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.


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.


With lines that clean who could be mad?

Juan’s Double Eyelid Piercing


Eyelid piercings have wowed people ever since I first featured them on BME. Although they’ve shown themselves to be safe and viable when properly placed on a person with appropriately shaped anatomy, they remain one of the rarest piercings. Spanish pacifist Juan Carlos has a variation on it that is perhaps the rarest of them all — a single bar connecting the top and bottom lids, almost like an industrial for the eye. The reason this piercing is so rare is that in order to wear such a piercing permanently, it requires a very unique anatomy — the lack on an eye. As the first person to get this, Juan claims the “right of naming”, and calls this the “Tuerto piercing”, or “Eye piercing”, as it replaces the eye. I had a chance to chat briefly to Juan about his remarkable piercing and other mods, including his striking full-face tattoo.

When Juan was nineteen, he was required to serve time in the Spanish military, as all citizens were required to at the time — this happened almost twelve years before the government would finally abolish the requirement. Juan went on to join the elite Spanish Green Berets, but wasn’t comfortable with aspects of their behavior once he got to see it first-hand. He felt like he couldn’t breathe. The abuse ran contrary to his ethics — he has “Libertá” tattooed on himself three times — and knew he couldn’t live with himself if he became part of this. It was either figure out a way to get out of the military or commit suicide. Not wanting to die, on January 28, 1990 Juan took a needle and punctured his own left eye — a process that he describes as not particularly painful, but just a sensation of pressure. This wound became infected, resulting in the loss of the eye — and more importantly, a psychiatric discharge from the military.

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Cammy Stewart Interview


Cammy Stewart, whose work has been featured on ModBlog in the past, is a Dundee, Scotland based tattoo artist who started like most do — self-taught, tattooing anything they could on anyone they could find — but had an epiphany when he met neotribal, blackwork, and sacred geometry tattooing pioneer Xed LeHead at London’s Divine Canvas. He began merging this new style and philosophy of tattooing into his own, and became a part of what began with the idiosyncratic style of a small handful of outsider tattoo artists and has become a full-on art movement. Find Cammy at Metalurgey in Dundee, Scotland, online at facebook/cammystewart or instagram/cammytattoo, or email him at

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BMEtv Update

I can’t believe how much time has elapsed since I started BMEtv. I came up with the idea back in December of 2008. In the first few months I had filmed about 30 interviews but I had a ton of trouble editing them because I just didn’t have the skills necessary to do a good job editing video, nor did I have the time to learn. I hooked up with a friend and he filmed and edited Trevor McStay while he was tattooing my leg. He then went up to the State of Grace convention and video interviewed  Bugs, Henning Jørgensen, Mike Rubendall, and Joey Armstrong. I really liked where the series was going (though some of the editing on the interviews was better than others) and I wanted to do more. This is where the main reason for the BME World Tour came from. I wanted to do more than just American or Canadian artists. I wanted to showcase artists from around the world and I think that we’ve started on a very cool project. I had some ambitious plans and while we didn’t get to do all of the countries that I wanted to, we are of to an amazing start. I lost track of the number of interviews that we’ve done but I believe it’s somewhere between 400-500 tattooers, piercers, body modification artists and “enthusiasts” (people with body modifications).

I’ve had the first few interviews that I’ll be posting finished for a while but I didn’t want to start posting them if there was going to be a big gap in between getting the rest of them finished. I’ve gotten over that hang up and I’m going to post them as I get them done instead of waiting as time seems to be flying by very quickly! The first interviews that are going up feature  Zoe Dennis, Vond Barta, Josh Roelink, Rob Wommelsdorff , Rhys Gordon, Rob Valenti, IAM: Nano, Marshall, Luciano Lima, Freddy, Stevie Edge, Cory Ohrman, Brady Hardin, Jenny McQuade and musician Astronautalis. These are just the first interviews that are finished and ready to go. I’ve got 5 more interviews which just need to have the title credits added to them and then they’ll be ready to go. The rest of Australia should be edited by the middle of February and then we’ll start on the Japanese interviews as soon as I find someone who can help me with the Japanese to English translation.

Thank you to everyone who helped make the interviews happen and who helps support the BME tour along the way!

Keep an eye out starting tomorrow!

The sum of all parts

When I first started posting on ModBlog, one of the first things I did, was a short interview with Gregory. Greg and I were not friends way back when. In fact, I think it’s safe to say we disliked each other quite a bit. Life is funny though and it has a way of turning things around and you end up finding out that person you really didn’t like is not so bad after all.


Recently, I happened to see the new work that Greg is turning out and I thought it was time to catch up with one of IAM’s more controversial and outspoken members and find out what was new.


Click to keep reading…
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BME Finalists Round Two

I feel like a teacher handing out extra credit assignments but I need help to pick the winners for the BME World Tour. I’ve just narrowed it down to 10 finalists who will all need to complete an assignment.  If you want to know who the finalists have been narrowed down to, you’ll have to watch the video!

More information on the assignement after the jump!

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It’s time for a contest!


BME Internship 2.0

It’s been almost 5 years since BME last had interns. I’ve decided that I’d like to do something similar to the internship contest that we had. You can read more about it here. This is a much shorter version of the intern ship and instead of relocating to beautiful La Paz, Mexico, we’ll be traveling around the world.

I’m currently planning a worldwide BME tour. This will probably mean being on the road for 2-3 months. My goal is to start the tour in time to be home for the middle of June. This means we’d be hitting the road in the beginning of April. I have approximately 6 weeks to plan the trip, get sponsors, figure out the winners and then buy everyone’s tickets and book accommodations. I will also be booking the interviews that we will have scheduled. We will have at least one day off each week. This trip is all business though so if you want to do it, be prepared to take photos, talk to people and video tape interviews while we work our way around the world.

The goal of the tour is to interview as many individuals from as many different cultures and locations as possible. In each city that we stop in, I want to interview at least 5 shops and collect copies of their portfolios to add to BME. In addition to interviewing Tattoo Artists, Piercers and Body Modification Artists, I want to talk to and photograph clients as well as random people that we meet on the streets. I want to see the sites that the various places we go to have to offer (yes this means playing tourist!) as well as compile video interviews along the way.  I’d like to bring 4 people besides myself. That means our group will consist of 5 people total. We can get away with 4, including me but we may go to 6 if I can’t make a decision between a couple great candidates.

Depending how the planning process goes, the trip may end up getting split into continents, obviously it’s always fun to think big but to make it so this really happens, we may need to scale it back and make it more affordable in terms of money, time and logistics. While I’m working on the contest and putting together the team, I’ll also be working on getting sponsorships as that will help make the tour that much more viable. I may also end up having a couple openings on the trip for multiple people to fill the various roles due to the length of the trip. I feel though that you should be able to commit at least two weeks. If you can only come out for a week, it’s not enough time to get into the groove with the rest of us. I will, however, make exceptions so please send in your audition and let me know that you’re the exception that I should make!

Click through for more information!
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Modified Mamas: Molly

Babies, babies, babies. Doesn’t it seem like everyone you know is having one right now? In the middle of trying to figure out what to post about I got the news that another friend is, you guessed it, “expecting”. It got me thinking about how many people I know who are either expecting or have recently had babies, and then I realised that the majority are women I know from IAM! Imagine that. So I’ve decided to put together a series of interviews with some of my favorite modified moms.

To start of the series, we have Molly, a young hip mom to daughter Audrey. Or, as she calls her, Odd. Click “read more” for the full interview.

Molly and Audrey

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No Superfluous Flummery: An Interview With Bob Roberts

Last month, while in Los Angeles for BME’s Tattoo Hollywood convention, I was given, above all else, one specific task: to interview Bob Roberts, the owner of L.A.’s Spotlight Tattoo, whose art gallery opening that week I wrote about here. There was, of course, an element of danger. “He can be very intimidating,” people cautioned me. “Be careful what you say around him.” Though ostensibly well-meaning, these warnings were unnecessary. When we sat down to talk on Sunday afternoon as the convention was winding down, Bob struck me as a cross between Jeff Bridges’s The Dude from The Big Lebowski and John Goodman’s Walter Sobchak from The Big Lebowski: an old hippie, content with his status and the life he’s lived…who occasionally gets very, very fired up about things. (Voice-wise, though? He’s The Dude.) Drawing from his nearly 40 years of experience, we talked about his humble beginnings, shitty artists he’s known, blow job etiquette in 1970s New York, various people who deserve to have their thumbs cut off and much more. Here’s our entire conversation, edited in parts only for clarity.

BME: OK, let’s start with some procedural questions and then once we’re warmed up I’ll try to make you cry.

Bob Roberts: Alright. Can you hear me? Test, test. Is the needle going on there?

BME: We’re ready to go. So where are you from originally?

BR: Los Angeles, California.

BME: And what brought you to tattooing in the first place?

BR: Well, it’s a long story. My dad had a store at Eighth and Broadway, and he used to take me with him to work on the weekends. When I got old enough to run around, first I would go by this pawn shop that had switchblade knives that would start at one inch and would go until they were maybe over six feet. Then, they had a lot of tattoo shops, so I used to go into all of them until I’d get thrown out, and I just always loved it, man. I saw all these people getting tattooed and from a young age it just nailed me to the wall.

Later on, I was in rock and roll bands for a long time—I played the saxophone—and I was painting a lot of flash and I wanted to find a job, and I thought I could be good at [tattooing]; I loved drawing the designs. So I went to a few shops and went, “Hey! Where can I get some ink and some guns?” And they just told me to get the fuck outta there.

So, I was living in Laurel Canyon, and I was driving down the hill one day and I saw a friend of mine hitchhiking, and he had this girl with him named Truly, and she had a fringed leather jacket on with a really nice Japanese dragon done in Indian beads on there. So I inquired! I said, “Man, that’s a nice dragon, it looks like a tattoo design.” She said it was, so I asked if she did it herself. She said, “Yeah, and I’m a tattoo artist too.” This is 1973, by the way. I told her I was looking into getting some equipment and machine, and she told me she had a whole outfit she could sell me. So, I bought some machines and some flash (that I still have) and a power-pack, and that’s really how I got started.

Shortly after that, I started going down to The Pike and got my first three tattoos—my first shop tattoos—by Bob Shaw, and I told him I was interested in working there. I’d bring him stuff that I’d drawn and I’d get tattooed by him, so he gave me the ultimate challenge: bring some people in that’ll let you put a tattoo on them. Well, I was in a rock and roll band at the time and these guys knew I could draw, so I told them to come to The Pike with me to get some free tattoos—I was bringing two carloads of guys a week down there. And I did alright, you know? I guess they figured, “Well, I guess this means we have to give this asshole a job.” And they did!

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