Archive for Modification Around the World

What is Bamboo Tattooing?

Also known as Yantra, it originates in Thailand where it is commonly practiced, this is also common in Myanmar. Bamboo tattooing is the art of tattooing using very fine needles attached to the end of a thin piece of bamboo. Commonly,  5 needles are used but this can vary according to tattoo type and size. The needles are put in a line instead of gathered in a round pattern,  so that a very fine line can be achieved. This is then gently tapped into the skin. This is usually performed by  ruesiwicha (magic) practitioners, and Buddhist monks.

How does this process differ from modern tattooing?

With bamboo tattooing, the skin is punctured but not torn, which results in a significant reduction in pain and bleeding. This results in little to no scabbing, unlike most machine tattoos. This allows the tattoo to heal more quickly, about 4 days. And because there is less trauma to the the skin, there is less bleeding which can push the color out of the skin. This allows the to ink settle deeply and no color is lost. Bamboo tattoos tend to maintain their color very well, staying bold and  bright. Due to all these factors, there’s no problem going into the sun immediately following the bamboo method of tattooing. Many agree that this method is 90% less painful than machine tattooing. This varies person to person, some find it to be more so than machine tattooing, it all depends on your body and the area you are tattooing.

Bamboo tattoos are recommended for delicate areas to tattoo such as feet, which are not ideal areas for the machine to tattoo due to inevitable rubbing and fading caused by wearing socks and footwear. Also, this area is very thin skin over bone, which is widely known to be a very painful area to tattoo.

Pastel colors, plush dolls, and everything cute may seem childish but the kawaii movement is much more. Kawaii is Japanese for cute, lovable, or adorable. This popular fashion movement encompasses personal appearance, behavior, food, toys, clothing and entertainment. Related to this is the Lolita style, which is much like a pastel version of the Victorian look including: lace, parasols, petticoats, bloomers, and bows.

The Kawaii movement is in it’s original form, an act of rebellion. In 1974, Japanese women mostly in the teen aged group, rejected the traditional style of handwriting. They created their own new font called “kitten writing”. The characters in this font were bubbly and often included hearts, much like in English if you were to replace the dotting on an “i” with a heart. The girls began obscuring their words when speaking, mimicking a child learning to talk and often referred to themselves in the third person. Eventually the movement boomed and companies in the ever changing post-war Japan took notice. In particular Sanrio, the creators of Hello Kitty. They began by introducing their line of stationary, which served as a perfect canvas for the new kawaii font or kitten writing. Eventually the market moved into making toys, back packs, and other school supplies.

This big underlying point in kawaii culture is not to cultivate a woman’s sex appeal, but for her to be cute and beautiful rather than sexy. Japan is known for being a very strict culture and kawaii was a way to throw off the strict formalism that prevails over society.


National Piercing Day 2015

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Who better to show off the beauty of body piercing than some BodyCandy fans?

National Piercing Day is the day where the art of body piercing is celebrated and promoted. Did you know the oldest piercing was done over 5,000 years ago? There’s nothing “new” about piercings. In  many cultures across the world, in both today’s society and the past, body piercing is practiced and respected. Earrings and nose rings had their place in Ancient Egypt, lip and tongue piercings date back to African and American tribal cultures. The Western world saw the rise of body piercing [other than the earlobe] within subcultures during the 1970’s, gaining popularity in the mainstream during the 1990’s.

Some of us choose to pierce for reasons like fashion or rebellion, others choose the more spiritual justification of the past. Whatever your reason, if you’re considering getting a piercing, today’s the day to do it! Check with your local shops for promotions and discounts. If you’re unsure of where to go, can help you out with that.


Celebrating Women’s History Month

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“How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!” — Maya Angelou

As March comes to a close, let’s reminisce on the significance of this month. At the BodyCandy office, we’re grateful the unbearable winter weather is ending. To paint a lovely picture of why that is – We’re located in Buffalo NY… enough said. The signs of spring are finally emerging. But more importantly, March is Women’s History Month.

International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8th every year. INTERNATIONAL Women’s Day. Did you catch that? Women, all over the world, celebrating together. Now that’s girl power!

Women’s Day has been observed [in some form or another] as far back as the early 1900’s. In the Western world, the first official International Women’s Day began when the United Nations General Assembly declared March 8 as a day for women’s rights and world peace, in 1977.

Women’s History Month became an official celebration in 1987, which also happens to be the year I was born. I’m certain that’s no coincidence. I am endlessly passionate about this stuff!

“I am an example of what is possible when girls from the very beginning of their lives are loved and nurtured by people around them. I was surrounded by extraordinary women in my life who taught me about quiet strength and dignity.” — Michelle Obama

Even though women’s rights movers and shakers have accomplished so much in the past, women today are still fighting for an equal place within society.

Feminism is its name, and the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men is its game! Women’s History Month is a time to celebrate past struggles and achievements of women, but also to raise awareness of gender issues in modern society. According to a post by the International Business Times (March 1, 2015): “Women have made great strides in the U.S., in the more than 40 years since the beginning of the American feminist movement. However, women have yet to enjoy true parity with their male counterparts in careers, in pay and in government representation.”

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” — Anne Frank

Ladies, we’ve still got a lot of work to do, but we can do it! Whether you choose to identify with feminists or not, one thing we can all agree on is WOMEN ARE AWESOME.

“So if diva means giving your best, then yes, I guess I am a diva.” — Patti LaBelle

Eldorado and the Muisca Indians

Everybody’s heard of El Dorado (or the Romanized reconfiguration “Eldorado”), but most of us know it as a lost city of gold.  The truth about the legend of El Dorado, is that it actually started not with a metropolis, but with a man.

The real “El Dorado” was the lord of the Muisca peoples, a conglomeration of complex tribal societies that resided in the mountains and river valleys of what is now Colombia.  This ultimate ruler of the Muisca was known to hold ceremony on the lake Guatavita, where he would be covered in gold dust and adorned with gold jewelry.  Offerings of gold would be thrown into the lake as pots of sacred incense burned, and eventually, the chieftain would jump into the waters as well, cleansing himself of his golden outer shell.

 Muisca territory

One of the more impressive items that was commonly worn by our gold chief during this ceremony and others like it, was a large golden septum ring.  The Muisca used a technique to craft metal objects that is referred to simply as “lost-wax casting,” and involves the use of natural waxes and clay molds.  By employing this method and melding their gold into alloys, intricate items could be made from a single casting, and in one single piece.  This is how the decorative septum and ear jewelry of the Muisca and neighboring tribes was created.

In many of the alloys regularly used in such handicrafts, the content of real gold still remained quite high, generally composing around eighty percent, (about the same as modern day 18kt gold).  One of the more prevalent compositions they employed was very similar to what we would consider “rose gold,” having a mildly rosy hue due to the addition of local copper.

Upon observing the perceived wealth of the Muisca and their chieftan, many of the Spanish and German expeditions into the Amazon in the 1500s began to assume that a large mining city or gold treasury must be present in Muisca territory.  This fed in directly to the establishment of the El Dorado city legend.  Ironically, archeologists and anthropologists have established that the Muisca were likely to have gotten their gold through trade, rather than actually mining it within their own area.

 gold jewelry and statuaries

Since the late 1500s, multiple attempts have been made to drain the 49 foot deep lake Guatavita, in the interest of recovering the gold left over from known Muisca ceremonies.  The first and only to succeed was a company out of London, who, upon draining the lake to just a few feet deep, discovered that the silt and mud made such an operation a losing endeavor.  They recovered only a few hundred English pounds worth of golden artifacts, and ceased their activity.  In the 1960s, the Columbian government finally passed legislation designating Guatavita and it’s shores a protected historical site, and rendering any future attempts to excavate illegal.  A few gold Muisca artifacts, including septum rings, are currently on display at the Gold Museum in Bogotá.

body mod and faery folk

Everybody knows what fairies are, but in Irish folklore, an entire world exists that’s full of  diverse and unique magical creatures, also known as faery folk or fae.  These include the beautiful pixies we traditionally think of as fairies, along with gnomes, goblins, trolls, cobalts, faery lords, wood nymphs, sprites, elves, wee folk (leprechauns), and other preternatural beings.

A great deal of lore surrounding the fae is taken from older Gaelic and Middle English traditions, sometimes citing various species of faery folk as actual pre-Celtic tribes who were forced into hiding by advancing human societies.  The belief that these creatures were pushed into the deep reaches of the forest is reinforced by the concept of a separate realm developing around them, this space often called simply “faerie.”

 whimsical faery themed belly rings

One of the more interesting things about the creatures of Irish folklore in particular however, lies in their popular depictions both old and new.  Many times the beautiful fairies or pixies, along with natural spirits like nymphs, are seen as having elaborate Celtic style tattoos or body markings.  Commonly these will include vines, trees, and knots.  The idea of decorative jewelry including intricate headdresses and large, stately earrings is prevalent as well, as are certain small changes in body shaping, the best known of these being the pointed ear, and curled or extended toes.

With the resurgence of Celtic and Northern European culture, so too the variety of faery costume accessories has risen, with many enthusiastic new artisans now beginning to offer ornate handcrafted items.  Faery necklaces, headpieces, and stunning ear jewelry are just a few of the offerings now enhancing fairytale cos-play.  Though there may not be much truth behind the faery folk legends, their popularization has given us a fashionable reason to play some adult dress-up, even if it is only for Saint Patrick’s Day.

faery worthy ear adornments

western, eastern, and tribal piercings

It’s no secret that the number one most popular piercing in the world is that of the ear lobe.  In both western and tribal societies, the ears are regularly pierced during childhood, and in some cases, even during infancy.  Reputed to be one of the fastest and most easily healed piercings available, it’s plane to see that the lobes will continue to hold top spot, likely for decades or even centuries to come.

Second to standard piercings of the ear lobes are piercings of other areas of the human ear.  There are over fifteen distinct piercings of the ear cartilage to date, and more are being thought up all the time.  Amongst the most popular of these are the helix piercing, tragus piercing, rook piercing, and industrial.  In many of these piercings, specific jewelry is required to achieve the desired look, and the availability of custom bending and fitting services in parlors is consequentially at an all time high.

 possible piercings of the human ear

Rounding out the rest of the top five we have the nose piercing, belly piercing, and lip piercing respectively.  Nose piercings have been practiced in India and the Middle East for thousands of years, and are still an important part of traditional Ayurvedic health care.  They’re also mentioned in the Christian bible, more than once.  Today piercings of the nostril are performed in many western countries as well, primarily as a fashion statement, and piercings of the nasal septum are also growing in popularity.

 traditional nostril piercing

Although navel piercing claims roots in tribal dance, it’s certainly the most quickly rising of the popular piercings, as prior to the 1970s it wasn’t even on the radar.  The real explosion of belly piercings as a fashion accessory though, came in the 1990s.  After a string of high profile media coverage, navel adornment took off like a rocket into space, and hasn’t come down for a moment ever since.

The lip piercing has a far more colorful tribal past, being commonplace amongst peoples on nearly ever single continent.  The Aztecs, the Dogon, the Makolo, the Inuit, and the modern day Mursi and Surma, just to name a few.  With piercing in general growing exponentially across the globe, we’re likely to see a few more surprises in both the near and distant future.

mouth and lip modifications

In the western world, one of our favorite things is dressing in costume, especially during the Halloween season, and one of our fave characters to dress up as is of course the toothy vampire.  For most of us, this requires a little temporary modification, but what about the tribal world, where mods are meant to be permanent?  There are some pretty interesting ways the peoples of the world modify their mouths.  Just take a look:

Vamping: There are actually several tribes across the globe that modify the teeth by filing them into sharp points or nubs, and most have been doing so since long before vampires became a western obsession.  Some of the more noteworthy include several tribal groups of the African Congo, a handful of the Papuan sub-groups, the Mentawai of Indonesia, and the Hindu ethnic groups of Bali.  There are several given reasons for the tooth modifications, but the most common are tribal identification, rites of passage, and physical beauty.

 sharpened tooth modifications

Giving Lip: Several of the tribes that inhabit modern day Ethiopia, particularly the Omo River Valley region, are known to stretch their lips to outstanding proportions.  The most well known include the Mursi and Surma, but there are a couple of other things these ethnic groups might modify along with their lower lip.  Aside from piercing and stretching, many of these tribes also forcefully knock out several of the adult front teeth, most commonly the two central bottom teeth, and possibly those directly adjacent them on both sides.  Yet other African tribes, like the Sara and the Makonde might pierce and stretch the top lip instead, or wear plugs in both lips of varying proportions.

 Mursi woman with large stretched lip piercing

Tongue Twisters: Many tribal societies have long been known for tongue piercing as well.  From the Ancient Mayans, to the North American Tlingit Indians, and finally the modern day Hindus of India and Thailand, tongue piercing has been performed for countless reasons across history.  In the modern era, it’s often used as a method of worship or offering to the gods, like with those who carry out ritual piercings at Thaipusam or other vegetarian festivals.  While in a trance or completing acts of devotion at such celebrations, the cheeks and other parts of the mouth are also commonly pierced.

 a ritual tongue piercing at festival

The Bling Thing: Although not necessarily a tribal practice, our last form of mouth mod is definitely used for social identification: tooth implants.  This is literally the process of embedding a gem in a human tooth.  Mostly performed by licensed dentists, the implants, or “tooth bling,” can be the result of drilling and bonding into a living tooth, or of tooth replacement as with a partial denture or specialized veneer.  Even though it’s mostly a modernized modification, the general aesthetic of sparkling teeth can definitely be traced to ancient tribal mouth work such as the intricate tooth carvings amongst the Aztec upper class, or the shimmering mineral pigments applied to the lips and faces of the ancient Egyptians.

gem tooth implants

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

traditional and modern Maori style tattoo art

Chances are you’ve seen a Maori style tribal tattoo on somebody before, maybe even one of your friends or family members, but many people aren’t aware of what that might entail.  The Maori are an indigenous people of New Zealand and parts of the surrounding Polynesian islands, believed to have originally settled there in the late 1200s.  The Maori tattoo, known to them as the “moko,” is one of the longest standing elements of their traditional culture, and comes with a set of social and spiritual meanings.

 world map showing New Zealand

Traditional moko were made in much the same way as other tribal tattoos during the time period: by scoring the skin and forcing in pigment.  The methods, however, were a little bit different.  Instead of standard punctures or sewing lines, the Maori used various sizes of chisel which they call “uhi.”  The sharp end of these implements would generally be made from bone and then fastened to a handle for easier use.  The chisel tips would be dipped in pigment, usually made from ashes or specific plant material, and then pounded into the skin to create a specific pattern.  This caused a unique retexturing of the skin when the tattoo healed, leaving actual grooves along the dermal surface.

 Maori moko art being performed

After a long period of cultural upheaval, the Maori population began to recover starting in the 1960s, and a resurgence of traditional culture soon followed.  During the past twenty years in particular, this ancestral style of tattooing has begun to make a comeback, with women as well as men now taking up the art.  Although the time-honored designs common to historic moko have regained popularity, their cultural significance has often been overlooked in favor of emulative fashion, most recently by a number of high profile design houses.  In the spirit of preserving their long-established heritage, a new term has consequently been coined in an effort to separate fashion-based and often historically inaccurate art of this type: kirituhi.

In the interest of maintaining culture sensitivity, a number of organizations have promoted the clear separation of kirituhi and traditional moko, as well as education concerning the sacred significance of the true moko art form.  Those who continue this amazing school of tattoo art are preserving a truly beautiful and humbling outward emblem of the inward identification with a rich and amazing Polynesian heritage.