TRENDER: Rockstar Body Piercing’s Jef Saunders

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


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Rockstar Body Piercing's Jef Saunders: "It's different from an art form like painting or tattooing, but it absolutely involves an aesthetic eye."

Who are the Rhode Islanders leading in arts, fashion, food, and style? They're Trenders, and GoLocalProv offers glimpses of the people you most want to know on the scene. Today’s trender is Jef Saunders, a professional piercing technician and founder of Rockstar Body Piercing on Thayer Street, Providence. His blog, “Confessions of a piercing nerd: body piercing, rationally,” aptly sums up his approach to piercing: a realm where passion meets consideration. He currently wears 6 piercings (lobes, daith, forward helix, two nostrils) but has had dozens in the past. He says he likes to be pierced regularly so he can experience the piercing and healing processes, which “can help [him] to better relate to and assist [his] clients.”

How did you become involved in body piercing? How did you first begin to practice?

I found an apprenticeship with a piercer in CT at first, but she was far too new in her piercing career to be of much guidance. I ended up training with the piercers in RI that were far better qualified and gave me a great starting basis. As the last step in my apprenticeship, I attended the Fakir Intensives Basic Piercing Intensive in San Francisco, California in 1999. This experience, training with the Fakir Intensives, ended up being the most important experience of my entire life. was introduced to the magic of piercing by a living legend, one of the pioneers of body modification: Fakir Musafar himself. ( Years later, I became an instructor for his classes and I continue to work for the Intensives to this day. (

I opened Rockstar in 2002, and I've been there ever since, doing guest spots and teaching piercing around the country. In 2012 I founded the New England Piercing Group, an organization of piercers committed to positive communication and sharing knowledge.

What's your most interesting or bizarre piercing story (either your own or a customer’s)?

I've pierced all kinds of people, and I think one of the best things about being a piercer is the opportunity to meet different people and learn about why they want to get pierced. Bizarre things seldom happen in a well-run piercing studio. Very rarely does a client even get light headed!

One of my favorite interesting stories happened a few years ago: I was piercing a woman's ear lobes. She was in her late 70's, early 80's. When she sat up to look at her new piercings, she shocked me by saying what my college student clients say all the time, "My mom is going to kill me!" I will never forget it.

Many people might wonder how one becomes a professional body piercer: what does this involve?

I can only say what it involved for me, because everyone's path is different. I pursued an apprenticeship, and watched a pro work for some time. Apprenticeships typically involve slowly but surely taking on more responsibilities and then doing supervised piercings, and this was the case for mine. I also attended the Fakir Intensives Basic Piercing class, as well as the Advanced. I've attended classes for years at the Association of Professional Piercers conference in Las Vegas (where I will be teaching next week). Education is hugely important, and continuing to pursue new educational opportunities has kept me excited and up to date. I do far more teaching now than attending classes, but I am also keen to work with other piercers and network accordingly.

On your blog you state that someone asks you for an apprenticeship almost every day, but that people often aren’t the right fit for the job. What characteristics are particularly important to be an piercing apprentice and ultimately a professional body piercer?

In terms of skills, hand eye coordination is key, as well as critical thinking skills. Health and safety is of huge importance, obviously, and the ability to not only maintain health and safety standards but also consistently strive to improve is enormously important. That requires a decent intellect and a brain for science.

Above all else, I think it's crucial that you like people. Really, really like people. If you can't enjoy the interaction you have with your clients, you will miss out on the routinely transcendental aspects of being a body piercer.

Many people might think body piercing isn’t an artform. What would you say to them?

I haven't actually experienced that! But I do consider piercing to be an art form. Obviously, it is different from an art form like painting or tattooing, but it absolutely involves an aesthetic eye.

What is the best thing about working in Rhode Island? The most challenging?

Rhode Island is my favorite place in the world. That sounds like a boast but I have traveled a lot, and I am still here for a reason. I love Rhode Island. The best part of working specifically in Providence is the huge diversity of this city. If you want to learn something about a culture, you will have that opportunity because they will be in to Rockstar to be pierced at some point. It is a privilege to work with the people of this state.

The most challenging thing? The parking tickets. They are relentless with those parking tickets, aren't they? 


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