Single Use Piercing Supplies: Introduction Video

Recent Piercing Work

performed at the Fakir Intensives, San Francisco CA
Performed at DV8 Body Art, Commerce MI

 Performed at DV8 Body Art, Commerce MI
 Performed at DV8 Body Art, Commerce MI
Performed at Rockstar Body Piercing, Providence RI
 Performed at DV8 Body Art, Commerce MI
 Performed at Vaughn Body Arts, Monterey CA
 Performed at Vaughn Body Arts, Monterey CA
Performed at DV8 Body Art, Commerce MI

Touching your piercing Public Service Announcements in Multiple Languages!

The folder for the PSA's is located here: PSAs

We have English, French, Spanish and Portuguese! Feel free to download them and print them out, and use them around your shops!  A huge thank you to Danny Greenwood for making these posters available free-of-charge to piercers and studios worldwide!

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Piercing Nerd PSAs by Jef Saunders and Dannielle Greenwood is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

When Our Client's Piercings Meet Our Client's Fingers: A Love Story

Touching a healing piercing is gross.  No two ways about it.  It’s unsafe for the person who has the piercing (and is apparently hell-bent on ruining it), and it’s unsafe for the people around that person.

Us piercers have been fighting the “please don’t touch your piercing” battle for a long time, and I have bad news.  We aren’t just losing.  We are “Safety-On-The-First-Play-Of-The-Superbowl” losing.

We are BUTTFUMBLE losing.

That’s not good, friends.

(y'know who is good?  Tom freaking Brady.  That's who. Can you tell I'm excited about football?)

We need to be honest with ourselves.  Our approach isn’t working.  If we don’t modify how we prevent (and react to) our customers touching their piercings, we can expect to continue losing the war.  

New Approach part 1:
Us piercers?  Yeah we need to chill out.

I’ve seen employees of mine blow this issue out of proportion, and I know in piercing studios all over the world it's even worse.  Scolding clients isn’t cool or necessary. I’m not saying it’s a great idea to touch a piercing, and it’s especially not cool inside a piercing studio.  But if you actually think you are catching every person who touches their piercing in your shop, you are lying to yourself.  And really, inside the shop versus on the sidewalk two feet before the client opened your door? ...versus in their car on the way to the shop? ...are they really that different?

(I touched the SuperBowl trophy. I still can't believe they let me touch it. "How is this relevant"?
 Shut up that's how it's relevant.)

If you've been freaking out and scrubbing the shop down when someone touches their piercing in front of you, you are doing it wrong. You've got to assume everyone has touched their piercings, and clean the shop accordingly.

We know as piercers we observe standard precautions: “Standard Precautions are the minimum infection prevention practices that apply to all patient care, regardless of suspected or confirmed infection status of the patient, in any setting where healthcare is delivered. These practices are designed to both protect HCP and prevent HCP from spreading infections among patients. Standard Precautions include: 1) hand hygiene, 2) use of personal protective equipment (e.g., gloves, gowns, masks), 3) safe injection practices, 4) safe handling of potentially contaminated equipment or surfaces in the patient environment, and 5) respiratory hygiene/cough etiquette.”

Basically, standard precautions means all body fluid is dangerous, and let's prevent it from going all over the place.  I draw your attention to part 4. “safe handling of potentially contaminated equipment or surfaces in the patient environment.”  The safest approach is to treat the whole shop as “patient environment”.  Whether or not you saw the client touch their piercing, you should assume they have.  Most conscientious shops already know this.  They disinfect surfaces regularly.  They aren’t cleaning just because they witnessed someone touching their piercing, they clean because everyone brings germs from a variety of different sources through the door with them.  Just think about how gross cash is.

Everyone brings a Pandora's box of bacteria with them wherever they go. Our shops are no exception.

So let’s stop being the health and safety gestapo.  Being overly freaked or offended by someone doing something they shouldn’t doesn’t fix the problem (at least, it hasn’t yet). Remember, the point of all this is client safety.  If the client perceives your zeal for safety as rudeness, they are likely to go elsewhere.  In a lot of areas, “elsewhere” means to shops that are a lot less safe than yours.  So in the interest of safety, let’s simmer down.

(See what I did there?)

New Approach Part 2:
Keeping hand sanitizer available, but not compulsory.

I again point to standard precautions: hand hygiene.  Hand hygiene is huge in reducing infections.  While it would be really nice to have a hand washing sink right at the door of the shop, and make everyone who enters or leaves the shop use it. That’s completely unrealistic.

My suggestion is have hand sanitizer readily available throughout the shop.  Preferably, in multiple locations.  I love the infrared dispensers, and I think they add a small “fun” factor to keeping hands clean.  
(Maybe my idea of fun is weird. I dunno. Shut up.)

The thing is, no one likes to be told to wash their hands.  If/when you get asked to wash your hands, you feel dumb, gross, and insulted.  Sometimes we forget how we appear to our customers.  For some, we are just the folks who do piercings.  For others, though, we are the height of unapproachable cool.  Imagine how either person might feel if you or your employee says “Ugh could you please wash your hands now that you’ve touched your piercing”.  Either insulted or crushed.  Neither is good.

Keep in mind, we’ve established that you need to assume everyone has touched their piercings.  Ample access to hand sanitizer encourages cleaner hands and doesn’t result in these kinds of customer service blunders.  

Yes, some people won’t bother with hand sanitizer.  Some will still touch their piercings in your shop.  As long as we are cleaning the shop as if everyone has touched their piercings, we are doing our job.

New Approach Part 3:
Better signage for our customers.

This is the part of this blog I’m very excited about.  Meet Danny Greenwood:

She’s just about the most charming, fun, and talented person I know.  And *sheesh* is she awesome at graphic design.  

One of the things I think the industry could benefit from is really excellent signage.  Years ago, Joel Burgess from Savannah, Georgia put out the best comparison of internally threaded and externally threaded jewelry I have ever seen.
(Image courtesy my favorite, Brian Skellie. READ HIS BLOG)

Health Educators, Inc put out a great needlestick protocol poster. A few others have made educational signs for their employees and clients over the years.  Inspired by these (and borrowing from vintage Public Service Announcement posters), Danny and I teamed up for an eye catching body piercing PSA.
Creative Commons License
Piercing PSAs 1-4 by Dannielle Greenwood is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

We knew that we wanted minimum text. We opted not to have a finger touching a piercing, because that image might be misconstrued by people who don't take the time to read the poster. The idea is (hopefully) the image is engaging enough that our customers read and understand the message. We also kept the wording very simple so most learning abilities were included. Danny did an excellent job of getting the point across in an aesthetically pleasing way, and she’s done it for FREE.

That’s right. For the good of piercing everywhere, Danny has donated these images to piercers to use as they see fit.  If you want this image, it is all yours.  Download it, print it.  The high-res pdf files are located here, albeit temporarily: PIERCING NERD PSAs

(Depending on how popular the posters are, I may need to move them to a different hosting service.)

In closing
It’s been an absolute joy to team up with Danny for this blog entry.  You can contact her to commission graphic design work here: dannythegirl.bro @ gmail . com

I’m hoping even if you disagree with my approach, you find these posters to be helpful in communicating with your clients!

Bonus: Here's me and Fakir Musafar celebrating the Patriots Superbowl Victory.
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How Worn is Too Worn?

If you are a piercer, you've been in this situation before:
You perform a stellar piercing. The jewelry length is exactly right for the average client to have room for swelling, except, this isn’t the average client.  Before your very eyes the piercing swells and swells, until it's clear the piercing needs longer jewelry.

Of course, we know what we need to do in this situation: put in longer jewelry.  (I’m hoping I don’t need to write a blog post about that).  The question I want to answer is “What do we do with the piece of jewelry that was too short”?

Question: How worn is too worn?

Answer: Any worn.
Did I say worn too much? I'm just trying to warn you of the dangers! I've worn out my welcome, haven't I?

Body piercing is a difficult business.  The price of doing business has gone up tremendously in the last 20 years, but prices have remained the same or even gone down.  It is genuinely challenging to make a decent living as a piercer.  So when I tell you that you need to throw away a navel curve that a client wore for 5 minutes when you realize it’s slightly too small, you are inclined to disagree.

The argument against me usually goes like this, “Dude, I decontaminate it and re-sterilize it.  Relax”. 

And I get it.

Reprocessing techniques vary from shop to shop, but in most quality piercing studios in 2015, reprocessing looks like this: enzymatic soak -> ultrasonic cleaner (or instrument washer) -> sterilize.  This process results in tools that are, in my opinion, safe for reuse.  (That said, I prefer single use instruments and encourage my colleagues to consider single use alternatives to tool reprocessing, but I digress.)  The real issue here is that no reprocessing technology exists that is 100% effective at removing all matter.

There’s an important difference between tools and jewelry, though. Piercing tools will only come in contact with the client for a very short amount of time, and often don’t even touch the piercing channel at all.  Jewelry, on the other hand, remains in the client for very long periods of time. I want to point out that this comparison hadn’t occurred to me, and that it was my friend Christina Blossey from the Piercing Experience in Atlanta who illuminated the difference. Thanks Christina!  

Even if an enormous percentage of the previous wearers bioburden (let’s say 99.99%) is off the jewelry, the new wearer’s body has to contend with whatever is left (.01%!).  That’s still too much in my opinion. The final wearer shouldn’t have to contend with any kind of bioburden.  Their body will interact with whatever fraction of a percent of "stuff" that’s been left behind, and that shouldn’t happen.

(Want to scare yourself to death with information on Biofilm and Bioburden? Here’s some fuel for your nightmares:

And yes, Getinge, the company that produced this information, are selling a product.  Yes that should raise your skepticism. No, I don’t think they are wrong. Frankly, testing of your instruments to make sure your decontamination process has been effective is a great idea.)

So how do we deal with this issue?

Preventing Contamination

Letting clients “try on” jewelry should have been a thing of the past years ago.  There are still some shops that allow it to happen.  
They assume reprocessing the jewelry will be enough to prevent problems in the future.  If you are working at a shop that allows people to try on jewelry, that policy should change immediately.  Frankly, the safety risk isn’t worth the benefit, and there are lots of safe alternatives to trying jewelry on.

Safe alternatives include:
  • Putting jewelry in a plastic bag and allowing the client to hold the jewelry next to their piercing.
  • Taking photos of the jewelry (held by gloved hands) next to the piercing.
  • Using rubber lined tweezers to hold jewelry near the client’s piercing (be careful not to touch!)
  • Using cell phone apps to quickly do a mockup of the jewelry on the client’s body.

A portfolio featuring your most popular items in healed piercings is always a helpful sales tool.  I have never allowed clients to try on jewelry, and I have found that most appreciate that the jewelry has never been in anyone else but them.

Many of our customers don’t understand why trying on a pair of plugs, checking them out in a mirror, and then putting them back in the display is unsafe.  Keep in mind, people apply tester lipstick directly to their mouths all the time. They never consider how gross that is. They are far less likely to understand how jewelry can be contaminated by trying it on.
The average everyday person may not see the world the way we see it. (We are piercers: weirdos with tattooed black arms that see germs everywhere). Occasionally we need to save the public from themselves.  Anyone who works at the shop should know, for safety, service and for theft reasons, that jewelry should never be left with an unattended client.

Spending a little to save a lot

Perhaps one of my most popular items is a gold seam ring for a healed nostril piercing.  The problem is, what if I grab the wrong size?  The right fit can be elusive! A gold ring isn’t cheap for me, I don’t want to eat the cost because I grabbed the wrong size ring.

The solution I have come up with is this: if I am unsure of what size ring would be appropriate, and the client is buying a gold or platinum ring, I will put a steel or niobium ring in first to check the size.  If the client ended up not liking the size or style, they would only be charged for the steel or niobium ring.  If they like it, awesome!  The shop absorbs the cost of the ring as part of providing good service (and making a bigger sale).  This prevents the issue of contaminating more valuable items.

Clearly Explain Shop Policies

Anyone selling jewelry at a piercing studio should have a mantra they repeat to clients on every sale. “For safety reasons, all jewelry sales are final.  We can’t accept any jewelry returns”.  I like that to be on the receipt, and on signage in the shop.  Politely reinforcing this during the sale can be used as a way to build the shop’s reputation: “We put your safety first, we cannot risk selling jewelry that’s ever been worn or tried on.  So our return policy has to be very strict.  Let’s make sure you are really happy with this purchase before you leave”.

When it comes to big ticket items (several hundred to several thousand dollars), my goal is to prevent contamination at all costs.  My first step is to show the jewelry to the client, taking photos, and figuring out “will it look good and fit well”.  Yes, this usually takes some time.  I almost always use a steel ring first on things like septum clickers.  I want to make sure my client and I are on the same page in regards to size before I put in a valuable piece of jewelry.  If it prevents a problem, this is time extremely well spent.
Next, I thoroughly explain the shop’s return policy: “If we put this in, and you decide you don’t like it or it’s the wrong size, I will happily give you a discount on another piece  I want you to leave very happy.  That said: once you have worn this, I will have to charge you full price for it no matter what”.  

If the client doesn’t understand, I use the analogy of a steak dinner. Putting in the jewelry isn’t cutting into a steak ordered blue rare and figuring out it’s well done.  Putting the jewelry in your piercing is the equivalent of eating the whole steak.  Once this is clear, the client isn’t likely to to argue with shop policies after the fact.  The time to send the steak back is before it’s eaten, not after.

Marking jewelry out of stock

Remember the example I gave to begin this blog entry?  None of our strategies can account for this situation.  The client’s piercing has swollen immediately, needs longer jewelry, and the shop can’t hold the client accountable for something they had no control over.  This jewelry needs to be thrown away and the shop needs to eat the cost, right?

Well, yes and no.  Truth be told, the client will almost certainly need this jewelry size in the future when the piercings goes from very swollen back to normal.  In this instance, I usually give the client the longer piece for free, and give them the original piece to bring back.  This is excellent customer service and pays dividends in developing customer relationships in your community.  The customer knows you will respond to situations that happen outside of anyone’s control professionally and responsibly.  That is worth the cost of the jewelry.

You can also mark this jewelry out of stock as damaged in the day to day course of business.  Damaged product happens to every business. This is part of your business’s “shrinkage”, and your accountant can work with you on how to properly document these damaged items.  Local laws may vary, so please discuss this with financial and/or legal professionals.

This is an uncomfortable topic for a lot of piercers.  We really don’t like the idea of losing the money we’ve invested in our jewelry stock to things outside our control, or misjudging a barbell length by 1/32 of an inch.  That said, with a little bit of work, planning, and education for us and our clients, we can ensure all the jewelry we provide is as safe as possible.

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How Worn is Too Worn? by Jef Saunders is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Guest Spots & other things

I got to do these paired nostril piercing on fellow piercer Roy Fowler at DV8 Body Art in Commerce, Michigan!

I have relocated to Michigan!  I am in the process of booking guest spots, so if you are a piercer or shop owner and want to book me, send me an email: Jef [at] Jef Saunders [dot] com

A few additional notes:

- There are still one or two open spots for the new Fakir Comprehensive Class.  If you are a professional piercer with at least two years experience, please sign up as soon as possible at

- I wanted to share a Spotify playlist of the music style I tend to listen to while I'm piercing.

- I will be teaching once again at the LBP Conference.  The classes will be Advanced Fundamentals: Navel Piercing and Disposable Piercing studios.  I am so looking forward to returning to Mexico!

- I tried a new layout for the blog.  Hope you like it!

An Apprenticeship Guide for Mentors

From Left to Right: Kelly Carvara, Steve Joyner, Peter Jett, Megan Raposa and myself (Jef Saunders).
Kelly, Pete and Megan have all apprenticed under me. 

I have taken on more apprentices than any piercer I know.  Over the years, I have taken on a staggering five apprentices, four of whom completed their apprenticeships and are still piercing to this very day (namely Billy Wood Jr, Kelly Carvara, Peter Sherman Jett and Megan Raposa).  To say I am proud to have been a part of their training is an understatement.  They are wonderful piercers who have taught me a lot along the way.  I have also been an instructor for the Fakir Intensives for nearly a decade, which means I have been a part in the training of literally hundreds of young piercers.

I’ve taken on a lot of apprentices who have become successful piercers in their own right, and that is rare. Even more uncommon is the fact that I am on wonderful terms with all of my apprentices. This happens far less frequently than it should, but I think I’ve developed an approach that works.

I am heavily influenced by Fakir Musafar's philosophy in training piercers.  Fakir believes that participating in the ritual of body piercing is your birthright as a human being.  That philosophy was very foreign to me when I first attended the Fakir Intensives, but it changed the way I feel about body piercing.  I’ve felt compelled since I attended the Fakir Intensives to share with others.  

I understand when my colleagues don't share my enthusiasm for training new piercers.  It does feel, to an extent, like training the competitors of tomorrow.  

Many of us have bad experiences when training new piercers, or are still recovering from the harrowing experience that was our own apprenticeship.  There are steps to take in the process of taking on an apprentice that can prevent problems, and these steps are essential to a good experience for both mentor and apprentice.

Realistic Expectations

First, it's important to consider what a mentor can reasonably expect from their apprentice.  All too often, I see sky high expectations being the downfall of what could be a mutually beneficial relationship.  Expectations should be as specific as possible. It is appropriate to expect your apprentice to be timely, which is very specific.  “Be at the shop by 11:45 am everyday”.  Every policy you have should be clear cut and written out.  Some qualities you may want in an apprentice can’t be so simply put.  For example, it is appropriate to expect professionalism from your apprentice.  The mentor should be prepared to be the person who teaches that.  "Professionalism" can mean a lot to different people, and being specific about what that means to you will only help the apprenticeship proceed smoothly.  When you take on an apprentice, teaching them the subtleties and nuances of your shop and your piercing philosophy is your responsibility.

End Hazing of Apprentices
Greek Fraternity Paddle Kits - Greek Sorority Paddles Kits
(I got this image from the website, I shit you not, )

Many piercing mentors have recollections of their apprenticeships that are unpleasant to say the least.  Intense abuses and indignities of all kinds seemed to be heaped upon them while they were learning. What bothers me is that these mentors are all too willing to perpetuate this ridiculous cycle.  I believe hazing to be counterproductive, and a bad example.  If you are one of those piercers who was hazed relentlessly, you should  make sure that you are the last piercer hazed in your “lineage”.  I believe it’s nothing short of your professional responsibility.  "It used to be hard because my mentor was mean, but learning to pierce well is actually hard enough without distractions.  I want you to focus your energy on learning, not surviving".  

Many piercers think the younger generation is softer, weaker, and has it easier.  (If you wanted to turn into your parents, congratulations, you are on your way)

"In my day we needed needle pushers! And we felt lucky to have them"!
What they don’t understand is that our predecessors thought that way about us.  I think being cranky about the younger generation doesn't really get you anywhere. I think the more positive approach is to believe that each successive generation has been instrumental to the progress of this beautiful artform we all love.  Yes, we have made it easier for those who follow us, but that's the point. We’ve given the younger generation an opportunity to build on what we have done, and what our predecessors did before us. 

I have yet to hear a persuasive reason to make apprenticeships abusive.  As a mentor, making the piercing portion of an apprenticeship the most challenging part is a gift to the industry, the apprentice, and my clientele.  We are building the foundation of better, safer, more innovative piercing in the future.


It is undeniably challenging as a mentor to watch your apprentice make mistakes.  We have a nasty tendency of forgiving ourselves for the mistakes we made along the way, but we often fail to extend that patience to our trainees.  If you’ve ever watched an apprentice grab the wrong size jewelry for a piercing more than once, or struggle with a captive ball that you could put in with your eyes closed, you understand this frustration.

Unfortunately for everyone involved, making mistakes is part of learning. It is the mentor's job to prevent as many mistakes as possible, and be a safety net when necessary.  It isn't easy for mentor OR apprentice but it's part of the process.  What you need realize is that you simply cannot expect or demand perfection from people.  If your apprentice was already good at piercing, they wouldn’t need you.

How to Avoid Training Your Competition (Part A)

Perhaps you are hesitant to take on an apprentice because you don’t want them opening a shop next door in a year.  Every mentor worries about this... and it is, indeed, a possibility.

The first step to avoiding this is spending time with your potential apprentice beforehand.  The apprentices I’ve taken on have, for the most part, spent time as desk staff for me before they were officially taken on to train as a piercer.  This gave me an opportunity to learn their character, but more importantly it was an opportunity to build a solid bond between us.

Signing an agreement with an apprentice is a good idea.  In it, you can write in explicit detail what apprentice’s responsibilities are, how long they can expect to train for, and how long you’d like them to pierce for you as an employee following their apprenticeship. It is important to make this agreement plausible to fulfill.  You are training someone to be a piercer, you are not buying an indentured servant.  

I’d caution anyone from expecting more than two or three years of work from an apprentice.  Why? You need to be prepared for the worst while hoping for the best. Life happens to other people, as much as life happens to you.  What I mean by that is this: people fall in love, people move away, and people change careers.  If you’ve treated your apprentice/employee well, paid them fairly, and they elect to move on then you can rest easy knowing that you’ve done your part.  On the other hand, if you choose to treat your apprentice poorly, you can’t expect much from them in return.  If you abuse them, underpay them, and put them in tenuous financial/professional situations, I want to assure you of the fact that your apprenticeship agreement means nothing.  

The implicit part of the apprenticeship contract is probably more important than any legalese you can pack onto a page.  The implicit contract is your continued good will toward your apprentice. If you don’t fulfill that part of your agreement, you can consider the whole thing null and void.  You reap what you sow.  If you want a good apprentice/mentor relationship, you need to be a shining example of trustworthiness, respect and integrity.

How to Avoid Training Your Competition (Part B)
I would like to take this opportunity to digress a bit, and I beg your indulgence.  I believe a confidence in oneself is essential to being a mentor.   I mean this with no disrespect to other piercers, nor do I say it with arrogance or spite:

I have no competition.

I don’t mean financially, obviously there are other shops near mine, and every shop gets a piece of the pie.  (I tend to worry about this a lot less than some of my colleagues do.  I will address that in a future blog entry.)  I don’t mean professionally, there are piercers that can do work I am in awe of, and I have recommended clients of mine to trusted colleagues if I thought they were the better piercer for the job.  What I mean is that what is special about the way I pierce is ME.  No one can do it quite like I do.  

No one else is Jef Saunders.  

Instagram media Hand job on my buddy @that_cut_dho ✂️ One of the illest barbers I know! 
#tattoo #tattoos #tattoosnob #tattooart #tattoo_artwork #tattoosofinstagram #rose #rosetattoo #blackandgrey #blackworkerssubmission #thedailytattoos #artnerd2014 #prophetsandpoets #inkedphilly #phillyink #philadelphia #savemyink #inksav #inkjunkeyz #picstitch #the_inkmasters  #iphonesia #igdaily #instadaily #instagood #igart
(okay there’s this tattoo artist Jeff Saunders, and he’s pretty awesome.  But you know what I mean. 
Check his Instagram
Again, that doesn’t mean I think I’m the best piercer in the world.  What it means is that I am confident in my shop, my health and safety, my bedside manner, and my technique. I'm a very good piercer, and hopefully I am getting better. 

If someone can open up across the street from me and be better than I am… well that’s my fault, not theirs.  

Obviously no one wants extra competitors.  I certainly don’t.  That said,  it isn’t a concern of mine when I take on an apprentice.   I think the confidence I have in my abilities and my shop helps me concentrate on what’s important with an apprentice: being a good mentor.  

How to be a mentor

There are a lot of different ways to train a new piercer.  I have a personal formula that seems to work well for me.  If you’ve ever read my “Open Letter to all Would-Be Piercing Apprentices”, I lay it out in detail.  I usually wait for the potential apprentice to attend the Fakir Intensives in San Francisco.  I then take them on as desk staff at my shop.  Once it is clear that we have a good working relationship, and I am satisfied that we will both enjoy working together in the future, we begin the real apprenticeship.

That part involves a lot of observation.  Once an appropriate amount of observation has taken place, the apprentice slowly begins taking on more and more responsibilities. Those responsibilities include: setting up my StatIM cassettes, client prepping and marking piercing placement, and then finally they pierce under supervision.  I focus on the apprentice watching as much piercing as possible, and leave chores and other responsibilities as secondary.

You may elect to take a different path.  I don’t believe there is one right way to apprentice someone.  What I think is necessary, especially for first-time mentors, is to commit as much of your plan to writing as possible.  It helps to have specific goals in mind.  What might that look like?  Here’s an example :
I'll be honest, I haven't done this sort of paperwork with my previous apprentices.  Future apprentices will be required to document things in far greater detail.

It’s up to you, as the mentor, to decide the amount of observation an apprentice should do before moving onto marking and before proceeding to piercing with supervision (unless that is specified by local law).  Having specific numbers also makes sure that you aren’t rushing, or unnecessarily delaying, an apprentice segueing into “body piercer” status.

Health & Safety

An apprentice needs to be trained appropriately in health and safety, and that isn’t a task to be taken lightly.  I would suggest an industry specific Bloodborne Pathogens Class (like those available through Health Educators, Inc, Progressive Mentorship, or the Association of Professional Piercers online class) be a requirement day one.  CPR and First Aid are also very important for all piercers and apprentices.  

I see many apprentices thrown into “tool scrubbing duty” right off the bat, and I do not understand the logic.  Decontamination of tools is the most dangerous part of our job as piercers.  A mistake in the decontamination room could also be disastrous for everyone working at the shop.  Why would you ever give this job to the least qualified person? You should only give this job to apprentices who have proven themselves to be thorough, conscientious and trustworthy.  Supervise the decontamination of tools to be absolutely certain PPE has been donned and utilized appropriately, as well as making sure the job is done correctly.  (This may be yet another reason to consider exclusively disposable tools at a piercing studio.  I'll post more on that in future blog posts. )

Having a thorough Exposure Control Plan is obviously an important document in every piercing studio.  I have found that when explaining the ECP to my trainees, they get a new respect and understanding of our policies.  I have a nasty knack for expecting my employees to be mind readers.  This has lead me to write down as much as possible for them.  Having an employee handbook, and written protocols for every job in the studio, is strongly suggested.  This way your apprentice always has written guidelines to fall back on in your absence.
From Left to Right: me, Billy Wood Jr and Megan Feeley.  Billy apprenticed under me, and Megan manages Rockstar Body Piercing.  Photo courtesy Autumn Swisher.

Taking on an apprentice is an enormous responsibility. I mean huge.  Think about it: if all goes according to plan, you haven’t trained someone to be your employee, you’ve given them a career.  That’s an incredible gift!

But it is a gift, and should be seen as such.  If you train a piercer thinking about what you can get out of it, you will most likely have an unpleasant experience.  Your attitude going into this experience is of the utmost importance.  I would strongly suggest taking on an apprentice only after you’ve considered the following questions:
Am I okay with my apprentice working somewhere else in the future?
Am I okay with my apprentice deciding this work isn’t for them?
Am I okay with my apprentice eventually owning their own shop?
Do I honestly have enough experience, training, and knowledge to train a new piercer?
Am I prepared for the extra time, work, and effort to train a new piercer?
Am I okay with my apprentice becoming a better piercer than I am?

(That last one is a doozie, one that few can honestly answer “yes” to.)

I am genuinely excited for the future of body piercing. The open exchange of ideas and broad availability of information worldwide has created a golden age for the advancement of piercing safety and technique.  Those experienced piercers who opt to train new people are doing a great service to the next generation of piercing clients.  My hope is that this will also be a generation of piercers and mentors that develop lifelong bonds of friendship and camaraderie.  

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An Apprenticeship Guide for Mentors by Jef Saunders is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International 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!