20 Years of Piercing
As some of you might have already noticed with the $20 Piercing Special that the month of May marks the 20th year the Axiom has been in business and DaVo aka me has been piercing professionally. Though the name Axiom wasn't used when I started piercing at Creative Images, it was the DBA name I was using. May 1994 was a different place and time in my life but it seems like only yesterday.
Though I had a clue the industry had not completely exploded to the level it would a few years later. In fact, modern tattooing was also still in it's infancy. To give you an idea at the time there were only three studios operating in the Des Moines area, At the time pretty much everyone knew everyone and seeing someone with visible tattoos was a rarity that often brought an immediate bound. In a lot of ways it was like being part of tribe that had many backgrounds, life styles and interests.
I had been collecting tattoos for some years and had the pleasure of discovering Sherry Sears at Creative Images right from the start. We built a bound over the years as very few months went by without me getting at least one tattoo. 1994 marked a great deal of change in my life and a huge shift that would alter the next 20 years of my life. At the beginning of 1994 I was entering my 6th year of employment in the Collection industry. Collections had always been something I had fallen into and surprising or maybe not so surprisingly, I was rather good at. For six years I had lived a double life. By day I was a office worker bee suffering from burn out and by night I was a reckless punk rocker. There had always been cracks in this dual personality which often caused destruction in practice. Being unfulfilled tends to leaned itself to self destructive and anti-social activities and to say that I felt unfulfilled in collections would be a vast understatement.
However, that isn't what really brought about the change in direction, that was something much more deeply rooted within me. The desire to alter and change my body was there all the way back to my childhood years. My first piercings would be a number of self induced and often failed attempts at piercing my ears and nipples. It was just something I did, not to be self destructive or because of some emotional defect but because I like the way it looked and felt. Punk rock was an influence but the desire to stand out and express my difference from the pack dated back long before the music infected me. One of the strongest desires was to get my nipples pierced.
Now I'm not sure why I didn't think to go to a convention or a larger city to get them pierced but the idea just never came to me. However, if it would have been as simple as a short drive to a studio or a wild weekend at a convention, this would be a short story. So instead of taking the logical easy route, I began researching either doing myself or having a friend do them. This involved finding some rather hard to find magazines including Piercing Fans Quarterly International and just about everything I could get my hands on. It's hard to imagine today just how isolated information was and just how treasured information was when you found it.
Slowly I began to read more and more about the sub-culture that surrounded piercing, tattooing. body modification and body play. The idea of exploring the human body, it's ability to adapt to changes and the experience that came from the process. The early practitioners of the Body Arts often talked about exploring the more spiritual and ritual side of body modification. This delved greatly into the motivation and the increasing debate over the growing popularity of the industry. The idea that I really took away from this was the exploration and discovery.
The exploration idea struck an additional cord with me. I think we all suffer from the romance of wanderlust, the great explore and being the first to step foot on that alien land. By my mid twenties, I had became rather jaded with the idea that everything has been done, seen and settled. Foolish I know and more than a bit narrow minded. So, when I exposed to the idea of exploring one's self and body through modification, I was hooked. Not only at the idea of getting these modifications but also giving them.
The idea of tattooing never appealed to me. I often use the joke that I never like to color as a kid but long process of it also didn't speak to me. You have to have that passion and for that reason never considered it. Unlike tattooing, piercing is more intense, direct and to the point which appeals a great deal more to me. I have had a number of opportunities to tattoo and I'm sure I could have became a mildly OK tattooist but there are far too many of them already. No, it was piercing for me.
A friend and I used to have a joke whenever we couldn't find a record or book or whatever item we couldn't find locally. "Available everywhere but Des Moines." I don't think it's isolated to just Des Moines but there has always seemed to have been this attitude that regardless of the concept, that it is way too cutting edge for Des Moines. This idea I think is born in the belief that the Midwest is always 10 years behind the rest of the country. If my study of the history of local sub-cultures has taught me anything it is that this isn't true. Maybe the mainstream notices it ten years afterwards but in almost all cases there is some presentation in Des Moines that happened within months or a few years of it first happened on the coasts.
That said even the most progressive of my friends said that I couldn't make a living piercing professionally in Des Moines. They all felt there just wasn't a demand for it here. A few years later I would hear the same thing from the same people about promoting shows at Safari. In both cases they were proved wrong and right. It all depends on what one considers success.
I was in fact nervous when I brought up the subject with Sherry while she was tattooing my arm. Looking back I remember being rather self conscious about the idea and had told very few people about my piercing interest at all. To my surprise she was open to the idea and I believe had already considered adding the service to Creative Images but didn't want to do it herself. It would be a few months later that I would begin traveling to Omaha to learn how to pierce. It would be a crash course in piercing that was squeezed between Chuck's time in the Air Force and my full time job Collecting. I would learn a great deal in a short period time but in hind sight the amount of knowledge I gained was a small drop in the bucket.
My first piercing would be on my friend and band mate at the time Jay Brummett. He was by far more nervous than I was as I thrillingly pushed that first needle through his nostril and then the jewelry. Though I had problems with the jewelry which was the old style snap ring, the piercing went without a hiccup. I was hooked and still am. I started piercing part time at Creative Images Mother's Day weekend 1994.
A lot has happened over the past 20 years to shape who I am today and a great deal of it has been the result of piercing. Through piercing I have met some of my longest and most influential friends I've ever had. Piercing also allowed me the freedom to pursue my passions and interests including music, web development, writing and countless other side projects. The piercing industry has greatly changed from a small cottage industry with a few speicality manufactures to a large international industry with countless manufactures and suppliers from every corner of the earth. Central Iowa now is home to countless studios that offer piercing and I'm proud to say that I helped to forge that path.
In 1994 it was extremely rare to see a piercing outside of a ear lobe. Today you would be hard pressed to spend a day out without seeing a number of non-lobe piercings. Weather it be a office or the local coffee house, you will come in contact with someone that has a piercing. Some cases would surprise you as I think I've pierced just about every walk of life. From Doctors and teachers to high school kids and famous rock stars. Though I have no way of knowing it brings a smile to my face to think that there are people out there still wearing piercings that I did twenty years ago. I'm often reminded of this when parent bring in their adult children and even a few grandchildren. There are a few families that I have in fact pierced three generation now.
I've watched trends come and go. Seen countless "Pioneers" come and go but one thing stand out, a traditional and well practiced piercing preformed correctly and with proper aftercare will last a life time. Nothing beats the rush I feel when I guide someone through the piercing, complete the piercing and watch as their face lights up with the realization that they have a new piercing. It's an honor to touch someone else life in such a personal way. Often people that I would not get the pleasure of interacting with elsewhere.
So, here's hoping for another 20 years of wonderful clients and piercings...