I had been thinking about my next piercing for almost a year. At that stage I had a conch-to-conch industrial in my left ear, a helix in my right and double lobes in each. I wanted something in my right ear to balance the industrial – something that matched, but was not exactly like what I already had because while I enjoy evenness I don’t really care about total symmetry. It took a long time to decide what I wanted because I liked so many ear piercings and wanted them all – rook, snug, daith; they were all so pretty and so decidedly pierceable. But I also didn’t want my ears to be ‘cluttered,’ so I knew I would have to plan what I wanted in my right ear in relation to everything I would get later as well.
Eventually I managed to decide on what I wanted that would allow me to get all the piercings I desired without sacrificing an attractive layout. So on a day that is special to me I went to the local shop, Ink Saints, and spoke to my piercer buddy there. I said I wanted a rook to conch industrial which I would later connect up to a second conch to make an orbital, to which I could attach a slave ball that would allow me to connect all three in a ring-bar extravaganza. I liked this idea a lot because of its versatility. I figured that with simple jewellery changes I could have a plain rook and an orbital, or a rook to conch bar with a simple stud in the other conch, or just individual piercings in all three for discreet days. When I told John Wayne my plan he suggested getting them all at once, which I was hesitant about because of the time-consuming nature of the cleaning process – it’s hard enough to look after two cartilage piercings, as I knew from my left ear. But he convinced me eventually, saying that it would work out more cheaply to get them all at once. This appealed to my miserly student existence. So I scrounged some extra cash together and lay on the little massage table. Nobody asked me to fill out a consent form because I had been there before and I’m friends with them anyway, so they know all my details. After much preparation of the jewellery; cutting the Bioplast bars to size and threading them with utterly massive tonguebar-size balls (it was the end of the month and the shop had run out of anything smaller), my markings were made and approved and then the clamps were on my ear.
John Wayne decided to do the rook first. He told me to breathe and pushed the needle through the little fold. It was a very interesting sensation; very little pain but a lot of hard pressure with quick and abrupt release. I heard a faint “thwock” sound as the needle punched through and a tingly numbness started at the piercing site. It must be a fairly stiff piece of ear because my previous cartilage piercings hadn’t felt nearly the same way.
“Wow,” I said. John showed me a small gristly bit which had come off from the needle. “That’s your cartilage,” he told me. It was an oddly pearlescent shade of white and was kind of pretty. I wanted to roll it between my fingers to see if it was as hard as it had felt when the needle pushed through, but decided against asking. I also wanted to sit up and watch John Wayne prep for the next piercing, but my ear had started to develop a little blood-pool which Isabelle, John Wayne’s apprentice and fiancé, began to mop up.
“Fucking vegetarians,” John said. “Eat some meat and your blood won’t be so thin.”
“Hey, I had some green tea just before I came over. It’s the caffeine making me bleed.”
“Green tea? What the hell is that? Drink some COFFEE.”
After some bantering he was ready to do the uppermost conch. When thinking of the piercing I wanted I’d done a few drawings to see how the whole assemblage would look when all connected in its slave glory. But because of the two-dimensional nature of paper I’d forgotten all about the three-dimensional reality of the ear bowl, so when John Wayne had showed me his markings I had been a little surprised – they were further in than I had thought. But it looked a lot more ‘integrated’ than my drawing so I was very happy with it. And I knew John was good at what he did, taking much care to mark everything exactly, using callipers to ensure the ring would join the two up neatly. A breath in and out, then the needle was through. This one hurt slightly more than the rook but went through more fluidly, without the sound effects. It was more like what I had experienced from the previous conch piercing; a bit of heat, a light shot of pain and then tingly numbness. My rook probably had fewer nerve-endings in it due to being so cartilage-rich, or something. Also, John Wayne did not use clamps on the conch; I think this contributed to the comfort level.
More blood, more mopping (although less so than the rook), then I felt John’s cold fingers in my ear for the final one. This hurt the most, perhaps because it was so close to the other conch and my ear was feeling generally indignant. This one bled a fair amount too .. I think that it may have bisected a capillary or something because it has also been the one most likely to bleed since then. A few tugs and some fiddly screwing and the straight bar was in. I wasn’t allowed to move for a little while until the bleeding stopped, and Isabelle sprayed my ear with alcohol most enthusiastically, as apparently it helps stop the bleeding – or something. John Wayne asked if I was okay, but I felt fine as I’d had a decent lunch just before I’d gotten pierced so was not feeling lightheaded at all. When I looked at my ear I had to laugh because it looked almost bionic; bloodstained but with huge knobs of metal gleaming from black bars in all different directions. I thanked them profusely and went along my merry way.
For the first week it was fairly easy to look after. The immediate area around all three was quite bruised for a while, just a slight blue-grey halo around the piercing sites. I took Ibuprofen three times a day to ensure the swelling was minimal and cleaned it two or three times daily, depending on how it felt. Occasionally the bottom conch would begin to bleed, at the slightest touch or sometimes for no reason at all. I developed a system of cleaning my ear that seemed to work nicely: warm saltwater solution applied gingerly with earbuds to remove bloodcrust, then holding a towel under my ear to absorb and pouring said solution over the lot. I allowed the whole ear to get a good soak in the shower and used clips to keep my hair off it. The piercings themselves I didn’t actually touch; especially the rook, which was incredibly stiff and not inclined to move. By the end of the second week the stiffness was gone and all were moving easily, even the rook. At this point the piercing sites had begun to crust a little lymph and had stopped their occasional bleeding. Strangely there was very little swelling after the initial few days; I found I didn’t even need to take any Ibuprofen past the first week – how different to my first major cartilage piercings the year before. For lack of any other reason I attributed this to the ptfe bars; evidently it lives up to its claims to fame. By week three there was also a surprising lack of pain, the piercings withheld a fair amount of pressure from enthusiastic huggers, with even tight embraces incurring only moderate discomfort (although of course I tried to avoid this, if only for fear of germy bits alone) and only really hurt when inadvertently whacked by said huggers. Even so, it was never a particularly disabling pain – more deserving of a sharp intake of breath rather than a violent outcry. The rook, which had been immensely painful even when lightly dabbed to clean in the first week; became quite amicable to being moved around once the crust was off. Not even a fair amount of prodding and swivelling of jewellery during cleaning would incur its wrath. It seems silly to assume the jewellery alone lead to this but that is how it appears.
About five months into the healing, scarring began to show up. I began a routine of applying tea-tree oil whenever I remembered and the dried up, shrank. The rook gave the least problems, perhaps because it rarely felt any pressure or accidental knocks. At the time of writing it’s been seven months and there is still a small bump on the lower conch, but it appears to be doing all right. I still use tea-tree and try keep from sleeping on that ear, and I think after about a year it will be doing just fine. I really enjoy the feel of the bioplast and it’s changed my preferences for jewellery.
submitted by: -K
on: 22 Sept. 2011
in Conch Piercings, Industrials and Orbitals
Artist: John Wayne Stevens
Studio: Ink Saints