No excuse for it

You know, given that for at least the last decade there’s been lots of easy to find information on suitable jewelry and the appropriate placement of that jewelry, it always surprises — and offends — me that it’s still a daily event to see poorly placed and generally irresponsible body art (such as the terrible nostril and industrial I recently posted). For example, why do I still see shallow navels like this all the time?


The only thing that could make it worse is this jewelry, which my friend Anders actually removed from a customer’s body! It was bought at a flea market in Australia…


And don’t get me started on tattoos. Every day I see tattoos — from long-surviving studios no less — where my first thought is that the average ten year old kid could probably draw something better. I don’t know if I’m more shocked that the artists are wholly unaware of their shortcomings, or that the clients are. I mean, it’s not like you can’t get tattoo magazines at every store, showing you what a tattoo is “supposed” to looked like… Can people really not tell the difference?

58 thoughts on “No excuse for it

  1. oh dear god!!!!!!!!!!
    are they TRYING to get an infection?!?!?!?!?!
    I will never understand stuff like this, what is so hard about finding a good piercer or tattoo artist and getting something beautiful!!!
    god…. i think i vomited a little

  2. You know, I was actually wondering when you would finally go off on bad tattoos and piercings due to the amount of submissions that are sent to bme on a daily basis..
    Its actually quite shocking sometimes to see the work that is submitted and approved for some of the magazines out there as well.
    Its quite sad sometimes how a shop can get a name and keep a name just because they were the only shop around for along time in a specific area. It really sucks to see that some people just dont care or care to do a little homework on the place they would be having work done at…
    This same thing irks me everyday when I see it at work

  3. Man that is disgusting and i completely agreed ESPICALLY about the tattoo portion of the article i live in a small town in nova scotia and also learning from an artist of 20 years but right now theres that i know of 4 or 5 people tattooing without learning from anyone and not knowing what theyre doing and their work is just HORRIBLE and people are proud of their tattoos they get from them it boggles the mind!! thank you for writing this shannon

  4. I had a piece of jewellery turn out like the one shown at the bottom, felt amazing to finally take it out.

    As for finding a skilled arist, I don’t know about every where else but around here the work in books isn’t of the highest quality. So it’s not like good examples are easy to find, bit sad really.

  5. Dan – There’s some stunningly bad work that I post to BME. It’s my hope that I don’t have to comment too much on it, and that by posting it alongside some exception work, it’ll be obvious to readers….

  6. There simply is no excuse. I lived in a country where tattoo studiod were not just non existent, possibly even illegal along with tattoo magazines, and yes, BME was blocked.

    Even in that country we managed to get some proper equippment, jewellery and the likes, but this is just… irresponisble and lacking all common sense.

  7. Shannon, I think it is pretty obvious… whoever doesn’t see it and uses it thinking “Oh wow, it was posted on BME, it must be great” is again, lacking common sense.

  8. I’ll admit, I’ve snarked on “bad tattoos” sites in the past. There really are a lot of, well, bad tattoos.

    Top reason a tattoo is bad, to me, is plain bad art – where the perspective is just WRONG or the lines are simply WRONG. Wrong in the sense of “if that leg is crossing there, with that linework, she’s transparent.” Clearly the artist wouldn’t be able to draw on paper either.

    Less bad are pieces with shaky uneven linework, but those are usually fixable. Though, some of the terrible art ones even manage to get saved for a happy ending.

    (There are also the “WTF??” content tattoos, but those I usually like, even if I wouldn’t get it in a million years.)

  9. ok,that last picture scares the hell out of me because i can’t imagine putting that/keeping that anywhere near, let alone in one of my piercings…it actually almost brought tears to my eyes.

  10. I honestly just can’t understand for the life of me why someone would think it would be okay to buy body jewlery from a flea market, I mean it doesn’t take a genious to realise it’s not a good idea. Also I can’t understand why anyone would one let someone pierce them seeing where they were marked and thinking hey my navel ring doesn’t even go through my navel perhaps this person doesn’t know what their doing. I work in a clothing store which also happens to sell body jewlery, and the people that come in there sometimes are just absolutely retarted when it comes to body mods. I’ve had so many girls come to me and ask why their nostril/navel/industrial is infected and when I ask where they got it done it always seems to be the same shop, which in my area is pretty well known, and all I have seen is infection after infection, it’s remarkable how this place is still open.

  11. I started piercing back in the early days. When I got my PA and ampallang, I had to go to New York to get them done at the newly opened Gauntlet shop there.

    I went on the learn to do all the erotic piercing correctly. I never had any desire to do appearance piercings, although I find a well done piercing to be very attractive. I quit doing any piercings except for a few close friends and family. I stayed away for about 8 years for a variety of reasons, but now I’m back.

    I saw a lot of bad work done then and I still do. I see poorly placed piercings, I see many, many done with too small gage jewelry, I see piercings which are not suited to the anatomy of the piercer. Why am I not surprised to see crap hardware used? I can’t glorify that junk by calling it jewelry.

    Troops, check out the piercer you want to use very carefully. Ask to see his work. Know how things should be done and know about proper sanitation. It is your body, treat it right.

    I now step off my soap box.

  12. I don’t know why people who pay 3 dollars for a piece of jewelry at a stand in the mall expect the jewelry to be HIGH quality.

    My friend bought a barbell that was labeled 14g, 7/8s from some stand in the mall. It actually turned out that it was 10g, 5/8s. Thats a big difference.

    Don’t people notice when the metal they are wearing is rusting on their bodies?

  13. #14 and #15: actually, the tan line is what I thought the post was going to be about before I started reading. Something like “make sure you flip large gauge jewellery over every couple of hours or so while sunbathing…”

  14. I am amazed that so many tattoo parlors here in wellington display photos that are obviously 15-20 years old and expect clients to think they are reliably skilled and that they are even their photos at all.

  15. As much as I’m shocked that piercings are still being done like this… I also don’t know how a client doesn’t notice a bad piercing like that. Navel piercings are ALL over. It’s not hard to find a picture or a person with a well done navel piercing. I don’t know how you wouldn’t know instantly that even the placement is off (even seeing the marking dots would tell you!) or even the fact that the ring is HUGE.

    The internet is great — lots of photos and lots of reviews/stories, I don’t get why more people don’t utilize this tool.

  16. You’re absolutely right shannon, there is no excuse for piercings like these, but in this day and age there is also no excuse for using jewellery imported in from thailand and other sub par sources. Especially when you work at or own possibly the most financially successful shop in the world. My question is shannon, why would you knock a piercing like this yet continually support people filling their clients with grossly sub par jewellery? True they aren’t comitting body piercing sins quite as tragic as this but the same message stands. In this day and age there is no excuse.

  17. The shitty_mods community on LiveJournal is full of this like this. Each one is like a trainwreck.

    On the subject of shitty tattoos, I was standing in line at the supermarket behind a woman with a butterfly and an eagle on her back. The butterfly looked semi-decent, but not great, while the eagle looked like an epileptic arm-less monkey had tattooed it with it’s nostril. It was simple black lineart, and I’ve never seen a more hideous and mutilated tattoo in my entire life.

  18. I had a lady come in months ago asking to get vendor information from a certain company i wont name. Being we didn’t carry that jewelry i didn’t have it to dispense to her. Apparently she bought some “gold” jewelry from another shop in town, who said it was real 14k gold. It wasn’t. It caused her body to have a reaction and she got a really bad infection that spread into her face and blood stream. Saddest part is she was preggers. I could have cried.

  19. it looks like the top photo could have been self-done. I tried piercing my navel when I was 17, i couldn’t get it all the way through and it ended up being very shallow. The piercing only lasted about 3 days, and when I turned 18 I got it re-pierced by a piercer who knew their shit.

  20. I know someone who tattoos from home who regularly directs clients to BME to see his work. They assume because its on there that he is good and to be perfectly honest he is beyond crap!! I had someone come into my shop and when they got a price decided to go to *&** because he said he would do it for £15 ,I tried to explain the dangers etc but he said ‘Oh no he is featured on BME so I know he is ok.’ So Shannon I do think while most people can see the difference there are a significant number out there who have no clue.

  21. Sherrie: Shallow? It wasn’t even anywhere NEAR where the navel actually is…I wouldn’t even consider this a navel piercing, even if thats what the wearer thinks it is.

    that “navel piercing” is atrocious, is it known if it was done by an actual piercer or was it self-done or by a friend who wanted to have a crack at it? Either way I can’t believe anyone involved would have thought, that mess, was a suitable piercing.

    as for that gnarly looking piece of jewelery we tend to see stuff up here in Darwin like that often, due to the weather,etc. Not long ago I removed the following out of a woman’s navel:

    I would attribute it to climate but also the fact that yeah it was probably asian cheapy stuff…But also the main WildCat ( not even going to touch on my views of WildCat’s jewelry quality here) distributor here in Australia also obtains and sells jewelry that is purchased over in Asia…and the company just sends you the products in bulk in baggies and doesn’t say if its WildCat or the Asian stock they are sending you.

    The best too, is there are TONS of travelling sales people in this country that take a trip to Asia/Indonesia/Malaysia,etc. They purchase HUGE quantities of jewelry from those locations and then return to try and flood the market with poor quality jewelry.

  22. also anyone else notice the sweet ring shape normal skin tone compared to the other skin tone of the rest of her body? Looks like the wearer has had it long enough to go sun tanning or something lol

  23. i dont think the bad tattoo thing can be separated into 2 categories. bad artwork and bad linework. its always both. ive never had to cover up a well lined piece whose artwork is bad or a badly lined piece whose design is amazing. its always a combination from the ones i see day in day out.

    at the end of the day i see most of the fault within the customer. its is up to THEM and only them to check out the portfolios and the reputation.
    otherwise you are being lazy. there is nothing to say whos a good studio and who isnt apart from the work shown in the books. do your homework and then i really dont see how youll end up with a bad tattoo or a bad piercing.

    and if enough ppl get out there and get informed, the bad studios will struggle to go on and mayb even shut down?

    information information information!

    the main excuse customers give me when i ask why did you get a bad tattoo? its usually that ‘i didnt know any better’

    and as shannon said, in this day an age there is no excuse to not know better

  24. tattoomaker: Ask yourself this though, how many customers do you know/have tattooed, that do the research,etc?

    Heck most of my customers over the years don’t know about any sites for information,etc (like BMEZINE,etc)….For every well informed client there’s about 5 not informed.

    The problem is that there IS so many poorly trained tattooists out there damaging peoples skin. You can’t blame the clients for not being informed, they are EXPECTING top quality service (although top quality via the clients perspective is often skewed).

    When it comes to tattoos I often say this quote as a norm, especially with virgin skinned people interested in getting tattooed:

    “You spend 5 seconds deciding what to get for your first tattoo. Then you spend 5 years deciding what to get for your second one.”

    Because most people DO jump in blindly and then after they’re butchered or get they get a simple tiny piece, they want to put more thought into it then what they previously did.

    But putting the blame simply on the clients for not knowing better, isn’t a proper thing to do…Putting it also on these butchers who fuck people up on a daily basis with the shaky line work, poor blending, poor color theory, scarring/blow-outs,etc tattoos is where the blame should really be at…Because at the end of the day a poor tattoo is a poor tattoo, and these “tattooists” should be able to recognize quality from shit themselves….and if they can’t get better and are constantly producing shit, they need to find a new line of work.

  25. I know this is all very serious, but that first picture totally cracked me up. I just picture that girl looking all sexy showing off her new piercing haha, oh man… I mean, does she think it was done right? Its just so silly.

  26. Id love to think that the majority of people put thought into their tattoo, but sadly I find this isnt the case. Ive lost count of the people who come in saying,’How much are your tattoos’ ( long explanation on prices etc ) ‘Oh right ok what can I have for £30′ (or whatever they have in their pocket) And honestly I spend the majority of my day turning people away to hopefully think a bit more.Though I do tend to see them around at some point with their tiny crappy £30 tribal or similar . Maybe the area Im in is just behind the times as Im so tired of eveyone wanting the same flashwork, I know it pays the bills and unfortanatly Im not in the position to only do custom work as bills need paid,but I LOVE it when someone comes in with ideas scribbled on bits of paper or whatever and who is prepared to listen,rather than the ‘but my friend has this so why cant I’ mentality.Ok rant over,lol.

  27. Warren said ‘Because at the end of the day a poor tattoo is a poor tattoo, and these “tattooists” should be able to recognize quality from shit themselves….and if they can’t get better and are constantly producing shit, they need to find a new line of work.’

    But they wont, they honestly think there work is ok and why shouldnt they as they have clients coming back again and again. I despair I really do.

  28. i agree with mexie. 90% of these bad tattooers like the money too much and wont it up for anything even if they actually realise they are shoddy and unclean. the only way to stop them is not to give them a case of guilt but to take their business away and the only way is if the customer knows better.

    this is a long hard process but i always make sure that i have a proper chat while im covering the work on the customer im tattooing. talking about why it was a bad choice to begin with and how it can be rectified and how to make sure it doesnt happen again.
    this is more of a cure than a preventative measure but i really do believe that people need to wake up and realize a tattoo shop is not like a high st shop in so many ways.

    we live more and more everyday in a society that dumbs everythign down so much that the shop that shouts the loudest will never be short of clients. and those shops tend to be the ones that spend more money on advertising than in being good and clean.

  29. Dirk – Everything you’ve linked to there is a 100% healable piercing. There’s a major difference between an unusual/extreme piercing (which is what you’ve linked), and a badly done piercing or terrible jewelry (which is what’s in this entry).

  30. Shannon, Ive always had a feeling thats what was going on, but it just must be overwhelming on some occasions.
    Thats all I try and do when customers come into the shop complaining about other local artists, Kill em with a bit of kindness show em what they have compared to what they could have…

  31. …100%? Those are some pretty good odds! And here I am talking people OUT of that kind of jewelry for those kind of piercings! Think of the money I could be making!

    I guess the documentation and experience myself and other piercers have been researching all these years on acceptable body jewelry was for naught!

  32. I’m not saying that anti-eyebrows and achilles piercings heal perfectly 100% of the time, I’m saying that those are piercings that are absolutely capable of healing — they’re not unviable. I consider a piercing, for example, with the jewelry pictured in this entry fundamentally non-viable.

    I don’t think it’s fair to compare an unusual piercing with a poorly done piercing. Apples and Oranges.

  33. Just keep educating us and letting us laugh at the epic failures and stupidity of others and everything is OOOOKAY.

  34. I can’t help but kind of agree with Lexci though on this subject.

    Because we can also even say that that above navel bcr problem piercing, if it wasn’t looking so badly…It would be boasted as a testament for the human bodies ability to heal even the craziest of locations.

    I’ve already stated my personal opinions on the three pictures Lexci posted…

    We as piercers cannot go with the “Potentially Viable” we have to strive daily to make sure what we do “Is Viable”…Hence the creation of surface bars, straight & curved barbells, labret studs,etc.

    gotta look at the law of averages,etc.

  35. Warren – Again, apples and oranges.

    Something failing because it’s difficult is very different than something failing because it was done incompetently. For example, an expert athlete getting killed ski jumping is completely different from some dumbass getting killed because he gets drunk and jumps out of a third story window.

    Lumping the two as the same thing is completely ridiculous. One is a personal decision of risk management. The other one is dumbassery. The fact that I happen to have a high tolerance for risk, but do those risky activities carefully, is completely different than someone who puts themselves at risk because they do something that should be low risk poorly.

  36. wow… that “bigdogz” place should win an award for crap-ness! i guess they have no idea that an eyebrow piercing can be done with a CURVED barbell… and all the tattoos look like they have been done during an earthquake!


  38. (Bigdogz)Ummm you would think if you’re going to put up pictures of your work they would one, be in focus, two, be atleast bigger then a thumbnail, but then again that has to be some of the worst work I have ever seen in my life…

  39. (bigdogz) the tattoos look like the lines were drawn with a fine point pen and colored in with crayons…

    you would think this person would see other belly piercings and think “why isn’t mine going through my belly button too”….
    Or perhaps her navel ran away from the piercing. It was scared too.

  40. Bad piercings and bad tattoos don’t surprise me at all. There are a lot of people in the world who are stupid or ignorant, or who don’t give a damn about proper jewelry or procedures. As long as they’re around, there will be piercers and tattoo “artists” to provide them services. ‘Twas ever thus.

  41. Shannon: True but are you seriously stating that the people who do these risky procedures are highly skilled expert piercers that have reached some zen/jedi level of body piercing that they’re able to do things that go against say the past 10-15 years (even 20 years or more) of knowledge that the piercing professional(s) of obtained?

    I’m not saying that these things CAN’T be healed, as we all know there’s certainly people out there who can heal almost anything. But when you start factoring in the law of averages and percentages of people who piercers could attempt this stuff on and fail…Can anyone really chalk it up to “experimenting” as the experiments were already done LONG LONG ago and proven not to work…So why attempt something others have failed before and can prove WHY they failed? The scientific merit of experimentation just goes completely out the window…It’d be like trying to prove that the world is flat, after its been proven that its a sphere.

    Fact is we all know plenty of poorly qualified/trained “piercers” doing these kind of things for the cool factor, for the money factor, “because that’s what the client wanted” factor….and the reality is that they care nothing about this art-form they’re just in it so they can live the lifestyle and earn a wage doing so,etc.

    Not saying ALL piercers who attempt this stuff is that way, but the majority are…Call it the joy of networking with more piercers daily then I interact/network with non-piercers. And I’m sure you can agree Shannon, some piercers views and ethics are quite skewed heck this entry wouldn’t exist if you didn’t acknowledge artists ethics,etc.

    I’m not saying for piercers to not be risky, push the envelop or anything, quite the opposite really…But what they need to do is research and reflect on the past (I ain’t just talking about finding photos in Savage Magazine,etc either) and realize that if it failed 10 years ago, chances are the human body isn’t going to have drastically changed enough to make that failed attempt succeed in a current day and age.

  42. Warren – I remember in the mid 90s, PFIQ and the APP claimed that hand webs were dangerous because you could “strike the small bones in the hand”. They also claimed that nape piercings were going to paralyze people.

    Establishment consensus is really not particularly convincing.

    I’ve seen a lot more failed navels, percentage-wise, than I have seen failed achilles piercings. The majority of navels and eyebrows eventually fail. Almost all surface piercings eventually fail. Etc.

  43. That “navel” piercing looks absolutely horrible!!! It looks like it is rejecting, and too shallow. Wrong type of jewelry too. I’m proud to say that my inverse navel will be 30 years old in Nov. of 2008. I got it from Gauntlet in L.A. I have a friend whose jewelry oxidized like the second pic. She had a bad case of septicemia from it. Another comment about the so-called navel- don’t sunbathe with a new piercing.

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