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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 evenmore 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.
A 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.