Body art - using a different kind of canvas

by Amy Corbett and Amy Erickson
Port Hardy Secondary School
Port Hardy, British Columbia

Originally an ancient art form dating back thousands of years, tattooing and body piercing have had various symbolic and religious meanings throughout history.

For example, nipple piercing is known to have bean practiced by the Romans who used it as a sign of bravery, while men in ancient Japan used tattoos to signify their status in society. Egyptians had tattoos which were believed to have religious meaning.

In many countries across the world, tattoos and piercings are still a part of the cultures. The Cafara Indians of South America wear a thin cane in the lower lip which denotes that they are in their prime of life. In Africa, similar decorations are found worn by the women but stretched to a greater extent. People in India use temporary Henna tattoos to adorn their bodies and encourage sexual attraction.

Today, teenagers have tattoos and body piercing for many reasons, often to demonstrate their individuality. It is important to consider why you want a tattoo or body piercing before getting it done.

This is an example of a
tattoo designed by the
artists at Urge in Victoria

"I wanted to and it was kind of a bet," said Kathryn Kemp, a Grade 9 student, of her eyebrow piercing, but her recent tongue piercing, "that was for shock effect. I want to get my belly button done next."

However, many people get tattoos and piercings on the spur of the moment. Mike Nasby, another Grade 9 student, got his tattoo "'cause my uncle and a bunch of his friends were getting one."

To get a tattoo or piercing, unless you are older than 18, it is necessary to be accompanied by a parent. You will also be required to sign a release form. Many parlours have been sued for tattooing or piercing teenagers without parental permission, and the rules are being more strictly enforced.

"Some piercings are good, but, if you're gonna pierce something that you don't want anyone to see, what's the point?" said Scott Dawson, who is also in grade nine.

Others don't agree with this comment, as often piercings are for personal reasons. Lately there has been discussion in the news about whether piercings belong in the workplace. If you want a piercing but have a formal job, piercing your belly or other private areas pierced is an option, as your boss would be unable to see it.

In choosing a parlour, take your time. Talk to people who have recently been tattooed or pierced to see where they had theirs done. A good parlour will explain everything to do with your tattoo or piercing beforehand. Urge in Victoria, as well as Next in Vancouver, are very thorough and informative about sterilization and aftercare.

"You're making a life decision, so you should be well educated,"said Grahme McCuaig, a piercer and tattoo artist from Urge. "For every good tattoo artist, there are about one hundred bad ones."
Also, don't consider self piercing or tattooing because it can be very uncomfortable and can lead to an infection or other complications.

Check the studio thoroughly, and ask questions. It you do not see an autoclave (this pressurizes instruments and kills any viruses or bacteria that could passed on), ask to see it, and ask about the studio's cleaning techniques (how do you disinfect the work area?).

Directly before going to get your tattoo or piercing, it's important to be well rested. You must have recently had a shower and clean clothes to help insure you won't get infected immediately after. Also be sure to eat something beforehand, or else you may suffer from dizziness, faintness, or nausea. To try and ease the pain, pain killers, aspirin, and ibuprofen don't work. They may just increase bleeding or cause other problems. If you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, most parlours will not pierce or tattoo you.


Made a mistake? Lasers may help
by Marshall Mills

Have you made the mistake of getting a tattoo in the wrong place or getting the wrong one? You should know that you are not alone. Each year many people decide to have their tattoos removed because they are not satisfied with the choice they made. Currently there are two methods used. One being the old-fashioned sanding of the skin and the other being laser removal.

According to Kaye Fehr, a laser therapist at the T.J. Robinson Laser Center in Vancouver, current laser removal is basically a risk-free procedure with no side effects. However, it is not cheap and is not covered by your medical plan as it is considered cosmetic. You can expect to pay $80 for the consultation fee alone, followed by about $200 per square inch each visit.

The length of the treatment depends on the size of the tattoo. For example, a tattoo that is one square inch would take about fifteen minutes per treatment to be removed. It usually takes a minimum of 3-4 visits and you have to wait as much as 5 weeks before getting the second treatment done. There is no age limit for getting a tattoo removed and the procedure is said to feel somewhat like an elastic snapping against the skin.

You should expect some pain when being pierced or tattooed.

"It hurt, but more of it was the thought of what they were doing," said Grade 12 student Alisa Barry. "After awhile it went numb."

The pain of the piercings and tattoos depends on the location of the body that you are getting it on. Tattoos on an area where the skin is lighter and you can see the veins are the most painful while the most painful areas to get pierced are the genitals and cartilage.

Missy Crowell, a grade 11 student, recently had her ear cartilage pierced and commented, "It hurt a lot."

At many piercing and tattoo parlours, they have methods to help you out. At Next in Vancouver and other places both on the Island and the mainland in British Columbia, they use different essential oils to help calm you and to help increase your blood flow.

It's very important to follow the aftercare instructions given by your piercer or tattoo artists.Your piercings should heal in the time estimated by your piercer on the day you had it done. Clean your piercing wound two to four times a day, with clean hands. If there is any build up around the piercing, you must clean it out before turning the piercing. This can be done by washing it with warm water. Your piercer will also recommend the best product to clean your piercing with. Some things to avoid with a piercing are rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide, neosporin and polysporin, antibiotic ointment, hibitane, perfumed, dyed, or cream soaps, band-aids, and make-up or hair products.

Tongue Piercing
Your body will react to new piercings, which may lead to infection. The four signs of infection are heat, redness, swelling and sensitivity around the piercing. Some lymph discharge and a little redness is normal, but if you have any concerns, call the place where you got your piercing or tattoo done. The healing process can be sped up with a healthy diet and an Epsom salt bath.

To care for a tattoo, wash it with soap and then apply an extremely thin layer of Polysporin four times daily. Also avoid swimming or soaking the tattoo in a shower or bath for the first four weeks.
As for the price of your tattoo or piercing, expect to pay for quality. Urge in Victoria charges between approximately $35-$150 for a piercing depending on the area pierced, including the price of the jewelry. A one of a kind, custom-made tattoo will cost about $75-$100 per hour.

Remember, getting your piercing or tattoo should be a safe and positive experience. If you take the time to make an informed choice it should be an experience that you won't regret.

Be careful when choosing a piercing or tattoo artist! Piercers require no training and there are a lot of inexperienced piercers out there. It's a good idea to look for a piercer who has taken a piercing course. If you plan on getting a tattoo, you should know that tattoo artists learn their trade by apprenticeship. Make sure that your tattoo artist has done so. 

Editor's note: This article originally appeared in The Wailer, the school newspaper
at Port Hardy Secondary School in Port Hardy, British Columbia.