A letter to all would-be body piercing apprentices...

A Letter to all would-be body piercing apprentices...

I get asked for an apprenticeship nearly every day I work. Obviously, that means I need to say “no” to an awful lot of people. It’s not in my nature to be painfully honest and tell people what they don’t want to hear. That having been said, a lot of you folks out there that are looking for jobs in the piercing industry are just not the right fit. So I have written the following not to be insulting, self righteous, or egotistical. I’ve written it to be as honest and helpful to you as I can possibly be.

There are a lot of things that can make you a good candidate for an apprenticeship, and a lot more that can kill your chances. I want to be very clear about the criteria and qualities necessary to be a piercing apprentice at my shop:

1) I need to have a place for you to work.

Why? Well, let’s say I train you and you become a competent piercer. Won’t you be frustrated that you aren’t actually piercing for a living? I know it would bother me that I could pierce well and wasn’t actually making money doing it. If you find yourself working one shift a week, or just substituting for the other piercers, you are going to go stir crazy. Eventually, I’m going to lose you to another shop, and now I have trained someone who will be my competitor. Keep in mind, taking on an apprentice is extra work for me, and now I’ve worked for months (or years) on someone who will be a competent competitor. That’s bad business.

2) I need to know that you are really motivated to be a great body piercer.

Being really motivated seems easy enough, right? I mean, you are already really motivated! Well, at least you think you are. To work at my shop, you must attend the Fakir Musafar Basic Piercing Intensive. When you say, “I’m really passionate about body piercing, but I can’t afford the school or the flight right now”, try to put yourself in my shoes. Essentially, you will need to save about $2500 to take the Fakir Basic Piercing class and stay in San Francisco. If you can’t save that amount of money it means to me you are either too irresponsible to save money or you want instant gratification. Neither of those qualities is especially compelling to make me take you on as an apprentice.

3) Getting an apprenticeship is a popularity contest.

My shop doesn’t need the brooding, quiet, introverted type. We need the body piercing equivalent of a cheerleader. We need happy, friendly, positive folks that can light up a room with their smile. Body piercers need to be clean, smart, creative and passionate, but they also need to be likable, approachable, and able to command the center of attention for the length of time it takes to perform a piercing. If you hate people, hate public speaking, and hate awkward social situations, why on Earth would you want to be a body piercer? Make no bones about it: body piercing is a job for people who like people.

4) My shop is not the stepping stone to a tattoo career.

Piercing is not the way to get into tattooing. That’s sort of like becoming a dentist so you can eventually be a gynecologist. Don’t waste either of our time. Start drawing.

5) When your apprenticeship is over, do you want to open your own shop?

That’s good! You’re an entrepreneur and I can relate to that! You will need to pay for your apprenticeship, though. No one wants to train another piercer out of the goodness of their own heart. We, the established piercers, need to see a profit in the future, whether that is from
your work as our employee or from actually being paid for the apprenticeship. I think you will save us both a lot of drama by being up front about this. By being forthcoming and being prepared to pay for your apprenticeship, you also nearly guarantee that you’ll actually get taken on for training. This also goes back to #2, and if you pony up a large chunk of money for an apprenticeship, I know you are serious about becoming a good piercer.

Here are some final tips for making yourself into an attractive piercing
apprenticeship candidate not only to me, but to most good body piercers:

• Wear good body jewelry. Better yet, wear body jewelry from my shop.

• Have retail sales experience.

• Take a bloodborne pathogens class from an OSHA approved instructor. (Health Educators, Inc for example) www.hlthedu.com

(EDIT 2016: Looking for online Bloodborne Pathogens Training?  The Association of Professional Piercers [APP] now has online Bloodborne Pathogens, Infection Control Plans, Exposure Control Plans, and Personal Protective Equipment Standard classes.  I suggest all would-be apprentices take them all! http://www.safepiercing.org/learn/online-courses/ ) - full disclosure, I am a Board Member for the Association of Professional Piercers (President and Membership Liaison)

• Learn CPR/First Aid at the American Red Cross.

• Take anatomy and physiology classes at your local community college.

• Volunteer to promote my shop.

• Read a lot about piercing. Learn its history.

• Work on your people skills.

• Go to Sky Renfro’s apprenticeship primer class from Professional Piercing Information Systems. More info is available at www.Propiercing.com

• Go to the Fakir Intensives Basic Piercing class. More info is available at www.Fakir.org

Creative Commons License
An Open letter to all would be body piercing apprentices by Jef Saunders is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

As of 2017 I now pierce full time at Gamma Piercing in Ann Arbor, Michigan! Please visit our website or stop by and say hello!

The Baloney Detection kit. This was done by the Richard dawkins foundation based on a Carl Sagan principle. This is useful in so many areas of ones life, but especially useful to a body piercer for evaluating new products and ideas.

1) How reliable is the source of the claim?
2) Does the source often make similar claims?
3) Have the claims been verified by somebody else?
4) Does this fit with the way the world works?
5) Has anyone tried to disprove the claim?
6) Where does the preponderance of evidence point?
7) Is the claimant playing by the rules of science?
8) Is the claimant providing positive evidence?
9) Does the new theory account for as many phenomena as the old theory?
10) Are personal beliefs driving the claim?


On May 29th, 2009 Hulkout played a show with Cringe and Death Rats at 32 battey Street in Providence RI.

The mic broke just as we were about to play. I have always hated when bands make a big deal about broken mics. So I just screamed the show...

A class for Mrs. Ilsley

So, today I am getting to hang out with my friend Becky. She teaches an after school arts program for junior high school students, and is bringing them by the shop so that I can talk to them about body piercing. I typed up a little information pamphlet for them about general body piercing information they may not have known about. The pamphlet is this:

Body Piercing Studios, 101
Clean Piercing Studio
Notice that everything is either disposable, or is a hard surface that can be disinfected. There are no carpets, and no unfinished or unsealed wood.

Sink and biohazard area

Notice the wall mounted sharps container on the left, biohazard trash and pass through area for used tools, the sink (which is operated by foot pedals) and the hands free soap and paper towel dispenser.

Sterile tools

Can either come out of sealed packages like these (notice the date stamp to ensure freshness).

Or out of a cassette fresh from a cassette sterilizer like a Stat IM, shown here. (and yes that’s me, skinnier and with short hair. Same shirt, though!).

Price shopping

A lot of folks don’t want to spend too much money to get pierced. What ends up happening is they go to inexperienced piercers who use bad jewelry. This young lady above went to a cheap shop.

And this young lady went to a shop where she had to spend a lot more money. In return, she got top quality jewelry, expert placement, and a healed piercing. Not to mention the fact that she doesn’t have the serious scar our bargain shopper does!
Autoclave (sterilizer)

An autoclave is a machine that changes distilled water into hot water vapor. The pressure inside the chamber gets more and more intense until the water vapor penetrates all of the packages inside it. The water vapor then kills anything that could possibly be alive (whether it’s a fungus, a virus, or a bacterium). Sterile means totally devoid of life. You can only sterilize tools in a piercing studio in an autoclave!
Jewelry quality
There are lots of bad pieces of body jewelry out there. Unfortunately, this is another example of “you get what you pay for”. If you buy jewelry from the mall, or a store that doesn’t actually perform body piercing, you are most likely getting very poorly made jewelry. An easy way to tell good from bad is threading. Threading refers to the “screw” on a barbell, navel curve, or circular barbell.
External threading is cheap. The threads can tear your piercing when the jewelry is put in, and the balls tend not to fit very well.

Internal threading is expensive. The shaft is smooth so it doesn’t irritate the channel of your piercing. Also, the material that internally threaded jewelry is made of is usually superior to that of externally threaded jewelry.

Saline Solution Buyer's Guide

At Rockstar Body Piercing, we suggest the use of sterile, preservative free saline solution in a spray can for cleaning piercings. There are a lot of saline solutions out there, though. Here are some that are available and the reasons they do or do not work.

What Makes Sense

Wound Wash Saline
This saline solution is great because we know exactly what it is and what it does. It is a 0.9% isotonic, preservative free saline in a metal can (so it doesn’t ever get contaminated). The only conceivable downfall to wound wash saline is that it does not contain buffers to make the pH more body compatible. Some piercers like the lack of additive(s), some prefer the pH neutrality of a contact lens saline. We don’t think it really matters either way.

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Contact Lens Saline
This saline solution is sterile, preservative free, and has buffers added to make the product pH neutral. Using this product on a piercing is, in reality, using it for a purpose it was not intended. If that bothers you, we would suggest Wound Wash Saline. We like contact lens saline because its cheap, it works, and the difference between it and Wound Wash is negligible.

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Nasal Spray Saline in metal spray cans
Here is another spray, sterile, isotonic saline. It’s a little expensive but is just as effective as contact lens saline. Again, if using the product for a different reason than indicated makes you uncomfortable, use Wound Wash saline.

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Sterile Wipes
These wipes are isotonic, sterile, and single use. Sterile Wipes are available at CVS Pharmacy, but run a little expensive. They work beautifully and are great for taking on trips.

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What Does Not Make Sense

Irrigation Saline in a screw off top
This saline is sterile and preservative free. It is also instantly contaminated by air (or q-tips, gauze, your hands, etc) as soon as you open the packaging, which makes it useful only once. You absolutely must throw this product away after a single use, which makes it relatively useless for piercing aftercare. The product packaging is very explicit in this regard. If you’d like further information, call Kendall, the manufacturer of several brands of irrigation saline. 1-800-962-9888

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Contact lens Saline in plastic squeeze bottles
This contact lens saline starts out sterile, but is contaminated by air as soon as it is opened. To help remedy that problem, the manufacturer adds preservatives. These preservatives could irritate your piercing.

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Multi-purpose Cleanser
This product is in the contact lens aisle, but its only “purpose” is contact lenses. You cannot multi-task multi-purpose cleanser, it is not saline.

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Creative Commons License
Rockstar Body Piercing's Saline Solution Buyer's Guide by Jef Saunders is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.