Interview With Lauren
So to begin, tell us a little bit about yourself, how did you first start working in piercing?
It was one day when I was getting tattooed that I first had the thought. I didn’t understand how I could actually get into the industry, but once that possibility came into my mind, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I moved away for six months, and the whole time I was away that was on my mind, so when I got back I decided to get into working in this environment. I tried and tried to get in; never gave up hope and eventually after more than a year it all paid off and I made it into the Ink Factory!
How many tattoos did you have before you made this move?
A few. Well, the first work I ever got done was a tattoo. I actually first began wanting to get my tongue pierced; my mam said yeah, but my dad said no. And there was an argument between them, and the two of them said “go on sure why don’t you get a tattoo then”. I think I was fifteen at the time. My friend knew a tattoo artist so I could get it done. Came home and was like “look what I got!” And the two of them were going crazy. Then ever since that I’ve always been taken with the culture surrounding it and the industry too.
How long were you apprenticed then? How long did it take to learn the ins and outs?
Well I still don’t know all the ins and outs, of course. I think you’re always learning, even years into it. There’s always new stuff to learn, always something different that’s going to come up. My apprenticeship lasted a year and six months.
And were you always apprenticed to the same person?
Nope, I was actually lucky enough to have three tutors. So it was Rakan, Itsa and Patric. So Rakan brought me through the first stages of my learning, and then the actual physical part of giving piercings happened under Patric and Itsa. Patric is piercing around 22 years and Itsa has been at it for more than 10.
Do you have one most memorable piercing that you did?
I’ll always remember my first one… it was in my friend Danielle. She worked in the Ink Factory at the time. It was just her earlobe. But I was I so, so, so nervous. When I started to do it I was really badly shaking… but then as soon as I put the needle through there was this overwhelming feeling, I was just overcome. I think it’s not just the piercing end of things on the emotional side, but it’s the idea that you’re entering somebody’s body. It was the first time I had somebody’s blood on my gloves. So when I went to put the ball on it took me about five minutes to even get it on because my hand was shaking like mad! And then after that I started crying, Danielle started crying, Rakan started crying and we all hugged it out. It was beautiful.
Awesome. That’s an interesting thought indeed – I mean piercing is quite intimate isn’t it? You have people coming in all day and you’re entering their body in some small way. I suppose there’s why it’s important, to be a good piercer, to be able to have a flowing chat with someone?
Definitely. Your body can’t determine a lot of pain and a little bit of pain, so once it knows a moment of pain is coming, people can be really on edge. So even if it’s just an earlobe, people can be freaking out saying they’re being silly or whatever. But I tell them no, it’s totally normal, your brain can’t separate types of pain in the build up to it happening.
I think in most cases if you were to get the piercing on the sly, like if someone just came up and did it, it’s likely you’d barely even register it. Y’know the way after you hurt yourself you can consider it quite matter of fact, but if you know you’re going to hurt yourself, it’s much worse.
Yeah exactly, like if someone told you to go and give yourself a paper cut, you’d really have to psych yourself up to do it. But when it happens it’s normally just, “ah whatever, sure that was annoying”
Exactly. That would be awful!
And what would you say is your favourite type of piercing to do then?
I think it would be the daith piercing – it’s just above your tragus. Even when I was learning it always seemed like a difficult one. It’s the one I was most nervous about. I was watching a load of videos online with different piercers from the US. And the way that the three of my tutors showed me to do it were kind of different, so I just decided, look, I’m going to do it my own way based on what I know. So I bent the needle my own way to get in at the right angle and from the first one I did, I was just nailing them. So that felt fantastic. It was weird to me because this was kind of ‘the hardest one’ and I ended up being easily able to do them.
Brilliant. So I’d say that would develop a lot of confidence – figuring out your own approach, like you’re coming into your own as a piercer.
Yeah definitely. And that was the major thing really… because I was with Rakan for so long and I’d only seen his way of doing things, and then when I saw Patric’s way it was an eye opener because I thought, y’know, there’s no one exact way piercing has to go. I had to kind of unlearn a lot of stuff in my own head in a way, to move past the idea of “you have to do it this way, there’s a standard routine to it”. Because then when I was working under Itsa, that was another way of piercing, and I understood that I needed to find my own way of doing things then; what suits me best.
Absolutely. If you’re schooled by someone who introduces you into this vast field, you develop a huge amount of trust in them, but you can also maybe easily presume that their way is the only way.
Definitely. Because yeah when I came into the industry I really didn’t know anything, which, I think was to my benefit – because I had no preconceptions, I was completely open to learning everything there was to know. I brought no ego to the table or anything and that worked well for all my tutors.
Cool. And since the Parliament Street place has opened up, is it the first time you’ve had your own studio?
Yep! And it’s funny, it feels so different. The room when I first saw it was totally full of stuff, full of mess. So I was here for around a week before I set up anything, just scrubbing down the walls and that. I’ve made it my own. I feel so comfortable with the space.
Feels like home, deadly. And how’s the studio here on Parliament Street going in general?
Yeah it’s great. On quiet days it’s good because I can get a lot of the paperwork – if you want to call it that – done. Stuff like all the prep, my orders online and that, but the main Ink Factory place is always all go. I enjoy the relaxed vibe in here. Because when it’s busy here on Parliament Street it’s not a major rush, it’s a nice flow. But the place picked up and took off… I mean pretty much right away after opening.
It’s a great location, yeah. A lot of footfall, and is an area that I suppose is already often linked with alternative-minded people. The area around here with the quay and here around the corner, it’s becoming a bit of an Ink Factory territory!
What I love about the Ink Factory is that it isn’t really like any other tattoo or piercing place. With the Ink Factory everything is bright, loads of light, everyone gets their own shot at the songs, etcetera. It’s moving away from the dark, seedy image that people tended to associate with tattoo and piercing studios.
To finish off, what is it about piercing that’s special to you?
The best thing about it, I think, is when I see a person after they get their piercing and how much it changes them. They come in, they’re going through their daily routine or whatever, and when they get their piercing – I think the nerves play a part too, because it throws you throw a bit of an emotional rollercoaster – and when they look in the mirror I get to see their face light up. It just changes them; often they’ve proved something to themselves. For something that’s so tiny that you can put on your body, it can have a huge effect. I love to pick up people’s happiness and excitement after they get their piercing and take that into my own day then.
It’s a good point, that something which is technically so tiny, like a stud piercing, can actually symbolise so much more…
Yeah, it’s like a step in someone’s own evolution. I was recently with a shaman and he was explaining to me that back in the day that all piercings and tattoos wouldn’t have been seen as an art form as such, but more as a ritual – a rite of passage in society. And when you think of it now, if even on a subconscious level, people tend to get piercings to change themselves in some way; to bring themselves a step forward in their life’s journey and maybe to signify a step in their personal growth. So I take that aspect into it as well when I think of the significance of piercing, that it still has this ritual function in many people’s lives.