taken care of.

We all love (and I do mean LOVE) to receive mod-related gifts at this time of year. Hopefully these tips help everyone give, and get, something that will be truly appreciated.

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2014 AT I-KANDY

12/12/2013

By: Robyn J. Williams

The holiday season is always a good time to reflect on the past, and look to the year ahead. I-Kandy is no exception; we’re excited about how far we’ve come in the last few years – a new location, new furniture and décor, new additions to our crew, and an ever-growing and truly awesome clientele. We are bigger and better than we’ve ever been, and have even bigger plans for the future!

2014 will see a brand-spankin’-new website for us, with tons of new pictures, a more interactive blog, and something our clients near and far have been waiting patiently for – an online store! You’ll soon be able to buy our newest t-shirts, hoodies, jewelry, and other assorted goodies from the comfort of your living room.

We’re also very excited to announce our involvement in the Amanda Todd Legacy project, promoting awareness of, and an end to, bullying. We will be featuring a series of blog posts about the effects of bullying, facts and stats, myths and misconceptions, and how our passion for body modification relates to this very sensitive issue. But you needn’t wait until the new year to get involved – I-Kandy has “Stay Strong” bracelets available by donation at the shop now, with all proceeds going to Amanda Todd Legacy!

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. 2014 is going to be a huge year for us, and we are stoked for all that’s in store. Thank you to all of our clients, supporters, and friends, for making us what we are today, and inspiring us to just keep getting better.

Happy Holidays from all of us, to all of you.

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THE BODY MOD DICTIONARY

05/12/2013

By: Robyn J. Williams

Like any other industry or artistic medium, body modification has its own, unique language – terms that are used pretty well exclusively within our community, and words that take on a new meaning in regards to our work. Below is a small “dictionary” of body mod terms.

BODY MODIFICATION : This is the all-encompassing term for tattoos, piercings, scarification, branding, dermal implants, stretching/gauging, and even several procedures that have nothing to do with an average tattoo shop, including plastic surgery, cosmetic tattooing, tooth shaping, and tightlacing. Body modification is, essentially, the deliberate alteration of one’s body and appearance.

BRANDING : Branding is a form of modification that uses high heat to effectively burn a design into your skin. There are a few different branding techniques, creating various styles.

CBB/CBR : When you get a new piercing, your piercer is likely to ask you what type of jewelry you would like. Many opt for studs or barbells to begin with, but you can often choose a CBB or a CBR as well. So, what are they? A CBB is a curved barbell – the horseshoe shaped pieces with a ball on each end. A CBR is a captive bead ring – the hoops with a ball connecting the ends.

DERMAL/SUB-DERMAL/TRANSDERMAL IMPLANTS : “Dermal” means, quite simply, “of the skin”. More specifically, the dermis is the layer of skin between the epidermis and the subcutaneous tissue. A dermal implant, then, is the insertion of a foreign object beneath it – generally semi-permanent jewelry, such as microdermals or dermal anchors, or silicone and Teflon implants, used to create designs under the skin.

GAUGE : “Gauge” refers to the thickness of your piercing needle and jewelry. The bigger the number, the thinner the jewelry. For example, someone wanting to stretch their lobes would likely start at 10g;  the average navel piercing is 14g; and a standard earring or nostril piercing is between 16-18g. While we certainly don’t expect you to memorise all these numbers, if you are planning to stretch your piercing, it’s a good idea to get a feel for the sizes.

INFECTION/IRRITATION : In both tattooing and piercing, there is concern of infection and irritation, but many people do not know the difference between the two. Most often, when you think you have an infection, what you really have is irritation, which is much less severe, and much easier to remedy. Irritation can be caused by many things – too small jewelry, fabric rubbing against your new piece, not keeping it clean, or touching it too much are just a few common reasons. Most of the time, irritation can be treated by simply keeping it clean, and otherwise leaving it alone. An infection is more serious, and needs to be dealt with quickly. In both tattoos and piercings, infections have visible signs – dark colouring around your piece, foul odor coming from it, pain or severe bruising, and dark green or yellow discharge coming from it (white or light yellow discharge, however, is completely normal and not a sign of infection). If you fear you may have an infection, please see your artist or a doctor immediately.

PLUG : A plug is a usually cylindrical piece of jewelry most often used in stretched lobes. They differ from tunnels in that they are solid.

RIM : While it’s tempting to define each and every piercing there is, that would be a post or two unto itself. The rim is a very common piercing that is rarely called by its proper name, so addressing this one specifically seemed like a good idea. Most people wanting their rim pierced will ask for a “cartilage piercing”, but cartilage is common to several parts of your body – most of your outer ear,  your back, your ribcage, and all of your joints, to name just a few. If you are wanting the cartilage at the top of your ear pierced, what you actually want is a rim piercing.

SCARIFICATION : Scarification is the creation of scars, usually via scalpels, to design the skin. There are several forms of scarification, resulting in different types of scars, giving the client and artist a wide range of creative possibilities.

ULTRASONIC & AUTOCLAVE : Two machines that no shop should be without. The ultrasonic uses high frequency waves to clean equipment much more thoroughly than could be done by hand. The autoclave uses extreme heat to sterilize equipment. The combination of methods ensures that any piece of equipment or jewelry that touches you is as clean as it is possible for something to be.

These are just a few common terms that you will hear around the shop – if there are more you have wondered about, leave a comment on our Facebook page.

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TATTOO FAILS – AND HOW TO AVOID THEM

27/11/2013

By: Robyn J. Williams

Anyone who has spent more than five minutes on Facebook has likely seen their fair share of “tattoo fails” – tattoos that are…regrettable, to say the least. While we all find them hysterical, it’s pretty likely that, were it on you, it wouldn’t be near as funny. You may think that, as a reasonably intelligent person that has laughed at many a ridiculous tattoo, you are immune to such disaster, but it takes only the slightest error in judgement to become the proud owner of a permanent mistake. Here are a few tips to ensure that doesn’t happen.

  • Check your spelling. Perhaps the most infamous, and ironic, of tattoo fails is the “No Regerts” piece that went viral years ago and remains at the top of every list. You may think it’s your tattoo artist’s job to spellcheck your piece, and yes, they probably should, but when it comes to script, it’s a joint effort. Whatever you write out for them is undoubtedly what they’re going to write on you. If they catch your error, fantastic, but their main focus is on the tattooing itself. If you want script, be sure that you have written it out exactly as you want it tattooed.
  • Similarly, if you are getting a tattoo in a foreign language, make sure it says what you want it to. Most English-speaking tattoo artists are not fluent in Japanese or Latin or…whatever the fad du jour is, so when you hand them a Kanji character or a phrase in your grandfather’s mother-tongue, they have no idea whether it’s correct or not. There are more than a handful of people walking around right now with “barn” or “cheese” tattooed on their necks because they didn’t bother to confirm with a native speaker or reliable source that the character they chose was accurate.
  • Choose the right artist for the job. Not all “fails” are funny – it’s incredibly tragic when one hopes to get a beautiful portrait of their child, spouse, or parent, and ends up with a grotesque caricature instead. Portraits are among the most difficult of tattoos, and even some of the most highly skilled artists in the world are not comfortable doing them, as realism may not be their favoured style, or they haven’t done enough of them to feel confident. If you want a realistic looking portrait, it’s really important to pour over portfolios, talk to several artists, and be open to their honest opinions.
  • Listen to your artist. It would be really easy (and great for their wallets) to just say “sure, I’ll do that” to any idea you have. But a respectable artist cares about more than just money – they care about doing good work that will still make you happy years from now. So when they tell you your idea isn’t so great, you may want to listen. We’ve all seen tiny script on someone’s finger, or the barcode on the inner lip, and to some, that looks super cool. What we are seeing, however, is the brand-spankin-new version of it. Ask those same people what it looks like five years from now, and you’re far less likely to be impressed. I could go into a lot of technical detail, but this artist sums it all up pretty nicely (and with pictures!). Remember, artists make their entire living by doing tattoos – so if they are turning down money, you can bet there’s probably a damn good reason for it.

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TATTOO SEASON

20/11/2013

By: Robyn J. Williams

Though today’s sunshine makes it hard to believe, winter is in fact upon us. For most tattoo shops, this means the slow season has begun. Summertime’s showing of skin and outdoor fun tends to tempt people to get a new tattoo or piercing to show off, so we’ve no shortage of clients in the spring and summer months. What few know, however, is that winter is actually a far friendlier time for body mods.

Fresh piercings require a bit of love for several weeks while they heal. Two important things to keep in mind are that one should avoid swimming – a favourite summer pastime for many – and that keeping the area clean is vital – something that is far tougher to do in the sweaty, outdoorsy months than in the colder, stay-indoors climate of winter.

When it comes to tattoos, there is even more reason to choose winter over summer. As with piercings, swimming must be avoided, and the area kept clean. But on top of that, sunshine is terrible for a new tattoo – the heat and light of the sun dries out your skin, and lends itself to fading ink and a longer healing process. It’s also a lot more uncomfortable. Anyone that has broken a bone in the summer knows the discomfort of the heat under a cast – tattoos are covered when first done, and should be hidden from the sun for several weeks afterwards – staying covered up in the heat is less than pleasant, to say the least. Getting a tattoo, especially a larger piece in a conspicuous area, in the dead of summer often means choosing between two equally poor options: expose your precious new piece of art to the hot sun, and risk damaging it, or keep it covered and dry through the hottest part of the season, leaving you uncomfortable and unable to jump into the cool waters of the ocean or your favourite pool.

Of course, we’re not saying no body mods can be done in the summer. If you are wanting a small piece in an area you’d not be showing off anyway, or aren’t really big on swimming, there’s no reason you can’t get pierced or tattooed at any time of year. But we hope to see a flip in trends – while summer is our busiest time, and winter our slowest, it really should be the other way around. So, if you have been pondering getting a piece but have been putting it off, or are wondering what to get a loved one for Christmas, now may be the time to consider going for it. Happy tattoo season, all!

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FOLLOW-UPS AND THINGS TO FOLLOW

15/11/2013

By: Robyn J. Williams

Over the past year, the I-Kandy blog has reported on newsworthy topics, ongoing stories, and documentaries, books, and sites of interest. As the year draws to a close, so too do some of these tales –while others are just starting to get good. Here is our almost-year-end collection of follow-ups and things to follow.

  • In early August, we reported that Arkansas had passed a bill outlawing certain body-mods. At that time, Senate had supported it in a 26-4 vote, but it still had to make it to the governor’s desk. Most expected it would quietly die there, but that is sadly not the case. While a final ruling has yet to be made, the bill has been amended to make the wording less vague – never a good sign that it will be binned.
  • Elaine Davidson, long-time record holder for most piercings, won’t be giving up her title any time soon. When we last wrote about her, she had approximately seven thousand piercings – she now claims to have just short of nine thousand. Even we are beginning to wonder where she is fitting them in now. As for her male counterparts, a bit of a battle may be quietly taking place. John Lynch, the world’s most pierced senior citizen, and Rolf Buchholz, the most pierced man, used to be separated by nearly 200 piercings; at last count, however, the margin had narrowed considerably. We’ll be impatiently awaiting the release of the 2014 Guinness Book to see who wins this round.
  • Our post on medical and cosmetic tattooing focused mainly on covering scars and applying permanent make-up, but a new practice has gained popularity (and brought a few tears to our eyes). Many women that have had to undergo mastectomies (removal of the breasts due to cancer, or the high risk of) are now opting to tattoo their chests rather than getting implants, or are using tattoos to make their reconstruction look more natural. A tattoo shop in Halifax took note of this and decided to lend a hand – Newcombes Ink offers free nipple tattooing to cancer survivors. A book featuring tattooed survivors is expected next year.
  • We’ve mentioned Otzi the Iceman several times, as, at 5300 years old, he sports the oldest still-visible tattoos known to us. A recently discovered Siberian princess, however, has piqued our interest. About 2500 years old, “Ukok” was found with incredibly well preserved tattoos that, shockingly, aren’t much different from some of our own. While Otzi’s tattoos mainly consist of lines and dots, Ukok opted for a mythical creature on her shoulder. With the head of a deer, the beak of a griffin, and Capricorn antlers, Ukok’s shoulder tattoo shows us that, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
  • This year has offered up several documentaries that go well beyond the reality t.v. show fad. Flesh & Blood, featuring Steve Haworth (who we mentioned in our post on microdermals) is perhaps our favourite – Steve talks about suspension, innovation, and his thoughts on flesh-as-canvas, giving us a glimpse into the mind of one of the most famous body mod artists of all time. Other must-sees include Body of God, starring Fakir Musafar, and Modify, which explores all types of body mods, and features damn near every famous modder you can think of. Do you have a favourite to add to our list? Leave a comment on our Facebook page with a title or link!

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SCRATCHERS & FRAUDS

07/11/2013

By: Robyn J. Williams

A couple of months ago, my niece got a tattoo. Despite the fact that I work at a tattoo shop, she made the rather unwise decision to have it done by an inexperienced “artist” (and I do use that term loosely) working out of his house. I was, of course, furious with her, and ranted and raved about it for quite a long time. Until I saw the tattoo. At that moment, the soft-hearted auntie in me reappeared, and my anger quickly shifted to whomever had “tattooed” her (I use that term even more loosely). The script was almost illegible, there were two images so tiny that I expect they will be little more than black blobs next year, and – get this – the main part of the design had no ink. Yes, you read that right. He had, rather than tattooing her, scarred her with his tattoo machine. She, being young and naïve, did not ask to see the “tattoo” when it was done. He bandaged her up and sent her on her way, and she had no idea until much later that her beloved design was little more than a faint scar. Now, a lot of the blame obviously goes to her for ignoring everyone and going to a scratcher. But, the little defence I can offer her is that no one goes to any sort of tattooist expecting an inkless tattoo. Using ink is a pretty standard part of tattooing. But it gets even worse. This scratcher that had scarred my precious niece told her that we – I-Kandy – had trained him. That was, apparently, why she had trusted him to do it.

Scratchers and frauds – people that claim to be artists, but are little more than conmen with tattoo machines – have always existed, but thanks to the internet, are more common than ever. It takes about thirty seconds of Googling to find a do-it-yourself tattoo kit that can be ordered by absolutely anyone. People looking to make a quick buck (especially people that have a modicum of artistic ability) can, and will, order these kits, buy a box of latex gloves, and voila – they can now call themselves tattooists. Problem is, they are both apathetic and likely unaware of how much more being a tattoo artists entails. One cannot just pick up a machine and go at it. What is an autoclave? What is a pathogen? How do you properly set up? How is a stencil applied? How deep should you go? How many needles should be used? That is just a teeny-tiny sampling of the questions you should be able to answer before you even think about picking up a machine. Scratchers have no concern for such details, however. They don’t care about your health and safety. They don’t care about cleanliness. They don’t care about skill. They care about being cool, and taking your money.

Don’t be my niece. Never go to a “shop” that does not have a business license, an ultra-sonic and autoclave (every reputable shop will be more than willing to show them to you), and artist portfolios for you to view. Never go to an artist working out of their kitchen. And, if your artist claims to have been trained somewhere, call that place and ask about it. People who were trained at a professional shop do not tend to end up working from their dirty kitchen table, unless they were fired for incompetence, or just plain don’t care about hygiene. It is your health, your body, and your tattoo at stake, here – you have every right to question, to confirm, and to hold out for something better.

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MICRO-AWESOME

Oct. 30/2013

By: Robyn J. Williams

180757_498034511909_5216386_nA few years ago, a new type of piercing began peppering the body mod world. Not quite a transdermal implant, not quite a dermal anchor, microdermals are the next step in the evolution of under the skin piercings.

The invention of transdermal piercing is credited to Steve Haworth, who was influential in perfecting the technique, and the jewelry, and did the first known transdermal implant – a “metal Mohawk” – on client Joe Aylward who kept his implants for almost a decade. The procedure has since become a very popular one, spawning an entirely new type of jewelry, and specialised tools. There are some heavy considerations to make about transdermal implants, however, and while serious, committed clients have no issue with them, others find it a bit much to take on.

An American piercing artist from the shop House of Color, Ben, had a close friend who was one of those people. Wanting a small implant near her eye, she encouraged him to come up with a new technique – transdermal implants tend to be a bit bulky, and require a fairly invasive and complex procedure, and she was reportedly not super stoked about having it done near her precious eyeballs. Ben eventually came up with a much smaller piece of jewelry that could be inserted using a normal piercing needle, and so, the dermal anchor was born.

Both styles have their pros and cons, and many piercers seemed aware that a hybrid may be in order. It’s unclear who came up with the idea first, but at some point, piercers began experimenting with taking flat, holed anchors, similar to those used in transdermal implants, and inserting them in much the same way as a dermal anchor. The result was the microdermal – a small, semi-permanent implant that can be placed almost anywhere on the body. Microdermals can be inserted with either a piercing needle or a dermal punch (though we at I-Kandy do them with needles exclusively – less trauma to the skin, and much less tissue is removed), and are not much more uncomfortable than a standard piercing, so clients get the permanent look of a transdermal (the result being a piece of jewelry that appears to screw right into your body), with the ease and comfort of a dermal anchor.

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DRESSED IN INK

23/10/2013

By: Robyn J. Williams

In the late 1920s, an English sideshow performer named Horace Ridler contacted legendary tattoo artist George Burchett about being “tattooed all over”. Horace would come to be known as The Great Omi, and would go on to tattoo a large part of his body in animal-like stripes, stretch his earlobes, and get a veterinarian to pierce his septum at a painfully large gauge. Being heavily tattooed and having a couple of piercings isn’t all that odd today, but back then, it was enough for him to make a career for himself as a freak and sideshow attraction. What is most notable now, however, is that Horace took a practice that has been fairly common in Japan, parts of Africa, Papua New Guinea, and many other places, for hundreds, even thousands, of years, and brought it to the western world. That’s not to say Horace was the first European to be heavily tattooed, but his travelling show made him one of the most-seen.

Full body tattoos, of course, did not originate as a freakshow novelty. Japan has a ten thousand year old history of full, or partial, body suits – most of which were, and still are, done with a single needle. Depending on the era, these large and colourful pieces were the symbol of the wealthy upper-class, the criminal lower-class, artists, gang members, or cultural heroes such as warriors and firemen. Interestingly, Japan has always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with tattoos – even completely outlawing them at one point – and so, despite their long, rich history of body suits, artists are very careful to design these tattoos so that a standard dress shirt will still entirely hide them.

In parts of Africa, a method that combines scarification and tattooing has long been used to cover the body in intricate and deeply symbolic patterns. Small cuts are made to the skin with thorns or razors, and charcoal or coloured ash is rubbed into them. This process often begins at puberty, and continues throughout one’s life, telling a story of that person’s experiences, rank, spiritual journey, and social status. For both women and male warriors, special designs are also applied for protection of one’s own body, and offspring.

Papua New Guinea also boasts a long, fascinating history with full body tattoos. Unlike many other cultures, tattoos in Papua New Guinea were largely the domain of women – girls began getting tattooed at just five, and most artists were also female. The meaning behind the tattoos varied – some were ritualistic, others erotic, and still others were fertility or religious symbols. Styles and motifs were often passed from generation to generation, so the body suits also indicated one’s family ties and status. So important, and such a major part of their culture, were these tattoos that women who did not have them, or enough of them, were considered unsuitable for marriage. Some tribes believed that tattooing has existed as long as heaven and earth, and that the first peoples emerged from the soil, already tattooed.

In Europe and North America, full body tattoos are still a very new and uncommon thing, though our reasons for getting them don’t differ all that much. In order for someone to commit to such a major piece of work, it invariably has to mean a lot to them, and therefore, is likely to have something to do with their family connections, chosen sub-cultures, or life’s journey. One has to wonder if freakshow performers like Horace had any idea the huge cultural gaps they would begin bridging when they were staring down a veterinarian’s needle.

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MYTHS & MISCONCEPTIONS

11/09/2013

By: Robyn J. Williams

Artists and front-desk staff alike are all too aware of the countless myths and misconceptions surrounding body modification. Because it was, for so long, a “behind closed doors” industry, there was not a lot of opportunity to put good information out there. Until now. The internet has allowed a sharing of facts, stories, and information that was completely unheard of just a couple of generations ago. While this exchange can help us in combatting myths, it also leaves the door open to them – seemingly everyone has a friend that has a friend that has a cousin whose face was permanently paralyzed after getting a piercing, or was refused an epidural because of a tattoo on their back. It can be hard to tell which of these stories are true, and which are urban legend. Of course, the ideal solution is to talk to both medical and body mod professionals about any concerns you may have, but this article aims to clear up at least the most common of these misconceptions.

#1 : PIERCINGS CAUSE NERVE DAMAGE

This is perhaps the most pervasive of mod myths. Countless stories have been told over the years about paralyzed faces, developing migraines, even going blind or deaf, as the result of a badly placed piercing. “Nerve damage” is a very frightening sounding term, so it’s understandable that people take this concern seriously. No one in their right mind would risk blindness just to get their eyebrow pierced. But is there any truth to it?

To date, not a single medical case of blindness or deafness as a result of a piercing has been recorded. Doctors that have spoken on the subject do include nerve damage as a possible complication, but also stress that this is incredibly rare, and generally due to dirty equipment or poor aftercare, not the piercing itself. Going to a clean, professional shop and taking proper care of it afterwards reduces your risks of such damage to almost zero.

#2 : TATTOO INK IS MADE OF (INSERT SOMETHING GROSS HERE)

From cow’s blood to urine, we’ve heard every possible rumour, myth, and legend about the ingredients found in tattoo ink. The truth is much less exotic. Tattoo inks, just like most other inks, contain numerous ingredients, but the majority of them are plant and carbon based. Even in Ancient Rome, long before FDA regulations or knowledge of allergies, tattoo ink was made of pine bark, vinegar, and leek juice. No cow’s blood necessary.

#3 : IT IS DANGEROUS TO GET AN MRI OR X-RAY IF YOU HAVE A PIERCING

I can’t count how many times I’ve heard that the magnet in an MRI machine will rip out your piercings, or that an X-ray cannot be performed on someone with piercings. High-quality piercing jewelry is most often made of non-magnetic metals, such as stainless steel or niobium. And, common sense should be enough to tell us that X-rays can still be performed – afterall, people with metal pins or plates in their bodies not only can, but often have to, get them. The reason you are asked to remove all piercings before these procedures is not that it is dangerous, but that the piercings can obstruct vision – that piece of jewelry will show up on the X-ray, and if there is anything beneath it, your jewelry may hide it.

#4 : NIPPLE PIERCINGS CAUSE CANCER/ LOSS OF SENSATION/PREVENT BREASTFEEDING

Nonsense. While some of the other myths and misconceptions are at least based on some tiny kernel of truth, this one is just straight-up wrong. There is absolutely no correlation between piercings and cancer, breastfeeding is still completely possible, and it is actually more likely sensitivity will increase, not decrease (though, even likelier is it that your sensitivity won’t change at all).

#5 : YOU CANNOT GET AN I.V. OR EPIDURAL WHERE A TATTOO IS PRESENT

A few reasons have been offered for this myth: the ink will seep out, the tattoo blocks entrance to the veins, the ink will get into your bloodstream and poison you, your pores are covered, etc. All untrue. There is absolutely no medical reason why you cannot get an I.V. or an epidural, nor is there any truth to ink “seeping” when such procedures are done. The ink in a tattoo sits under the epidermis – it is well beneath your pores,  is not “blocking” your veins, and will not just spontaneously start to travel if pricked.

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SOMETHING DEEPER

08/09/2013

By: Robyn J. Williams

Pointillism and sacred geometry may seem, to those in the know, diametrically opposed. The former – the use of many small, distinct dots to create an image – can be said to move from the abstract to the more concrete; a single dot has very little meaning, but string enough of them together, and a picture begins to emerge. The latter – applying sacred and universal meanings to geometric symbols – can be said to move from the concrete to the more abstract, using objective mathematics to seek a deeper understanding of the universe as a whole.

When I-Kandy’s newest family member, Crystal, told me a bit about her art, however, I was not struck by the differences between the two, but the similarities. In telling me about her style, she had this to say:

“The style is pointillism, mixed with sacred geometry and heavy blackwork. I love the symmetry and order of geometry – it feels like a dichotomy mixing it with creativity, and I like the challenge of putting them together.”

1232384_10201134964409411_453332477_nBoth the order of geometry and the tedious nature of pointillism seem to contribute to that dichotomy – taking something structured and distinct and using it in a manifestation of the creative and symbolic. Indeed, it is that dichotomy and precarious balance that inspired these styles and movements in the first place. Pointillism was born from the post-impressionist movement – the combination of a strict, tedious technique and an abstract, divisionist philosophy was understandably appealing to impressionists – it was a new way to create a realistic image while obscuring the details. Sacred geometry, on the other hand, has ancient origins. Plutarch, a 1st century Greek essayist, made several references in his writings to God constantly “geometrizing” – a belief he attributed to Plato. And as we get a firmer grasp on science, we do indeed see mathematical and geometrical constants emerge, adding a curious dimension to our cosmic understanding.

Applying these artistic, geometric, and cosmic concepts to tattooing seems the logical, and yet rarely taken, next step. The style Crystal has created is truly unique in its combining of two artistically opposite, yet philosophically similar, concepts. The pointillism, she says “really calms me down – something about the presumed tediousness of it really resonates with me”, while the sacred geometry “is found in everything – in nature, architecture, our dna…I feel putting it on our bodies is a way of connecting with something deeper and older than ourselves”.

With so much history behind these styles and symbols, one has to wonder what the artist is hoping to pass on to clients. “I hope that people feel empowered”, Crystal explains, “Getting a tattoo is one of the few times in our lives that we have complete control over our pain and our body. We make a conscious choice to endure and rise above. We make a conscious surrender to the fact that all of this is temporary. That this skin is just a vessel that will diminish and eventually turn to ash. Tattooing allows us to remember, to heal. To surrender and forget. It allows us to feel a part of something, to fit in, to be original. To express ourselves in the way that feels most comfortable to ourselves.”

To this end, the blending of discipline, art, geometry, and spirituality seems more than apt.

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WHY CANADA IS AWESOME

30/08/2013

By: Robyn J. Williams

In researching last week’s post on the crazy Arkansas bill outlawing certain types of mods, I became a little concerned. If this can happen in the so-called “land of the free”, what is stopping it from happening here?

A lot, apparently. Canada does not have any federal laws regarding body modification, and even the strictest of provincial laws merely prevent shops from offering services to those under 16. Legal guidelines are restricted to the health and safety side of things (laws that we can all get behind), ensuring clean equipment, hygienic procedures, and proper ventilation are used.

But these are laws that apply in the U.S. as well – so I decided to dig in a little more, and examine our laws regarding freedom of expression. Section 2b of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms grants us all “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication”. What counts as free expression is a bit vague, but the Charter goes on to explain that the only restriction on this right is overt hate speech or public calls for violence – this could potentially interfere with your decision to get Nazi propaganda tattooed on your forehead, but even that would be a legal stretch.

Judging by some of the more frivolous Canadian lawsuits, and proposed bills, in recent years, and the swiftness with which they were shot down, Canadians can, at least for now, rest easy. As of today, not a single proposed law regarding the freedom to alter one’s body has been passed.

And that, my tattooed and pierced friends, is just another reason why Canada is awesome.

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ILLEGAL ART

22/08/2013

By: Robyn J. Williams

Dear America,

Remember that whole “constitution” thing? Arkansas apparently doesn’t. Last week, in an astonishing 26-4 vote, the Arkansas Senate passed a bill that will ban “non-traditional” body art and implants. Included in that definition is scarification, branding, and dermal implants/microdermals. The bill was sponsored by Senator Missy Irvin, and was passed quietly last Tuesday. It still needs to be passed by the House of Representatives, and many speculate that is where it will die, but that does little to ease the minds of many – body modification enthusiasts, civil rights groups, and anyone that places any value on the freedom of expression are understandably irate that this bill was not only proposed, but passed by such a huge majority.

In a day and age where body art is widely accepted and the freedom to express oneself is viciously defended, it’s hard to see this bill as anything but a major step backwards. It’s even harder to understand the reasoning behind it. Senators involved in the bill have done very little to explain their positions, or even offer a reason that this was an “issue” they felt needed addressing. One thing is certain, though – if this bill passes the House, it will set a worrying precedent. Many argue that the government already has too much control over our personal lives – permitting them to tell us how we can (and cannot) adorn our own bodies is a very slippery slope.

We will be keeping an eye on this bill, and posting updates on its progress.

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IS A TATTOO A LEGAL DOCUMENT?

14/08/2013

By: Robyn J. Williams

The answer to that question may seem obvious – but it isn’t. The last 40 years or so have seen a huge growth in people making their physical ailments and desires known by way of tattoo, but the question of whether those tattoos have any legal validity or not has remained unclear.

A pathologist quoted in the Huffington Post last year himself has “NO CPR” tattooed in the centre of his chest, to indicate his wishes to any medical professional that may see it, but the same article states that, in the U.S. at least, medical tattoos carry very little legal weight, and that paramedics would likely still perform CPR on the patient, unless a legal “do not resuscitate” document was also found. Lawyer Cheryl David agrees: her website advises that no American states have laws that address medical tattoos, and that a medic would most likely err on the side of caution. An American Paramedics group takes that statement even further, making clear that they are not trained to look for medical tattoos, and wouldn’t even begin trying to interpret one in the case of an emergency – DNR could mean “do not resuscitate”, for example, but it could also be your husband’s initials, or your favourite band. Despite this all sounding like a very resounding “no” to the question of legal validity, it’s unfortunately not that straightforward. Medic alert tattoos have become common enough that some doctors are actually recommending them to patients – particularly diabetics, and those with life-threatening allergies. Dr. Aldasouqi of Michigan State, who has written about and long been interested in medical tattooing, admits that the guidelines are unclear, and expresses concern that ignoring this trend “leave(s) our patients kind of afloat”. He is working to bring together the medical and tattoo professions to develop a legally recognized standard for these sorts of tattoos so that American medics will know what to look for.

As for Canada, finding even vague information proves difficult. Canadian MedicAlert Foundation CEO Robert Ridge last year told the CBC “it doesn’t sound like a bad idea, but there’s a few issues that we have with it”, reiterating concerns that paramedics are not trained to look for them. As for their legal status, no one seems to know for sure. Different medical associations have various views, and there is no reference to medical tattoos in Canadian law. Tattoo artists, also likely to err on the side of caution, will gladly give you a medical tattoo, but will advise that they do not replace legal documents.

So, what’s the story? Will your “diabetic” tattoo be taken seriously or not? What about the biggie – “DNR”? The general consensus seems to be that if a medical professional happens to see it, and if it is extremely clear and matches what would be found on a MedicAlert bracelet, and if it simply advises of a condition, rather than asking you not be treated, it might be respected. When it comes to “no CPR” or “DNR” orders, however, the only ink that matters is that on a legal document, signed by both you and your doctor.

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WHAT WILL YOU THINK OF THOSE WHEN YOU’RE OLD?

28/07/2013

By: Robyn J. Williams

Easily one of the most common, and annoying, questions the tattooed get is about us aging. What will we think of them when we’re old? Won’t we regret it? Won’t they look ugly? Of course, we can’t answer for everyone, but a lot of us have already thought of that, and are okay with it. Better yet, we have loads of aged icons to look up to. From 81 year old infamous tattooist Lyle Tuttle to 76 year old world-record holder Isobel Varley, more than a few senior citizens have given us something to look forward to.

Lyle Tuttle

Lyle Tuttle
(photo credit: Inked Magazine)

 

Lyle Tuttle, once known as the tattooist of the stars (clients include Cher, Janis Joplin, and Henry Fonda), had a pretty bad-ass tattoo at 40, and it’s no less awesome now that he’s in his 80s.

 

 

Isobel Varley

Isobel Varley
(photo credit: Alexander Wehowski

 

 

Isobel Varley didn’t even get her first tattoo until she was in her 40s. Now, in her 70s, she’s a Guinness Record Holder (most tattooed senior woman), and is second only to Julia Gnuse as most tattooed woman.

 

 

 

 

 

In fact, the “seniors sporting tattoos” trend has gone much further than just older folks that got tattooed when they were young. More and more, seniors are getting tattooed. Winifred Turner, 92, recently made headlines for becoming the oldest woman in the U.K. to get tattooed, and in 2004, then 94 year old American Ralph Bonebreak got his very first tattoo. The number of adults over 60 getting tattooed has never been higher, and 4 of the 5 most tattooed people in the world are over 50.

The next time someone asks you what you’ll think of your tattoos when you’re old, just remember Lyle, Isobel, Winifred, and Ralph, and let them know that you will be nothing short of fabulous.

 

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SHOP ETIQUETTE

21/07/2013

By: Robyn J. Williams

A tattoo shop isn’t a typical place of business…most of the time. We like loud music and lots of laughter, we aren’t likely to try selling you lots of random stuff (though our hoodies are pretty damned awesome), and we may be caught using the occasional questionable word. Ours is not the type of business that aims for a 30 second transaction – we like to talk to our clients, get to know them, and hear their story. The rules of etiquette are very different in a tattoo shop than they are in, say, a nice restaurant or a stuffy bookstore. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any. While we do love to have fun and get a bit rowdy sometimes, there are still a few basic standards that make our jobs easier, and your experiences better.

 

1. Be patient. We realize in this “go, go, go!” world, people are becoming accustomed to instant everything, including service. However, body mods are a slightly more serious decision than what flavour of latte you’d like today, and this means taking our time with each and every client. Before we do anything, we want to ensure you are prepared, informed, and sure about what you’re getting, and that takes a bit of time.

2. Please, please, please don’t distract the artists. It’s a pretty good rule of thumb that you shouldn’t startle someone that’s holding a needle – moreso if that needle is close to someone’s body. We know everyone wants to speak directly to the artists, but their prime focus is on the piece they are currently working on. Both piercers and tattooists need to be allowed to concentrate, for obvious reasons, and to maintain control over their stations, to ensure they remain clean and safe. The front desk staff is fully trained to answer your questions, and, better still, knows how to approach artists without startling them or contaminating their work area.

3. For the love of all that is good, come in sober. This isn’t much of a problem at I-Kandy, thank goodness, as the vast majority of our clients are amazing. But I have seen this issue elsewhere – the belief that a tattoo shop being an “adult environment” makes it okay to be drunk there. It doesn’t. Very technical work is being done in a tattoo shop, and the last thing anyone needs is drunk people stumbling about. We’re sure you are awesome to party with, but let’s do that after hours. Cool?

4. Don’t bring a posse. Everyone needs a bit of moral support, and we’re more than happy to accommodate your best friend or spouse, but please leave it at that. Bringing your entire volleyball team to watch you get your nose pierced isn’t really necessary, and will only distract the artists and give them less room to work.

 

Really, that’s about it. We welcome all sorts of personalities, we love all kinds of music, we’re happy to answer all of your questions, and work hard to ensure you are thrilled with your piece. Just, please, give us the time and space to do so.

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I BELONG TO ME

07/07/2013

By: Robyn J. Williams

We’ve all heard the negative stereotypes associated with tattoos – that the tattooed are criminals, gang members, freaks, or low-class. Everyone with a tattoo has likely encountered this attitude at one time or another. But is there any truth to it? This question has apparently played on the minds of several sociologists and researchers, leading to some very interesting studies.

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned Jerome Koch and his Body Art Team, who have spent years collecting data about the tattooed. Their findings surprised many – more and more, tattoos have become the domain of academics and artists. High-achieving students made up a significant portion of younger tattooees, and the number of tattooed women rises every year. Several other studies have confirmed these stats, discovering that the negative stereotypes are not only inaccurate, but statistically insignificant – such a tiny number of people fit that idea, it’s a wonder it still exists at all. Of course, that leaves many people wondering, if tattoos are not actually the domain of criminals and gangs, who is getting them, and why?

Through several surveys of American youths (under 25, in this case), one major trend has emerged: while many reasons for getting tattooed were offered, most agreed that “control over one’s body and image” was a factor. Students particularly reported a feeling of frustration with the societal expectations that had been imposed on them – that they were not encouraged to express themselves as individuals, and that getting tattooed gave them a sense of autonomy. Even when faced with the reality that tattoos have become very common, they still felt their tattoos made them unique, as they had chosen their pieces – they had, often for the first time in their lives, taken complete control of some aspect of themselves. Interestingly, the second most common reason was in opposition to the first: many reported getting tattooed in groups, to solidify friendships and memorialize achievements. Common examples include a group of university students all getting their school’s logo tattooed on them in their final year of studies, and females in particular bonding through matching tattoos. Rather than using tattoos to express their individuality, these youths chose to express a sense of belonging.

Of course, it’s not just young people getting tattooed. Almost one quarter of North American tattoos belong to someone over 40, and a good portion of them were done fairly recently. Not surprisingly, adults offered slightly different reasons for their ink, but not as different as one may think. The most common reason given was familial pride – parents getting their children’s names, or a related image, as well as memorial tattoos for passed-on parents, was by far the most popular answer. But there’s also a startling similarity between the younger and the older – a significant portion of tattooed adults reported a feeling of boredom with societal standards, and a desire to separate themselves from their peers. No longer content with the stuffiness of business attire and a clean-cut appearance, many have opted to buck the norm. Women especially expressed discontent with the expectations put on them regarding appearance, and saw tattoos as a reclamation of their bodies.

What all of these studies have told us is that, while there are countless reasons people get tattooed, the most significant seems to be autonomy. More and more, people are growing tired of having standards imposed on them, of being anonymous, faceless beings, of looking like everyone else. We are taking back control of our bodies and our images, and blatantly ignoring common stereotypes. Business-people, doctors, high achievers, and academics have all embraced tattoos as a way to rise above the tiny boxes they’ve been stuffed into, and in the process, have completely altered the tattoo landscape and rendered stereotypes meaningless. Ironically, this desire for uniqueness and individuality has made body-modification a very normal thing, but that doesn’t seem to weigh too heavily on anyone’s mind. To each tattooee, their body is their own, their art unique, and their message loud and clear: I belong to me.

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JUST PUSH PLAY

23/06/2013

By: Robyn J. Williams

Depending on how one looks at it, “play-piercing” is either a very old, or very new, form of piercing. Ancient tribes and cultures engaged in temporary piercing during rituals and celebrations, but play piercing as an artform seems a more recent trend. For those that haven’t heard the term before, play piercing is the act of giving or receiving temporary piercings for special occasions, spiritual experiences, or simply to enjoy the sensation itself. These piercings generally stay in anywhere from a few hours to a few days, and often create stunning visual effects – it is, in short, art for the sake of art.

It’s also one of the more misunderstood body mods. While people in general are now much more accepting of tattoos and piercings as a form of expression, many still struggle with the idea of sticking needles through your skin just for the hell of it. There’s an assumption of masochism or, as one of my more conservative friends put it, being “not quite right in the head”. And, I suppose I can see their point – the act of inserting a bunch of sharp objects into your body to create an intricate design, only to take them all back out again, may seem a touch odd to those that would never engage in such a thing. However, I think we take for granted that similar acts have become so mainstream, we don’t even associate them anymore: dying your hair, wearing make-up, plucking your eyebrows, and all sorts of other cosmetics, sound pretty strange themselves when you break down the details. The obvious difference is that many consider getting pierced a painful experience, and so find it odd that anyone would get a bunch of consecutive piercings, just for a temporary piece. What needs to be kept in mind, though, is that not everyone finds piercing painful – for many, it is a highly pleasant experience, a spiritual and joyful release of endorphins. And, for many others, the pain is worth it. The result – a truly unique artistic display, and a brand new experience – ends up being far more memorable than the few minutes of pain involved.

Aside from the physical experience, however, there are many reasons for play-piercing. Photographers, models, and performance artists have all utilized play-piercing to create a visual effect that cannot be matched. From putting wings on a model to creating a skin-deep corset, people in the arts have embraced these mods as a new and exciting medium. From a spiritual perspective, the artform has offered a way for ancient rituals and modern beliefs to meet happily in the middle – it has long been believed that temporary pain can foster permanent enlightenment, and play-piercing, with its combination of flesh, steel, pain, and pleasure seems almost self-evident as a means to that end. And, within the body-mod industry itself, it has opened doors to new techniques, ideas, and innovations. For the considerably small amount of attention it receives, play-piercing has made a major contribution to body-modification, spiritual practices, and art itself. Perhaps it’s time we all gave it the respect it is worthy of.

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DAD’S TATTOO

16/06/2013

By: Robyn J. Williams

When I was 19, my dad got a tattoo. Already having two of my own, and thinking tattoos were mostly for the younger folk, this was just another testament to how cool my father was. Of course, I would later learn that tattoos had been around far longer than I could have imagined, and that it was, in fact, our dads, granddads, and great-granddads that had popularised them (at least in North America). More than that, though, I would come to learn that every generation, every era, has its own, unique tattoo culture – and that there is an actual science behind that.

Sociology professor Jerome Koch, along with a group of researchers dubbed The Body Art Team, has spent the last 14 years studying body modification from a scientific perspective. Several of their findings fly in the face of common stereotypes; almost ¼ of “well-integrated, mainstream” college students have a tattoo, women are now just as likely to get tattooed as men, and dad having a tattoo isn’t near as uncommon as one may think: about 24% of the tattoos in North America belong to someone over 40.

Half a century earlier, however, the trends were very different, and probably not in the ways you would think. Tattoos of the 1950s and 60s were almost entirely the domain of people over 30. Belonging mainly to bikers, artists, and army/navy members, it was not the youth that felt compelled to get tattooed, but those that had years of experience being outsiders or part of a smaller subculture or community. Go back still another fifty years, and you may be surprised to find women made up a huge percentage of those tattooed, and even farther back, we’ll find it was the richer and older population that had the most ink. Stereotypes became outdated so fast, it’s a wonder any took hold at all.

That’s not to say there is no consistency, however. As you may have guessed from the title and the day of this posting, fathers have always made up a significant percentage of the tattooed. Regardless of sociological fads, eras, generations, or prevalent subcultures, the one group we can always rely on to boost body mod numbers are fathers. Despite all the many changes in demographics and trends, one particular theme jumps out at us in each and every study: as far back as it is possible to research, “familial or tribal pride” has been the #1 reason men over 25 offered for getting tattooed. It is, in fact, the only consistency that can be found – literally everything else changes from era to era – from average age to economic status to gender to subculture – but fathers always have dominated the tattoo landscape, and that trend shows no signs of slowing down.

Happy Father’s day to all of you, from all of us at I-Kandy.

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THE COVER-UP CLUB

09/06/2013

By: Robyn J. Williams

I-Kandy, and presumably every other shop on earth, often gets clients that, ever so quietly and with a hint of embarrassment, ask about covering up a regrettable piece. Little do they know, most of the people they are speaking with have been in the very spot they are standing – whether they tried tattooing themselves, trusted someone they shouldn’t have, or simply chose a piece they would come to regret, almost every tattoo artist or long-time body mod enthusiast has (or had) a piece they’re none too eager to show.

The good news is, we can help. With the very rare exception, tattoos can be reworked or covered up to your satisfaction. The bad news is, those exceptions are often the worst looking tattoos of all. Anything with a lot of thick black lines or really dark spots is going to present a challenge to your artist – the darker the colour, the harder to cover. This doesn’t mean it cannot be done, however, just that you may need to make some concessions. Reworking or completely covering a tattoo generally involves making the piece a lot larger, and a lot busier. Koi fish, large flowers, Hannya or Noh masks, or large, intricate scenes are popular, workable choices. If your tattoo has a lot of thick, black lines, those will need to be incorporated into the cover-up, as black is difficult, if not impossible, to completely cover. Don’t let this get you down, though! Some of the most beautiful pieces to ever leave our shop are covering some of the worst to ever walk in.

Cover-ups should not be approached the same way brand new tattoos are, however. While it’s great to have a piece in mind, a cover-up needs to be created by both you and your artist. They are better equipped to take the more difficult aspects of what you have now and work them into something you will love and appreciate. Keep an open mind, and let them work with you on a piece you will both feel comfortable with. On the other side of that, however, is you. Don’t settle for a piece you don’t love – the whole point in getting a cover-up is to be happy with something you once regretted. Come to your consultation with a few different ideas to bat around, and don’t schedule your appointment until you are in love with the new piece. The only thing worse than a bad tattoo is a bad cover-up, so it’s important that both you and your artist have shared suggestions and concerns before making a firm decision.

Our #1 goal is to see you leave our shop happy, and there are few happier people than those who walked in with a tattoo they hate, and walked out with a tattoo they love. If you cringe every time you see your tattoo, there is a big club here, just waiting for you to join.

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Skin Deep

02/06/2013

By: Robyn J. Williams

While writing last week’s post, I stumbled into an area of body modification that I had admittedly not given much thought to. Sure, we often have people ask us if we can cover a childhood scar, or replace their medical I.D. bracelets with a tattoo, but it wasn’t until I began researching Julia Gnuse, one of the most tattooed people in the world, that I realised what a huge market “medical” and cosmetic tattooing is.

Most of us know cosmetic tattooing to mean exactly that: having permanent eyeliner, lipstick, etc., tattooed on. This type of tattoo first became popular in the 1930s, though it was often done secretly and, therefore, rarely advertised openly or discussed.  Today, it is a fairly common procedure, particularly for busy, active women that want to look good without investing much time or effort into it each day. Perhaps surprisingly, this form of cosmetic tattooing is rarely done by professional artists; rather, it is most often offered by cosmeticians that have been specially trained to apply permanent make-up when asked.

“Medical” tattooing is similar to cosmetic, but includes medical I.D. tattoos and those that cover large scars, severe skin conditions, or improve one’s appearance after a medical procedure. These tattoos vary greatly – many women that have undergone complete mastectomies (that is, surgical removal of the breasts due to cancer) have opted for full chest tattoos to cover the scarring, and to turn a difficult procedure into a piece of art. Others go for a more subtle approach, having flesh coloured ink applied to their scars, or to even out their pigment, resulting in a much more natural look. Still others have chosen to replace their medical I.D. bracelets with tattoos that identify severe allergies, serious medical conditions, or instructions in case of emergencies. These types of tattoos are done by both professional artists and cosmetic artists.

There is perhaps no greater example of the evolution of body modification than this. Long viewed as a weird art-form enjoyed by weird people for weird reasons, it is refreshing to see the rest of the world opening up to what many of us already knew – that body modification is much more than just an act of defiance, or declaration of freakdom – it is a statement of ownership of one’s body, and an art that can enhance beauty, improve self-esteem, and create a stunning piece of art out of an otherwise negative condition. Body modification is exactly that: modifying your body, your way, so that you are happy and healthy in your own skin. I can think of few acts more powerful, or more profound, than that.

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RECORD-BREAKING BODY MODS

26/05/2013

By: Robyn J. Williams

A commonly asked question by those outside of the body-mod culture is why do you have to get so many? Most people don’t mind a dainty little jewel in a woman’s nose, or a tasteful tattoo on an easily hidden body part, but can’t understand having several facial piercings or tattoo sleeves, for example. To those folks, I present the world’s most pierced and tattooed people. I assure you, your sister’s industrial won’t look quite so extreme by the end of this post.

 

Elaine Davidson

Guinness World Record holder for 12 years and counting, Elaine is the most pierced person in the world. Guinness has her at almost 7000 piercings, but her most recent count brought her to just over nine thousand. Of those, over 200 are on her face, and over 500 are “below the belt”. A former nurse, Elaine developed a passion for extremes at a young age – aside from her piercings, she is also known for sleeping on a bed of nails, fire-walking and glass-walking, and is an avid skydiver. And, just to defy every stereotype out there, she does not drink, do drugs, or smoke cigarettes, and is married to a man with absolutely no tattoos or piercings. Elaine now runs an aromatherapy and body-mod shop in Edinburgh.

 

 

Lucky Diamond Rich (born Gregory McLaren)

Lucky has held the record for most tattooed person since 2006, with nearly 100% of his body, including his foreskin, the inside of his mouth, and his eyelids, covered. The New Zealander became fascinated with tattoos at a young age, and his interests soon turned to the most tattooed people of the world. As a child, he would collect large piles of temporary, bubble-gum tattoos and apply them all over his body, trying to duplicate the look of a heavily tattooed neighbour. By his teens, he was a well-known circus performer, which led to a career in street theatre. He eventually became the highest paid street performer in London, and among the most popular in the world. His act includes comedy routines, extreme juggling, sword-swallowing, and more, all atop a giant unicycle. When he’s not on the road, he is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a tattoo artist. Not content with being the most tattooed person in the world, Lucky is now having his ink gone back over to add brighter colours.

 

 

Rolf Buchholz

Foto: Udo Kreikenbohm (Foto: Archiv, Zabka)At 453 piercings, Rolf probably won’t surpass Elaine’s record anytime soon, but he has just made his own as the most pierced man in the world. In 2012, he entered the Guinness books, beating the previous holder by nearly 200 piercings. A German computer expert, Rolf keeps fairly quiet about the reasons behind his obsession, saying only that he decided at 40 to enter a world he had previously enjoyed from afar. The majority of his piercings are around his mouth and below the belt, though 50 or so are spread across his body. He got his first piercing and first tattoo on the same day, and soon after became a suspension enthusiast, having now done over 100 suspensions. Aside from his many piercings, Rolf also boasts a full body tattoo.

 

 

Julia Gnuse

Known as “The Illustrated Lady”, Julia has over 95% of her body tattooed, and holds the record for most tattooed woman in the world. Julia’s story is a bit different, as well – while many other record holders naturally enjoy extremes, she began getting tattooed for another reason entirely. In her mid-30s, Julia developed porphyria, a condition which causes skin to badly blister if exposed to sunlight. Rather than live with the ugly scars porphyria patients suffered, she sought the advice of a cosmetic surgeon friend, who recommended she try getting skin-coloured tattoos. When that didn’t work, she began having them tattooed over in the traditional way, resulting in an almost complete covering of her body. While it started as a cosmetic treatment, Julia admits to now being “addicted”, and is always looking for ways to add to her ink. She’s also made someone a very wealthy artist – every single one of her pieces was done by the same person.

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TATTOO TV

19/05/2013

By: Robyn J. Williams

Several years ago, a new trend in TV, and tattooing, emerged. Various television shows began to spring up, focusing on local tattoo shops, letting the general public in to what had previously been a slightly cliquey and stigmatized environment. People that would otherwise never step into a shop found themselves engrossed in these shows – they, for many, became a more risqué, more true to life soap opera. Viewers were tuning in just to see whether that ditzy front desk girl would ever get fired, or which tattoo artist would win whatever the shop argument du jour was. And those of us that worked in a shop were inundated with the same question over and over: is that what it’s really like?

The answer, of course, is yes…and no…and sometimes. There isn’t a single industry on earth that is entirely free of drama, and many of the things portrayed in those shows do go on in every shop on earth. But it must be kept in mind that this is TV, and the producers want drama. The cameras get turned off during the normal, day-to-day goings on, and only the more interesting conflicts and customers ever make it on screen. If you are looking for only the most exciting, dramatic, and outrageous moments of our lives, those shows will offer the occasional accurate portrayal. If, however, you are looking for information on what the industry as a whole is like, there are many better places to turn. Tuck in and check out these in-depth and informative documentaries on the art:

ANCIENT INK : http://www.watchdocumentary.tv/ancient-ink-blood-and-tattoos-documentary/

HORI SMOKU SAILOR JERRY : http://horismokumovie.com/

TATTOOS: A SCARRED HISTORY : http://www.tattoosascarredhistory.com/home.html

THE GYPSY GENTLEMAN : http://gypsygentleman.com/

THE VANISHING TATTOO : http://www.juxtapoz.com/tattoo/the-vanishing-tattoo-documentary

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LONG EARS

12/05/2013

By: Robyn J. Williams

Ötzi the Iceman has been mentioned a few times on the I-Kandy blog, and for good reason. The approximately 5300 year old natural mummy radically altered the known history of body modification; he had tattoos and piercings that had, until then, only been found on much younger mummies and in more recent cultures. Of particular interest to many were his seemingly stretched earlobes. Before his discovery, stretched lobes had been pretty well exclusively associated with African and Asian cultures, going as far back as Egypt’s famed pharaoh, King Tutankhamun, one of the first known people to have them. Ötzi is two thousand years older, and thousands of miles removed from Tut, however, which tells us the practice of stretching is both much older and more global than we had thought.

There are several famous examples of ear stretching, which offer us a bit of insight into the hows and whys of the practice. Both Tutankhamun and Gautama Buddha likely had stretched ears to symbolize their status: large jewels, unavailable to the common folk, would be worn in the ears, and the weight and size of them would cause the ears to stretch tremendously. It is said that when the Buddha renounced his earthly riches, he removed the jewels, but his ears remained elongated. This became a symbol of his sacrifice, and he was henceforth depicted with long, bare ears. The Moai statues of Easter Island sport very long ears, which may serve to elevate the status of their ancestors, whom the statues are thought to represent. One Moai myth even separates the tribes of the time into the “Long Ears” and “Short Ears”. Several Hindu and pre-Hindu deities are depicted with jewel-filled stretched lobes as well, which indicate a wisdom and wealth well beyond the average person. While all of these cultures and eras differed greatly, it seems that for all of them, stretched lobes were indicative of a higher status.

Status is not the only reason to stretch, however. Tribal cultures worldwide have long engaged in the same practice, but for very different reasons. From Kenya to Thailand, stretched lobes and lips symbolise religious beliefs, coming of age rituals, and exercises in patience and devotion. Several ancient cultures believed that spirits could enter a body through its orifices, and that metal could ward them off. The more metal one could place in their ears, the safer they would be, so stretched lobes were more practical than anything. Others saw stretching as a way to mark moments of enlightenment and understanding – the larger the hole, the wiser the wearer.

Today, stretching has become a common practice worldwide, largely for aesthetic purposes, and to some extent, as a way to reconnect with ancient cultures. Jewelry designed for stretched lobes has become a multi-million dollar industry, and techniques are constantly being refined. In this sense, professional piercers are also historians of sorts, many having researched and experimented with the various types and methods of stretching. Slow and steady is still, however, the oldest, safest, and most satisfying way to approach the practice. When it comes to stretching, “patience is a virtue” is both literally and figuratively true for us “long ears”.

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SUMMERTIME

05/05/2013

By: Robyn J. Williams

It’s that time of year again – the sun has come out to play, the waters are warming, and we’re all spending a little more time outside. For most of us, summer is a favourite time of year, and a chance to show off our tattoos and piercings. It’s also, however, a time when we should be giving them a little extra love. Aftercare doesn’t end when the tattoos and piercings have healed, and summer is when it’s particularly important to keep that in mind.

While inks and techniques have improved vastly over the years, tattoos are still susceptible to the sun to some extent. Too much direct exposure will eventually lead to fading. Ideally, they should be covered by clothing, but we’re all going to break that rule in the summer. It is highly recommended that, if you are going to be spending a lot of time in the sun, you put extra sunscreen on your tattoos, and reapply it regularly. If your tattoo is newer and not quite healed, take extra care to keep it out of the sun completely, and out of the water (this is why getting tattooed in the dead of summer is not ideal!).

Piercings also need a bit of love in the summer – sweat, bacteria in water, and simply being a bit more physically active can all anger an otherwise happy piercing. Take a little extra time to clean them well with saline, particularly after going for a swim. It’s also a good idea to switch to smoother (more metal, less jewels) jewelry if you’re going to be spending a lot of time in lakes, rivers, or the ocean, as jewels tend to trap bacteria, making them harder to keep clean. If you are going to wear your shiniest pieces to the beach this year, be sure to take them out regularly and give them a thorough cleaning. And, just as with tattoos, if the piercing is still fairly new, you’ll want to avoid water completely.

We all love to show off our body art, and most of us love the summer heat. Taking just a little extra time and care can go a long way in ensuring we have something worth showing off for many years to come.

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CORPORATE FOR LIFE

28/04/2013

By: Robyn J. Williams

“Tattoos in the workplace” is a common area of discussion for body mod enthusiasts – but what about tattoos for the workplace? Over the last few years, a trend has emerged that speaks not only to the cultural relevance of tattoos, but also to the state of the economy – people tattooing corporate logos on their bodies. For some, this means getting their own employer’s name (Rapid Realty of New York boasts almost 40 employees that have the company’s logo tattooed on them); for others, it means selling advertising space on their own bodies (Billy the Human Billboard currently has over 20 logos and websites tattooed on his face alone). Still others do it to show loyalty to the brand itself. What it means for them all is a permanent corporate branding.

Of course, this trend is not entirely new. Both bikers and sports fans have long been getting their favourite brand or team’s logo tattooed on them, and pretty well every tattoo artist on Earth has tattooed the Nike “swoosh” on someone at some point. But the idea of being paid to advertise in such a way, or to willingly turn oneself into a walking billboard, is far more recent, and has some interesting implications.

Rapid Realty offered a 15% raise to any employee that got the tattoo, and in today’s rough real estate market, 36 employees decided that was too good an offer to refuse. Billy has stated in interviews that it is supporting his family in a rocky economy that drove him to such lengths. Many others tell a similar story; a lack of stable jobs, bills that seem to get bigger every year, and families to support has forced them to think outside the box, and corporations are generally more than happy to pay a little cash for some sensational advertising (though there are exceptions – in researching this phenomena, I ran across two separate companies that expressed a great disdain at the idea of their logo being inked into someone’s face…).

For some, however, it’s about more than just money. A Utah woman made headlines a few years ago for auctioning off her forehead on eBay, promising to tattoo the corporate logo of the highest bidder smack in the center. She made good on her promise, tattooing “goldenpalace.com” across her head for a cool ten thousand dollars. It didn’t seem to be the money she was interested in, however, stating on the original eBay listing that she “loves to be the center of attention”. And a 2009 study on corporate tattoos has suggested that many people happily get corporate brands done of their own volition, no payment necessary, to feel part of a perceived “in-group” (we’re not naming any names, here, but a lot of those tattoos strongly resembled partially eaten apples…).

For many, this trend brings up more questions than answers: sure, some are clearly in it for the money, some for the attention, and some are simply following a fad – but is there something more to this? Tattoos, from their very inception, have had a cultural foundation. We can learn a lot about a culture and its history from the tattoos left behind – what, then, will the archaeologists and historians of the future have to say about the corporate logos they will find on us? What will this tell them about our culture? Will the see a people so obsessed with capitalism and consumption that they felt moved to permanently brand themselves with the labels of their choice, or will they see a people that, in a faltering economy, were not afraid to become a walking billboard if it meant putting food on the table? Will they see trend-setters, or fad-followers?

It will be interesting to watch how the corporate logo fad plays out – who will come to regret their decisions, who will still be sporting porn-sites on their head a decade from now, and whether this blip in tattoo and corporate history makes a lasting impression on industry in general. For now, we can at least sleep a little better knowing that, if we ever need a quick ten grand, the solution may be as close as our foreheads.

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TATTOO DAYCARE

21/04/2013

By: Robyn J. Williams

Edit: Due to a couple of recent concern-causing incidents I-Kandy has changed our policy regarding children in the studio.

-NO children under the age of 7 are allowed in the studio.

-During your tattoo and/or piercing session, please do not bring your children.

We regret having to make this change, but feel that it is best for all concerned.

If you have any questions regarding this; or any of our studio policies – please call us at 604-532-1188.

 

The world of body modification is, by and large, an adult one. The vast majority of shops have strict age restrictions on who they will tattoo and pierce, and many do not even permit minors through their doors. The occasional shop, however, is a bit more lax – particularly if they have a lot of family-oriented clients. Ideally, one would never bring their children into a tattoo shop, but the world is not ideal, and many shops understand that.

First and foremost, a tattoo shop is full of potential dangers – there is a reason you see BIOHAZARD stickers and warnings here, there, and everywhere. It really can’t be stressed enough that the floor your child wants to crawl around on is covered with biohazardous material. Of course, every reputable shop takes extreme measures to keep things clean and safe, but it’s only common sense that a floor, during working hours, with clients and staff both walking across it countless times per day and it being beneath the work we are doing, cannot be kept sterile. We are dealing with broken skin, ink, chemicals, and blood, all of which have a good chance of hitting the floor your child wants to put their little hands and bodies on. Don’t let them!

Second, everything that we love about kids becomes inappropriate in a shop. They are cute, talkative, active, and rambunctious – all things that become huge distractions in a tattoo setting. Tattoo and piercing artists need to be able to concentrate, and kids yelling, crying, laughing, running around, and playing make that very difficult to do.

Ideally, tattoo shops would be adult-only environments, but life rarely goes according to plan, and we understand that. We only ask that you follow these simple tips to make the experience as easy as possible.

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JUST A LITTLE BIGGER

14/04/2013

By: Robyn J. Williams

In 8th grade, approximately a million years ago, I got my nostril pierced. At the time, piercing anything other than your earlobes was taken as a defiant symbol of freakdom, and my classmates responded in kind. I, however, never understood how a little silver hoop could be seen as so extreme – I had older, freakier friends that had been jabbing safety pins, chains, and Lego heads (yes, you read that correctly…and no, I don’t recommend trying it out!) through various parts of their bodies for years. One in particular seemed to have made it his life’s goal to have every single accessible piece of skin either tattooed, pierced, or scarred, and was well on his way to attaining that goal when I got my oh-so-daring nostril piercing. He was the first person I had seen, outside of a National Geographic, that had stretched earlobes, and he had been answering the inevitable question about them the same way for half a decade: “just a little bigger”.

Those four simple words would come to represent an entire philosophy – one that drove body modification from an underground network of tattooists and piercers to a visible subculture of people treating their bodies as canvases. It is what pushed the evolution from pierced earlobe to split tongue, from flash tattoos to full-body collages of ink and scars. People were quite literally reclaiming their bodies, redesigning them at will, creating a culture that combined aesthetics, ritual, and an insatiable urge to push the envelope – to find the boundaries, and race across them. Whether we were testing the waters with a little stud in our nose or carving mosaics into our flesh, the ideal was the same: a physical, visible declaration of independence. A culture based around the idea of taking things farther, of challenging convention – it was, and is, the philosophy that, if it could be thought up, it could be done.

And, oh, the things that have been thought up. From splitting body parts in half to inserting implants under the skin, from tattoo masks to full-body scarification, there is little left that has not been tried at least once. There is, of course, considerable controversy over some of these practices – things like U.V. ink, tongue splitting, and genital modification have raised concerns from both those inside and outside the body-mod industry, and there is a sense of them still being felt out by many. Depending on one’s perspective, extreme modification either epitomises or threatens the legitimacy of the movement. While it serves to affirm the radical and innovative nature of the art form, it also challenges our notions of what is acceptable, of what we are comfortable with. It requires we take risks with both our appearance and our outlook, and perpetually update our views.

Regardless of which side of the fence you sit on, it’s likely that you’ve pondered these questions, if even briefly. I still on occasion run into someone that sees my million year old nose-ring and quietly asks themselves who would do such a thing, and even I have seen modifications that left my eyebrow raised and my sensibilities shaken. And that’s exactly the point, I believe. Claiming one’s body a canvas is much more than a creative or even philosophical statement. It is a challenge to our perception of autonomy – it forces us to ask if we genuinely support having full control over our bodies, or if we feel there is a point at which others should have a say. It turns the statement “just a little bigger” into the question “how big is too big, how much is too much?” – though, I wouldn’t be expecting an answer any time soon.

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TATTOO FAQ

07/04/2013

By: Robyn J. Williams

A couple of weeks ago, we offered up a piercing FAQ, meant to address the most common queries we receive, and hopefully ease your mind a little. This week, we hope to do the same regarding tattoos. It should be made clear, however, that these FAQs are not intended to replace the guidance of your tattoo artist – they have devoted their lives to this artform, and should be respected and listened to when it comes to tattoo care. Rather, these are generalised answers to common questions, meant to help you make smart decisions about getting a new piece.

What does it feel like?

Everyone, no matter how tough or laid back, wonders what getting tattooed feels like, whether it hurts or not, and how they will be able to handle the sensation. Both the artists themselves and the front desk staff get asked countless times a day if there is anything one can do to reduce the pain, or where it hurts least to get tattooed. The fact is, it is impossible to tell someone else how their tattoo will feel. We all have different pain thresholds, and we all accept the sensation in different ways. Ask ten different people which of their tattoos hurt most, and you will get ten different answers. Some think it doesn’t hurt at all, no matter where it is. Some think certain body parts hurt while others don’t. And some think it is a painful experience, period. What we can tell you, however, is that the general rule is: the fleshier, the better. Getting tattooed is, for most people, not a painful experience – it is simply a sensation they had never felt before, and therefore needed to adjust to. Many people describe it as more annoying than painful, as if someone is flicking you with a rubber band, or poking you with a toothpick, but over and over again. Unless you have a really low threshold for pain, chances are pretty good that getting tattooed will not be an unbearable experience (I can personally attest to being a pretty big wuss, and I still managed to survive getting both of my feet and my ribcage, two of the more sensitive areas, tattooed).

Is there anything I should do beforehand?

Yes! Absolutely, yes! And we love people that ask this, as it shows you are being wise about your decision to get tattooed. The number one thing you can do to make the tattoo process easier is eat. Yes, eat. Specifically, eating carbs, leafy greens, and high-vitamin juices gives your body the boost it needs to better handle the sensation of being tattooed. Your blood will be thicker, your blood sugars a bit higher, and your body well-hydrated, all of which make the process far easier on you, and on your artist. Likewise, avoid blood-thinners (alcohol, for example), and do not come in on an empty stomach.

In the context of tattoos, beforehand and afterwards are often one in the same. One of the best ways to prepare for a tattoo is to consider what you’ll be doing afterwards – it is best to get a tattoo when you have a couple of days off to recoup – you want to avoid it getting bumped or scratched or soaked, so it may not be a great idea to get a tattoo and then head straight back to work if you have a job in which you are likely to be touched, bumped, or exerting yourself physically (if in doubt, ask your artist). Also be aware that you should not be tanning or swimming or doing any really strenuous work-outs (that is, if your tattoo is in a place where working out may affect it – your bicep or your ribcage, for example) during the healing process, so if you are so inclined, schedule your tattoo for a time when you can take a break from those activities.

In short, preparing for a tattoo means understanding what the process, including healing, entails. Make sure your body is well-fueled beforehand, and that you can relax a bit afterwards, and you are well on your way to a happy tattoo.

Can I get _______?

Unquestionably, the most common question we get asked is “can I get…?”, with the blank space being anything from your boyfriend’s name to a rose the size of a dime. The answer is always the same – yes, and no, and maybe, depending. Most reputable shops will refuse to tattoo your partner’s name on you – it’s just a bad idea, for what should be obvious reasons. But, for the most part, your artist can make whatever you want a reality, provided you will make a few concessions. A really intricate tattoo cannot be tiny – it needs to have enough space between the lines that they will not run together – and placement is important in ensuring it looks good when healed – getting a tattoo near the palm of your hand or inside your mouth is certainly possible, but may not be the greatest plan if you want it to heal nicely and stay looking good long-term. Whatever your idea, your artist will try to make it happen – just realize that your ideas may not be taking the practical side of things into account. Listen to your artist, and make these decisions together.

What can I expect from the healing process?

Getting the tattoo is the exciting part, but you want it to look good forever, not just today. Allowing it to heal properly is vital! While everyone is different, there are a couple of things most everyone can expect. Before I continue, however, I think it very important to make something clear, here: your artist knows best. A good artist has spent years not only perfecting their art, but nailing down the best aftercare instructions as well. They’ve seen firsthand what works, what doesn’t, and what common errors people make. Please take their advice seriously. That said, most everyone will experience a couple of things during the healing process, and those we can safely address here. First, you will shed! I can’t count how many times we’ve received panicked phone-calls from clients, telling us that they woke up to find bits of coloured skin on their sheets. And it is a panic-inducing moment, if one isn’t aware – it looks as though your tattoo itself is just peeling right off – not exactly what most people had in mind. Rest assured, however, that your tattoo will not just peel off – what you are seeing is the very top layer of skin, and it is no different than the dry skin that falls away from you on a regular basis. Second, it will probably itch – don’t scratch it! Healing skin normally itches; this is why you feel the urge to pick scabs. While it is normal, you want to avoid scratching or picking – letting it heal is crucial to how it will look in the end. Finally, you want to allow at least 3 weeks healing time – for some it will be shorter, for some much longer, but 3 weeks seems to be pretty standard. For that time, avoid soaking in water (showers are of course still recommended, but baths, hot-tubs, swimming pools, etc, are not), spending a lot of time in the sun, or doing anything extreme to your skin.

The most important part of the healing process, of course, is to listen to your artist, and just be good to yourself. Your body knows how to heal itself – you just need to allow it to do so!

Is a tattoo right for me?

We don’t actually hear this one a lot, but we should. While we at I-Kandy are of course huge body-mod advocates, we also want you to love your mod forever, which means being realistic and smart about it. Think about your career goals, your desired appearance, and your lifestyle before jumping in to a tattoo, and choose pieces and places that will work for you and your future plans. You may love the idea of a giant skull on your neck, but if your plan is to become a kindergarten teacher, you probably want to rethink that. Likewise, if you are a swimmer or summer-traveler, you want to be really careful about when you get tattooed. Taking a little extra time to do your research and consider your options is the best thing you can do to ensure you will be forever happy with your choice.

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THE EVOLUTION OF SYMBOLISM

31/03/2013

By: Robyn J. Williams

Because Easter has a few different histories behind it, it likewise has many different symbols: everything from chocolate bunnies to decorative eggs to the crucifix is put on display this time of year, each with its own meaning and story. Symbolism is an inescapable aspect of religion, and, similarly, of tattooing. In fact, for many years – even centuries – symbolism and tattooing were one in the same; people did not generally get tattooed for aesthetic purposes, they got tattooed to mark a milestone, as part of a ritual, or to distinguish one group from another. Every tattoo was the symbol of one’s status, position, tribe, or religion.

Prior to the discovery of Otzi the Iceman, found in Europe, it was believed that Egyptians were the first to engage in tattooing – figurines adorned with images, mummies with faint designs, and tools that seemed made for the purpose gave a strong impression that they had been the innovators of such a practice. As more and more artifacts and bodies are uncovered, however, we learn that tattooing, particularly to symbolize one’s status, has existed for far longer, and in far more parts of the world, than previously believed.

In recent years, Eurasian mummies and entombed bodies have been discovered near modern-day China and Russia, adorned with animal designs, lines of dots, and mythical monsters, believed to be symbols of strength and virility. In Borneo, tribal tattoos consisting of thick black lines and nature themes have symbolised the stages men and women have gone through and the skills they possess since ancient times. Maori and Samoan tribes have long used tattoos, often covering most of the body, to make clear their social status and position within the tribe. Throughout Central and South America, ancient peoples ranging from farmers to the socially elite have been found bearing tattoos – generally animal designs and small symbols – that seem to have magical or ritualistic qualities to them, likely thought to bring them luck, protection, and wealth.

I could go on all day, really, but I think you get the picture – tattoos have been part of human culture for thousands of years, even within isolated societies. We have, it seems, come up with this idea over and over again, feeling it relevant to mark our bodies with meaningful symbols. Early designs were often nature-themed or “tribal” – consisting of a series of lines, dots, and bands – generally to protect, show status, and mark the various stages of life. As societies, cultures, and philosophies evolved, so too did the symbols used. Celts and Britons took to intricate and ornate patterns to declare their status, Greeks and Romans began tattooing themselves as a mark of religious devotion or belonging to a certain group or sect, and China and Japan moved from tattoos that designated people criminals or of a certain trade to more ornate and less stigmatized designs, available to the general public.

Human beings, as a whole, seem to have a need to symbolize that which matters most to us. Regardless of culture, religion, or era, we have long marked ourselves and our surroundings, sometimes to separate ourselves from, and sometimes to feel a deeper connection to, the natural world and its many forms of life. Even in the modern world, we are constantly seeking more valid, more extreme, and more innovative ways to express where we see ourselves in relation to the world around us.

Whether chocolate bunny or crucifix, whether tribal design or modern art, we as humans are constantly pushing boundaries and refining designs to adequately symbolize what it means to be us. The evolution of symbolism is, it is no exaggeration to say, the evolution of humanity itself. While tattoos may still be stigmatized and frowned upon in parts of the world, from a historical perspective, they are the most common, long-standing, and widespread way to tell our story in a way that transcends both time and language.

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5 Common Body-Mod Mistakes

24/03/2013

By: Robyn J. Williams

I-Kandy, as well as every other reputable shop on the planet, I presume, has seen the result of not-so-great ideas many, many times: tattoos by Some Guy in a Basement, piercings by My Friend and a Safety Pin, and, of course, the infamous I Did it Myself. While we understand the reasoning (and have indeed made a lot of those same errors ourselves), we hope to save you the time, money, and even pain, that can come of them. Below are the five most common body-mod mistakes, and how you can avoid them.

1. Piercing yourself/having a friend pierce you

It seems simple, right? Just take something sharp, clean it, and poke it through your ear (or lip, or nostril…). Put in a piece of jewelry, and voila! You have a piercing! Except…that’s not at all how it really goes. Professional piercers don’t just pierce you – they know the right tools to use and how to keep them sterile, they know all about cross-contamination, pathogens, and bacteria, they know the appropriate placement, size, and depth for your piercing – all very important things to know if you’re going to be putting holes in people’s bodies. There is a very good reason that professional piercings have such a high success rate, while self-done piercings will more often than not need to be taken out to avoid infection – no matter what you do, no matter how much rubbing alcohol you take to your safety pin or how thoroughly you wipe down your bathroom counter, you are not working with safe equipment, or all the necessary information.

Do yourself, and your piercing, a favour and have a professional do it. Not only will you be in good hands with clean equipment and jewelry, you will also have someone to go back to if you have questions, concerns, or need help changing the jewelry later.

 2. Getting tattooed in someone’s basement

Tattooing is, more often than not, a “get what you pay for” industry. A tattoo for the price of a case of beer seems like a really awesome deal – until you see a few tattoos done for the price of a case of beer. The sketchiest of the cheap tattoos are, of course, those done in someone’s basement or garage or living room “studio”. That’s not to say there has never been a good home-artist, or even a good home-studio, but they are few and far between, and the chances of you happening to stumble upon one are small. It’s really difficult to set up a studio at home that will meet the same health & safety standards that professional shops are held to – we have specialised equipment, autoclaves and ultra-sonics,  specific types of chairs and flooring, etc, for the express purpose of cleanliness and safety – home studios are unlikely to have the same. Professional artists have also gone through some form of training – even those that are mostly self-taught are well-researched in sterilisation and safety, and work in shops with others, learning from one another and honing their skills in a safe environment.

No one gets a tattoo thinking they won’t mind if it sucks. With cheap basement artists, there are just too many chances being taken – going to a professional may cost you a little more, but those extra dollars are guaranteeing you are being tattooed with sterile equipment in a clean environment by someone that knows what they are doing and has a reputation and business backing them up.

3. Getting pierced at the mall

I expect some hate-mail for this, but it needs to be said: mall piercings are terrible.

Piercings done at the mall are done by a non-professional with a piercing gun. What’s wrong with that, you ask? Well, everything.

Non-professional piercers are trained via a brief lesson, and a video tutorial. Contrast this with the months upon months upon years upon years that professional piercers spend learning about health and safety, cleaning tools, changing and adjusting jewelry, reading books, practicing on one another and themselves, trying out new techniques, piercing numerous parts of the body, talking to other piercers and sharing ideas and issues, and absorbing any and all info about jewelry, tools, trends and body modification in general, and the slightly higher price may start to make sense.

As for piercing guns, they have many issues unto themselves. First and foremost, they cannot be sterilized. The sterilization process involves extreme heat, and piercing gun cases are plastic; they would melt if they were put in an autoclave. Sterile equipment is extremely important. Think about it – the person who got pierced before you may have had an infection or contagious disease, and now you are about to get a piece of jewelry that has been in that same gun shot through your body. Gross.

Many mall-shops have gotten around that problem with single-use guns, which is certainly an improvement, but does not make guns any better of an idea. Piercing guns cause more trauma to your body than a needle – there is no sharp end on them, so they are literally shooting the jewelry into you. This means no clean incision has been made, making your risk of slow healing, pain and scarring much higher.

Lastly, malls also do not offer appropriate aftercare. While professional shops differ somewhat on what they offer, the one thing they all agree on is to not use alcohols, which is exactly what most mall shops will give you, along with antiseptic wash. Both will dry out your skin terribly and prolong the healing period.

4. Not thinking through your tattoo

Many of the regrets we hear from our clients involve old tattoos that were not exactly well thought out. People who got tattooed on impulse, or saw something cool in a magazine and went and got it done a couple of days later. People that got tattooed while drinking (I could devote a whole new article to all of the things wrong with that idea), or were not completely prepared to follow the process through. People who got their first boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s name tattooed on their chest, or something vulgar across their knuckles. Getting tattooed is actually kind-of a big deal, and it needs proper consideration – you can assume it’s going to be there for the rest of your life, and that should be in your mind the entire time. You may think a flaming 666 on your hand is an awesome idea, but are you sure you’re still going to think that when you’re forty, or even next week when you have that job interview? That’s not to say you should compromise – tattoos are all about self-expression and personalization – but it may be a good idea to take some time to really think about what you will still be happy looking at a few years from now, and whether or not you’ll want other people looking at it.

5. Listening to your friends

I know, I know. They’re your friends, and you trust them. Some of them probably have lots of tattoos and piercings, and sound like they know what they’re talking about. Hell, some of them probably do know what they’re talking about. But, here’s the thing: what happened to them will not necessarily happen to you. Everyone heals at different speeds, everyone reacts differently to the process. Every piercing or tattoo is a unique experience. It would be hard to count the number of times someone has come in with an irritated piercing or a tattoo that hasn’t healed nicely, only to tell us that their “friend said it would be fine” if they went swimming or changed the jewelry or picked the scab. What needs to be kept in mind here is that shops do not make a profit from giving you aftercare instructions. We aren’t trying to sell you anything – by that point, we’ve already made our money. We tell you these things because we want you to have a beautiful finished product. We want you to be able to proudly show off your mods, and we want to be proud to say we did them.

Aftercare and forethought are not pushed on you to take the fun out of the experience, or to make anyone any money. We’re not here to lecture you; we’re here to give you a cool experience and an impressive piece. We can’t give that to you if you are sitting in someone’s basement or in the window of a mall shop, however. Body-modification should be a personal and pleasant experience that leaves you with something you are proud to show off – do it right the first time, and we promise you, you won’t regret it.

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FROM OUTSIDER TO INNOVATOR

17/03/2013

By: Robyn J. Williams

For several decades, western culture held tattoos to be the mark of outcasts and rebels – bikers, circus freaks, weathered soldiers, and lifelong criminals were the main representatives of the artform – and for a long time, it seemed that, not only would tattoos never break into the mainstream,they were actually helping to define what ran counter to it. Having a tattoo automatically set one apart from “everyone else” – it was a symbol of being part of another culture, a culture that somehow transcended the standard societal norms. Over time, however, tattoos have crept in to every corner of our culture, and some have even reached the status of “trendy” – a term so mainstream it hurts.

In the 1980s, tattoos were still the domain of the underground, for the most part. The 90s saw them gain some popularity, however, and by the mid-00s, it was estimated that 25% of people aged 16- 40 had at least one tattoo. What happened in less than 30 years to push tattoos from the underground to the mainstream? A large part of that answer is undoubtedly pop-culture. Several musicians and artists of the late 60s and early 70s had visible tattoos (Janis Joplin is often cited as having a pivotal role in popularising tattoos with her small wrist and breast pieces), and by the 90s, the kids who had grown up with these artists were now adults with kids of their own that did not see tattoos as taboo, but as a form of expression they could relate to. Another major boost came from innovators working to create brightly coloured and long lasting inks – prior to this time, ink was most often black, blue, or a terrible red that faded almost immediately – vibrant colours made the idea of a tattoo much more appealing to many. The biggest influence, however, seems to be a shift in perspective – what had once been the mark of an outcast was becoming a legitimate artform; trained artists were picking up machines and creating something that went far beyond the outlines of eagles and hearts with daggers that had dominated the landscape in years prior.

When it comes to popularisation of anything that was once underground, of course, there will be those that champion the progression, and those that resent it. Entrepreneurs and innovators will see opportunity, while those thoroughly entrenched in, and attached to, their subculture will see hostile takeover. Both have valid points. Legitimising tattooing as a form of art and turning it into a multi-million dollar industry has unquestionably pleased and benefitted a lot of people. No longer do tattooists work out of trashy bars and dirty basements, and their rates have gone from the price of a case of beer to a more than liveable income. Clients can be adorned with anything their imagination can conceive of, and artists have far more options than ever before. When the underground becomes the mainstream, however, vital aspects of it have to adapt, and those alterations will please some and disappoint others. The idea of tattoos being trendy is no exception – many see this as an evolution of attitude, a long overdue acceptance of people expressing themselves in visible and creative ways. Others see it as a cheapening of what was once meaningful, turning a sacred act into a fad.

Fads are the bittersweet staple of all industries – they are invaluable in terms of making a mark on society, on bringing an industry to the forefront of people’s minds, but they are also almost always destined to be overdone and eventually become dated and cliché. Fads offer the best and the worst of an industry, and are always walking the line between the next big thing and yesterday’s news. And when it comes to tattoos, fads are evidence that no matter how far underground something may be, one stumble into the spotlight can be all it takes to gain the attention of the masses. Fortunately, the tattoo industry, just like the music industry, fashion, and art, has far more to offer than passing fads. One need only delve a tiny bit deeper than tribal armbands and Kanji to find an entirely new world of art and design. A world of innovation, of the grotesque, the beautiful, the dark, the vibrant, the one of a kind. A world that more and more people are exploring, and whose population becomes more diverse by the minute. We may no longer be underground, but we are adding much needed splashes of colour up here.

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PIERCING FAQ

10/03/2013

By: Robyn J. Williams

Getting a piercing can be a wonderful experience. It can be a magical, spiritual moment for some and an awkward and funny moment for others. Some think it hurts, some enjoy the sensation. A lot of people plan and prepare for their piercings and even more come in on the spur of the moment. All, inevitably, have questions. Below are some of the most commonly asked.

Does It Hurt?

This is, without a doubt, the most common question of all. And the answer is yes. And no. And sometimes.

When it comes to the pain, there are three things you have to keep in mind.

1. Not all piercings feel the same. It’s impossible to say that every piercing hurts or that none of them do, because different parts of your body will feel different being pierced. Some parts are more sensitive than others, so where you get it will make a big difference.

2. Not everyone feels the same amount of pain, or in the same places. It’s always hard for us to tell you if the piercing will hurt you – we can only tell you if it hurt us, or if a lot of clients have given us feedback. Everyone is different, and will react in their own way – I didn’t find my nostril painful at all, but several of my friends did, likewise, I found my microdermal quite uncomfortable while others enjoyed the sensation. Only you know how your body handles being pierced.

3. A piercing is over in seconds. Even if you do find it painful, it’s over before you can even say “ouch”.

How Long Will It Take To Heal?

How long a piercing will take to heal depends on where it is, how you treat it and how quickly you heal. The average is 6-12 weeks, but some can take up to 6 months to be fully healed. Of course, it’s different for everyone, but the general rule is, the less important that body part is, the longer it will take to heal. That means your navel (bellybutton) or ear cartilage will likely take longer to heal than your tongue or lip, because you need a functioning mouth more than you need a healed navel.

How you treat your piercing will make a big difference in healing time, as well. Using saline solution to clean it, rather than alcohols or peroxides, will speed up the healing process significantly; alcohols dry out your skin and kill all the good bacteria (yes, there is such a thing!) that helps you heal as well as the bad bacteria. Keeping it clean is vital – if it’s a facial piercing, make sure your pillow cases and hats are clean as well. Also avoid swimming or getting make-up in your new piercing.

What Are The Risks?

If done in a clean, professional shop, the risks are minimal. It is a shop’s duty to have safe and appropriate tools – it is your job to find that shop. Assuming that you came to see us at I-Kandy, or an equally reputable shop in your city, the main risk is irritation (not infection, as many believe!). This is when the area around the piercing seems angry. It will be red and not feel so great. Generally, irritation is caused by the piercing getting dirty, or being bumped or played with before it’s healed. This doesn’t require you take the piercing out, or go to the doctor – it just demands a little extra love.

Can I Get Something Tiny?

Girls especially appreciate cute and dainty piercings — a tiny bead on a lip stud or a little jewel in a nostril. As much as you may hate it, however, it has to be a little bulky to begin with. The reason for this is that a lot of piercings swell at first – sometimes just a little, and sometimes a lot! That’s why people talk funny after they get their tongue pierced; it’s not because it hurt, it’s because it’s swollen. If you put a tiny bead or really short barbell in your new piercing and it swells up, your skin can literally swallow the jewelry, and you can only imagine how great it feels getting that out! It’s worth having a bulkier piece of jewelry for a couple of weeks to avoid the pain of a too-small piece.

These are just a few of the most commonly asked questions, and another FAQ may follow this one up. These are of course NOT meant to replace speaking with your piercer – take care to not only find a good one, but to listen to the instructions and advice they offer. A professional piercer will happily answer any and all questions you have, and will go over aftercare with you in detail. Hopefully, however, we have at least answered a couple of the more pressing questions on your mind so that you can make an informed decision on whether a piercing is right for you or not.

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Written in the Scars

24/02/2013

By: Robyn J. Williams

She is young, perhaps 20, and has a lovely smile. Her hair is pulled back tightly, calling attention to her high cheekbones and large eyes. She is wearing very little, but is well wrapped in elaborate jewelry. She is, by any and all standards, beautiful. At least, her face is. I can’t be sure that everyone would find her body as striking as I do. Her arms, stomach, and chest appear to have been cut thousands of times, leaving a pattern of deep, raised scars all over her body. Intentionally. And this isn’t a modern day body-mod fanatic with green hair I’m looking at; this is a photograph of a woman from West Africa in the early 1900s.

Indeed, scarification is an ancient practice, and in many cultures, was the precursor to tattooing: some of the first tattoos were simply cuts that had ash rubbed into them so that the scar would appear grey or black. The reasons for the ritual practice vary greatly from culture to culture and era to era, but most share the general theme of identity. Maori men used to scar their faces before going into battle, or when  in search of a wife, as the scars were seen as a symbol of strength and virility. Several African tribes use scarification to mark stages in one’s life and identify one’s lineage and status. In Papau New Guinea, scarification is performed in initiation and coming of age ceremonies. And, just to underline how little human nature really changes, all of these cultures also use(d) scarification to make themselves more attractive. It is this commonality between all people that may serve to explain how scarification made its way from ancient tribes to modern tattoo shops.

In the late 70s and early 80s, small groups of people across North America and Europe were taking noticeable interest in the tribal practices of other cultures. Sociological theories abound regarding why, and the reasons are likely multiple and layered, but one of the most obvious and highly agreed upon is a rejection of their own culture. Many were dissatisfied with their own histories, feeling we had long ago lost touch with our true selves, and let conformity and materialism take over. Returning to ancient cultures and practices served the dual purpose of visually standing out – rejecting the conformity – and making an attempt to find our roots, to reconnect with the universe itself. This movement has been labelled many ways – mainly as Neotribalism and Modern Primitivism. In its earliest inception, it was embraced mostly by GLBT and BDSM communities, but over time became the foundation for an entirely new subculture, and singlehandedly changed the landscape of body modification. Prior to Modern Primitivism, body modification consisted mainly of pre-drawn tattoos (“flash”), and jabbing safety pins through your friend’s ears or, if they were really rebellious, nostril, which, if it didn’t get horribly infected, would result in a “piercing”. Once this movement began to pick up some speed, however, it was unstoppable. Exploring countless cultures and practices while fashioning modern, customized tools opened the door to an endless list of possibilities; with the right tools and a little knowledge, almost any part of one’s body could be pierced, cut, branded, tattooed, and modified to their own specifications.

At this point, scarification was split into two main categories: cutting and branding. The former is what most people think of when they hear “scarification” – a sharp implement, most often a scalpel, is used to cut a design into the skin; the latter involves heated instruments burning the design into the flesh. Both, however, rely on the resulting scar to hold the pattern. Because everyone scars differently, it will never be a precise art – one can get a general idea of what the scars may look like upon healing by looking at others, but there is no way to guarantee your own will look the same. This unpredictability is often seen not as a downside, however, but as furthering the symbolism of identity and individuality – no two scars are the same.

Over the last 30 years, scarification has become slightly more common, but it has never, and probably will never, reach the status of tattooing and piercing. There is still something taboo about the idea of branding or slicing into one’s skin, something that gives many the heebie-jeebies. And perhaps that’s a good thing. Perhaps we need some of these practices to forever remain uncommon, to continue on as rites of passage and proud proclamations for only those who would truly appreciate such a ritual. Whether acquired intentionally or not, scars tell a story of where we have been, of what we have experienced. The scar is not the event itself – it is a symbol, a permanent reminder, of a particular moment in one’s life. For those who care to, our entire story can be read, and written, in our scars.

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The Story of the Machine

16/02/2013

By: Robyn J. Williams

Tattoos have been part of human history for thousands of years – and for most of that time, the tools of the trade consisted of a sharpened shell, bone, or pieces of metal, and a couple of small cups full of ink. And then, seemingly overnight, the tattoo machine was born. How did this happen so suddenly, and whose idea was it? As with many inventions, the answer is not one, but several people and ideas.

In 1876, prolific inventor Thomas Edison patented what he called a “Stencil-Pen” – an electric pen, run by a rotary motor, designed to create stencils. The machine would puncture the paper (Edison boasted it could make 50 punctures a second), which would then have an ink-roller taken to it. The invention was designed to help secretaries, printers, and office workers who often had to make numerous copies of one document. It went on sale in the U.S. in late 1876, and was then quickly followed up by an improved, two-coil electromagnetic version, selling in both the U.S. and the U.K. Ultimately, however, the pen was not all that successful; similar products, as well as the earliest typewriters, were already on the market, and Edison’s invention didn’t seem much of an improvement on the current technology.

While the Stencil-Pen was overshadowed by better products in the office, people in a very different industry were just beginning to see its potential. Around the same time Edison released the rotary machine, an Irish man named Samuel O’Reilly began tattooing – an art which, at the time, consisted of poking and cutting ink into the skin. O’Reilly was good at what he did, however, and eventually moved to New York, where he tattooed circus “freaks”, daring celebrities, and many fellow Irishmen, gaining himself a large clientele and a reputation as a legitimate artist. He was also, apparently, a shrewd business man. Legend has it that O’Reilly first spotted a rotary Stencil-Pen in the window of an office supply shop, walked in and asked for a demonstration, and immediately contacted the patent office to find Edison had let it expire. O’Reilly purchased the pen, made a few minor alterations, including an ink reservoir, and patented it as the first tattoo machine in 1891.

Across the Atlantic, Thomas Riley of London was working on a similar idea, using the electromagnetic concept. Riley created a single-coil machine using a modified doorbell assembly contained in a brass box, and patented it just 20 days after O’Reilly patented his. The autumn of 1891 saw the tattoo machine born not once, but twice. One rotary, one electromagnetic; one American, one British; both inspired by Edison’s failed pen.

From that year on, artists and engineers took these two machines and altered, improved upon, and re-patented them many times. Alfred Charles took Tom Riley’s machine and added a second coil, creating the immediate predecessor for the machines we see most often today. Charles Wagner, thought to be a student of Samuel O’Reilly’s, patented an improved version of O’Reilly’s machine in 1904. As both designs evolved, they began sharing more and more features, and in 1929, Percy Waters took the best of both machines, made heavy alterations to the design, and patented the machine we still use today. It was Waters’ modifications that really changed the landscape of both tattoo machines and tattooing as an art-form – his design allowed for adjustments, which meant the speed, depth, and angle of the needles could be changed as needed. He also improved the functionality of it, making it lighter and easier to handle. It was this machine that artists would run with, and from then to present date, alter, modify, and personalize.

It is doubtful that Thomas Edison would have ever seen any potential in the Stencil-Pen as a tattoo machine. It is doubtful that Samuel O’Reilly imagined his adding an ink reservoir to it would spawn a whole new industry. It is doubtful that Tom Riley thought his doorbell in a box would become the prototype of today’s machines. Yet the ideas of these three men, along with many others along the way, all directly led to Percy Waters’ perfected version of a tattoo machine, and launched the first major tattoo supply company in America. Were it not for these inventors, artists, business men, and engineers, we may very well still be getting tattooed with shells and sticks.

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5 Things to Consider Before Getting a Tattoo

09/02/2013

By: Robyn J. Williams

So, You Want a Tattoo…

Great! When done well, a tattoo can be a beautiful piece of art, and you get the honor of being the canvas! They can represent you, your family, your friends or your memories. They can be cool, funny, sad, serious, political, symbolic and creative. They can be black and grey or vibrant colors. They can be hidden — your little secret, or they can be displayed for all the world to see. Because they can be so many things (permanent being among them!), it is important to take a few things into consideration before you enter the wonderful world of body modification.

1. They Are Permanent

Yes, I realize you all know that. But, working in a tattoo shop, you eventually learn that a lot of people don’t really consider their permanence when they start coming up with ideas for their tattoos. You may think you’ll always like your tribal armband or having Tinkerbell on your breast, but trust me, you probably won’t. When choosing designs, think long and hard about the fact that it will always be there. Yes, there is now tattoo removal, but relying on this fact is a lousy idea. Laser removal is both more expensive and more painful than the tattoo itself, and it doesn’t always leave your skin looking new and fresh. If you’re going into a tattoo with the idea “well, I can always remove it later”, you probably shouldn’t get that tattoo.

2. Does It Mean Something?

I’d estimate that, in the tattoo industry as a whole, 25% of our business is covering up old tattoos. The #1 reason? “I got this silly tattoo when I was 18…”. The problem, of course, isn’t with getting a tattoo at 18, but with getting one that means nothing to you. Getting a tattoo with some friends on the spur of the moment may sound like a fun bonding experience, but if the piece itself holds no meaning for you, you will come to hate it.

Now, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get something fun or outrageous (we love it when people ask for weird things!), it just means you should ask yourself why you’re getting it. If you can’t think of any reason besides “uh…it’s cool?”, don’t get it! The tattoos people treasure the most are the meaningful ones — a memorial piece for a parent, a piece of art you’ve always loved, a symbol of your favorite memory, sport, band or childhood hero, an inside joke between you and your best friend, a piece with spiritual or intellectual significance or some other symbol that would only make sense to you.

3. What Do I Want To Be When I Grow Up?

I’m 32, and I’m still asking myself this question, so don’t think this is a lecture reserved for the young among you.

While I’m happy to report the world is slowly coming around to the idea of tattoos, a lot of people still frown on them. Yeah, we’d all like to say we don’t care what others think of us, but if there is a career or lifestyle that you are passionate about pursuing, you may have to care a little. Certain professions still forbid visible tattoos in the workplace, so you need to consider whether you may end up in one of those professions.

The good news is that this doesn’t mean you can’t get a tattoo at all — you just may want to consider putting it somewhere that can easily be hidden; an ankle, the back of your shoulder, your upper arm or on your ribcage are all good options for the hidden tattoo.

4. Timing Is Everything

A tattoo shop’s busiest season is in the summer. It shouldn’t be.

Tattoos need a decent amount of time to heal (expect 3-6 weeks), and should not be exposed to direct sunlight or a lot of water in that time. This means no tanning and no swimming. Depending on where you get it, you may also want to do it when you have a couple of days off work (my feet swelled up so badly, I had to just sit still for a day!). It’s the artist’s job to give you a good tattoo, but it’s your job to look after it; make sure you get it at a time when you can care for it properly.

5. Are You Ready?

There’s a lot more to getting a good tattoo than saving up some cash and picking a design. One of the regrets I hear most often from clients is that they got their first tattoo at the first shop they saw (while we at I-Kandy of course hope you’ll all come to us for your tattooing needs, we also realize you may be reading this from Taiwan or Timbuktu). In my experience, a person is truly ready to get a tattoo once they’ve:

-Thought long and hard about the piece they want

-Researched the shops in their area and chosen the cleanest, most experienced shop with the best reputation

-Looked through the artists’ portfolios and chosen the one most suited to their piece

-Had a consultation with the artist

-Saved up enough money for at least the first session (if it takes more than one)

Tattoos are a beautiful thing. Take the time to do it right, and it will be a permanent piece of art that you can carry with you forever.

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PIERCING THROUGHOUT THE AGES

03/02/2013

By: Robyn J. Williams

Body piercing is, perhaps, the most common type of body modification – everyone and their mother has their ears pierced these days, and even those that were once frowned upon (at least in Western culture), such a nostril, lip, and navel piercings, have slowly become acceptable. But where did they come from? Who was the first person to say “let’s punch a hole in ourselves and fill it with metal”? It seems a bit of an odd idea to have come out of nowhere, and yet, someone had to have it!

While we of course have no idea who did, or had, the very first piercing, we can be sure it was long ago. Mummified remains dating back over 5000 years were adorned with earrings, and, in the Middle East and India, both ear and nostril piercings have been common for at least four thousand years. Piercing, and stretching, lobes and lips, has been standard practice in Africa for as far back as we can trace, and ancient Greeks often used piercings as a way to make clear their status or profession. Suffice it to say, body piercing is not a new fad, and, in fact, Western society is very much playing catch-up with many older cultures in this regard.

The reasons for piercings vary as much as the cultures that practice(d) them. In the Bible, we can read about a bride-to-be being gifted with gold earrings and a nostril ring. This made their marital status clear, and also served as a sort-of insurance in case of divorce or the death of their spouse – gold was of high value back then, and could be traded for money or goods. In India, it was thought that piercing the left nostril would aid in fertility and an easy childbirth. Aztecs, Mayans, many Native and African tribes, as well as some Greek and Roman warriors, would pierce their septums as signs of their wealth, status, and virility. One of the most common, and wide-reaching, reasons for piercing, however, was magical protection. Several different cultures were of the belief that demons, or negative energy, were deterred by metal, and so piercing the various openings in one’s body (ears, nostrils, mouths, etc.) made it harder, if not impossible, for these negative entities to enter.

How, then, did piercing become popular among cultures that did not hold such beliefs, or engage in these rituals? We can point in a few different directions to answer this. The Punk Rock era helped to popularize piercing in the United States, when punks, in an act of defiance, began piercing themselves with safety pins. This was taken even further when Jim Ward and Doug Malloy opened the first professional piercing shop in the U.S., distributing pamphlets on the art (which later gained widespread criticism for their inaccurate history, but still succeeded in garnering interest and attention), and making their own customized jewelry. Perhaps the most important person in Westernized body piercing, however, is Fakir Musafar, founder of “Modern Primitivism”, and Master Piercer. Musafar developed an interest in ancient tribal practices at a very early age, and began experimenting on himself with piercing, scarification, tattooing, and suspension in his teens. Over time, these separate subcultures became more and more familiar with one another and their respective practices and rituals, and a new subculture was born. In a relatively short period of time, these groups brought piercing from an underground practice to a mainstream form of expression. While many of the ways and reasons piercings are performed have changed, the one thing that seems to remain throughout all cultures and eras is the declaration of self. From ancient times, right up to present day, people are adorning themselves with these markings to claim ownership of their bodies, to make clear their position on individualism and to claim their status, whether as individual, part of a subculture, or as a walking piece of art.

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A BRIEF HISTORY OF TATTOOS

27/01/2013

By: Robyn J. Williams

When one thinks about the history of tattoos, they often picture a great-grandfather, adorned with a faded blue American eagle on his bicep, or a Navy-inspired anchor on his forearm. In Western culture particularly, tattoos have, until fairly recent times, been associated with soldiers, bikers, and bad boys. The true history, however, goes back further than anyone could imagine.

When Ötzi the Iceman, the oldest known European mummy (dated to approximately 3300BC), was discovered in 1991, archaeologists were amazed to find his body adorned with several tattoos. It had been previously believed that tattooing had only been practiced for the last three or four thousand years; the discovery of Ötzi’s tattoos pushed that back at least another thousand years, and some historians believe it goes even further back than that.

So how did this all begin? The answer, of course, depends on the culture, as each had their own reasons and practices. It can be safely said, however, that tattooing was (and in many ways, still is), associated with initiation, identification, and the completion of rituals. They’ve been used in every possible way, from marking criminals, to celebrating one’s coming of age, to symbolising a connection between oneself and nature. Coptic Christians often tattooed crosses on various parts of their bodies; ancient Filipinos used tattoos to show their rank, or celebrate accomplishments, Hawaiians would tattoo their tongues in times of mourning, and many tribal cultures believed that tattoos brought magical or spiritual protection and wisdom.

How these ancient tattoos were done varies as much as the reasons they were done. Ancient Egyptian tattoo implements were small pieces of wood and bronze, and resembled wide, flat needles – these were often bunched together to speed up the process, and create intricate patterns. In Tahiti, sharpened shells were attached to long sticks, and tattoos were essentially scratched into skin. Japan and China took to very long and sharp metal needles, while various indigenous tribes would use sharpened pieces of bone. Inks were made of everything from crushed plants and flowers to the natural inks of sea creatures, some created so skillfully that their pigments can still be seen today on mummies and frozen remains.

In the early 18th century, tattooing became a more common and well-known trade, with sailors, traders, and colonists viewing and picking up its many different practices on every corner of the globe. From there came the advent and improvement of tattoo implements, culminating in the first modern tattoo machine, inadvertently invented by Thomas Edison in 1876 (Edison’s “electric pen” had been intended as a duplicating machine, but Samuel O’Reilly saw its potential as a tattoo device, and began modifying and using it as such in 1891).

While most cultures have evolved with the times, improving their tools and sharing their techniques with others, the reasons and rituals behind tattoos still remain as varied as they were thousands of years ago. From deeply ritualistic markings, to spur of the moment experiences, to meaningful pieces of walking art, tattoos have risen far above other cultural fads, only becoming more popular and personal as time goes on.