What do you see as the biggest problem in the body modification industry right now?
Voice your opinion on the Round Table topic in the Reader's Response section.

Blair--well known body modification artist from Sal's in Toronto. Interviewed on BME & BMERadio. ByBlair.com

Well this is a complex question..things have changed a lot in the 7 years I have been piercing and branding, but I would have to say that the word "over-saturation" would be the key word...let's start with jewelry. There has been an over-abundance of jewelry companies...most of which are selling low grade jewelry at extremely cheap prices...this is hard on the piercer that is trying to sell good quality hand made jewelry at double the price. Most customers don't understand thd difference and would rather buy a barbell at the mall for $29 instead of going to a pro who will make sure you are actually buying the right piece of jewelry for your piercing. Often going to the mall can be more expensive in the long run because the customer ends up buying jewelry that is the wrong gauge or length or an inappropriate material for the allergy that they have. Also, it is a lot harder to get really good custom jewelry for extreme body mods. Because the jewellers are having to compete with the huge jewelry companies that can spit out low-grade captives for $3 or less. It is a lot harder to spend time doing a custom 00 gauge titanium tongue barbell that could take up to 9 hours from start to finish. If we eventually loose these custom body jewellers, it will be like ordering custom body jewelry from McDonalds...if they don't sell it, you won't get it. I had a friend call from England who had her ears cut and had to order jewelry from Canada because she needed longer plugs than the artist put in. Nobody had custom jewelry for her because it didn't fit in the NORM of what the huge jewelry companies made...what a shame.

Then there is the problem of over-saturation of tattoo and piercing shops. There are some amazing shops and artists out there who have exceptional skills and have made a great contribution to this great field, but are slow because they are competing with shops whose primary goal is to make cash regardless of the quality of work, and the time and care spent on your mod. I have seen shops open whose owner had no clue about tattooing or piercing...they just had the money to open a shop and hired 3 relatively unexperienced artists to work. How do you think this will change the industry...?

Dustin Sharrow--former staff member of BME's QOD, moderator of the BME mailing list, apprentice at Stainless Studios in Toronto. Interviewed on Modified Times.

As a person "learning the ropes," so to speak, this becomes immediately apparent: the sheer number of fools out there trying to out-do the next guy, regardless of (in)experience or know-how.

I've met people in their early twenties who OWN their own shops. While I applaud them at a business level, this usually means that they are the "senior" piercer or tattooist. Regardless of talent and ambition, I have a problem with this. There is something to be said for experience. Too many are the number of head piercers I know who have less than 2 years experience.... and now they're branching off into implants and the like. While at a technical level it is easy to get the correct information about tongue splitting, for instance, it is much different altogether to perform one properly. Too many piercers have such huge ego's that they decide that they can start doing pocketing out of their shop. Or worse yet, tongue splitting, cutting or implants. I've seen great portfolios of fresh work. But what about six months down the road when that hematoma's turned into a very nasty abcess that needs to be drained, leaving the client with permanent damage?

Egos get in the way all too often. I find it highly doubtful that the majority of piercers are capable of doing more extreme (though relatively simple) procedures. They see Steve H's or Blair's work and decide that they can do better. But they don't have the training or knowledge that comes with experience, let alone the common sense to tell them that what they are doing could not only be illegal, but is morally suspicious as well. It's an entirely different world once you set foot outside of a studio, wherever that may be... While it's great that more people are exposed to implants and the like (I still am leery about who I show mine to), there's a time and a place for everything. You can't just go shoving your beliefs or modifications down other peoples' throats, but this is what happens as more extreme things become mainstream: assholes get involved. Those who really care are thrust into the position of defending the industry to media-types, who will only pick out the bad in things. A successfully healed scalpelled piercing doesn't really make for exciting headlines. Well, it may for the likes of us, but not the majority of people. When that subincision goes wrong and the person who's penis was being modified is stupid enough to blame the practitioner, the whole industry is put at risk. Why? Because some piercer thought that he could handle the procedure and would be the first guy to do it in town. Cool, right?

Frances Sand--retired staff member of BME's QOD. Interviewed on both Modified Times and BMERadio.

Not being in the industry myself... I can only speak from an outsider's point of view. As heavier modifications become more readily accessible, not only for getting them but for seeing them, I see an increasing amount of people who are wanting to run before they can walk. I have lost count of the amount of piercers I have spoken to who are "going to start doing branding, implants... all that crazy shit". It is unbelieveable the apparant disregard they have for proper training, or even knowledge. Not only with heavier mods, but with simple piercing, people are simply not trained enough, if at all. I realise that it is hard to find an apprenticeship, but these people do not even arm themselves with a basic knowledge of the anatomy before they start taking people's money for their "services".

It is like the scratcher syndrome I suppose...where a would-be practitioner can simply set themselves up in business with no need to actually learn or care about what they are doing. I find this especially sickening when dealing with things such as implants, they see one, they think "I could do that". They see a beautiful brand, they think "that looks easy". People need to know their own limits, they need to realise their limitations. Unfortunately, I doubt that is ever going to happen without some kind of regulation in this industry.

Greg Morgan--moderator of the BME mailing list, photographer for Modified Times. Featured in BME/Art.

Firstly, there are several things that I personal see as being problems with the industry/community as a whole. They are:

  1. Intolerance
  2. Misinformation
  3. Lack of proper control/regulation

On the topic of Intolerance, I have probably too much to say here, but will outline what I mean. When I first became interested in the modification scene, back in early 1992, it was still pretty much an unknown quantity. Modern Primitives was out on the shelves, Fakir's Dances Sacred and Profane was available in some video stores, and the Erotic Tattooing and Body Piercing videos of Charles Gatewood, had just reached the shores of Australia. I began to research, and then, upon finding no one over here that was piercing (that is in a professional manner), I took it upon myself to practice on me. I began the process of stretching my lobe, back in 1993. Through this, I began to make the acquaintances of other like minded souls, we had no formal introduction, etc... just kinda "ran into" one another. We were called names, yelled at, spat at, got into fights, just because of what we looked like. People that had been friends with me for ages started to think I was a "wierdo", so soon my circle of friends changed. Timewarp to the present. When I walk down the street here in Brisbane, Australia, I see lots of modified faces staring back at me. Nose rings, labrets, septums, large gauge lobes and the like. I no longer get hassled because of what I have done, but the intolerance has now shifted. What was once the case of the outsider not understanding, has become a case of the insider vs. insider. The "I am more hardcore than you!" mentality has taken over. A lot of this due the rise in popularity in body modification. Everywhere you go, navel rings, small lobe stretches, nose rings, etc... abound. But for some reason instead of embracing this, the community, that is the Modification community, has chosen to alienate those that have felt the need/urge/pressure to become one of us. Why..? Is it a case of jealousy..? When I got my first work done, it was different. Because of this I felt special, as does everyone when they get their first mod. Is it because we feel that they are just copying us, following a fashion trend..? Fine. If this is the reason for someone to get work done then so be it. People have been getting major surgical procedures done in the name of fashion for years, and society as a whole condones it. Or is it because they seem to be getting it easier than us. How many of us that have older mods had to suffer shit from the parents, friends, family, work, etc... only to see K-Mart staff with labrets..? I along with many others am guilty of intolerance. We all are, but we have to ask ourselves why. Only then can we put it into perspective and get on with making this community stronger.

On the second point of misinformation. This ties in quite nicely with my third point, so the 2 may blur together here a little, so please bear with me. Because of the mainstream access that Body Modification is now getting, we are subject to a lot of "get rich quick" piercers. These people have had no training in the industry. They have seen a way to make a quick buck, and off they go. With the advent of magazines such as Tattoo Savage, In The Flesh, and numerous others, more extreme mods are being attempted by people who have not the skill, or the intelligence to perform them. I am beginning to get very worried looking at the uprising of 3D-Art, implants, pocketing and the like. These procedures are, to say the least, surgery. They are far beyond the talents of many a humble piercer. Yet everyday I hear of more people getting this implanted, or that scallpelled. I realize that there are a lot of very skilled practitioners out there, and I am not trying to detract at all from their work, but all I am trying to say is this: The massive amounts of information that can be accessed via the web, magazines, etc... is contributing to the degrading of the industry. Yes, it is good to have access to all this stuff. Sites like BME, SPC, The Modified Mind, are invaluable tools that should be used correctly, and not abused as the ONLY way to learn. This is where the third point comes in. Regulation.

The industry, as we now it, and I am speaking here for Australia mainly, is not governed by any particular body/guidelines or the like. We are covered by the "Skin Penetration Law", which was written for Tattooists. This means that if you are a working tattooist, licensed and above board, you have the ability to put in a piercer, simple as that. Some of these so called "piercing shops" are run by the wives/girlfriends of the tattooist. That is all well and good, if the person is a responsible and qualified piercer. I am not sure what can be done, if anything at all, to regulate this. I am not a part of the industry per-se, but more a participant. I have a vested interest in seeing it go from strength to strength, but no real clue as to how to do this. There are a group of piercers over here, who are banding together to try and form an Australian version of the APP. I am not sure how far they have gotten, but wish them all the best, as to have full control of the industry and to get rid of the "quick money" types, will be only beneficial for us all.

In conclusion, I must say but one thing. We are a community. There are many different races, ages, sexes here. We have a common goal, and a common bond, lets start acting like it.

P7--mod enthusiast, assisted in Loco interview for Modified Times.

Qualified professionals. There are genuine bodmod professionals out there, and they do a terrific job. However, there are those out there that don't follow good practices, and could possibly be dangerous. I would hope that people that want a bod mod do their homework and check with other professionals -- and check with people that he/she has done bod mods on before. Hopefully, then, those who are genuine would be getting more and more work -- while the ones that are not really professionals would be getting less and less until one of two things happen: either the person decides to become legit and learn more -- or the person, since not being able to make ends meet, would look for a different job. Real professionals are given a bad rap because someone impersonating a professional does something wrong.

Bryan Walker--staff member of Modified Times. Featured in ear scalpelling video on BME.

To put it simply: hacks. People that present their lack of skill as expertise. They take advantage of their customers. I don't know how many times I've heard "They said my tongue can't be pierced at all!" I can also remember at least thirty navels done at 16g or smaller and getting ripped out. I remember all these people because they'll come to the quality shops when the hacks won't help them out.

The only way to fix a problem like this is through education. We need to show people that you get what you pay for (and your body isn't something you want to save a few bucks on). We need to teach people that piercing guns are inappropriate for piercing ANYTHING. We need to alert the board of heath to these hacks in an effort to get them to close down (or even better, learn what they're doing!).

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