When you think about it, there's not much difference between tattooing and scarification. Both are methods of ornamenting one's skin. But while getting a tattoo has become as mundane as getting an ear pierced, there's just one place in San Diego to get scarred, and, even there, the "cutter" is careful to sit down with a client to make sure he or she is physically and emotionally ready before putting blade to skin
The crew at Apogee Body Piercing in Ocean Beach say they're seeing an increase in popularity for scarring, so maybe it's just a matter of time for this uncommon, yet ancient, form of body modification.
Apogee staff said people want to get scarred for various reasons-aesthetics, spirituality, even for the pain itself.
"The scarring can be seen as a way to release excess energy in a meaningful way," said Jordan Allen, a professional cutter at Apogee.
Some Apogee clients say scarification is much more painful than a tattoo, but others say it's less so. Cutter Ronnie Shaw-whose own full-body and facial tattoos, stretched earlobes, scars, burns and brands have earned him a place in the body-modification exhibition currently on display at the Museum of Man (and he was the subject of a April 13, 2005 CityBeat cover story)-says the cutting sensation is "sharper and warmer than a tattoo."
All cuts leave permanent scars, but Shaw explains that different types of cuts leave different types of scars. A common cut is a channel cut, which forms a deeper, thicker scar than just a single thin line. Cutters can also use tissue removal in their designs, which is simply removing some layers of skin to create even deeper images.
The cutting is always performed in a clean, sterile area to avoid infection, just like tattoos and piercings. However, the huge difference between the two is the healing process; clients are encouraged to pick at the scar to create a more noticeable design-or let it heal naturally for a lighter look.
The possibilities for design are endless, though small or intricate designs are tough. Clients at Apogee have asked for anything from a tribal design to a Japanese mask.
Apogee also does other types of body modification, such as branding (burning the skin with an electrocauterizer) and moxa incense burning (a process of burning a cone of incense on the body, which slowly sears the skin, leaving behind a perfect circular scar). www.apogeepiercing.com.