At the age of thirty, Anders, a furniture maker and Swedish immigrant to Australia, saw an ad for navel piercing and decided it would be the perfect way to celebrate his birthday. A friendship was struck up with the piercer, and not long afterward he had left his previous career and started a piercing apprenticeship. He’s never looked back, and is now known as “Anders, The Piercing Guy”. Now, nearly 46, you can find him in Marsden, Australia at Dragon Lair Tattoo, and online at PhatPiercings.com and as iam:Alienboy.
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BME: How and when did you get into piercing?
If I count the gun piercing I had when I was ten years old, it’s thirty-five years ago. Growing up in the late seventies, when the punk era brought us the Sex Pistols, we did a lot of self-piercing. There was nothing else back then, not in Sweden anyway, and being fifteen or sixteen years old at the time that was all we could do. After I moved to Australia, I rediscovered piercing in the early nineties. I was turning thirty, and I saw an ad for “The Piercing Urge” in Melbourne — they were having a special, so I headed right down and got my navel pierced. It was short-lived, but soon replaced with a 10ga nipple piercing and a 14ga helix, I never looked back!
BME: How old are you now? What’s it like being an older guy in a “youth industry” — is it a good thing or a bad thing?
I’m turning forty-six this year — “forty is the new twenty” as they say, hahaha! It depends on the person I guess whether it’s a good thing or not — I feel pretty content with being older in this “youth industry”. I have done my “young” things — traveling, partying, and all that — and have nothing to prove to someone else. Young or old, I think people should just strive to be the best they can be.
BME: Are you still getting piercings yourself?
I’m still getting some piercings done — over the years I have had a fair few different modifications. I feel happy with what I have at the moment, and I’m mainly stretching my lobes up to 40mm right now, as well as currently having my legs tattooed… I guess I have settled down. Right now I have a 6g septum, 1 1/4” lobes, my labret is cut and stretched up to 7/16”, and my conch is stretched from 14ga to 0ga, and I have a 2ga PA, a split tongue, and 5/16” genital beads.
BME: How did you end up piercing professionally?
I’m sure we all have our reasons to be what we are. After getting pierced and tattooed (which followed very shortly after getting pierced), I started to collect magazines and books about modification and became fascinated with stretched lobes and the “modern primitive”. I had just moved to Maroochydore in 1996 and started to stretch one of my lobes. I went into “Puncture Body Piercing” to get some jewelry, where I met Karl Schmidt, the owner of the shop, and we got along really well. I started my apprenticeship there and slowly started to pierce under the supervision of Karl. For me it was “the right place at the right time” scenario and I knew then that this was what I was supposed to do.
Since then I’ve improved through lots of study, anatomy books, research online, and talking to other practitioners in the industry. I also modify some of my tools to suit me better. And of course just doing piercings constantly — about two thousand a year — gives me an opportunity to keep my skills up-to-date. I also have first aid certification and two sterilization certificates through TAFE (“Technical and Further Education”) — both courses include bloodborne pathogens.
BME: What did you do before you started piercing?
I’m a furniture maker by trade — I was making fine furniture in Sweden before I moved to Australia. When I first arrived in the land of Oz I was doing some factory work due to language barriers. I moved on to become a production manager for a kitchen manufacturing company and I also owned and operated an award winning backpackers’ lodge before I became a piercer.
BME: What do your family think about your job?
I actually met my wife (iam:giftefeu) on BME in 2005 — we now have a beautiful daughter called Magdalena, born in April 2007. Our combined Swedish and Austrian families are both very supportive of my choice of work. I sent my mum a photo of me, pretty heavily modded, and she said, “you look great I think!” Haha, I love them!
BME: Is there an Australian equivalent to the APP?
There has been talk of an Australian professional organization — the APA. A website has been set up (www.auspiercinginfo.com), and the site has some information, but there have been some snags along the way. As far as I know no more steps have been taken to continue with setting APA up.
BME: Do you see piercing as an art form or a craft?
I see piercing and modification as a craft you learn and become good at, but when it’s executed properly with well-placed piercings and jewelry, it can be an expression of art.
BME: Is piercing “interesting”? I mean, do you think they could make a reality TV show about it, haha?
I think piercing is interesting. Interesting enough for a TV show though? I’m not so sure, and there are so many legislative limitations that I think a lot of the more interesting stuff wouldn’t be shown on TV.
To give you an example of a story I’d put on the show, I had a lady in her mid-fifties come in wanting a vertical hood piercing — it was from recommendations from her GP to help her menopause! She was a very happy lady afterwards. She came in and thanked me after a few weeks and said it had done wonders for her sex life.
There have been so many women that have come in to have their navel or nipples pierced because their husband left them and they were never allowed to have it before. I had another lady who lost a staggering three hundred pounds… She still had a hundred pounds to go but she wanted a navel piercing to mark her three hundred. I explained that the way her navel and excess skin around the area was would make it uncomfortable, but after talking through it, we did the piercing and she was very happy. She lost the rest of the weight, but sadly she also lost her piercing — but she explained that it helped her to push on, which is awesome!
There are so many people that have piercings to mark an end or a beginning of an era, like myself, turning thirty and having my navel done.
Happy piercings (and a pocketing) by Anders
BME: What are your favorite piercings to do?
That’s a hard question. I really like doing all piercings and modifications, but to mention some, I like doing ear projects like industrial/scaffolds and more intricate ear work like the daith and the rook. They are fiddly piercings to do and it’s a great feeling when they are placed correctly in the ear — I think they look really beautiful. I also like doing surface piercings with surface bars — a nape or a sternum as an example. It gives me great satisfaction to see a well done surface piercing. Really, I get a lot of enjoyment from all the different modifications I do.
BME: Still, you must have a least favorite?
Hmm, maybe the navel, but only because I have done thousands upon thousands of navel piercings and it has become somewhat boring and old-hat. I still do them with full attention, and every person is different and so is every navel, so I still enjoy it.
BME: Which piercings do you find the most challenging?
All piercings have their own challenges, but paired piercings like venoms, snakebites, fangs, and so on could have a higher level of challenge to make sure they are even and level. “Extreme” modifications like tongue splits, transscrotals, and beading are always a challenge.
BME: Which procedure do you use for transscrotals?
After all preparations are done and placement has been chosen and marked, I would use two large artery clamps to hold the testicles in place. Then the scrotum is clamped and the incision is made. I will separate the muscle and membrane from the skin and then suture the skin front to back. After the stitching is done I will insert the custom-made jewelry, every person is different so it may vary from person to person.
BME: Would you recommend piercing as a career?
Definitely, the world needs good piercers! It’s an excellent and rewarding career if you have the right attitude towards it.
My advice to would-be piercers would be to do your research so you know what the industry is all about, be the best you can and aim high. It might take some time to reach your goal, but don’t give up — there is always an end of the tunnel. There are no shortcuts, and while there are courses which could help you with an introduction into the industry, they are just an introduction. Seek out the best shop in your area and ask if they are willing to put you on as an apprentice. Don’t get upset if you get rejected the first couple of times — it will most likely happen. Be persistent and show that you are serious and keen: if you do, you will be piercing in no time.
BME: Have you ever apprenticed anyone?
I retrained a girl — she already had a year of experience put needed a push in the right direction. I’m not sure if I could call it an apprenticeship, if and when the time is right I will apprentice someone. I will look for dedication and commitment in a person — willingness to learn is important, and some basic knowledge would be a bonus but not a necessity as the knowledge will come as we go along. Depending on the person an apprenticeship would be around two years.
BME: You say it’s a good career — do you think this is something you can do for a living, long term? I get the impression that some piercers seem to “burn out” after a decade.
I’m definitely in it for the long run. It’s been more than a decade now, I’m still excited about piercing and modification, and I am making a living from it, but of course as any occupation, it can have it’s ups and downs.
It can be a stressful job if you don’t look after yourself. A lot of people work during the day and then going out partying all night and then back again the next day — that would burn you out pretty fast. To make it worse, in many cases piercing is a low paying job and some piercers have two jobs to be able to support themselves to do what they love.
BME: What keeps you coming back to work?
Knowing that I will make someone’s day by giving them the modification they always wanted makes me want to come back day after day.
BME: If you leave piercing, what do you think you’ll do?
A little motel at the seaside would be awesome! As I said, I used to be involved in tourism a lot before I got into this industry, so yeah, a motel on the coast… I would have mod-themed rooms so you can fulfill your fantasies, hahaha…
BME: Piercers seem to meet a lot “weirder” clients than tattoo artists… have you got any?
I did have this guy come in and ask for some “piercings”… he was kind of bending forward slightly, and had a strange look on his face. He was constantly looking over his shoulder to see if someone was following him. When we got in to the room he said he wanted a PA, and then mentioned that he wasn’t circumcised. I said that would be ok as long as the foreskin was “loose” enough, and he said he wasn’t sure so he took his pants of and jumped up on the chair. I was all gloved up, so I had a look — I pulled back the skin and it was very tight and his cock head was covered in white cheese! Did I mention he got an erection as soon as I pulled the skin back? Then he asked me if I could shave him, haha! I said, “sure, that will be 200 dollars,” and he ran out of the shop. I never saw him again.
Would I have done it if he’d said ok? Hell no!!!
BME: What’s the youngest person you’ve ever pierced, and what’s your personal feeling on age issues?
I always judge a piercing on younger people on their body development and make sure the area that’s going to be pierced is developed enough to hold the piercing. The youngest person I’ve done a navel on was twelve years old. She came in with her parents and we discussed the options and risks — I had already turned her down twice due to an under-developed navel a year earlier. It’s always going to be an argument — I know shops that pierce navels and other basic piercings on seven year olds. Personally, I think that’s wrong — kids need to be kids and not focus on the trauma of healing body piercings. In the shop were I work at the moment, we have a policy of eighteen and older for genital piercing as well as nipples, scarification, implants, and tattoos. You can have the most basic piercings if you are over 16 and have ID. If you are under sixteen you need parental consent and it will be based on your body development.
BME: That’s crazy that there’s a shop that’ll pierce seven year old navels!!! Is there any legal regulation of piercing in your area?
It’s totally insane! It makes me sad that some piercers and shops have no morals or ethics. Here in Brisbane and in the state of Queensland, you have to be at least eighteen to have nipple piercings and genital piercings (the same goes for tattoos). There is no law against other types of body piercing, and if you are under 18 you must be “capable of forming a sound and reasoned decision to agree to being pierced.”
BME: Conversely, what’s the oldest person you’ve ever pierced?
I had a couple that wanted some piercings done — as far as I can remember, he was 65 and a she was 68. He had a PA and some frenums done and his wife had her vertical hood pierced. I have a fair bit of clients around the sixty mark.
BME: How has piercing changed in the time you’ve been working?
There is more awareness about piercing, and many retailers now expect that their workers will have modifications. Looking around on the train ride home there are more people pierced — many who would have never dreamed about having any piercings five years ago. It’s certainly more accepted these days.
BME: Do you have a line as to things you won’t do? So-called “extreme” stuff like vertical oral piercings, under-the-collarbone, achilles piercings, eyelids, uvulas, and so on?
I will always sit down with clients that want these and discuss the risks that may be involved with the procedure. It may sound like discrimination but I’m not going to do a piercing just because someone saw a picture and thought it looked cool.
BME: I know you’ve had a lot of piercings, but how do you feel about doing piercings that you’ve never had — or done?
I have been doing this for some time now and I feel that I have a sound knowledge about piercing and modifications. I will do my research before I do a new mod to find out about the pros and cons so I can advise the person about aftercare and what to expect from the piercing. I always tell the client that I haven’t done this particular mod before, and ask them to come back once a week — more if needed — for check-ups. Of course if I feel that I’m not up to it I will decline and send them to someone that can do the modification for them.
BME: Do you do other modifications as well as piercing?
I also do genital beading and have done some subdermal implant work. There are a lot of inquires about it, so I expect to do more in the future. I have also been doing scarification since 2003 and my portfolio is growing slowly but steady. The focus for me at the moment is to increase my scarification work.
Scarification, fresh and healed, by Anders
BME: How did you get into doing scarification?
In 2002, I started to look at photos of it and I was extremely fascinated with cutting and the process involved. I was looking at artists like Blair, Lukas, and others in that era. I did my first piece in 2003 — a pentagram on a friend’s stomach and it’s been a fairly steady progression since then.
BME: Were you apprenticed?
I am pretty much self-taught. Plenty of practice on good friends laid the groundwork for how I cut today, along with seeing other artists’ portfolios and the way they do their work. Forums like Shawn Porter‘s “Scarification Learning” forum have been an excellent source of information. It is also important to keep cutting on regular basis to stay up to speed with your technique and that can sometimes be difficult with customers wanting scarification being few and far between.
BME: Do you only do cutting?
I do single line cutting and skin removal, either as separate pieces or a mix of both.
BME: Which do you prefer?
I like both. In saying that, I seem to do more skin removal pieces lately. I like simplicity in scarification — symbols and simple tribal work — but I also like intricate art pieces. I pretty much like all scarification work, as every piece is a different work of art to me.
BME: Did your art experience as a furniture maker help?
In that career I drew furniture and cut veneers in different perspectives. I can’t say I’m the best freehand artist, so I do a lot of my design work by computer. With more intricate pieces I will trace the picture onto tracing paper and make changes manually from there. Lots of people bring their own artwork in which I modify slightly to suit, and some friends of mine are tattoo artists and they also customize some pieces for me.
BME: Why do you think that most scarification artists come from a base of piercing, rather than tattooing?
Piercing is a more obvious process of breaking the skin, unlike tattooing. Lots of piercers also scalpel procedures, particularly on larger gauges, so the use of a scalpel to make incisions in the skin is natural for piercers.
BME: Is it the same clientele for scarification as piercers?
Most of my scarification clientele are customers that I’ve previously pierced or otherwise modified in some way. Scarification seems to be more popular amongst women as opposed to men, but there is no distinct difference. More people are becoming aware of scarification, so there are a lot more inquiries about it now, compared to a couple of years ago. I do have some clientele with no other visible modifications, but wanted a scar due to the subtleness of it, rather than a tattoo. I think there is a great future for scarification as many people are looking for an alternative to tattooing, or even want to combine a tattoo with a scarification piece.
BME: What are the laws in your area about scarification?
There is no current law that specifically mentions scarification by itself, but in Queensland we have “the personal appearance act” which covers body piercing, implants, scars, tattoos, and other “skin penetrating” services “in which the release of blood or other bodily fluid is an expected result”. The law restricts it to eighteen and older which personally I think is fine, due to the permanent nature of the modification.
BME: What are your feelings about laws regarding body modification?
I think that everyone should have the right to do whatever they want to their body, but unfortunately we live in a time with legislations and lawsuits, so to protect ourselves we have to follow the laws in place.
BME: With that, thank you for talking to us!