People get things pierced. Sometimes, they do it the right way and it looks great and everyone is happy. Other times, however, people don’t do it the right way and it doesn’t look great and no one is happy. In recognition of the latter, and faith in the former, we interviewed professional DC-area piercer Hannah Cherry of Cherryworks Piercing. READ ON TO DISCOVER: a) how she ended up suspending for Jane’s Addiction b) how to not get pierced like an idiot and also c) some places to check out here in the city if DC is not in your future.
Hi! Tell me about how you go into piercing? What is the process like to become a professional piercer?
It was always something that I had a lot of interest in. I love body modification in general (makeup, plastic surgery, cosmetics, tattoos, etc…) Since a pretty young age (11/12), I knew I wanted to pierce people. Once I realized it was something I could make into a real career I never considered doing anything else. When I was 17 I found a shop to take me as an apprentice. My apprenticeship lasted around a year, which was perfect timing because by the time I was 18 I was able to start working with customers. I haven’t looked back since.
What are some of the most common misconceptions you encounter about piercing?
There are TONS when it comes to piercing. I could probably go on for a while but then I would take up way too much of your time so I’ll just name a few off the top of my head;
1. Piercings are excruciatingly painful: Any piercing, when done right, should only take about a second to do. The process is so incredibly fast that most people don’t even have time to say “ouch”. Yes, it will hurt, but usually a lot less then what you’re thinking….yes, even THERE (I know what you’re thinking pervs)! If you try your best to relax and listen to your piercer you’ll be surprised how quick and easy it can be.
2. “I’m too old for _____ piercing”: No one is ever too old to do something if it’s what they really want. Period. Don’t even think that way. If you’re 80 years old and you always wanted a little diamond in your nostril or Tragus then ROCK THAT SH*T. I guarantee you’ll be the coolest 80 year old lady at bingo, and more importantly you’ll be happy because you did something beautiful for yourself.
3. You can get good body jewelry cheap: This is the absolute worst. Once someone’s piercing is healed they think that they can go to Spencer’s or Hot Topic or Piercing Pagoda and get $5 navel jewelry without any repercussions to their piercing. Unfortunately there are no regulations on what body jewelry has to be made of, which is pretty scary considering it goes inside your body. Usually, cheap body jewelry is made of unsafe materials (like crystals made with lead or plastics known to be carcinogenic). Many people have allergic reactions, gems fall out and pieces break off. Coatings flake off inside your piercing and usually the piece is not even the correct size for your piercing. Body jewelry does not have a “standard” size and everyone’s body is different. You should always go to your local reputable piercer for body jewelry and correct sizing. I personally only pierce with internally threaded, Implant Grade titanium body jewelry. You can visit www.safepiercing.org for more info on jewelry quality. It’s more important then you think.
I saw you suspended for Jane’s Addiction, which is pretty amazing. Would like to hear everything about that starting with a) your past experience with suspension b) how you ended up doing it for Jane’s Addiction/what it was like and c) DAVE NAVARRO?!
That was a really cool experience and I feel pretty lucky that I can say I did something like that. A) I’ve suspended a good handful of times from my back and a couple times from my knees. It’s always a blast and a really cool feeling. B) I have suspended at the Baltimore Tattoo Convention a few times, and the piercer who is in charge of that is a friend of mine (Steve Truitt). Steve also happens to do the suspensions for Jane’s Addiction’s shows. Allison (the other girl I suspended with at the show) and I have known each other for years so when Steve asked her to do Jane’s Addiction she mentioned me for a second performer as we both live pretty close. I think they pretty much always have two girls performing at their shows on either side of the stage. I was so happy Allison suggested me to Steve. It was really surreal and also really scary because of how high we were. Even though you know your skin is strong and you won’t rip and fall my brain was terrified of falling. I think it was the highest I’ve ever suspended. C) Dave is actually super chill and super nice. I met him a couple years ago at a piercing conference in Las Vegas. I know he’s a rockstar and all but really he’s just a dude; he puts on his leather pants one leg at a time just like the rest of us. For real though, he’s always been nothing but cool to me and I’m so stoked I got to suspend on stage with him and the rest of Jane’s Addiction. It was one of the coolest experiences of my life thus far.
But, back to piercing, what are the most common mistakes you see? Both from amateur piercers, and uneducated customers?
Tackling a piercing they aren’t ready for yet. If there’s something you’re not sure about talk to your mentor or other Piercers first. It’s never good to try something your not sure you can do on a customer. That’s not what they are paying you for.
Using the improper size jewelry on a customer because your out of the piece the customer really needs and you don’t want to turn them away. I see so many Piercers do this. They know it’s not right but they care about making that money so badly they don’t care.
Not turning away a customer with improper anatomy. Again, a lot of Piercers just care about money and will preform any piercing on anyone wether or not it will heal.
Price shopping: Price should be pretty much irrelevant when getting a body piercing. Looking for the cheapest option is never going to end well. It’s not “just a piercing”. It can permanently scar you or even disfigure you in some cases. People need to do their research and find someone who actually care about their clients and what they do. Look at portfolios, read reviews and talk to them. See if you feel comfortable with them.
Following friends or family’s advice: If your friend or cousin isn’t a professional piercer, don’t take aftercare advice from them. Having piercings does not qualify a person to tell you what you should do with your piercing.
Let’s say we just got a piercing! Tell us about aftercare. What should/shouldn’t we do?
I generally recommend warm saline compresses once or twice a day. You can read more about how to do those on my website www.cherryworkspiercing.com.
Things to do/not to do:
-do follow your piercer’s aftercare sheet and recommendations.
-don’t take aftercare advice from friends and family simply because they have piercings.
-don’t touch your piercing or pick at it. Your hands have all sorts of cooties on them that can irritate or even infect your piercing.
-get enough sleep, drink lots of water and eat healthy foods. The healthier you are, the faster your piercing will heal. Going out and partying every night will surely take a toll on you and your new piercing.
-don’t share body jewelry with friends. Ever.
-don’t be afraid or hesitant to contact your piercer or another piercer with questions you might have. No question is stupid.
What are some of the most challenging piercings for you to do, and why?
Probably the most challenging things for me are piercings on either side of the body( ie: cheeks, paired lip piercings, hip surface piercings eat…) whenever something has to be matched up it’s tricky because our bodies are naturally uneven and wonky.
ALSO: Which piercings do you enjoy doing most, and why?
Some of my favorite things to do are ear piercings. There’s a lot of cool stuff you can do with the ear. Anything that makes my client happy makes me excited though. Even if I’ve done thousands of navel piercings when I get a super stoked client that’s really happy with the outcome then it’s never boring for me.
So something I always hear people ask about body mods in general is, “Did that hurt?” To which the answer is obviously, “DUH,” IMO. How do you respond to this question? (Is it: “duh”?)
For the most part I try to be polite and answer honestly. Yes, it does hurt. When people get rude or pushy sometimes I get a little short with them. I don’t mean to but a lot of people don’t see that they are being rude and they usually don’t think about what they are saying to me before they say it; “really? But I had mine pierced and it didn’t hurt…” Why ask me then? It’s not a contest, and no one is tougher for saying something didn’t hurt. Technically it’s impossible for a piercing or other modification to not hurt because that’s how the human nervous system works. Yes, some things hurt less or more then others, but everyone is different and everyone experience will be different. I don’t know how it will feel for you. I can only tell you about how my experience was.
As someone with a collection of body art, I’m sure you often come across people who feel the need to comment. How do you deal with that attention, especially when it’s negative?
Sometimes I have days where I’m not in the mood to answer questions or talk to people about it. It’s not that I’m trying to be a jerk but if I’m in line at the airport going through security and one of the airport employees holds up a long line of people at 5am to grab my arm and ask me about my tattoos….well I really don’t need to explain why I’d get a little irritated.
A lot of people assume that because I look the way I do I’m openly inviting people to touch me and stare at me and ask me whatever comes to mind, but MOST people do this for themselves. We don’t care what you think about it and we mostly just want to go about our day and drink pumpkin spice lattes just like everyone else. It’s fine if you don’t like my stretched earlobes or my hand tattoos. They make me really happy and that’s what matters in life. There’s a lot of things I dislike about other people’s appearances but I was always taught “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. There’s nothing I can gain by telling some lady that I think her spray tan makes her look like and Oompa Loompa. If she likes it then good for her. Let’s all just be a bit nicer to each other.
But let’s talk about something happier! You pierced my tongue. Tell me: Was that not the best experience of your life, ever????!!!!
It was amazing! I was actually nervous because I felt a lot of extra pressure to make sure it was good. I’m so glad you are happy with it and I’m so glad we stay in touch now <3
Finally and (arguably) least importantly: Do you prefer piercing dicks or vaginas? Like, if you could only continue piercing either dicks or vaginas—which would you pick?
Honestly it depends on the customer. I enjoy doing genital piercings for the most part because my clients really tend to gain a lot from it. I don’t really prefer piercing males over females or vice-versa. When I have rude or inappropriate clients it doesn’t matter what they are getting pierced; I don’t want to pierce them or even talk to them.
(But actually finally…) For our NYC readers, where would you recommend we go get pierced?
There’s tons of great Piercers in NY. Some shops off the top of my head are Sacred, Dorje and Maria Tash. There are loads more though and if anyone is ever having trouble locating someone nearby they are welcome to contact me directly with their location and I’ll be sure to point them in the direction of someone fabulous.
Thanks, Hannah! Anything else you want to tell us before we digitally sign off?
Thanks a lot of this interview! It was really fun.