Archive for Body Art and Extreme Modification


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.


Quick Take: Dermal Jewelry Styles

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types of dermal piercing and jewelry

For anyone who’s interested in getting dermal body art, or already has a dermal piece that they’re looking to purchase parts for, there’s a few key points that can make the experience a whole lot easier.  Stick with us, and your next dermal purchase will be a piece of sparkling cake.

First you’ll need to know exactly what type of dermal you have (or want to get).  There are four main styles of dermal piercing: microdermal, trans-dermal, sub-dermal, and skin diver.  Microdermals are by far the most common, and as such enjoy the highest jewelry availability.  These are the type of single point piercing where your modification artist uses a hollow needle or dermal punch to create a hole in the skin, and then inserts a base with a small protrusion, so that only the decoration attached to the base is visible above the skin’s surface.  Because this type of dermal consists of two separate parts that are attached, the decorative portion can be removed and replaced.  That piece is called the “dermal top.”  The other half of the item that rests underneath the skin should only be removed when the piercing is no longer wanted or needed, and is known as the “dermal anchor” or “dermal base.”

 dermal body jewelry tops

There are a few different styles of microdermal base, some that are solid, and others that may have one or more holes.  The holes are used to help the base heal into the skin so that the piercing remains static and the jewelry isn’t easy to move or accidentally tear out.

 dermal anchor bases

The other common type of dermal piercing is the skin diver.  Skin diver piercings are a lot like microdermals in that a single hole is made and some jewelry is then inserted.  The big difference though is that skin diver jewelry is actually just one solid piece.  Rather than consisting of connected parts, the skin diver is shaped like a barbell, with no protrusion at the base.  The item is inserted with the decorative end left above the surface, and as such cannot be changed without being completely removed.  For this reason skin divers are often used to create a temporary dermal designs, as they are relatively easy to dislodge afterwards.

 single piece dermal jewelry

Trans-dermal piercing is the creation of a microdermal type piercing through a surgical process which involves making a small incision a short distance from the piercing site and inserting the base of the item through that channel.  Because the larger base isn’t being forced through the piercing hole, the result is an extremely clean look and a quick heal.  And the last type of dermal art, sub-dermal piercing, isn’t really much of a piercing, per say.  Instead of perforating the skin in order to leave a decoration at its surface, the sub-dermal jewelry is left completely underneath.  Because the jewelry will heal beneath the skin, this is usually best performed with simple shapes like stars, hearts, loops, or horns.

So now that you know exactly what you’re going to need, it’s time to get working on that beautiful dermal masterpiece.  Happy piercing!

multiple piercings around the lips

These days a lip piercing is pretty, interesting, but it’s not really anything to balk at anymore.  Facial piercings are common place, and lips are one of the most popular locations.  The growing and evolving culture of mod though, has spit out plenty of developing trends, and one of them is multiple piercings visible around the mouth.

Combinations of labrets, monroes, and medusas can be used to create sets of piercings called “bites,” and unnamed combinations can include up to twenty piercings around the lips.  Common sets of bites look something like these:

 types of lip piercing combinations

Many of the most pierced individuals wear sets of coordinated studs in their piercings, which is sometimes required for every piercing to be able to have jewelry fit in it (because they’re so close together).  For the most part there aren’t any impairments to normal functions like speaking, eating, or brushing the teeth, but a number of piercings have the potential to start healing shut if jewelry isn’t regularly worn.  Just ask Elaine Davidson, the most pierced person in the world, whose visible lip piercings number over 17!

 most pierced person in the world

How many lip piercings would you get?  Let us know in the comments below.

the art of of Japanese full body irezeumi

Like many of its fellow eastern lands, tattoo art in Japan has a rich and far reaching history.  Although it has never been proven conclusively, it’s believed that the art of placing permanent markings on the body began in this area of the world around the end of the Paleolithic era, circa 10,000 BCE.  In Japan, the art of traditional tattoo is known as irezumi, with modern tattoo falling under a completely different umbrella called yobori, and there are certainly a number of very distinctive differences.

 map of the Japanese islands

For the Japanese, tattoo art in general is still a very secretive enterprise, due to the negative connotations placed upon it by a checkered past.  Although tattoos have gone in and out of vogue for centuries amongst the social elite, for much of the Edo period leading up to the late 1800s, ink had become synonymous with deviant behavior.  Criminals were being branded with specific designs or lettering, and as the lower castes grew into what would form the basis for the modern yakuza, body markings amongst the ranks began to hold social significance.  Even today, the style of full body irezumi known as horimono, is still often associated with the mafia or criminal activity.

From the end of the Edo period up until the 1940s, tattooing in Japan was literally outlawed by the government.  Those who practiced this amazing art, along with any of their remaining clients, moved their operations underground to avoid exposure.  Enthusiasts who wore horimono hid it skillfully underneath their clothes, to ward off serious legal and social repercussions. After American occupying forces reinstated the tattoo’s legality following World War II, the stigma surrounding visible ink remained, and even today there are establishments in Japan that refuse entry or service to tattooed individuals.

The main difference between the traditional art of irezumi and the modern tattoo style that’s grown popular across the globe is the method of application itself.  To create true horimono, the artist must use hand tools in a method called tebori.  This employs the use of needle tipped, chisel-like instruments in a variety of distinct motions to create the tattoo’s lines and shading.  The differences in both coordination and timeframe are daunting comparative to machine tattooing, and artists will be apprentices for sometimes decades before striking out on their own as a master.

 traditional Japanese tattoo art subjects

Since the style of irezumi art work has been popularized in the west, many American artists have become skillful at faking it.  A good number of the traditional motifs are even still employed, such as mythical and sacred animals, waves, sakura blossoms, and fabled heroes.  Today there are only an estimated 300 tattoo shops in the entirety of Japan.

modern methods of creating Japanese style tattoos