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Diary of a Cutting

Blair, from Canada, was coming to Holier Than Thou in Manchester for a few days. I had a design I'd been thinking about for a while, so I booked an appointment.

It was my first permanent modification – I have no tattoos, and though I've had many piercings, I felt this was something very different. This was a decision I could never reverse, a lifelong commitment, a mark on my body I'd wear day and night forever. I was crossing a very significant boundary – I always knew I'd cross it one day, and here it was, a rite of passage, a coming of age. I felt the day approaching with so much excitement and apprehension.

The day came, and I took the train to Manchester with a couple of friends. Blair and I went for a coffee while we planned the design. We talked over my sketches for a while and Blair drew it up. It was a slave ring containing a triskele, about 6x6cm, to be cut into the back of each of my shins, mirror images, low down, just above my ankle. It incorporated some cutting and some skin peeling.

Back at the studio Blair printed the design onto each leg. He explained that he'd cut in the whole piece really shallow, then go over it again and deepen it before doing the skin peel. He started with the right leg.

The pain was very sharp and localised. It was the feeling of a precise cut with a very sharp knife being performed carefully and skilfully – quite intense, but, in terms of pure sensation, the most pleasurable kind of pain. Every now and then I'd enquire about his progress and he'd stop and let me see. It was fascinating, incredible.

After the cutting, he started the skin peel. This was the part I'd really worried about – I was familiar with the feeling of skin being cut by a knife, but with skin removal, I had no idea what to expect. But it wasn't that bad. It wasn't really very different to the sensation of the cutting. It wasn't difficult to handle at all, until at one point I looked over my shoulder to see him making a little 'sawing' motion with his knife on the underside of my skin as he peeled. That was hard to stomach. I shouldn't have looked.

The first one took about an hour. We moved straight on to the second piece, which didn't take as long. When they were finished we cleaned up, took some photos and Blair covered them with gauze and wrapped them in cling film. It was amazing. I was on such a high

The wounds were painless for a few hours. On the train home, I had a short nap, and woke up to find them stinging painfully, constantly. We went for a celebratory glass of wine (probably not the best idea I've ever had), and by the time I got home, the gauze was soaked in blood. I unwrapped them, they bled for a while, and I washed them with tepid, soapy water. That hurt. It really, really, really hurt. That was the most painful part of the whole day. I rinsed them under the shower and sat in agony for a couple of minutes until the pain subsided and I rewrapped them.

Day 2: They look less bloody, less fresh. The progress in healing is visible, but the wounds are still open, gaping, fleshy, weeping. Taking the gauze off to clean them is difficult – it gets stuck in the wounds, especially the skin peel, and doesn't come out easily.

Day 3: Now they're trying to scab over, but it all pulls off with the gauze when I remove it, and it bleeds. Cleaning is still painful, but not quite so agonising. It gets quite painful quite randomly – I get a lot of sudden, throbbing, pulsing, intense pain. Changes in activity bring it on.

Day 5: Today I got some hydrogen peroxide to irritate the wounds with. I'm going to leave the skin peels largely to their own devices, since there's little risk they'll heal invisibly. The parts that are just cutting, however, are likely to heal very subtly, since I'm quite pale-skinned, and I don't want to lose the detail, so I'm going to try to irritate them a bit more.

The hydrogen peroxide sizzles and bubbles when it touches the wounded flesh. It stings a little. I wipe it over the whole piece then use a toothbrush to scrub the cuttings. My skin doesn't like it – around the cutting I've come up in a bunch of red spots.

Day 7: They've closed over now, and they don't stick to the gauze any more. I'm still washing it with soap and water twice a day and irritating it with the hydrogen peroxide. The skin surrounding the wounds is visibly contracting, and the scabs are maturing daily. The progress is so visible; it's really interesting to watch my body's healing process hard at work.

Day 14: The cuttings (not the skin peels) are close to healed now, but I'm trying to delay it. I've been pulling the scabs off the cut parts as much as I can and using hydrogen peroxide daily. I had one go at pulling all the scabs off the skin removal – that was painful, and difficult, and set it back in the healing process quite a lot.

Day 20: I stopped wearing bandages on them a few days ago. The cuttings seem to be completely healed now, and the skin peels aren't far off. A lot of the scabs have come off and left new skin – still not fully formed, but it's starting to look like the final, healed product.

Day 27: Almost all the scabbing has gone now, leaving a flaky, purple scar. The new skin is still really delicate and weak. It looks like a decoration now, rather than a wound. I love it so much.

Day 41: They appear completely healed now. The scar tissue is now dark red, and getting stronger. The detail isn't as obvious as I'd like, I might have them touched up eventually. But for now, I'm going to take every opportunity to show them off in all their magnificent glory. It's been an amazing experience, I've loved every bit of it, and I'm so proud.


submitted by: Anonymous
on: 10 Aug. 2006
in Scarification

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Artist: Blair
Studio: Holier+Than+Thou
Location: Manchester

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