Ear Pointing By Implant

Now I may have just been slacking on my ear pointing updates, but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen ear pointing done this way before (feel free to post in the comments if you have and I’ll update!).
earpointI have never personally performed ear pointing but this looks like its much less invasive (albeit a bit less extreme looking) than conventional means. I don’t have much background on this photo, if anyone can shed a little light in the comments by all means do so!

Mechanical Demon

Arseniy Andersson‘s submissions to BME are never dull, that’s for sure!  He did the ear pointing and tongue splitting in the photo below.  The transdermals were done by Lari Lahti and Samppa Von Cyborg, the eyeballs by xRonix.

Ear pointing and tongue split done by Arseniy Andersson Transdermals by Lari Lahti and Samppa Von Cyborg. Eyeballs by xRonix

Ear pointing and tongue split by Arseniy Andersson
Transdermals by Lari Lahti and Samppa Von Cyborg.
Eyeballs by xRonix

Refining the ear pointing procedure

I’ve already talked a bit about new procedures that artists are developing to create both new stylistic options in ear pointing while also achieving more “realistic” or “natural” looking results. The latest procedure to be added to this world of fascinating options is one by Brian Decker. I asked him to describe it, and he explained,

“What I do is bisect each upper and lower section to eliminate the rebounding of the cartilage. Fold each section flat down and connect to the outer conch area. This is done with permanent internal sutures. The outer openings are then closed superficially with no tension. Because she’s from out of town, I used all dissolving sutures for the outer closing.”

Pictured below is the first set he’s done using this procedure, so he says there are adjustments he’ll make on the next one from what he’s learned by watching this one heal. In this group of pictures you can see the ear pointing right after it was done, then at about two and a half weeks in the middle picture, and finally at six weeks in the right picture. At six weeks it’s still healing to some extent, so expect the swelling to continue to reduce.

new ear pointing by brian

I should also mention that Brian is currently touring, and will be in Des Moines, Iowa from March 5th through the 11th, and then in Columbus, Ohio in mid-April, as well as London, UK in early May (including at the First International Scarification Convention), and then in Las Vegas in mid June. Get in touch with him via his website at purebodyarts.com.

Update on Grace Neutral’s Facial Scars

Speaking of Grace Neutral (I just posted a great set of breast/nipple tattoos she did), I also wanted to update everyone on the amazing skin peel that Howie (lunacobra.net) did on her a while back. It’s healed now, and remains one of my all-time favorite facial scars, not just because of how technically well executed it is, but the unique design. It came about naturally over a few days of Grace and Howie talking about it, followed by drawing it up one night at the shop, tweaking it into perfection. With the ideal design on her face in marker, this is what they created. Her ear points are also Howie’s work by the way.


Ear Pointing via Genetic Engineering?

Recently I got into an interesting conversation with my friend Joseph about what unique mods could be done in his ear — that’s it on the left in the photo — since it has a slightly atypical shape, almost like a pointed ear. But what really blew my mind was when he showed me a picture of his brother’s ear (that’s it on the right), which has a similar but more pronounced atypical shape. Their younger brother apparently has a similar ear as well. The even stranger part of the story is that it only affects their left ears! So what do you think? Is there a gene that we could select for that would let people be born with pointed ears? Or do you agree with my sneaking suspicion that Joseph’s parents are mad scientists that have been doing experiments on their boys? It would explain their 400 IQ and ability to bench press a car. Either way, it’s pretty cool being born with naturally “modified” ears — how funny is it that they could probably show up at a tattoo convention and get people coming up and saying, “I love your ears? Who did the work?”


But seriously, I often think that genetic engineering is the future of human modification, once we get over our ethical hangups. It’ll never replace body modification of course because it completely removes the individual expression from the equation (since your genes are dictated by those who create you), but when it comes to really transforming ourselves, there’s not much that compares to genetic manipulation. Hell, it turned us from ape-like primates — from some sort of fish — from single-celled nothings — into the pinnacle of planetary dominance and destruction we are now. Don’t believe me? Ask Khan Noonien Singh! Bring on the Eugenics Wars! Create the Augments!


Ear Ridge Implants

An alternative to the various ear pointing procedures that can give a person an entirely different sort of anatomical self-expression is using an implant to augment the outer helix ridge/fold of the ear. In this example, Pablo Perelmuter (pabloperelmuter.com) of Buenos Aires, has placed a what looks like a set of four beads but is actually a single 6mm silicone bead string manufactured by Steve Haworth — using a single piece like this ensures there will be no shifting and the placement will stay perfectly spaced (and they’re quite soft and don’t tend to bother the wearer even in such sensitive placements). Pablo says that the procedure went well, although it became quite swollen initially. These healed pictures were taken at eight months.

Edit/Update: I should add that this implant ended up being removed two years later, because the person it’s on was in nursing school and had some concerns it could affect their career options negatively. The removal procedure was fast and simple. I really hope that people considering body modification procedure always have an “exit strategy”, because it’s quite common for life to change and for one to find oneself needing to “normalize” ones appearance — this is one of the reasons I worry so much when I see teenagers getting irreversible and socially daring procedures like eye tattoos.

Second Generation Ear Pointing

At the start of October I posted about an ear pointing that Samppa Von Cyborg (voncyb.org) had done and included some fresh photos. I’m thrilled today to be able the healed result today, and it’s truly incredible. It’s not just an ear that’s been folded into a point at the top. It’s an ear that’s been completely rebuilt to give the illusion of having grown naturally into this form.

You may recall the ear pointing trainwreck posted about a month ago. It’s important to understand that the more complicated the procedure gets, the higher the risk of failure, both in terms of full-on failure, and aesthetic mistakes. This is very much the case with advanced ear pointing like this. I’ve been sitting on these pictures for a while, because I don’t have explicit permission to post them, so I’m cropping them more than I want to in order to hide the person’s identity (and really pointing fingers is not my goal), but they show an attempt to do this procedure leaving a customer with an ear that to me looks like the sort of thing a caveman might have after battling a sabretooth tiger. It’s definitely not as gnarly as some procedures-gone-wrong, but it falls far short of what a person should expect — for starters, in addition to the technical aspects of the procedure looking amateur, the aesthetics and angles are nonsensical, and the two ears don’t come close to matching.

I really want to urge clients to only go to people for work that they can show you multiple healed examples of in their portfolio. And practitioners, there is absolutely no excuse in today’s world for blindly copying procedures you’ve seen more experienced artists post online. Training is available. Take advantage of it. Take it slow. It’s better to be responsible practitioner than to be something akin to a jackass in a comment forum yelling “first”. You don’t want the weight of needlessly messing people up on your conscience. Just remember you’re playing with people’s lives. Do it for them, not for your ego.

Pointing versus Shaping

I wanted to highlight and contrast two very different procedure styles of getting “elf ears” from two talented artists. In the ear on the left, done by Brian Decker (purebodyarts.com) you’ll see a traditional ear pointing procedure pushed to it’s max, giving quite a radical point — very long and pronounced. The end result is quite alien and very striking — if you want to see a well-healed result, look at Tye’s ears which are featured in the last Modified World video I posted. The other ear was done by Samppa Von Cyborg (voncyb.org) — you saw the customer’s other ear last week — and involves a complete top to bottom reshape of the ear. The lobe is removed, the contour is reshaped, and a more subtle point is formed. This also results in a slightly smaller ear because of the tissue removed — I’ve tried to put the two ears roughly to scale.

I don’t have particularly strong feelings as to which one of these ear styles I prefer — I like each for different reasons. The one produces a far more extreme appearance, and the other is more “natural” looking for lack of a better term… I think there’s space for each of them and I don’t one procedure replacing the other — it simply broadens the palette available. After the break you can see a larger photo of the ear by Samppa as well as both of the ears of Brian’s customer.

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Ear pointing FAIL trainwreck

My friend Arseniy from Total Ink in Saint Petersburg is doing a presentation about ear pointing so we were talking about the history of it and he asked me if I knew of any “fails”. I told him that I’d seen some points that had opened up, but I couldn’t think of anything too terrible. He was like, “you need to go look at my ‘home bod mod’ gallery.” He told me that this had been featured on ModBlog about a year ago, but I couldn’t find it in my searches, so I’ve decided to write about it again even though I’m sure many of you will have seen it before — this kind of warning can never be posted too often.


Yikes. Yikes. Yikes.

What you’re seeing in these photos is the ear of a person who decided to have their, friend an amateur body modifier, do their ear pointing because they didn’t want to spend the money to have it done by someone qualified in a studio — after all, getting an ear pointing done by someone experienced not only involves their fee but sometimes travel as well, to say nothing of patience. However, ten days later, this corner-cutter managed to get parts of their now necrotic ear amputated.

In the first photos (1A and 1B), you can see the ear being cut and folded over at an extreme angle. I should add that these photos were taken not at a clean and contamination-controlled studio, but at someone’s house, without even a proper light. They just leaned their head on the window frame for illumination, with plenty of dirt and dust visible in the haphazard workspace that didn’t appear to even have been cleaned — the space is so contaminated as to make gloves almost pointless, to say nothing of the hilariously inappropriate paper towels being used as a DIY surgical drape.

In photo 2, taken on day one, it should already be obvious that the odds of success are very low. The ear has been folded at such a comically extreme angle that the pressure on the healing tissue and cartilage would have been enormous, to say nothing of the extremely unpleasant aesthetics of the new ear shape and how difficult it would be to keep clean if it actually did heal. By day five, photo 3, the ear is starting to tear open and is quite swollen — infection has set in, made worse by insufficient care on the part of the client. By the end of the first week, photo 4, the sutures have completely torn out and the ear is back to its original shape, minus the part that was cut out of course. However, at this point the infection is well established in the majority of the cartilage. Cartilage infections spread quickly and are difficult to treat. Two days later, her ear was cleaned up at the hospital. Some cartilage was lost, but a remarkable job was done in saving the majority of the ear. Click here to see the other side two years afterwards (sorry, the angle doesn’t really show it but it’s the best I could get, and I couldn’t get a photo of the other side that matches the more damaged ear). Lest you say “well that doesn’t look that bad”, I want to mention two things — (1) this photo shows the ear in the best possible light, and (2) I’ve seen ears collapse completely from infected industrial piercings — see the BME wiki entry for “ear collapse” for more information on how easy it is to damage cartilage.

There is no excuse for this happening. Yes, mistakes happen to the best of us at times. Yes, sometimes even the most qualified among us push things too far or in the wrong direction, and a procedure fails. But there is no excuse for behaving in an irresponsible and unprofessional manner. There is no excuse for working in an unsafe and unclean environment with inappropriate tools and supplies. There is no excuse for going to an unqualified practitioner. There is no excuse for not caring for your body and not listening to your body. There is just no excuse for any of this. The body modification community has spent almost twenty years obsessively sharing knowledge online and making it easily accessible to anyone who is interested. There are many channels for education both for practitioners and enthusiasts. No matter what corner of the world a person is in, there is no reason to be making such basic errors in judgement, and behaving with such irresponsibility and abject disrespect for the artform and for the body of the client.

[EDIT/UPDATE: This entry has been edited because in its initial form it overstated the amount of damage to the ear. I've updated the entry with more accurate information, although the warnings remain valid.]

Ear Pointing Evolution

To generalize, ear pointing works by cutting a piece out of the top of the ear, and then stitching the open portions together, folding the helix rim up into a point. It is a wonderful optical illusion that this makes it seem as if the ear has a point coming out the top, when in fact the ear has actually been lengthened very little, if at all, since we can only remove tissue — nothing is added. While additive procedures are theoretically possible, they appear currently beyond the reach of the body modification practitioner, if not beyond the reach of most reconstructive surgeons. In the majority of ear pointings done since Steve Haworth first invented them in the mid-1990s, the wedge-removal procedure has changed little — only the location, size, and shape differs (and varying the shape of the piece removed the result can cover a wide range of appearances).

However, Samppa Von Cyborg expanded the procedure by removing more than just what’s needed for the point, allowing one to reshape the entire contour of the ear. This related example is by Matias Tafel of Rata Body Art in Argentina. You can see from both the stitches and the animation that a long strip running much of the height of the ear has been excised, giving an end result where the ear is narrower as well as pointy. This narrowness brings with it the optical illusion of additional length/height, because it changes the length to height ratio and tricks the mind of the observer.