More than just poking holes

by Eric Ginsburg

You would think that if needles made you squeamish, being a piercer wouldn’t exactly be a natural career choice. Not so for Mackie Hunter.

When Hunter started her piercing apprenticeship with Seven Sagas in Greensboro a few years ago, she wasn’t sure she could actually stomach pushing a needle through skin. She already had several piercings of her own, now totaling six, and has been drawn to the bodyart industry for as long as she’s known tattoos and piercings existed.

Fortunately it didn’t take too long to get over her fears, and now Hunter takes a clinical approach to her profession. Her clients range from middle-age soccer moms to the frequent students from UNCG a few blocks away. Nose, ear cartilage and belly-button piercings are the most popular, but Hunter has had to turn down people with some pretty terrible ideas (worse than belly-button piercings, believe it or not).

Hunter has started receiving several calls a week inquiring about horizontal tongue piercings, going from one side of the tongue to the other near its tip. It’s not the first time she’s had to talk people out of bad ideas. Other unadvisable ideas people have approached her with include piercings on the top of a foot, she said. Such ideas often come from the depths of the internet, and Hunter sometimes has to convince people that life decisions shouldn’t be based off of Google image searches.

“Education is definitely a big part of the job,” Hunter said.

The gig is much more complicated than the “pinch skin, stab needle” perception, Hunter said, adding that she spends a significant amount of time researching and talking to people about the health and safety aspects of piercings, like the quality of the jewelry or the longevity of an anchored surface piercing.

But for the most part her job is straightforward, averaging 8-10 piercings a week and fewer in the winter. People are often nervous, and Hunter takes her time explaining how to properly care for a piercing and other health aspects to understand. Occasionally people want a paired piercing (think earlobes), but a session generally takes half an hour.

Visually, her favorite piercings are septums and daiths — a type of ear piercing — and Hunter doesn’t do penis piercings. It’s unsurprising, given her clinical approach, that Hunter is focused on emphasizing the importance of using safe jewelry, researching different kinds of steel and taking pains to explain why it’s worth paying more for quality jewelry.

Though she may have started out unsure of herself, about two years into it Hunter has hit a stride and loves her line of work.

“What I like best about being a piercer is at the end when someone looks in the mirror and gets that big smile,” Hunter said. “I like making people feel good about themselves.”