Getting a piercing can be hella daunting. After making the decision to commit to more bling, there’s the question of what to get done, the fear of how much it will hurt, and the overwhelming choice of jewellery on offer out there. And as our favourite girls are puncturing their ears with more and more jewels, the frequency with which we’re finding ourselves in the piercer’s chair is on the up.
Luckily we — along with our mates at Koda Cutters — brought our pal and NY/LA’s coolest piercer, J. Colby Smith, to town this week to answer all our burning questions IRL. Scroll through for some beautiful ear inspo and some very practical advice before your next visit.
What’s your stance on mixing different metals?
Um, part of my OCD makes it really hard for me to mix metals — you have to be careful. If they’re touching each other it’s okay, because it looks intentional. Say if you take a white gold ring and a rose gold ring and you stuff them in the same hole, then it looks like you meant to mix your metals. If it’s like a white gold ring over here, and a rose gold ring over there, then I don’t think it works very well. What I’m looking for is — I’m trying to tell a story, and have consistency in that story, and tie everything together in different ways. I think with keeping the material the same, it helps you achieve that. I hate mixing, but some people mix and do it very well. It’s tricky [laughs].
Piercings are so common these days — they are way less counterculture or rebellious as they used to be. How do you stand out?
I think the thing that makes me stand out is that I go in the opposite direction to… I mean, I grew up in that counterculture scene, so there’s always a little bit of a head nod to that. But instead of being more extreme — because that’s how progressive things happen; they get more, and more, and more — I went the other way. I’m on the more conservative side of things — I think by keeping things minimal, delicate, beautiful, simple, and neutral makes my work stand out. It’s not aggressive, and honestly it’s just more digestible to a bigger audience.
When people come in and are quite visibly nervous — as I was — what do you do to calm them down?
It’s different for every person, but I always try and put myself in their position. I’ve always been very good at understanding what it’s like to be the waiter, or the flight attendant; I can always put myself in the other role. I think that gives me the advantage of knowing, and almost anticipating, what you’re going to ask, what you’re thinking, whether you’re feeling awkward or nervous — all those things. What happens is, the more I do that, you give me your trust. I really don’t try to acknowledge it — I don’t baby people. Like with you, I knew you were nervous, but I didn’t talk to you like you were a 12-year-old, because you’re not.
What’s the standard recovery time for piercings, and is it different for different parts of the body?
I’d say two months at a best case scenario, and six months at worst. I’d say that’s pretty average. When I say two months, I don’t mean that it’s going to be painful — it just takes that long for there to be an actual hole there. That means you just want to leave the jewellery in, keep cleaning it — it’s going to be temperamental. The number one rule is: don’t sleep on it. I don’t care if you don’t clean it — I mean, cleaning it is good, and it helps — but sleeping on it is 99% of the problems people have. Airplane neck pillows work well — use it like a doughnut and put your piercing in the hole. It’s not a cool look, but it will save you a lot of bullshit down the road.
Do you have any piercing don’ts?
[Laughs]. Don’t get a piercing if you’re impatient. Piercing requires patience, and you have to be willing to go through what you have to go through to have what you want. Piercing is not for everybody — you might like the look, but maybe it’s not your thing, and that’s okay. When I say patience, it’s a frame of mind.