Dear Ms. Angel,
I was wondering if you have any suggestions on where I can learn more to become a better piercer? I know that my apprenticeship was lacking in a number of areas and I could use some help. I had plans to shadow some other piercers, but that all fell through because of the pandemic.
I often struggle with septum piercings, and sometimes have trouble with tongues too. Not that I’m doing any of those right now, but I’m sure I will in the future. Also, I have only done a few genital piercings (frenum and labia), but I would really like to know more. I turn down a lot of business because I don’t feel confident and didn’t really get trained. Honestly, I would like to learn anything that will make me the best piercer I can be. Do you have any recommendations?
Your help is much appreciated.
Thank you for caring about doing a good job. That is an essential element of being a truly good piercer, in addition to expanding your skills and knowledge base throughout your career. I support and encourage your quest to continue your education.
There is a shocking amount of inept “professional” piercing still taking place throughout the US and around the world; so, I’m always happy when piercers take a genuine interest in what they’re doing. Through the online consultations I perform for the public, I see photos of substandard piercings daily, and sometimes criminally deficient performance by members of our industry. They do not appear to care about doing a good job, and it shows in their work.
It is important for piercers to seek updated information and ongoing training throughout our careers. There are always new developments and improvements in techniques, tools, and products to consider. We should openly embrace useful tips and proven changes that could make our jobs safer or our work more accurate and effective. I, too, continue to learn and revise my practice and wish all piercers were open to the same.
Online education cannot take the place of in-person, hands-on instruction under the guidance of a qualified mentor. When it is safe and possible to shadow other practitioners again (perhaps after being vaccinated against COVID-19), that avenue is worth pursuing. Meanwhile, below is a list of more accessible means for acquiring knowledge to help your professional development.
Association of Professional Piercers’ resources:
- APPhas presented online coursesi covering helix and surface piercings, bedside manner, skin prep, surface disinfectants, tray set-up, instrument decontamination and reprocessing, initial jewelry sizes and styles, and other relevant topics. They plan to offer additional virtual education options in the future. The organization also has piercing-specific bloodborne pathogens training classes online.
- The APPhas Facebook forums for membersii and non-members,iii where you can ask questions and review others’ posts.
- TheAPPProcedure Manual should be required reading for every working piercer. It is available in print or digital download from the APP website.iv The comprehensive guide contains everything from a piercers’ introduction to microbiology and infection control, right up through ethics and legalities, dealing with emergencies, and much more.
- Current and back issues ofThe Point, the Quarterly Journal of the Association of Professional Piercersare available for download (and to view online).v They are well worth reading.
- The APP website contains a FAQviand brochuresvii that contain all kinds of information and advice. Note that you are permitted to use the pamphlets in your studio even if you are not a member. There is an excellent new guide for selecting a studio in which to work,viii (and also a handbook with apprenticeship guidelines and curriculum).ixMy resources:
- One-on-oneonline piercer coaching! I’m offering customized instruction based on each piercer’s individual educational needs. These services are intended to polish the skills of trained, working professionals and to fill in gaps left by an incomplete education. This seems like a good fit for you.
Primary topics include my areas of specialization:
• Genital and nipple piercings (in general)
• Structured tutoring on specific placement (septum, VCH, Prince Albert, etc.) using instructive materials including PowerPoint presentations with photos and video.
• Q & A conversations (unstructured) are also an option.
Other possible discussion subjects:
• Piercing placement/aesthetics (for all areas)
• Jewelry selection (style, material, quality, and fit)
• Portfolio review
• Bedside manner and client relations
• Studio practices and policies
• Aftercare and troubleshooting
• Business operations, employee relations, etc.
- Ioffer online (photo) anatomy consultationsx if you are in need of input regarding anatomical suitability and/or optimal piercing placement. Consults are also available to piercers (or their clients) for support and assistance with unusual or persistent healing difficulties.
- Videosxiof me doing anatomy consultations and performing piercingsare available.xii They primarily cover nipple and genital piercings, but some contain nostril, eyebrow, septum, navel, and tongue piercings. They’re not “how-to-pierce” videos per se, but I discuss an array of specific anatomical considerations and important issues like asymmetry and tissue pliability. I clearly demonstrate exactly where I place piercings to suit the individual builds and explain why each chosen location is optimal. I show the particular techniques I employ to perform the piercings including tissue manipulation and the use of receiving tubes and forceps, as well as my grasps for freehand procedures.
- More than ten yearsafter my book’s release, the second edition, “The Piercing Bible—Revised and Expanded” is finally in production and will be available June 2021. I joined forces with a fabulous contributor: piercer and educator Jef Saunders, who has written several guest articles for Pain Magazine. The fully renovated text contains an abundance of new information!
- JefSaunders has a fantastic blog: Confessions of a Piercing Nerd.xiii It contains comprehensive articles with excellent visuals providing practical information for piercers.
- Participate in online piercer groups such as Facebook’s “Body Modification Learning Forum,” “Piercer Babes” for women, nonbinary, and trans people in the industry,and “Freehand Piercing Professionals.”xiv Though not formal education, our peers can provide valuable feedback and often have worthy suggestions and ideas to share. Even if you just lurk, you will be exposed to new concepts and critiques of others’ work, which can be instructive.
- Look for webinars from industryleaders such as Ryan Ouellette,xvBrian Skellie,xvi Luis Garcia,xvii and others.
- Check outYouTubevideos from those respected professionals. Otherwise, when it comes to taking advice or tips from videos, you have to use good judgment, because many of them look more like “How-NOT-to-Pierce” lessons.
- Review the updated NEHA Model Body Art Code (2019) to see if your facility and practices meet the established standard.xviii
- Take an online anatomy course.xixDistance learning is available from many reputable educational sources.
- If your studio sells fine jewelry (gold and gemstones) consider takingan onlinecredential course from the Gemological Institute (GIA).xx
I wish you the best of luck on your journey. Be safe and maintain your drive to always keep learning!
 Disclaimer: some of the older videos show me using a Sharpie for marking, which is no longer standard procedure. I use gentian violet/individual surgical markers.