Piercing Studio Improvements

I think I mentioned that part of my goal with this education series is to get piercers to think about improving their game in ways they might not have thought of, so this time I want to address the question,

What item(s) do you have in your studio that many other studios may not have? And what are some inexpensive ways that a studio can be inexpensively improved?

Because of education funding cuts, teachers in Canada and the US (and I’m sure around the world) are often forced to buy classroom materials using their own money because the school doesn’t have or isn’t willing to spend the money. Sadly, it’s not uncommon for modern tattoo shops to be the same — because at most shops piercing makes a fraction of what the tattooing makes, it can be very difficult for a piercer to convince the shop owner to spend money on that aspect of the business, and they’re often left trying to find ways to improve it using their own time and money. This time around we’re talking to the folks in the picture below.

Above, L-R: Anders (iam:Alienboy, Anders the Piercing Guy, Brisbane Australia), Dustin Sharrow (iam:Aesthete, Mata Mata, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada), Leo Ziebel (iam:5point, 5pointstudios, Johnston, Iowa, USA), and John Lopez (iam:John Lopez, Slave to the Needle, Seattle, USA).


I have a low frequency laser pen, which is very helpful with small problems such as follicular cysts and small boils, and is also helpful to speed up healing in stubborn piercings [editor's note: this is called photobiomodulation].

All studios will be different and might need different things, and if the owner doesn’t want to invest in sterilization equipment, most equipment can be rented or leased for a small monthly cost. This means less initial cash outlay for top-quality equipment, and renting and leasing is usually fully tax-deductible.

Dustin Sharrow

At my old shop, where I worked for nearly four years, I had the owner install an air-conditioning vent in my room because it would get very hot in the summertime, and people would pass out. It actually helped. It’s not rocket science, but if you approach the procedure from the point of view of the client, you start to notice things you normally otherwise wouldn’t. For example, at the old shop, there were bright plastic fridge-magnet letters that spelled RELAX inside an overhead light that only the client could see. It was a surprise that everybody, nearly without exception, commented on. It was a great diversion.

In my new piercing room at the new shop, I am fortunate to have a huge wall of glass block that allows natural daylight in. Natural daylight is so much better than fluorescent lighting. I had a half-wall shelf built the entire length of that one wall (in front of the glass block window), and on it I’ve put several plants. Plants are proven to calm people down. Even if you don’t have natural daylight (windows) in your room, I think it would be acceptable to use fake plants! With this new shop, I’ve purposely stayed away from any chrome or polished steel or white walls, except in the sterilization areas. The result is more akin to a spa than a tattoo shop, and is much more inviting and less clinical than a dental office would be (the common association with ‘clean’ shops).

Leo Ziebel

For starters, you can sterilize your gloves. I have no problem with piercers who don’t but I choose to. Again, it’s all about reducing the chance factor for problems. I use presterilized Safeskin nitrile gloves but before I was able to buy those I would make glove packs and sterilize them myself in our autoclave (you do have an autoclave don’t you?). Ron Garza Wrote a good article for The Point that illustrates how you can make your own glove packs if you like. It’s from issue 33 and you can view it at The APP website.

Unfortanately, most things a piercer can do to step up their game can be costly. The situation I find a lot of piercers in is the shop where the owner either doesn’t care or doesn’t want to improve their standards of safe piercing. This can be a very frustruating situation that I have found myself in more than once in my career. Some people just don’t get it and frankly they don’t want to. All they think is “why in god’s name would I spend 8 dollars on something that I can get for 27 cents?” The best way I found to change this was to get my clients who cared to pay up front for nicer jewelry and make small orders to fill their requests. It was slow going and very tiring but over time people started asking for it. It’s really all about how you feel about it. If you are genuinely stoked about something, you’re clients will see that and they will want it too.

John Lopez

The most obvious things that can make drastic improvements are hands-free sinks and soap dispensers. For $135 (less for more units), Sky Renfro will send you a Step-Flow unit which turns ANY sink into a hands-free one. In the scheme of things, this single upgrade can prevent more disease transmission than any other. In conjunction with hands-free Technicare dispensers and other ideas Ill share in a moment, the possibility of spreading micro-organisms around the shop can be reduced even further. Of course this is assuming that hands are being washed correctly and at the appropriate times.

Another great improvement which really costs very little is creating barriers between hand sinks and work areas, and between work areas and contaminated areas. Having clearly defined areas is a key concept, but actual barriers makes things clear to customers as well as guest artists and counter staff.

Barriers can be created with any non-porous material. Above is the piercing set-up area at Slave to the Needle. This single barrier allows us to wash our hands without worrying about splashing potentially contaminated water onto our set-up area. Theres also a hands-free Technicare dispenser and a Step-flow unit to make the sink completely hands-free.

Another, even cheaper thing to consider is simply removing useless, dust gathering items from walls, shelves and counter areas. While nice artwork and other decorations can help provide atmosphere and make a shop interesting, theres really no excuse for clutter and dust-bunnies. Do you really need a hairy shrunken head over the piercing bed? Or forty-five action figures collecting dust on a shelf somewhere?

And no matter who you are or where you work, theres always room for improvement. Sometimes it costs a little money and sometimes it just takes a little energy.

This entry was posted in ModBlog and tagged , , , by Shannon Larratt. Bookmark the permalink.

About Shannon Larratt

Shannon Larratt is the founder of BME (1994) and its former editor and publisher. After a four year hiatus between 2008 and 2012, Shannon is back adding his commentary to ModBlog. It should be noted that any comments in these entries are the opinion of Shannon Larratt and may or may not be shared by BMEzine.com LLC or the other staff or members of BME. Entry text Copyright © Shannon Larratt. Reproduced under license by BMEzine.com LLC. Pictures may be copyright to their respective owners. You can also find Shannon at Zentastic or on Facebook.

25 thoughts on “Piercing Studio Improvements

  1. It seems like some of the possibilities are slightly at odds with each other. For instance, on the one hand you want to make the entire studio simple to clean, and keep it free from clutter, but on the other hand you want to create an atmosphere that is relaxing and inviting to the clientele. It would be interesting to see a studio that has managed to achieve both of these goals.

  2. I think it’s important to be logical about it. In work areas where tattooing or piercing is taking place, keep things simple. In waiting areas, art galleries, etc, go nuts with decorations…but routine cleaning is still important.

  3. the piercing set-up area at Slave to the Needle is so pretty! makes me wanna go and get something pierced:) right now! but too bad I can’t – I’m pretty far from USA:(

  4. these are the guys that i like to learn from. my piercing room is set up just like that!!!!

  5. Very interesting article. I’d love to run a piercing studio, the thought of all the cleanliness and sterility makes me happy…

  6. how about having some painting done on the walls so you can clean right over it and have no worries of having a hidden set of dust bunnies.

  7. Loving it all except some minor things:

    In my last BBP class I was given insight into the realization that we as piercers should not be sterilizing our own gloves, as it breaks down the material(nitrile/latex,etc).

    From what I recall all pre-sterilized gloves that we buy are sterilized via ETO Gas, I might be wrong, if anyone can correct this please do. But from what I remember ETO Gas sterilization of gloves is a much safer way or sterilizing the gloves.

    From there sometimes piercers will put on TWO pairs of gloves they’ve sterilized…The problem with that is the friction between the two gloves ALSO damages/breaks down the gloves.

    Based on that knowledge by steam sterilizing your gloves yourself and/or doubling up on gloves…You might as well be using your bare hands while doing procedures.

    David Vidra claims to have documentation proving this, as he apparently took a course specific to Gloves…I asked for documentation to prove this, but never received it. If anything its worth picking his brain on at APP?

    Although I will agree on the statement that using Sterile Gloves is IDEAL…But the main thing is properly educating piercers on how to use sterile gloves properly…To do a complete sterile procedure….Because for a complete sterile procedure its not just about sterile gloves to worry about its everything else as well.

    Just putting in my East Caribbean Cent lol

  8. to eliminate dust bunnies, we could always just make sure ALL individuals who work in the shop are 100% shaved from head to two. Thus eliminating the pubic hairs and other hairs floating around that collect with flaked off skin ;)

  9. The article is definately pushing the concept of a “high end” look which I think is the BEST way to relax individuals who are coming in.

    I LOVE how Dustin described his room set up, sounds niiiice…I like very much! :D

  10. JLo is *the* shit!! I floated around the industry for about a decade but never came across anyone so committed to advancing it until I met JLo. He did my heart daiths, and he set the bar so damn high, that even though I go to school out of town now and need more piercings, I couldn’t bring myself to get pierced anywhere else but at that shop. I have enormous trust and admiration for the folks that work at STTN, and…knowing what I know now that I learned from JLo about cleanliness and sterilization…everywhere else seems more than a little sketchy to me. I know I’m gushing, but yeah…JLo rules.
    I’ll be up there once I get my financial aid $$ (nothing like having uncle sam foot the bill for yr body mods!!)

  11. The thing I love most about Dustin @ Mata Mata’s room is that it’s nice and spacious too. Not the small ass crappy clausterphobic room most piercers seem to get left with. And floating shelves so you can see under them and the whole thing makes it seem clean and relaxing.

  12. Actually in relation to Valon’s statement, know what would be REALLY nice?

    Sunken in wall picture frames! Everything is SMOOTH and easy to clean…and in those frames Piercers can put in nice Portfolio shots,etc. Black and white, or even colour prints.

    I like the concept of a procedure room looking like its empty, yet full of visual stuff,etc…As its easier to clean plus gives everyone in the room…more…well…room

  13. Really loving this education series so far, Shannon – it’s just as enticing as the pretty ladies :)

  14. at the shop my boyfriend works at they just installed hands-free anti-bacterial hand sanatizer dispensers in hopes of encouraging customers who dont wash their hands after peeing to at least use the sanatizer.

    I dont know if that aspect has been improved but I know everyone who works at the shop gets a real kick out of the automated dispensers.

  15. props to lopez.. i always thought my old shop could do with handsfree setups but the wall between the sink and setup is genius.

  16. A couple of things I’d like to elaborate on:

    I didn’t mention cleanliness aspects because at this point in the game, I take that as a given. Surely we are to the point where we understand that handwashing is important, and that it must be done in a separate area from the workstation, no?

    I’ve concentrated on other things in my piercing room. As mentioned, there’s not a lot of ‘typically clinical’ things happening. For example, instead of having an all-stainless steel countertop (which is still nice), I had a sheet of glass cut, which I put over a floating stained-wood shelf. The floating shelves are important because there are no nooks and crannies behind any legs for dust to accumulate under. In my entire room, the only two things that are sitting on the ground at the end of the day are the bottom of the pedastal sink and the procedure chair. The floor gets swept and mopped without any worries that a spot might be missed or neglected. This, along with a bunch of other things, were designed in from the beginning.

    I have a lot to say about this subject, so if there are any questions…….

  17. Oh, and one more thing about the art on the walls – that’s what I’ve done. Painted a big (simple) mural on one wall. Not only would a frame be impractical (the mural is 6′ x 7′), but as mentioned, it doesn’t require any cleaning. Now I just have to erase all the pencil marks!

  18. apologies if i take away from the seriousness of the topic – but that 2nd piercer, that dustin guy….i’d do it…. ;)

    people that have professionalism and passion are HOT!

  19. i wish my doctors’ office (and the hospitals I practice at) were as clean as my piercer’s, frankly. I wish I had hands’ free in my house! (wouldn’t that be good for a kitchen?)

  20. having worked in kitchens – yes, hands free are the best!

    just picture someone touching the faucets with hands dripping with chicken juice or bleh, whatever else….than everyone else touches it to “wash” their hands! it’s mostly pointless unless you practise safe handwashing procedures. :/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>