APP 2010 Conference Review
In the months before the APP Conference, a familiar feeling settles in: claustrophobia. I feel my temper getting short and find myself withdrawing from everyday surroundings as I prepare to make my way to the desert and rub elbows with others of my kind. (Whether or not there is a psychological condition that explains this I can’t be sure.)
This year, I was at loggerheads in my piercing career. Some days went smoothly, other nights (actually, most nights) I struggled with the simplest procedures. When I first began in this industry, I was told that around the tenth year you realize you know nothing and must relearn it all. I didn’t believe it. Once you know something, you know it, right? Well here I am, ten years later, finding this advice dead-on. I am grateful I have access to the educational classes that the APP offers. When I have problems with a procedure, I can take a class on it at Conference, start remedially, and build up the knowledge base again.
After attending Conference for several years, I can say that nothing has helped me more, professionally and personally. I tend to be a fairly typical member of the piercing community–an ego- driven, meticulous, workaholic introvert. Each of us has a small circle of people with whom we socialize and communicate but, as a whole, can feel ostracized from mainstream society. True, a lot of that separation is intentional and self-inflicted, but over time, the divide can wear on anyone’s nerves. The fact that this gathering of like minds exists and is accessible to all is a major boon. Every year, I lose myself in the throng of freaks and fetishists. No double-takes as I walk down the hall; no conversations held at arm’s length to prevent cultural contamination; no one asking, “did that hurt?” I emerge with my batteries recharged, my eyes open, and my psychic armor up and ready to face another year.
Even so, I had some serious reservations about making it to Conference this year. With the effects of the economy trickling down to our industry, now is not the time to spend a week in Las Vegas. My hesitation of going eased when a tattooist from the shop and her husband decided to take a week off and had never seen Vegas. I offered to pay for the room and a couple of classes in exchange for gas out and back. Soon, we all packed into my PT Cruiser, stocked up on as much bottled water as we could, loaded the iPod with Henry Rollins’ spoken word albums, and hit the road.
By the time we hit Hunter S. Thompson’s “bat country” we were feeling good. The stress and tension of the shop was left behind. As the neon metropolis filled the streets around us, we knew this week would be an adventure–a test of mettle and hydration. Among the masses, we settled in to enjoy a week of true camaraderie.
The workaholic in me jumped at the opportunity to work on my vacation. At the APP Members’ Meeting, the call went out for committee members. I volunteered that I took some writing courses in college and before I knew it, I was on the media committee and writing a review of the event. Thus, I present my review of The Association of Professional Piercers Conference 2010.
The Tropicana Hotel and Casino has a long history with the APP Conference. (I remember the general state of disrepair in years past.) My hopes buoyed when we learned that Tropicana underwent a remodel and that we were the first guests after their May 1 reopening. As we pulled in to the parking lot, we noticed that the construction was not complete, half the pool area was closed, and the rooms (at least in the convention tower) still featured the same shoddy furniture. One disgruntled phone call later and we were reassigned to a room that bore a passing resemblance to the advertised “new and exciting rooms” (the staff also accommodated our inconvenience with free drink vouchers and discounted rates). While the lingering disrepair in some areas was still present, the Tropicana was a congenial host to our gathering, and the staff went out of their way to make the guests happy.
Education is the foundation of the APP, and Conference is where we truly see this in action. Even if you’re sleep-deprived, dehydrated, and missed half of what was said, you return home with a stack of handouts to review later and a hope of stimulating some of that memory. Unfortunately, scheduling will always haunt us, and many classes are going on at the same time—all of which we want to take.
In addition to basic industry skills, a handful of new courses in specialized fields are offered every year. This year, we saw the addition of classes on suspension rigging, workshops on studio set-up–focusing on aseptic technique–and lectures by two icons of the community, Fakir and Jim Ward.
Suspension has been a tricky subject for the APP, as it is often lumped into the non-piercing body modification category with scarification, branding, and implants. The crossover of interests in piercing and suspension ritual with highly devoted practitioners willing to share their knowledge has gained a toehold in recent years. Tensions remain over including the subject of suspension at Conference, but I applaud the APP for providing a forum for speaking and sharing about it. I enjoyed the class and left with a better understanding of safety precautions that must be followed to avoid a dangerous experience.
The workshops were a brilliant idea. The biggest worry I had before joining the APP was that my aseptic protocol was not up to standard. Handling the equipment under guidance helped me build my confidence and clarify the fact that I was doing it… well… mostly the right way. It was great to practice day-to-day disinfection and procedural techniques, something so essential that it needs to be stressed.
Now if any piercers don’t know who Fakir or Jim Ward are, they really need to hang up their needles. These two have shaped the piercing community from genesis, continuing throughout their careers. These are our tribe’s elders, and it was an honor to hear their stories and to show my respect.
A note on the members-only classes: these make the trip worth it. In a relaxed atmosphere, the accumulated experience of both speaker and audience generates more of a roundtable feel than a class. All non-members: I urge you to join to be able to sit in on these classes. [Editors note: non-members are invited to attend all of the APP’s educational offerings at Conference, with the exception of one or two members-only classes per year, which are limited to APP members in good standing.]
The body jewelry expo gets bigger every year. More companies attend, and more free swag is handed out. I enjoy browsing the new designs, and it’s refreshing to shake hands with the suppliers that you talk to every week. Of course, finding new suppliers is a high priority as well. It’s sort of like dating: an awkward first meeting, a few introductions, and gifts exchanged. The face-to-face interaction on the expo floor is helpful for those who want to shake hands and look someone in the eye before doing business together.
The innovators competition was fierce this year. In the creative category we saw a set of 38mm amber honeycomb plugs from Glasswear/Ryan Kremp, a few aluminum rigs from Skin Mechanics Steel Works, a set of glass Mayan 7/8-inch flares from Gorilla Glass, a pair of coconut paisley spirals by Coco Loco, some feathered dangle hooks by Diablo Organics, a beautiful set of single-flared interchangeable flower eyelets by Industrial Strength, and a couple of rutilated quartz weights by Reign Custom Design. As for technical innovations, there was a set of glass woven plugs by Gorilla Glass, a pair of borosilicate hoops from Glass Hart Studio, a silver and brass 2-inch Hindu Swastika plug from Diablo Organics, a 12-piece set of glass mini-hoops ranging from 18 to 12 gauge by Glasswear/Ryan Kremp, a collection of needle tools by Togen Inc./ Susama Furuyoshi, and a set of Gilson hooks by Skin Mechanics Steel Works. The winners of the Innovator’s Award this year were Reign Custom Design/Kevin Mueller for technical with their Sidus eyelets and Quetzalli Jewelry for creative with their Vinayaka hoops. Check out their Web sites for a good look at these exquisite pieces.
The one downside I saw in the expo–and I know I’m not the only one who has noticed–was the inclusion of vendors who did not meet the APP’s Minimum Standards for Jewelry for Initial Piercings. It is possible to spot these vendors rather quickly if you do your research. Their presence added some confusion as far as where the line was drawn, but I’m not one to tell people what they should or should not buy.
[Editor’s note: It has been the APP strategy that the shoppers will help the vendors understand the quality of the goods they’re seeking, and, as a result, raise the overall level. In the interest of educating not only attendees, but vendors as well, the Exposition is open to all companies to vend.]
This year, 52 instructors/facilitators stepped up and stood before their peers and provided stellar education and leadership – more than a 60 percent increase from 2009.
We also had a 60 percent increase in the number of volunteers, and each dedicated more hours, per volunteer, than in years past – what a great addition to the execution of this Conference.
Attendee numbers were almost exactly the same as in 2009. With the economic woes of this past year worse than most, we were thrilled that our attendees worked hard to make it to Conference in the face of this adversity.
We welcomed 12 health inspectors to the Conference this year – bringing our two industries together in common goals, with education and networking as our foundation. This means real progress for all of us.
Also, this year 40 percent of our attendees were new to Conference! The APP and its efforts continue to reach out to apprentices, new piercers, and experienced piercers who had not yet to had a chance to experience the sharing – the community, the learning, and the joy that is the Conference experience!
The APP would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to all of the generous vendors who donated to this year’s raffle. The top donors were Industrial Strength Body Jewelry, Buddha Jewelry Organics, Kaos Softwear, and NeoMetal. We deeply appreciate your support. Simply put, the APP Conference would not be the same without you.
We congratulate all the winners, including Buddha Organic Jewelry–for winning the top raffle prize–and Evolved–for winning the greatest number of prizes.