Head to Maria Tash, the authority on body piercing…
New York-based Tash has always loved piercings. She had her earlobes pierced at 14, and started experimenting on herself age 17. During the 1980s, she spent two years studying in London, and it was here that she discovered a real appreciation for the art of body piercing. “The goth and punk scene was formative – there was a scene in New York, but it was more theatrical and piercing-heavy in London”.
Upon returning to the US Tash realised how hard it was to find a highly regarded piercing salon. She opened her first shop, Venus Modern Body Arts in the East Village, in 1993, and has been chipping away at the stigmas surrounding body piercing ever since – the common perception being that the art is grungy and unglamorous. Successful from the start; “we got a lot of interest early on because it was something really novel”, but disappointed by the lack of great piercing jewellery, she opened her second piercing and tattoo studio; Venus by Maria Tash on Broadway, where she launched her own collection of fine jewellery for the ear, nose, navel and beyond.
By 2005 Tash had become a go-to piercer; her spa frequented by celebrities including Beyoncé, Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Hudson, Jessica Alba, Julianne Moore, Scarlett Johansson and FKA Twigs.
Following a highly successful pop-up at Liberty London, in 2016 the 142-year-old department store invited her to set up a permanent space on its ground floor; Tash’s first and only permanent space this side of the Atlantic.
Tasha’s experience is far from the piercings of your youth, done with a piercing gun in a local chemist, or perhaps in a shack on Koh Pha Ngan?
The Liberty experience is oh-so-very-different. For this isn’t piercing with thick, industrial steel rings and barbells in a grim tattoo place, or in Claire’s surrounded by 12 year olds. This is a minimal, modern experience.
Tash’s signature jewellery is elegant, fine, and super delicate, made from the highest-quality materials. They are not only “hypoallergenic and strong, but also comfortable and beautiful.” Miniscule studs, spikes and rings, flowers and stars, dangling chains, all in 18-carat white, yellow, and rose gold; and bristling with diamonds, opals, sapphires and other precious stones.
On entering the ground-floor studio you’re greeted by counters full of gorgeous, ornately decorative designs glinting through the glass cases. Customers are of all ages, from teenagers to women in their 60s; groups of 20 somethings, mothers and daughters together, 40-somethings wanting to add an edge to their look, but all there to celebrate “feminine earrings”.
A Maria Tash stylist consults and curates your look for a truly individual effect. There are many places where an ear can be pierced: the lobe; the helix; the outer conch; the conch; the tragus; the rook; or the daith.
“Women often come in with a fixed idea of what they're after, but we are there to help them create a look that works with the anatomy of their ear and is flattering to their proportions” says Kevin, head piercer. “We design piercings choosing jewellery that sits properly in their ear.”
Tash's highly skilled piercing specialists work from one of three private piercing rooms - clinical spaces with autoclave sterilising equipment and disposable needles. All procedures are safe and relatively painless. The piercer assesses the location with a Maria Tash ballpoint pen (which you then get to keep because, of course, they can’t be used again) and you agree on the spot. "Breathe in, breathe out". That's it, it’s over in a second.
Tash has developed new piercing mechanisms and uses a unique technique. They pierce in a forwards direction, they use thin rings and threaded backed studs (old school butterfly backs harbour bacteria - not ideal for the healing process), clever closures and decorative backings. Neat, tidy and brilliant.
Because your piece is custom-fit to your ear, you can wear it continuously, “You can’t have ear jewellery that you have to take out to sleep in when you’re running around and have a busy life. You need it to fit well and seamlessly so it isn’t in your way.” Tash says. Because you’re being pierced with gorgeous pieces of jewellery, you need never take them out either, they become part of you.
Piercings – and in particular multiple ear piercings – might seem to be a huge trend, but Tash says its popularity isn’t new; “Ear curation is not a trend,” she says, “It’s always been popular. What changed is that the jewellery is smaller and prettier.”
There isn’t a part of the ear that you can’t adorn with an earring, so curating is key. Liberating asymmetry; a simple helix and lobe pairing; dainty earrings dotted all over the ear; studding your ear all the way up with pearls and diamonds. It all depends on the wearer’s personal style.
Maria Tash has a theory that women have an emotional connection to their piercings. “It involves minor discomfort when you have it done and then you have to heal. And if you take time to nurse something, it becomes part of you more than, say, a shirt would.” And so we persevere.
Why not rediscover the simple pleasure of getting your ears pierced? Just beware – it can result in a beautiful addiction.