Endy: Hi, everyone, welcome back to the #iamAvanti podcast and you're here with your host, Endy. Unfortunately, I am solo today, but not really because I'm here with Katie. Say hi, Katie.
Katie: Hi, Endy, and hi to all listeners!
Getting to know Piercer Katie Ragon
Endy: Yeah. So I reached out to a couple piercers in this group that I am in called Piercer Babes. It's really awesome. It's a really great resource for just the industry in general and I just asked if there were some piercers here that want to come and talk to me about their experiences and how are they feeling and how they're doing right now. If you're not aware, we are doing this episode in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic so we are recording remotely. I'm in my home in Portland and she's in her home and---you're in Ohio. Are you in Ohio right now?
Katie: Yeah, Cleveland, Ohio.
Endy: Yeah, and so we are social distancing so don't worry about that, but we are able to utilize technology in a really awesome way that we can still connect and talk to each other. So I have a couple of questions that I wanted to ask. Well, I guess we already talked about the first one already, which is where you're from so yeah, where are you from? If you want to talk about that a little bit.
Katie: I'm born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, for my entire life. So I never really left home. I just kind of moved around the area a bit and I currently actually work in the city that I was born in. So I was born in North Olmsted, a suburb of Cleveland and now I work in North Olmsted again.
Katie: I live in Cleveland, the actual city.
Endy: Cool. Yeah, that was the second question was where you work? So born and raised working in the same place you live - very, very cool. How long have you been piercing for?
Katie: So I've been piercing for three years now and that includes a one-year apprenticeship.
Endy: Cool! Awesome. What's the name of your shop?
Katie: The current shop I work for is called Piercing Perfections. We're located inside the Great Northern mall in North Olmsted.
Endy: Oh, cool! Avanti is in a mall too. How's that been working in a mall?
Katie: That's awesome.
Endy: Yeah. How do you feel about having a shop that's in the mall because our shops also in a mall and I feel like it has a very unique---it brings unique opportunities for sure. They're having like a standing on store. So what's that experience been like for you like being in a mall and being in a piercing shop?
Katie: Yeah, that's actually a really great question because this is the first time I'm working in that type of environment. So with a mall, it's as you know, it's very busy, there's lots of people and there's lots of people like lookie-loos like "Oh, you're here? What are you? like do actual body piercings inside the mall?" like that. You know, because their only experience usually with piercings and malls is probably you know, their local place that uses a piercing garden like Claire's or Piercing Pagoda, or someplace like that. So they've never even, you know, maybe even seen a real piercing studio before they walk into my studio before they walk into your studio so it's a very unique type of atmosphere in that way.
Endy: Yeah, yeah, I totally agree with getting like the lookie-loos. A lot of the time, I'll see people like just in the window just looking and they're just like, it becomes almost like a little bit of a spectacle and then they come in and like you guys do piercings here for real? And it's like, yeah, you can, you know, buy a T-shirt and then come in and get your ears pierced.
“It's made to be inside your body, it's not going to wear away over time. And in five years from now, it's not gonna be in irreparable quality where you can't wear it or use it anymore”- Katie
Katie: Yeah, it's also very different because you have a lot of people that know virtually nothing about body jewelry, places inside the mall that sell body jewelry, and they're like, they come into my studio and they're like, "Oh my god, this is expensive." And it's like, "Well, yes, I'm sure it's expensive compared to what you're used to. But let me explain why." You know, this is all implant grade titanium, it's, you know, 14k 18k gold, it's no phillium, it's all super safe to be inside your body. It's made to be inside your body, it's not going to wear away over time and in five years from now, it's not gonna be, you know, in irreparable quality where you can't wear it or use it anymore.
“I feel good being able to educate people on that because a lot of people don't really know anything about jewelry quality.” - Endy
Endy: Exactly, like I feel good being able to educate people on that because yeah, like you said, a lot of people don't really know anything about jewelry quality, or they see the price and they get a little bit intimidated but yeah, it's like you're investing in yourself, you're investing in this piece of metal that won't turn or like won't give you any allergic reactions unless you're actually allergic to titanium and that kind of builds the value of it and it kind of like lets people know a little bit better because, you know, I've done it before. I've gotten my ears pierced in places where they use lower--- quite tight quality and I've definitely noticed a difference between now and before with like the process of my healing and how much easier it's been and like, how more --- how much more like, secure I feel in my piercings. So it's great to be able to educate people on that and have those experiences because it's not like, you know, your typical shop where you just walk in and you're like, "I want some silver earrings that you know if I wear them every day, we'll kind of rise."
Katie: That's like my favorite question, "Do you guys sell silver earrings?" It's like "No, I don't. I have things that look like they're silver. But let me explain why you actually shouldn't be wearing things like sterling silver inside your body." Shine for a ring or for a necklace for most people. But actually, when you wear sterling silver earrings, for instance, you can have discoloration of the skin and that's because you shouldn't be wearing things like sterling silver inside your body it's not a safe material for body jewelry.
How has this pandemic affected you and your work?
Endy: Right, exactly. So, as far as the coronavirus goes, how has this pandemic affected you and your work? What was the process like, is your shop still open? Like when did if it's not one of you guys close and what was that like for you?
Katie: Yeah, so we have been now shut down in Ohio for 11 days. We were mandated to shut down by our governor Mike DeWine and it's definitely been hard being home obviously I am not making any money at home because unlike some other people in our industry, I am not a super-duper crafty person so I'm not you know, selling artwork or anything online right now so it's just me at home, thinking and wishing that I could be in my studio piercing but before we were shut down, we were very slow for the last two weeks before shut down. So even, you know, before we actually got shut down, I took a really big hit to my income, which is something a lot of people aren't talking about right now is this is our busy season for piercers and tattoo artists. This is when we make our money for the year and now that's just gone for us right now. I am very fortunate that I am currently working for a studio that chooses to pay me hourly instead of commission which for the first time I'm very thankful for because if it wasn't for that, those two weeks I would have made absolutely no money.
“It changes people's lives to get their bodies modified. It helps people see who they are in their true form and it helps them to connect their inside to their outside.” - Endy
Endy: Yeah, it sucks and it's heartbreaking because, you know. I was seeing one of the posts on the in the group that we're in and someone was kind of disheartened by the fact that what they do wasn't considered like an essential business. Which I think that it is in a way because it changes people's lives to get their bodies modified, and helps people see who they are in their true form and it helps people kind of to connect to the inside to their outside. So the fact that is not considered essential was kind of like what does that mean? Like that's kind of, that's kind of a bummer because people rely on that and of course, the piercers and tattoo artists, of course, are essential because that's where you make your bread and butter I was just behind the counter. So I just considered it like another retail job just with a twist but if I were to actually have been a piercer or a tattoo artist, I would be very, very scared right now so it's a pretty unfortunate thing that's happening right now. It's a pretty uncertain time but when the shop was open, what was a typical day like for you in your studio?What was a typical day like for you in your studio?
Katie: A typical day for me when I am at my studio is I come in, you know, I open the studio, you know, we do nightly cleaning, but I usually wipe everything down again in the morning just to make sure there's no dust or anything not as, you know, fingerprint lingering around somewhere it shouldn't be. I turn on all my display cabinet lights, I get the cabinet that I leave open there during the day opened up, then I go back and I start prepping my tools for the day. I see if they've been ran. If not, you know, I run my cycles on my tools. I clean up my station, I organize my station, I stock my station. I just basically make sure that everything is prepped and ready that I might need for the day. Then I go you know, do regular more retail stuff, I count the drawer down, I count the change box down. You know any deposits that may need to be made for the day. You know --- that general stuff but that's the start of my day and then most of the day then I am just assisting clients whether jewelry changes, doing piercings, consultations for piercings, troubleshooting problems that they might be having, generally selling jewelry. You know, helping people decide what's going to be right for them and what's gonna, you know, ultimately get them to their goal.
Endy: Awesome, sweet. So, speaking of piercings, what are some of your favorite and least favorite piercings to perform on your clients?
Katie: I think that's a constantly changing thing for most piercers including myself because you know, you'll be going really strong with a piercing for a while, and then one day, you do one crooked and it just kind of mentally fucks you up for a little bit. But right now, I would say the ones that I'm like--I'm having a lot of fun with that coming out very well and I just like doing them more than I previously have are septum piercings. I was super, super fortunate to be able to do a seminar with Nicholas the Geezer and he did a septum and forward helix seminar and that changed my septum game.
Katie: Always done good septums I think now I'm doing arguably great septums for the ones that I've done recently so I'm super happy about that. Nipples are another one that I previously did not like at all and I found a new technique for doing them and now I feel like they're coming out like butter, and I'm just really happy about that. As far as a piercing that I'm not super hot on right now, daith piercings, which is funny because it's a piercing I previously really like to do, but I had a couple come out less than what I would have wanted them to and I'm just having a little bit of issue wrapping my brain around them which are discussing with the other piercer at my studio right before we close down. So when I get back into work, that's something you know, I look forward to working with him on so I can get back to where I was.
Endy: Nice. Yeah, daiths look cool, but they seem kind of gnarly to do. So I mean, like I said, I'm not a piercer at all.
Katie: Yeah, they're trickier one.
Endy: Yeah, I'm not a piercer at all. So I have zero experience about how to do it like in real life and everything else. But just the idea and the placement and the fact that everyone's ears is different and the fact that people will expect some like miracle magic thing to happen after they get it done. I feel like it's a lot of pressure altogether.
"I think if people suffer from migraines, they should look into acupuncture and other holistic medicine"- Katie
Katie: It really is and it's also like you said, a lot of people are looking for this miracle cure right now with face piercings, and that's not what they are. The thinking behind it is that it's hitting an acupuncture point, but I personally receive acupuncture. My acupuncture is just blast when we talk about it he's like well, the point you're hitting when you're piercing is actually not the point for those types of migraines depending on what type of migraines people suffer from. It's not the right spot at all. You know and I even just off the spot it's not even near the spot that they would use. I think if people do suffer from migraines they should look into things like acupuncture and other holistic medicine if they tried and failed with Western medicine when it comes to relief, but I'm not I'm not selling cure I'm selling dope body piercing so they're gonna go well.
Endy: Exactly. Yeah, that's the thing about it. I'm like yeah, it may work like whenever people come into the shop and ask about it I'm like, there's no real proof it might work for you, it might not but either way, you get a super cute piercing and that's ---
Endy: -that's the one on - home like the one on alcohol same thing.
Katie: I think that's a great thing for you as a counter person to say because a lot of some piercers believe in just dashing people's hopes that it will work for them. I don't necessarily believe in that, because I think if it does work, it's probably more of a placebo type effect?
Katie: In which case if you believe in it, it's going to work.
Katie: So I don't want to tell you "No, it's not going to work." But I'm not going to tell you it's going to work either.
Katie: I have had clients tell me that it worked for them. I've also had clients tell me it didn't work for them, but they all had awesome days, piercings that they really enjoy how they look, and how it makes them feel just you know, to be able to express themselves and have that more unique piece of jewelry in them.
Endy: Yeah, that's awesome. So what made you want to become a piercer in general?
Katie: That's a really awesome question. So I've actually been obsessed with body modification and body adornment since I was a very small kid. I, you know, I grew up in an age where, you know, I think around the same age, but tattoo shows were really popular when we were kids and I used to obsessively watch them. I've also always kind of self-identified with like a punk aesthetic so obviously a lot of people with a punk aesthetic wear a lot of body jewelry so I always from the time I was a little kid I wanted to be covered in tattoos and I wanted like pierced to all the way up my ears. Which is funny because now my ears really aren't that pierced. Just because now as a body piercer, I'm super duper picky so I don't currently have that many piercings, but I've always been obsessed with tattoos and piercings I currently have about like 13 tattoos.
Katie: Hoping to get my sleeve done once all this craziness is done.
Endy: Cool. Yeah, I totally remember these tattoos shows like Ink Masters, and what was the other one? Do you ever watch the one that was like tattoo fails and they would like redo them for them and they did it like almost in the storytelling way that these do 100,000 ways. I think all this stuff was on Spike TV. So yeah if you watch Spike TV---
Katie: Yeah, [inaudible 24:00] show.
Endy: Yeah, I remember like Spike and yeah Spike is there's like a music one that is completely that I can't think of right now but I used to switch between those two where I'd walk you they're like really cool like rock videos or like really cool t-shirts. I totally feel you on that [inaudible 16:42] in that episode, too. That's super cool. So what are some things that people might not know about piercings that you've learned while you've been in the industry?
Katie: That's a really good question because I think as far as piercing knowledge goes, you know, 2020 year average client does know a lot more, you know, 10 -15 years ago coming in to see you but there's still so many misconceptions about piercings.
Katie: A big misconception I even had until you know even the last six months was that you need all these extra products to heal a piercing.
Katie: Honestly, leave your piercings the fuck alone, don't put anything on them, suffer some sterile saline, just set it, forget it, keep it dry, freshwater when you shower. Less is more though unless you work in a really like dirty type of environment like you should really be kind of just leave in that bad boy alone as much as possible and I see a lot of piercers especially less educated or lower quality piercers prescribed their clients use, first of all like an antibacterial soap, which is if you're going to use a soap do not use an antibacterial. So please, please, please.
Endy: Wouldn't that dry out? Doesn't like antibacterial soaps, they tend to dry out your piercings a little bit?
Katie: Yes, 100%. So antibacterial soaps in and of themselves, they dry out the piercing. They eliminate all your good bacteria as well as your bad bacteria, which you need the good bacteria to heal. Your body is composed of good and bad bacteria and when your body has too much bad bacteria, that's when things like infection or yeast infections or just you know, your pH being thrown off. That's when stuff like that can happen so really, avoid using antibacterial soap, you're actually doing more harm to your piercing than good and a lot of the antibacterial soaps such as like Dial Gold, which was the industry standard, let's say, at one point, like way back in the day, it's one of the worst ones it has a [inaudible 19:00] it that actually destroys healing skin cells. So basically, if you're using Dial Gold to you know, wash your piercings, you're working against your body to heal the piercing.
“I feel like people don't realize how much of a commitment it is to have a healing piercing and how much time it takes for piercings to heal.” - Endy
Endy: Wow. Yeah, that's definitely something that I feel like a lot of people tend to overlook because I feel like whenever people get piercings they---yeah like they like you were saying earlier they feel like they have to do the most to get them to heal. Also, I feel like people don't realize how much of a commitment it is to have a healing piercing and how much not really like, how much not necessarily how much work it takes, but how much time it takes for piercings to heal. Like I'll have people come in and they're like-
Endy: I was pierced yesterday and it hurts. I am just like yeah, it will gonna hurt for a few days.
Katie: That's always a funny one. It's like I like to tell people you know this is an open wound. Plain and simple. It's just an open wound with a pretty sparkly piece of jewelry in it and just like an open wound or a bruise if you touch it, it's gonna hurt. It also hurt that's your body telling you to quit touching it.
Katie: To be cautious about it. But yes, that's what it's supposed to feel like and a lot of body piercings take anywhere from six months to a year to fully matured heal and a lot of people you know aren't ready for that because even though it's not a lot of work like I said, set it forget it, no saline, no fresh water, keep it dry, good to go. But you know it's there you have to be mindful of it. You know, if you have your ears pierced anytime you go near your ear, anytime you know, go near your face, you have to be mindful, like, don't smack it, don't touch it because one of the biggest ways that you can easily mess up the healing piercing are by touching it with dirty hands, touching it with dirty anything. Cold cases, jackets, hoods, or trauma, you know, by just bumping into it casually.
Endy: Yeah, so if you hear that listeners if you're not a piercer already, don't touch any piercings, leave them alone.
Katie: Don't touch it, don't touch it, don't f*cking touch it. That's something I legitimately say to my clients, especially if I see them, like wanting to like I can just kind of tell like they want to touch it. I'm just like, it's okay, just picture me yelling at you every time you try to.
Endy: So, as far as piercers or other artists in the industry? Who do you look up to and why?
Katie: Oh, that's a really great question. I look up to just about everyone else in the industry that's, you know, doing good things and having a positive impact. I would say some really influential people for me right now would be Luis Garcia, Ryan Ouellette, Jef Saunders. I just took a course from Jef Saunders the other day. He was nice enough to offer piercers Natural Fundamentals Class online for free.
Endy: Oh, cool.
Katie: So that was really amazing. Thank you again, Jef, if you ever hear this, the whole APP has been really awesome about this whole shut down, in trying to keep piercers sane and happy and give us something to do we look forward to. Ryan Ouellette just did doing two classes today actually, I'm going to try to make a six o'clock class if possible but a lot of piercers and instructors right now are doing, you know, a lot of stuff for our community and making sure that you know, we have something to hold on to right now. And I think they're all just doing really amazing things and they're just kicking ass in providing really great services to our industry now and also, you know, they've already been providing us with these really amazing services.
"I love that there's a really strong sense of community and camaraderie amongst piercers." - Endy
Endy: That's incredible. I love that there's a really strong sense of community and camaraderie amongst piercers because right now I feel like is a time for everyone just to bond together and just do your best and try to make it. In speaking of the way that things are going now, where do you think what do you see the industry going after all this is over? Do you think that there'll be like a significant amount of growth once shops open up? Do you think that it will take a while, like, where do you--- where can you predict it going?
Katie: I think it's really hard to say where the industry is going to go after this because partially I think a lot of people are going to be cooped up and like want that new body piercing, that new body modification so they feel like they're back in their own skin again. I also think that there's so many people that are going to be so drastically financially affected by this, that our industry is going to take a really big hit because a lot of those people that want those things aren't going to be able to afford those things.
Katie: As essential as this to me, and to other people in our industry, this is still a luxury service at the end of the day.
Katie: As much as you know, you may spiritually need a nose piercing. You don't physically need a nose piercing you know, you're not going to starve without one you're not going to go you know, you're not going to be living in the street but if you spend all your money on things you can't afford, you know, you will start living on the street so I think only time will tell what's going to happen with our industry but I think the more that we do things like this, and the more we put where piercers and tattoo artists and even you know, hairstylist, nail technicians, barbers, the more we kind of put like our position out there, the more people can see that like they don't abandon us, you know if you can afford to get these services, you know, get the services. Because we, as an industry obviously 100% rely on our clientele for survival you know, I can't pay my bills and you lovely people don't come get shiny stuff put in your body parts.
Endy: Exactly. So last question and thank you so much again for interviewing with me. What have you been doing to just stay sane and keep your wits about you and be comfortable during this very uncomfortable time?
"Keeping yourself active and physically healthy is such an important thing right now." - Katie
Katie: Yeah, this is a very uncomfortable time right now. I have been doing a lot of cooking. I've been doing some baking which is something I normally don't have time to do but really enjoy. My house is cleaner than it's probably been in the last four years so that's something I've been doing. I've also been trying to get exercise. I'm trying to get outside whenever the weather will permit because I think keeping yourself active and physically healthy is such an important thing right now. As someone who already deals with anxiety and depression, trying to not let that mindset win and just keeping myself happy, motivated you know, I'm really thankful that you wanted to interview me for this because this is something that, you know, gets me pumped up, gets me excited gets me thinking about body piercing and it's something you know, that gives me something to look forward to.
Katie: Instead of just you know, watching Netflix or cleaning my house for the 17th time today.Which I very much so enjoy. But you know, you got to break it up.
Endy: Right exactly. It's important to keep yourself mentally and physically active, especially now. Those are all really good things. I should cook and clean more. I've been too busy like knitting and I have a pole in my house. I've been doing that and just laying around a lot.
Katie: I think as long as you know, you're keeping yourself busy, that's the important part. Because I think when you let yourself give in to that, okay, well, I have nothing to do realistically, because I can't work like, you get bogged down and you get depressed and then once you get into that mindset, it's so much harder to get yourself out and if you can keep yourself above it, you know, which would you feel depression and stuff. It's an ongoing battle you know, just trying your hardest to not let yourself get to that point is just really important right now.
Endy: Yeah, exactly. Well, thank you so much, Katie for taking the time to talk to me right now out of your schedule. I really appreciate it and to everyone listening you can find Katie in Cleveland, Ohio at her shop. Do you want to drop some of your social media or where people can find your work?
Katie: Yeah, I'd love to. See, you can find me on Facebook or Instagram at Piercings by Kate. I had an artist do a little piece of artwork for me so it's a cute little drawing of me half cartoon half, half-real me so you can find me through that. But I'm at Piercings by Kate on Facebook and Instagram and my shop is Piercings Perfections and you can find us online anywhere piercing that perfections.
Endy: Perfect. All right, everyone, that was another episode of the #iamAvanti podcast. Thank you so much for listening and if you have any jewelry needs, we are online at avantibodyjewelry.com.
Feel free to click around and if you use the code “ENDY” you get 15% off your purchases.
Thank you so much for listening, and I will see---well you'll listen to me next time I can't---I always say I'll see you next time but this is the podcast so all right later.
Katie: Thank you, Endy.
Endy: No problem. Bye-bye.