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mistakes made art

I have been mulling over the idea of scarification for the last year. I had acquired some unpleasant scars on my left wrist that forced me to wear long sleeves almost all of the time out of embarrassment. Scarification for me was not only an expression of self but a way to free myself from past mistakes.

Now a lot of adults I know cannot begin to understand "kids these days" with their piercings, died hair, and tattoos. So I was not surprised by the reaction I got when I announced that I was going to have my wrist scarred. This negative feedback was actually beneficial to me because it solidified the fact that I was doing this for myself and no one else.

The chain of events leading up to the day of my scarring was pretty typical. I met with the artist, Dave Gillstrap, who also happened to be my piercer, and we discussed design ideas and set a date. Because my scarification involved the covering of scars it was a little more difficult to design because we were both set on completely hiding the previous scars.

The day that I was to go in came and I was surprisingly calm. More than scared or nervous, as I thought I might be, I was elated and antsy. I arrived at the studio at 10am where Dave began by drawing out the design. He was a perfectionist and many times he would erase and remove the ink. I appreciated greatly his desire to make sure I was completely satisfied with the design.

Although I have a very high pain threshold, because the cutting was to be done on my wrist I did not want the possibility of me flinching and moving under the scalpel so I used some EMLA topical anesthetic. I was a little skeptical as to how well the EMLA would hold up but surprisingly it did wonders. Of course I still felt the cutting, it just was a less severe pain.

The design, which is two flowers, looking somewhat like hibiscus, and several leaves, was only about 3 ½ inches in length and 1 ½ inches in width but the location of the scar made for a longer procedure. Dave expressed that on any other part of my body this scar would take less than an hour to complete, but since it was right above large veins and arteries, Dave was extremely methodical. Each small line he cut layer by layer of skin. His attention to detail and concern for my well being made the entire experience almost meditative.

Usually Dave performs scarification in a closed room as to not be disturbed. But I had brought down two of my friends for moral support so the door remained open and throughout all four hours of the prepping and cutting we had an audience of sorts. Not that it is necessarily important what others think of my scar, but it was nice to hear people tell me how beautiful it was turning out to be.

We took a break after the first hour and a half so that I could reapply the EMLA and just get some fresh air. When we came back to continue, one of the other piercers from the shop asked to sit in for a bit, which I didn't mind at all. Dave was explaining to her that more than thinking about what the scar will look like right away, while cutting you have to envision the scar six months down the road. This was reassuring because it meant that he wasn't just doing it to get it done but he took great pride in his work.

I don't think that I could have had a better experience. The entire time I was comfortable, relaxed and confident in the abilities of my artist. I am excited to watch my scar heal and change in the next few months. I got exactly what I wanted, looking at it now, you cant even tell that there were scars to begin with, they all look like purposeful cuts that form the design.

I encourage anyone who has ever thought of scarification to look further into it. The best advice I can offer is to be comfortable with the person you chose to perform on you, because it makes all the difference.

I have no doubt in my mind that I will always love these scars. It's fascinating to watch your body heal itself and make its own art. I am now planning my next scar, something a little more hidden and larger in size. I will most defiantly be going back to Dave for my next scar. The most exciting part of the whole event is that now when people see my scarred wrist, instead of asking what happened, they marvel at the beauty of the art displayed on my wrist.


submitted by: Anonymous
on: 12 July 2003
in Scarification

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Artist: Dave+Gillstrap
Studio: Enigma
Location: San+Diego%2C+CA

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