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Skin Removal - How Sweet It Is

Warning: This is a thorough account of the scarring process, i.e. it's LONG but worth the read if you're interested in this kind of mod!

I challenge the thought of blood being anything but strikingly beautiful. I believe most people in the BME community would agree there's something mystical and exciting about the liquid that allows us to live; that rich, dark, crimson red that cannot be substituted in any other form. Whenever I am feeling a little less than inspired, a simple stroke of an exacto knife across my thigh suddenly produces a swift wave of enlightenment.

I have several piercings and tattoos but nothing has completely quenched my hunger for that something extra, something more. Enter browsing on BME here and that all changed. Scarification started to appeal to me increasingly as I searched through the many portfolios of artists that offered this modification.

From a purely aesthetic point of view, the look of an area of skin so raw and open was extremely appealing for me. It represented a level of exposure and revealing of one's true insides (anatomically speaking, anyways). On a more spiritual level, a strong portion of my values and what I hold close is being aware in everything in life; always seeking to know the effects of my actions and never settling for mindless self-indulgence. Peeling away the outer, superficial layer embodied this frame of mind perfectly.

I am comfortable with cutting myself and know my pain tolerances well; in fact, I became excited to feel the pain that would be inflicted when the skin came off. At this point I knew I wanted to go through with the procedure, so the formalities ensued. I recognized the location on one of the portfolios, Eternal Body Art, as not only being in my province but less than an hour away from my home. I sent an e-mail asking price ranges (I was clueless as to what the going rate for such a modification was) and sent along a picture of what I had in mind for the design to see if it was feasible.

Within a day or 2, Jesse (the scarification artist and piercer at Eternal Body Arts) got back to me asking to meet in person so we could have adequate time to go over any of my questions and really talk about the process in full. This impressed me, as it indicated his level of seriousness and desire to become more personable, which made me feel calm and comfortable – I wish every body mod artist could do the same! I convinced my friend to drive out to the studio and so a week later we were on our way.

When we arrived Jesse was performing a piercing so we had a few moments to check out the shop and browsed through the portfolios (I had seen most of them before but couldn't get enough – all the scars looked so beautiful). When he finished up we met and talked about tattoos and the city, enjoying the relaxed atmosphere the while. I had brought the design (http://www.vegetarismus.ch/heft/f99-4/images/vegan.gif) with me and explained my reasoning behind it. I wanted it on my lower calf and Jesse agreed it would be a suitable placement (he had a scarring done on his calf as well and it turned out quite nicely). He quoted me at about $200 and explained the materials and process: after placing the stencil on he would use a scalpel to go over the outline with a fairly shallow cut then rub on a numbing spray that would double as a blood diversion to make it easier for him to work. It would have to be bandaged and aired out for 6 hour intervals until it began healing properly – about 2-4 weeks. I asked about the sensitivity to chlorine, as it was summer and I'd be dealing with an open flesh wound, and he replied that it wouldn't harm the healing process so much as it would cause pain for me and possibly make it prone to bleeding (not exactly suitable if I was planning to go to a pool party with kids around). Although it was only mid summer and there was plenty of swimming to be done before the warm weather passed, I was willing to sacrifice chlorine for my cutting (who needs to be submerged in such chemicals anyways, right?)

Feeling content having my questions answered, we set up an appointment in about a month's time and parted ways, a stupid grin plastered on my face once I fully realized this was happening for sure.

A few weeks later I decided to modify my design (and by modify I mean change entirely) after accidentally stumbling across a drawing by Thomas Heine (http://www.mum.org/heine.jpg) while looking up art works by Beardsley. The tree in the background instantly caught my attention. It looked so dreary and sad, whereas most trees have sturdy limbs and hold an upright posture even when they have died and decayed. This made me think a little deeper, knowing that trees are being cleared out for human expansion, being forced to survive in little cutouts in pavements, in between malls, breathing in all the toxic fuels we incessantly burn. It's a wonder they all don't start to droop, as if losing morale and a will to live like so many humans committing suicide when forced to live in similar situations. This was more meaningful to me than a vegan symbol because I chose to eat and live according to a vegan lifestyle for the environmental factors of meat farming above all else, so it made sense to get a scarring of a part of nature rather than a symbol representing all reasoning behind veganism.

I sent Jesse the change in design and he said it would work just the same. Fast forward a few more weeks and I was back in the car with my best friend on the road to Cambridge. We came on a Sunday when the shop was closed to outside customers so we wouldn't be pressured for time or bothered by any distractions. I brought some snacks for us (a guy from Niagara Falls had come down to watch the cutting and gain some observational experience as well) and soon after approving the size of the tree we went into the room, I took another look at the placement and hopped up on the bed, lied down on my stomach with my friends sitting around me and gave Jesse the go-ahead.

I should note here that I was expecting intense pain and lots of blood, hell - I was hoping for it. Much to my disappointment, the pain was minimal and the blood was barely enough to make a mess. The only time I had to kind of bite my lip and grimace slightly was when he made the line from the top all the way to the bottom – the burning sensation from such a sharp knife cut gained in intensity as he reached the lower section of my ankle, but it was nothing to tear up over. Once the initial design was outlined and the skin was opened up, the first application of numbing spray went on and was left for 10 minutes to sink in.

Everything after this point was a dream. I almost fell asleep a few times because I couldn't feel a thing. Compared to being tattooed (and I should note here as well that I've been tattooed for over an hour directly on my sternum as well as over 2 hours on my rib cage/beside breast area so I've felt my share of pain) I would MUCH prefer being cut. It's not as rewarding as there isn't that huge rush of endorphins, but it's kind of nice to just lie down, relax, and come out with an awesome new modification.

The whole thing took about 3 hours (the numbing spray was applied 3-4 times and took a good 15 minutes to apply, wrap up and sink in each time) but I can't express how much it was worth it. I even kept the blood-stained napkin that has the perfect design embedded on it. I was so happy with the result I wanted to get my other calf done right away, but that involved another $200, of which I had about $5, so that will have to wait when the monetary situation is a little more stable. I had no trouble walking or flexing my leg afterwards; it was barely noticeable I had anything done. Here's the picture just upon completion: http://www.bmezine.com/scar/A50720/high/bmegl101857.jpg

As for aftercare, this is when the fun (sarcasm) started. For a full week I had to deal with blood/watery body juices flowing down my leg no matter how well I taped up the area. I don't know what I would've done had I not had an outdoor job where I could wear flip flops or bare feet and not worry about leaving a trail of murky yellow liquid behind me. I shouldn't be complaining, though. Jesse's tried and true method of healing didn't require any harsh scrubbing or sea salt rubs so, all in all, the whole procedure was pretty much painless. If it was the winter and I was wearing pants I would've been quite uncomfortable, so I'm glad this was done where I could let the area fully dry out when need be (wearing shorts in winter just isn't practical in southern Ontario!)

Once the scab formed a solid layer, stretching my leg was hard to do and I couldn't perform any yoga exercises for a good 2 weeks. I didn't really mind as the healing process produced such amazing colours – from bright red to a deep orange to a dark red/purple/black scab. I loved watching it change from day to day.

It's been about a month and a half and it's healing slowly and steadily now. The scab has fallen off and, for the most part, the area is flush with the surrounding skin. When the temperature drops at night it turns a vibrant dark purple, almost black sometimes. The lack of pain during the procedure is more than made up for in the degree of change the scar undergoes daily.

My experience has been a very smooth and memorable one. I HIGHLY recommend Jesse Villemaire at Eternal Body Arts in Cambridge. The studio is spotless, the staff are friendly, and, most importantly, Jesse knows what he's doing. It may be a more thorough healing process than tattoos or piercings but it is imbedded in your skin for life – and for the vegans, there are no worries about animal products being involved! If you're interested I say go for it, just make sure you have the time to care for it while it heals.


submitted by: Anonymous
on: 09 Sept. 2005
in Scarification

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Artist: Jesse+Villemaire
Studio: Eternal+Body+Arts
Location: Cambridge%2C+Ontario%2C+CA

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