Fighting The Good Fight

You may have seen a number of articles circulating about the state of Arkansas and a movement to ban certain body modifications. The simple fact is, what went down in Arkansas was a step towards bettering the modification industry. Thankfully we have a great ambassador Misty Forsberg to thank for it.

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Thanks Misty!

Misty is a professional piercer and scarification artist at Southtown Tattoo & Body Piercing in Fort Smith, Arkansas. However her contributions to the body modification community don’t even come close to ending there. Misty has been battling hard through the proper channels for better body art industry regulation. I was able to do a brief interview with Misty and talk about her experiences.

I’d like to thank you for taking the time out to do this interview, I know you’ve been traveling quite a bit and had your hands pretty well full! I’d like to hop right in and ask you about the most recent and initially turbulent legislation push in Arkansas. Where many articles we’re quick to say the state was trying to ban procedures what we’re you really trying to achieve?

Well there were two bills introduced. It was one of the most confusing issues for most people looking at what was happening in Arkansas. SB387 and SB388 were sponsored by Senator Irvin a the same time, but were two very different items. The bill involving banning any body art practices was unrelated to the bill we were working on. Our bill was aimed at increasing the standards in our state for body art, especially in the area of body piercing, which previously had no laws governing it. The bill involving banning what the state deemed as ‘extreme’ body modification came after we had written our draft and worked to get the Senator to carry it for us.

How did you start the process of fighting for legislation changes? I might imagine that a visibly modified person may have a tough initial ice breaking period when it comes to state lawmakers.

We actually got lucky, they came to us. The Arkansas Department of Health held a private meeting with a small group of artists from around the state to ask for help with updating the legislation regarding body art. Most of that group fell away when there was work to do, and the two of us that were left moved forward. As we began to talk with Steve Joyner about how to proceed, a group led by Joe Phillips formed called the Arkansas Body Modification Association. Dustin Jackson and I joined, and worked with their group to push forward with the legislative changes we felt were necessary to keep body art safe in our state. A lot of people really underestimate what having an organized group does for you when you are working with state agencies and representatives. Having a collective voice that can represent the industry, rather than 20 voices all pulling in different directions, gets attention and gets your issues taken seriously.

When it came to working with the state representatives and how we look, we actually discussed it to make sure we were all on the same page before meetings. I feel like it is unrealistic to expect to be treated like a professional in any field if you can’t present yourself as such. Yes, I kept all of my piercings in and some of my tattoos were visible, but I also knew that as an adult it is about compromise. My orange and yellow hair was dyed brown and trimmed, I bought a few suits, slapped on my heels, and went in looking and speaking like a professional. There wasn’t a single meeting that we came in looking like we weren’t there for business.

As much as it would be nice to believe you should get treated fairly no matter what, it just isn’t the way it works. You have a matter of minutes (literally 2 minutes one of the meetings) to not only present yourself, but to convince a room full of people that you know what you are talking about and that they want to listen to you. As much as it might not be fair, how you look is a huge part of that.

By redefining “body art” in Arkansas legislation you actually we’re successful in keeping scarification work legal and regulated. Do you feel like this victory was watered down by the plethora of bad publicity?

Adding scarification to the definition of body art was a huge victory, and I don’t feel like people misreading what happened tainted that. The bill was amended last minute, and so on paper people saw that it ‘passed’, but didn’t realize that changes had been made.

It is a very scary door to open, and we are still trying to write the rules and regulations that will license and govern scarification artists in my state. It is two sided. It brings light onto scarification which can potentially make other states consider regulation (possibly in a negative way), but it could also set an example for other states to follow which keeps artists like myself safe. I can continue to openly work in a studio without fear of it becoming illegal or the studio suffering because of my work in a ‘grey area’. Our state has taken a stance and decided that scarification is a form of body art, and we have a right to do it. I am proud of that regardless of incorrect internet buzz.

The quote from Republican state senator Missy Irvin “Body artists are my people.” feels almost like a shot heard round the world to me. Do you feel that now more than ever it is important for artists to have good rapport with their state officials?

YES. I can’t say that enough. Get to know who is regulating you, keep in touch, and let them know that you want to be involved. Missy Irvin and I did not see eye to eye, we did not have anything in common, and we would probably disagree with a number of each others political standpoints. At the end of the day, we learned to work together, we found a compromise, and we shook hands like adults and walked away with a mutual respect for each other.

We have to understand that a lot of the problem is a lack of education. These representatives don’t know our industry because they are outside of it, and hating them and lashing out does nothing but reinforce the stereotype they might hold of who we are. If you don’t like their stance and you want to see a change, shake their hand, present yourself in a manner that gives them a reason to listen to what you have to say, and educate them.

You have openly shared your scarification portfolio to the state, something that a lot of folks may be pretty wary of. Were you afraid of any repercussions from being so open?

The body art industry as a whole is very small in my state. We have two representatives at the health department, and they know all of us by name if that gives you an idea of what I mean by small. When I first started doing scarification in my former studio I had two options; hide it and lose the trust of my state representatives when someone told on me or openly offer a service that was not illegal and be proactive in educating them on what I was doing. So they have known for quite a while that I offered scarification.

When the state began looking at restricting what they deemed as ‘extreme’ procedures, they asked Steve, Dustin, and I to attend a meeting to discuss a number of forms of body art including body suspension, subdermal and transdermal implants, scarification, anchors, and tongue splitting. With them already being aware that I was a scarification artist, I felt that showing clean photos where healed results could be seen and explained was a much better option than leaving it to whatever google might pull up for them. It was still intimidating though.

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With lines that clean who could be mad?

A Personal Story About Significance and Triangle Bromance

Polareyez was kind enough to submit this photo of their four day old solar brand.

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Now this photo hits home for me because back in 2008 when I was but a mere 17 years old, My best pal and I were featured on ModBlog by Shannon. Here’s the link to the original post. When you get done cracking up at my baby face, you’ll notice that we’re also branding triangles on each other. Believe it or not that was one of the more significant modifications in my life. The triangle symbolized my friend and I taking in another friend on a special night. The branding was highly ritualized and we took the photos specifically to share with BME. It was a really important bonding experience with one of my best friends that we’ll always remember. I actually remember the day I saw it on ModBlog thinking that it was the most significant day of my life, and that I belonged to this community.

I’m sharing this little story with you because while this is not the most intense, extreme, eye catching, or conventionally “beautiful” piece of scarification…you can never tell the weight that something so simple can carry. My little triangle changed my entire life, and you can’t even see it today. In life you never seem to know when your turning points will be, but the thing that I love about this community is that you always have a reminder of where you’ve been.

Industry Insider: Richard Effin Ivey

industry insider logoWelcome to Industry Insider! This is a new Modblog series that will feature brief interviews from some fantastic body modification professionals across the world. We get a peek at the state of the community and what it’s like to work in the best industry around!

This instillation will feature professional body piercer, scarification artist and part time beard enthusiast Richard Effin Ivey! Richard’s work has been featured on modblog a whole bunch of times.

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I know Richard from various professional piercing forums where he is usually the voice of unfiltered reason. Love him or hate him, you cant argue that he is becoming one of the more recognizable faces in the body modification community. Richard took the time to sit down and talk to me about the modification industry and community as a whole. We get the state of the community address straight from a man who is right at the heart of it.

Click through to read the interview!

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While You Carve Turkey We Carve…

Faces!

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Self done facial cutting by Clairet Christophe in Strasbourg France

Happy Thanksgiving to our United States readers!

Click through for another shot of Clairet’s facial scars and a look at his awesome tongue piercings!

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Slice N’ Dice

Thanks to our buddy wyrd for submitting this photo of his stomach cutting! Always nice to see the dedicated BME lifers out there!

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Scarification by Gábor Zagyvai in Budapest, Hungary

This also reminds me why I’ve always liked the look of slightly “weathered” looking black work tattoos after reading this old post. A little texture really makes things feel organic sometimes.

Say, would YOU like to be on Modblog? E-mail your photos/stories over to submissions@bme.com and you just might be featured next!

RIP: Josh Burdette

Today I awoke to the heartbreaking news that the body modification community has lost one of it’s most beloved members, my good friend, Josh Burdette.

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Josh was one of the very first people I met from the online body modification community. When I first moved to Maryland in 2000, I met him at a RAB munch held at a Brazilian BBQ joint. At first I was quite intimidated by him. How could I not have been? He was, hands down, the most modded person I had met in person at that time, not to mention he was absolutely enormous! Within the first hour in his presence all of that intimidation went away and I quickly found him to be one of the nicest human beings ever. Everyone of us there that night shared that sentiment about him and by the time we left that dinner everyone of us called him friend and not a one of us was intimidated by him…….except maybe the owners of the restaurant. The one stereotype he lived up to was the ability to TRULY get his money’s worth at an all you can eat meat buffet!

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My next memorable run in with him was at the University of Maryland where Josh, Bruce Wilmot and myself were participants in a Q&A with a group of students about body modification. Josh, stole the show and did an excellent job of representing our community in the best possible light. That wasn’t unusual for Josh at all, that’s just who he was. As the head of security at DC’s famous 9:30 night club every night he managed to make friends, even with the people he had to escort out of the club. Any non-modded person who ever had the privilege of getting to know him could not help but have their prejudices of modded people flipped upside down. For that, we all owe him a debt of gratitude.

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Josh’s body mods were not on him, they were him. Each and every mod of his had a story and each and every tattoo had a meaning. He was covered with dragon tattoos representing his Chinese zodiac, the year of the dragon. He had scarification by the late, great Keith Alexander and Ron Garza branded swastikas on his feet, representing the footsteps of the Buddha. Then of course there was his trademark stretched lobes which he pretty much always sported fine organic plugs in, his stretched septum and my personal favorite his perfectly lined up paired bridge piercings.

 

In the past few years I was lucky enough to become closer with him and that friendship and the insights he shared with me are something I will eternally hold dear. Please use the comments section below to share your thoughts and memories of this beloved character who some of us knew as OBMF, some as “That Guy from the 9:30 club” and a lucky few (thousand) of us simply knew as Josh.

And now for something different…

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Pretty much all of the posts I’ve been putting up lately have been on the morose side. Memorials, eulogies and the like. I decided to forget all of that for a moment and to just post a picture of a Modified lady who makes me really happy. I hope she makes you folks happy too.

This photo, by the talented Photographer Greg Easton at Pazuzu Studios features the lovely Jenna, with makeup by Skull and Glossbones, chest scarification  by Efix Roy and Christopher Walken tattoo  done by Sonya at Electric Ladylux Tattoos in Vancouver.

If you’d like your pinup goodness featured here on Modblog- send em on over via our Facebook portal!
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SPC: Maybe you’ll call me a fool… remembering Keith Alexander

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As I get older, nostalgia has become much more important to me. I didn’t get it as a kid; holidays with my parents and Uncles invariably led to annual recollections of since passed family and friends. By the time I was a teenager I could have told some of the stories verbatim; a collection of anecdotes about people who had passed away before I was born but who held a place in my Mother’s heart that was so special that stories were retold again and again for fear of losing them forever.

Eight years ago today Keith Alexander passed away. Out for a bicycle ride on the Shore Road Path in Brooklyn a child cyclist riding ahead of him swerved, causing Keith to swerve quickly to compensate, his front tire hitting a pothole in the path causing him to ride full-speed into the guard rail.. The accident cost him his life. In the years that have passed I’ve found myself telling stories about him; sometimes to mutual friends who’ve heard them a million times, sometimes to people who never had the pleasure of meeting him but who listen intently as I share the “this one time” stories of one of the most dynamic human beings I’ve ever known.

When Keith was around I was always aware that I had to try harder. Not to impress him really; he never made any bones about being proud of me when it was warranted, offering me advice when I asked and kicking me in the butt when I needed it. I’m infamously critical of modern body piercers because piercers like Keith spoiled me. So many practitioners in our community consider themselves Shamans but offer nothing more than the promise of a straight piercing or a sterile suspension. They talk about Rites of Passage, but they’re not self aware enough to realize that it’s not the modification that’s the Rite- it’s the paths we walk. Keith saw the bigger picture, realizing the incredibly personal role a modification practitioner can have in the lives of his clients.

When I posted a teaser of this article on my Facebook page the other day, a friend responded that she didn’t know who Keith was. So. Let me tell you about my friend Keith.
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