Archive for Body Art and Extreme Modification

celebrating Frankenstein Day

Today is officially Frankenstein Day, the anniversary of “Frankenstein” author Mary Shelley’s birthday.  Shelley was born in 1797, and although she wrote her famous novel a mere 21 years later in 1818, it would go on to be one of the most parodied and prolific works of horror fiction ever penned.

So how do you celebrate Frankenstein Day?  With awesome and amazing neck mods of course!

 neck piercings and tattoos

Amongst our favorites, the Madison piercing (named after former adult star Madison Stone), the throat corset (just the right combo of cool and creepy), and the neck tattoo!  What are your favorite neck modifications?  Let us know in the comments below, and happy Frankenstein Day!


Life in Ink: Flower Power

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the symbolism of flowers in tattoo

We know now that tattoos have been around for literally thousands of years.  Originally just small marks made with naturally derived pigment, tattooing has evolved into a brilliant and expressive art form that draws together persons from all races and walks of life.  But why do we ink the things we do?  Let’s examine the flower, for instance.

In the west, flowers are seen as a predominantly feminine theme, but in Japan the cherry blossom has a rich history as a male tattoo element, often being woven into the designs of traditional horimono, or full-body tattoos.  The observance of this type of blossom, most often white or pink in color, is considered to be a meditation, as the limited lifespan of the flower mirrors the fleeting nature of external beauty in the modern world.

 flowers in traditional Japanese tattoo

In Hawaii, flowers have a social significance as well, being worn by women in their hair historically as an indicator of marital status.  A hibiscus behind the left ear indicates that the heart is taken, whilst when worn behind the right ear, it means that the maiden is single.

 the culture of hibiscus

With the resurgence of decidedly European retro tattoo art, the rose has made perhaps the most enormous comeback though.  Having once been inked across the arms or hands of many a Western European, Scandinavian, and American sailor, the rose has carried many meanings throughout the decades.  Most commonly though it represented the undying love of a special woman, whether a mother, daughter, or lover.

 flowers in American tattoo

There are many different flowers, and almost innumerable reasons to include them in body art, but as the future of the tattoo is yet to unfold, we may see even more popular floral motifs in the coming years, each more beautiful as the time goes on.


The Future of Body Art: Facial Tattooing

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tattoo trends of the future

As tattoo art in general continues to move into the mainstream, newer, bolder, and more interesting types and locations of ink are beginning to take a foothold amongst the more heavily modified generations.  Case in point: the facial tattoo.

 facial ink locations

Fifty years ago, visible tattooing of any type was an extreme rarity, and could generally only be seen in circus sideshows, vaudevillian stage acts, and on the arms of sailors and sea-faring tradesmen.  In today’s world however, up to half of the population within certain age groups lays claim to at least one tattoo.  And ink has grown so exponentially in popularity that we’re seeing it in a slew of hyper-visible places.  Facial tattooing is no longer the trademark of criminal records or gang affiliation.  It now belongs to tattoo artists, celebrities, stylists, alternative models, and sometimes even just the hot girl nextdoor.  Many celebs have become famous for their facial ink, including male model Rick Genest, rapper Lil Wayne, and celebrity tattoo artist Kat Von D.

celebs with face ink Rick Genest and Lil Wayne (source: WGSN)

It’s also an interesting cultural phenomenon that all facial art in the western world often mimics tribal tattoo styles that have been practiced for generations among various indigenous peoples.  Most notably North African, South American, and Polynesian groups like the Maori have distinctive and recognizable patterns, or prefer to make markings on specific areas of the face.

 tribal style face tattoo art

None of us can know what the future will hold for an ever-evolving art form like contemporary tattoo, but it’s a sure bet that as ink becomes more accepted and loses its age-old stigmas, many a cheek, chin, or brow is bound to be seen brandishing provocative body art.


Body Art Symbolism: Counting Stars

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star symbolism in body art

The star has been a powerful and mystical symbol since time immemorial, with a slew of associations both dark and divine.  So it should come as no surprise then to a modified generation that it pops up in body art left and right.  But what does the star mean to those who wear it?  And why is it one of the most popular motifs worldwide for youth skin art?

 star tattoos and piecings

A return to our ancestral roots may be partially responsible, as many ancient civilizations revered the symbol.  The Rub el Hizb, an eight pointed star created by overlaying two squares, is a Muslim symbol that has been used for hundreds of years and appears in the flags or coat of arms of many countries including Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan.  The “morning star,” (a representation of Venus) which is a four pointed star, has been a symbol for strength of spirit and the watchful eye of the ancestors for many Native American tribes over the centuries as well.  And other four, five, and six pointed stars have been tied to the Sumerian, Greek, and ancient Shinto peoples as early as several hundred years BCE.

In modern times, the star has far simpler associations, such as legal ties (via the sheriff’s badge), religious connotations (think Star of David and Wiccan pentacle), and maritime leanings through the nautical star and eight-point compass rose.  It also appears as a symbol of rank or pride in almost every nation in the world’s military uniforms or insignia.  For those who are tattooed, the nautical association is generally the most relevant, as imagery of the north star has been inked superstitiously onto many a sailor since the 1800s.

 stars in nautical tattoo art

Some fun contemporary star idioms: catch a falling star, reach for the stars, Per Aspera Ad Astra (by rough ways to the stars), like a shooting star, until the stars collide, and you stole my star.


Tid Bits: Dermals

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knowing your different dermal mods

Did you know there are actually three basic types of dermals?  They are the transdermal, subdermal, and microdermal.

Transdermal piercings are those that involve both a piercing and an incision. Basically the hole is pierced or dermal punched in the area where the dermal is meant to rest, and a couple inches away, a small surgical incision is made through which the base of the jewelry will be inserted.  The jewelry is cajoled into place beneath the piercing hole so that the stem of it can be made to slightly protrude.  Then, a dermal top (the decorative portion of the jewelry that will show above the skin’s surface) is screwed into the stem of the base, and everything is cleaned.

 dermal style skin mods

Subdermal piercing, the rarest type of dermal, is considered to be more of a surgical mod in some circles.  This type of dermal is created with a single incision through which a piece of surgical grade titanium jewelry is inserted and moved into place.  There’s no exit whole and no portion of the jewelry that extends atop the skin’s surface; the idea is for the jewelry to heal into the skin’s under-layers creating a visible shape.

 subdermal body piercings

And now it’s onto microdermals, which are by far the most common and popular of the dermal piercings.  These type of dermals utilize either a needle or a dermal punch to create a single piercing in the skin.  For that reason you’ll sometimes hear them referred to as “single point piercings.”  The base of the jewelry is then slipped underneath the surface (which sometimes requires tools because the base is rather tiny), and the top or decorative piece is screwed into place above.  With no surgical incisions and very little movement beneath the skin, the microdermal is by far the quickest healing and least invasive of dermal mods.

 microdermal piercings being performed

There are even relatively new one-piece items called skin divers that can sometimes be used in lieu of the traditional base and top pairing.  These are easier to accidentally pull out due to the smaller size of their under-skin portion, and as such are most suited to areas of the body that don’t see a lot of movement or contact.

 skin diver style dermal body jewelry

So now you know what falls under the “dermal mod” umbrella.  Not bad for a piercing style that belongs to the 2000s.



Quick Take: Plug Styles

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different types of large gauge jewelry

Sometimes purchasing plugs can be difficult, especially when you’re looking to pick out a gift for someone, but knowing their personal style is a great way to help you narrow down your choices, starting with the type of plug they prefer.  Here’s a quick look:

When we’re talking about your standard, solid, run of the mill plug, there’s three basic styles you’ll be looking at.  Those are straight, single flare, and double flare or “saddle” plugs.  Straight plugs and single flare plugs come with small bands called “o-rings” which are used to hold the jewelry in place.  Because of their barbell-like design, saddle plugs generally don’t require o-rings, and are held in place by their shape alone.

 Standard Ear Plugs

Then there are tunnels (hollow items), which also come in three main types: single flare (sometimes called “trumpets“), double flare (normally referred to as just “tunnel plugs”), and screw fit, which means that the end of the item is designed with a threaded cap that can be removed to assist with insertion.

 tunnel style plug body jewelry

Last, we’ll look at tapers, which are also sometimes called “taper plugs.”  These come in a few different styles: straight tapers, curved tapers or “talons,” buffalo curved, spiral, and hanger style, generally called “hanger plug tapers.”

 taper ear jewelry

Knowing which type or types of large gauge jewelry the prospective wearer is used to can definitely help determine which items are good candidates.  Now if you could only decide on a color…



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microdermal body piercings

Dermal- a term referring primarily to the microdermal style of single point piercing, or the jewelry which is worn in such a piercing, consisting of a static base beneath the skin and an interchangeable top portion visible at the surface.

Microdermal Piercings:

 the basic elements of dermals

Due to the nature of single point piercings (meaning that a single whole acts as both the entry and exit of the piercing) a dermal can be placed almost anywhere on the face or body.  Some of the more popular locations include the cheeks, wrists, nape of the neck, throat, hips, ears, and just above the nose bridge.

 dermals in various areas


Like other types of piercings, most piercers will recommend gentle cleanings with sea salt solution via soaks or cotton compresses depending on the piercing’s location.  As the base or “anchor” of the jewelry is located underneath the skin, extra care must be taken during healing to avoid snagging the protruding top portion of the item which could potentially pull the entire piece free.  Due to the nature of microdermals and their method of implantation, initial healing can take longer than it would with standard piercings, usually occurring somewhere around the 12 week mark.

Dermal Jewelry Styles:

Microdermal bases come in a variety of similar shapes, sometimes having one, two, or even three holes which the skin will eventually heal around, fixing them in place.  The interchangeable dermal top can come in a wide assortment of styles as well, including shapes like stars, domes, gems, spikes, and even dangling elements.

 single point piercing jewelry

One-piece jewelry for dermal style piercings has even been developed.  Called “skin divers,” these items are simple barbell shaped pieces in which one end will remain beneath the skin and the other will rest above the surface.

single piece dermal jewelry

the hidden history of mod

Tomorrow is a funky and offbeat holiday known simply as Pins and Needles Day.  Originally celebrated as the anniversary of the Pins and Needles musical that opened on Broadway in 1937, this awkward little observance has evolved significantly over the years.  To all of us in the modification world, we know exactly what to think of when we here the word “needles;” being pierced and tattooed of course!  So without further ado, let’s start the celebration!  Here’s a little something about what pins and needles mean to us:

Piercing is definitely something to celebrate, but for members of the modified generation, it can be easy to forget what’s led up to our golden era of mod.  Most of us are aware that the upswing of body piercing began during the counterculture movement of the 1960s.  By the end of the seventies, the first piercing parlors were open in both the UK and the US, and by the final days of the 1990s piercing had officially come into the mainstream.  What you might not be aware of though, is that the whole thing really started several decades before, amongst a chosen few who kept their body mod appetites mostly under wraps.

 70s 90s and today

In the beginning of the twentieth century, tattooing was on the rise amongst western sailors, many of whom had chosen to mark their accomplishments abroad in ink.  Tattoo art gradually became linked to life at sea, with superstitions concerning specific designs gaining new momentum.  As more artists ventured into the world of tattoo, inked sideshow attractions started popping up more regularly, and beautiful tattooed women made their living in circus and vaudeville troups.

 tattooed women as sideshow participants

In the UK during the 1930s, modification enthusiasts William and Ethel Granger were just a young married couple beginning to dip their feet into an already growing subculture.  Corsetry, ear piercing, and even permanent makeup tattooing were beginning to find a foothold in London, where underground newsletters and magazines on the subject could even be found.  Ethel would go on during the course of their marriage to allow her husband to pierce her ears, septum, and nipples, stretching many of the piercings as well.  She also became a pioneer in the world of tightlacing and corsetry, setting a record for the smallest human waist on earth (reportedly just 13 inches).

 a tribute to Ethel GrangerStella Tennant in a tribute to Ethel Granger, Vogue Italia 2011 (source: WGSN)

In the fifties, American born Roland Loomis was a young man beginning to experiment with body mods of various types behind closed doors.  He would later come out as a member of the mod community, change his name to Fakir Musafar, and become the father of the Modern Primitives movement.

 suspension as pioneered by Fakir Musafar

Today we use hollow piercing needles, catheters, pennington forceps, and motorized machines, but the innovations of the past are what have shaped the modifications of our present.  It’s amazing to think of what the future will bring, but until all of our modification dreams come true, we’ll be looking forward with enthusiasm and anticipation.  You might say we’ll be waiting on pins and needles.

Why We Get Pierced

Body piercing is by no means a new trend; it has been around in some fashion since the beginning of time.  There are a number of reasons that a person would choose to get pierced.  Many are personal, some are religious, some are an act of rebellion, and others are based on pure aesthetics.  Body modification is a personal decision to alter your appearance forever, and it is not one to be taken lightly.

           the decision to get piercings and tattoos

Personally, I’ve always been fascinated with piercings and body mod.  When I was a little girl I remember seeing a beautiful girl with a nose piercing and instantly becoming obsessed with the culture.  As soon as I was old enough, I was in a piercing parlor.  To me, each new piercing and tattoo I get is one step closer to completing the vision I have of my perfect self.  The idea of pain can be intimidating, but never as bad as one would think.  Pain is momentary, and the confidence and adrenaline rush lingers on for much longer.  Aftercare and healing is never fun, but like most things it doesn’t last forever, and the outcome is always worth the effort put forth.

Right now body piercing and modification are more popular than ever before. Everyone from the girl next door, to your grandma, has a piercing or tattoo.  Doctors and teachers are even pierced and it’s all good.  Our society celebrates individuality and pushes people to be who they are.  Every piercing and tattoo is one more sentence in the story of your life, a collection of pretty things that make you happy and more satisfied in your skin.

 feeling good in your skin

I do have some tips for impressionable youth who are considering body modification for the first time.  It is important to do things because YOU want them, not because it’s cool or your friend is doing it. It is also important to respect your parents; it may seem annoying and unfair to have to wait, but in the end you will be happy that you did.  You would be surprised how a parent reacts to an adult conversation about piercing.  You need to show them that you’re serious and explain to them why you want this done.  Research the modification that you want in great detail, and become an expert; it is your body.  Try out faux body jewelry first to make sure you are ready to commit.  There is no good reason to rush into something or be unsafe; always go to a professional body piercer.  This person will become your best friend, because they are there to educate you and take care of you.

Do you have any piercing stories or advice? Share in the comments below.


Wait Until You See the Whites of Their Eyes

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sclera tattooing

It’s official; it is the creepiest time of the year. That means the celebration of the weird and horrific, the twisted and shocking. Typically this celebration only lasts a few nights around the days of the 31st, but this is a warning on why you might think you’re seeing a blood sucker long after this Halloween.

vampires after Halloween

Sure, we’ve seen the record holders’ for most piercings on a face, or on a body. We have seen the people with more metal on them than Optimus Prime. We’ve seen a man cover his entire body in tattoos. We’ve seen a man cover his body with tattoos to appear more like the jungle cat that he was “born to be.” We have seen teeth modified, from typical human omnivorous, to gravely sharp, to appear more beastly, like those of a flesh eater. We have seen human tongues surgically split to appear more reptilian. We’ve even seen humans begin to appear demonic, with surgical procedures to insert implants into their foreheads that resemble satanic horns.

There’s a new form of modification which brings an entirely new scare to anyone who witnesses the madness. As I have mentioned before, creepy contact lenses are a truly transformational addition to any Halloween costume or character. There is something remarkable about looking into someone’s eyes. Whether it’s someone you know and trust, or a stranger in public, there’s a certain level of non verbal communication which passes through eye contact. The eyes have even been called the “windows of the soul.” Well, good luck looking through the windows of anyone who has gone to the lengths of scleral tattooing.

blackened corneal tattoos

The sclera is the outer white part of the eyeball. Yes, THE EYEBALL.

The process began with a Shannon Larratt of BMEzine and the heavily modified Pauly Unstoppable allowing a modification artist to tattoo the whites of their eyeballs with a syringe. As you can imagine, seeing someone with the whites of their eyes darkened to any color, black, red, or blue, is quite shocking. Now the trend has hit the public, with more and more modifiers having no fear of looking less human, and more like an immortal.

the superhuman look of cornea tattoos

Like any tattoo, the results are long lasting, but for most the ink will naturally clear out over time. So, next time your Mom asks you how your tattoos are going to look when you’re old, ask her to take a few minutes to imagine what someone with their eyes tattooed will look like when they’re wearing diapers again. Whether we see this trend continue to spread, or it fizzles out faster than silly bands, let it be sure, you won’t ever forget the first time you see someone with blacked out eyeballs.

It doesn’t hurt to make eye contact with these people, but before you go looking through their soul windows, if at all possible, try to be sure they’re human.