Title Page -- Preamble  -- Preface  -- Synopsis -- Exposition

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Part 1
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Part 1. Section 1. Paragraph 1, (consists of 2 sentences)

Unfortunately the article opens with misrepresentations.

Chalmers opening Abstract:

Tattooing and body piercing as ancient body arts have existed throughout the centuries. Wholly human phenomena, they are activities that have been practiced in almost all cultures at one time or another (Caplan 2000) and continue and grow in popularity in modern day Western societies (Camphausen, 1997; Rush 2005).  

Seems innocuous enough, how could anyone find fault.  However, the words “and body piercing” are not the words of, nor the intention of Caplan, nor of Camphausen, nor of Rush, but Chalmers misrepresentation.

Chalmers wrote, (quoted again from above)

"Tattooing and body piercing...practiced in almost all cultures at one time or another (Caplan 2000)"

This is not just a “slip-of-the-pen” because it is repeated and again where it is again attributed to Jane Caplan. See 1.3.7 quoted below

Chalmers (Part 1, Bold Section 3, 7th paragraph)

Both tattooing and body piercing have been practiced in almost all cultures at one time or another (Caplan, 2000).

Chalmers uses language to create the false impression that Jane Caplan is the one saying this, the source.1

This is Chalmers' writing-style which can be called "paraphrase-by-shuffling-the-contents" as happens again and again, here to Camphausen which you will see shortly. Often this shuffling becomes confused and laughable which will be pointed out.

Chalmers also "borrows" the expression... “wholly human phenomena” which is taken directly from Rush, page 18

…Body modification appears to be an exclusively human phenomenon… (Rush, 2005: 18)

The objection is, Chalmers elevates the importance and significance of piercing as if it were on a par with tattoo but not by historical importance or a reasoned argument, and all without evidence. This is not a valid interpretation of the histories of T&P  and is not supported by any of these author. Trying to link T&P in scope and importance is a faulty view of history.

It is my view that Tattoo and Body Piercing are two distinct and separate activities, practices, industries and should not be linked together nor treated in law or otherwise as two similar activities.

There are two distinct practices, activities and industries, not one "tattooing-and-body-piercing" activity.

As a twenty-five year veteran of broad exposure in the tattoo and in the piercing industry, as owner and founder of the tattoo supply business, Unimax Supply Co Inc., NYC, registered in 1989, entering the piercing and jewelry business in 1993, and as  tattoo shop owner, Sacred Tattoo (founded in 1990) I argue, as a first hand participant, that there are two distinct industries not one "tattooing-and-body-piercing industry." The two activities can co-exist, as in Unimax Supply Co., and in Sacred Tattoo, N.Y.C., but this does not create an equality. Both areas of commerce and practice have extreme differences. For one, the practitioners are almost always different though the clients may overlap and what is really definitive, the two industries are considered separate, distinct, and uniquely different by the practitioners and the participants of tattoo and piercing. This is universally accepted and understood by all the businesses in T&P. As a matter of fact there is a decided lack of appreciation by tattooists for lumping the two together.

There is legal precedent in NYC recognizing and affirming the separateness.

In 1996, during the proposed legalization of tattooing in NYC, The New York City Council agreed with the tattoo community that Tattoo(ing) and Piercing (T&P) are substantially different activities and therefore because of those differences, should have separate specific regulations when and if it were to become necessary to have Body Piercing regulations. All references to piercing were removed. 2

To illustrate some of these profound differences, consider the training.

Jim Ward's U.S. historical and influential piercing supply business, Gauntlet, promoted piercing, did piercing, manufactured piercing products, taught piercing, and produced trained piercers with a week's classroom training. Tattooing on the other hand  takes years of effort and thousands of tattoos to be able to predictably produce quality tattoos. Not so with piercing. The very first piercing may be as perfect as the one thousandth.

Consider the differences in knowledge and training. 

For piercing, Jim Ward’s Gauntlet became the name associated with the piercing movement in the U.S.. The instruction I obtained at Gauntlet in 1995 taught piercing and safety with a week’s classroom training, which included one supervised piercing and watching a half dozen others. This is contrasted to tattooing which takes years of effort and thousands of tattoos. It takes years to reach what might be similar to a "journeyperson" status, one who, while self-admittedly still learning can travel around and work at other shops and conventions to broaden knowledge through interaction with other tattooists. It takes a decade of tattooing to be considered by their peers as having enough experience to be a “Pro”, an experienced tattooist.  No one in tattoo would consider anyone a Master without at least 20 years of working plus making known contributions to the community of tattoo by their unique influence and inspiration, not just putting in time tattooing in a shop decade after decade.

Chalmers, as outsider, is not familiar with T&P. She doesn't know the things that only a participant would know working at something day in and day out for years and years. Having no experience and no long term exposure she can't help going wrong. When it comes to writing regulations and requirements, her ideas are based on incorrect, insufficient and unsupported notions of what T&P entails.

Tattoo, Piercing and U.S. history.

Commercial “over-the-counter” piercings are those which can be successfully executed by an average person of average abilities with average training that will successfully heal with average after-care.

As opposed to requiring anything extraordinary, commercial “over-the-counter” piercings offered to anyone of age are those which can be successfully executed and  heal with average after-care.  An average person can learn to do safe and effective commercial piercing of the common piercings without a thousand hours of training or extensive college courses on anatomy, physiology or microbiology. Chalmers has no basis for recommending any type of training. Commercial body piercing is not infection-prone open surgery, it is more like phlebotomy.

No one needs to be medically trained to be a safe commercial piercer or tattooist.

The medical literature, by still publishing anecdotal reports of T&P adverse events eloquently demonstrates the safety of these activities because the untoward events appear in print because they are not seen on a regular basis, because they are unusual, worthy of publication because of their scarcity.

I have provided medical professionals with piercing training because they were looking for a subject (publish or perish was the phrase one doctor used).

As personally experienced, and through my knowledge and contact with thousands of T&P business wholesale customers, for more than two decades, piercing services became commonplace in tattoo shops in the mid 90s as product and tools were being made available by piercing supply businesses.  In the early 90s the piercing businesses consisted of stand-alone body jewelry and tool suppliers and single-service piercing shops.

Jim Ward's Piercing Fans Quarterly got the ball rolling and Fakir Musafa is often credited for resurrecting tribal meanings and experiences of body work bridging the gap between atavistic practice and modern fashion conscious society. Fakir became a public figure when Modern PrimitivES gave exposure to his body modification as,  imbued with mystical and personal "journey" experience, translated, transplanted, and  transformed from older cultural roots to modern appreciation and experience. Modern PrimitivES attempted to legitimize this activity by linking it to historic, exotic, “primitive,” tribal, "ancestral" practices.

Piercing took off when A) piercers were accepted at tattoo shops looking for space to work; B) commercial piercing was seen by tattoo shop owners as able to contribute to the shop's new economic value; and C) prices became more  affordable.

The demise of Piercing Shops.

Tattoo shops picked up on the opportunities quickly, and by incorporating piercing into their offerings, at little cost,  piercing-only shops came to a quick end. Tattoo shops had the facilities and exposure which then drove accessibility for consumers. Tattoo supply companies, such as Unimax Supply Co. also entered the piercing supply business by making affordable and attractive jewelry, new and better tools. Initially Thailand produced the first hundreds of affordable attractive styles that wowed everyone. I was there at the time operating Unimax Supply Co and I participated in these historic events as witness and participant. For the US market, Korea then became a more cost effective source for some new types of items, then Indonesia, then China, all producing thousands of fashionable pieces of body jewelry which fed the demand for fashion, forgetting the atavistic primitive experience part. No longer was it a matter of bending the body to obey, but fashionable. Piercing supply companies were vigilant and kept a close watch on piercing jewelry so that the surgical s/s content and quality was improved to match all reasonable expectations for safety and suitability, always embracing safe 316L stainless steel, some over-zealous extremists going to ridiculous lengths.  Our jewelry was and has always been safe, comfortable, and fashionable. It helped change piercing from the "experience" (a Modern Primitive interpretation) to being the means to acquire fashion, not just a bar with balls. Safety of 316L as the major metal used was confirmed as safe during the "costume-jewelry-lead scare" of 2005-06. All jewelry manufactured was tested extensively and found to be within safety guidelines.

Fakir Musafa reinvented (or re-awakened) the experience of ritual transformation that individuals report as experiencing. What started as self-interpreted mutilation (Favazza) developed into a positive experience by re-interpretation as tribal practices and personal fulfillment which has gone full circle and now these tribal primitive meanings that energized the West to embrace piercing have been eclipsed by this generation's fashion expression.

Tattoo, however, is a very different thing.

Tattoo has been, and is, the major cultural body modification when compared to piercing, which has always been a distant second. The nineties roared for piercing continuing into the 21st Century; a phenomenon that produced lines of people outside Sacred Tattoo, waiting for their tongue and navel piercings. By 2000 the few  piercing-only shops, to survive, switched into tattoo shops relegating piercing to an add-on. It’s a fascinating and lively history that is likely to be lost because few people have this kind of overview and active participation in both businesses as I have been fortunate to have.

Tattoo, as contrasted to piercing, contains significant historical, cultural and personal meaning beyond what most people experience with piercing.

To make a point, the physicality difference between an abrasion-type wound (a goal of most modern commercial tattoo application technique) leaving a permanent smooth mark on the skin contrasted to a semi-permanent-type piercing puncture wound for jewelry display is not a moot point for tattooists who consider themselves and the craft of tattoo as containing significant historical, cultural and personal meanings above and beyond what commercial piercing offers, as well as a world of difference in mastering the medium, a distinct difference, so much so that many health and safety issues beyond universal precautions have different emphases.

There is no “tattoo-and-piercing industry. Piercing is not the handmaiden of tattoo but stands on its own with its own culture, language and experiences. The two should not be linked in regulations.

T&P share little in common, other than they both happen to the body. Unfortunately they are mostly treated as one business in most regulations because it seems natural and certainly more convenient, except in New York where tattooists took a stand and had a Health Department that took stakeholder interests seriously and considered the issues based on the merits, not prejudice. Body piercing exists in spite of tattoo shops, not because of them.

By joining T&P, is it that the negativities alleged against one will cross-contaminate the other?

Chalmers limited historical knowledge leads to a fallacy of argument so that statements that apply only to tattoo or only to piercing, together, appear more compelling and significant. Though the two have almost nothing in common, together the negativities seem to spill over and cross-contaminate each other as if what is said of one infects the other, which neither could do alone. This is part of the overall criticism of the article: lack of knowledge of the subject leading to false and incorrect conclusions.

The only rationale I can discover to make it possible to treat them together is more of a  loophole, suggested by Paul Lehane in The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health – JEHR Vol 4, Issue: 1, Year 2005.  He writes that “…the courts could adopt [regulation]…given their association with body art they are likely to be undertaken from premises used for licensed cosmetic activities.”

This argument supports and reveals my contention. It rests on the premise that piercing is only associated with tattoo by the physical premises, not the nature of the activity. One set of rules is not acceptable.

Back at the beginning, Chalmers states the problem:

“…and continue and grow in popularity in modern day Western societies. (Camphausen, 1997; Rush 2005)”.

This article would be rejected if bluntly stated that legislation must be enacted to reduce the popularity of T&P.

That T&P has grown in popularity is common knowledge and does not require sourcing because the information is observable everywhere. My point is, the article would be scoffed at if the purpose were bluntly stated. Arguments against tattoo alone will not be compelling but, combined with piercing the argument increases more than just two fold.

Camphausen and Rush are actually downplayed blunting the emphasis these authors intended their reader to understand.


Camphausen 1997:2 says it is an “explosion” (notice he downplays piercing).      

The last years have brought an explosion of interest in – and demand for – all types of body decoration, though it is mainly tattooing, followed by piercings of all kinds, that has undergone a true renaissance. (Camphausen 1997:2)

Even Jane Caplan wrote in her Introduction

…the “tattoo renaissance” that has swept through Europe and the USA in the past few years: that verb is not too strong to describe the centripetal force with which tattooing has recently emerged from the margins of Western culture. (Caplan:xii

Both Camphausen and Rush specifically and forcefully intended to convey that something remarkable was happening. Chalmers does however later write the same thing but calling it a "revival" is not accurate.: “Touching on the global revival…”(p102) and “witnessing a global revival…”(p103)

Footnote 1:

John A. Rush is really the source Chalmers' paraphrase from page 18, except the "piercing" reference which is added..

Chalmers copies Rush who writes:

According to Caplan (2000:xi) almost all cultures at one time practiced tattooing… (Rush p18)

Rush  references “(Caplan 2000)”, a scholarly modern work on tattooing, Written on the Body, by Jane Caplan, Editor and Contributor. Chalmers leads you to think she is giving credit to Caplan, but this is not from Caplan, this is from Rush sourcing what Caplan said.

Someone could argue that the “(Caplan 2000)” refers to the second sentence not the first sentence, but this cannot be defended.


Wholly human phenomena, they are activities that have been practiced in almost all cultures at one time or another  (Caplan 2000) ...

This could not be claimed because  A) it is Rush who uses the unique phrase “wholly human phenomenon” (unfortunately mis-attributed) from his book Spiritual Tattoo, page 18.
B) The second sentence uses the phrase “they are activities” referring back to tattooing and body piercing in the first sentence, putting those words again at the doorstep of Jane Caplan. So that argument could not be made.

C) Another defense might be to admit that “Yes” it is all from Rush but just a mistake by listing Caplan not Rush as the source and getting them confused. But this too cannot be defended because Rush did not write “and piercing” in this context either.

Jane Caplan clearly distinguished and gave pre-eminence to tattoo not as a co-equal with piercing.

From Jane Caplan's Introduction:

Tattooing is one of many forms of irreversible body alterations, including scarification, cicatrization, piercing and branding, and it is [ ] probably the oldest and most widespread of these…tattooing can be found in virtually all parts of the world at some time.…tattooing alone has had an extended, if discontinuous history in Western culture. (p.xi)

Jane Caplan is not making a statement about piercing anymore than making a statement about “scarification, cicatrization or branding.”

Tattooing is the subject, not “Tattooing and body piercing.”

tattooing “is [ ] probably the oldest”;

tattooing is the “most widespread”;

“tattooing can be found in virtually all parts of the world at some time”;

“tattooing alone has had an extended…history”. 

Written on the Body is about tattooing, not piercing.

When Jane Caplan co-mingles “piercing”  among other forms of body alteration this is the intended meaning of the text that there is no intention to single piercing out. It is a list of forms of irreversible body alteration. If anything, it would be easy to show that branding would definitely have her attention as having historical and cultural significance, more extensive and widespread than piercing. There is no doubt about that. Even Rush, one of Chalmers’ most referenced authors, makes an effort to diminish piercing’s status and importance.

Footnote 2

As representatives of the tattoo community for the deliberations and consultations with the City Council and the Health Department, Clayton Patterson, President of the Tattoo Society of New York and I were repeatedly voted to serve as members on all subsequent committees. We were democratically elected to represent the tattooists’ views and authorized to negotiate changes to the proposed legalization, which we did to great applause and almost unanimous agreement. One such proposal was to remove all references to piercing within tattoo regulations: which was accomplished. This  directly supports the contention that at least one prominent City and the Health Department concurred that the two activities were uniquely different.

This distinction between T&P was recognized and affirmed by the NY City Council and the NYC health department by the removal of all references to piercing from the proposed Tattoo Regulations which subsequently became law in 1997.  It was the New York City Council’s view, that if warranted, piercing would get its own regulations. The consensus was that the two did not have sufficient similarities physiologically, in practice of application, aftercare, training, and different psychological and sociological purposes to be treated as one type of activity. The tattoo community made that call and it was upheld as valid.