Forever Learning- Why I’m Apprenticing, Again

I’m apprenticing again! And you may hear that and say wait, Lynn, you are already a body piercer, and isn’t this year your 10 year? What do you mean you are apprenticing again? Why? Well, I’m not apprenticing to pierce. No, this time, I’m apprenticing to teach. I am incredibly fortunate to work with Ian Bishop, the owner of Icon, and an instructor at the Fakir intensives for over 20 years. On top of being a professional piercing educator and instructor, he’s mentored many piercers who have gone on to be incredibly successful in the industry and work at a number of top studios. Ian is a fantastic piercer, but more than that he’s an amazing teacher.

Coming up on 10 years in the industry, I am finally feeling confident in my skills, ability, and knowledge as a piercer. And I am also acutely aware of the lack of properly trained properly educated piercers in the industry. Which means I’m very aware of a sense of responsibility that I pass on my education and knowledge to the next generation, so we can slowly change the numbers and see more good, skilled piercers then we see bad. In piercing, this means taking on apprentices and training them. But being a good piercer doesn’t always translate to being a good teacher. Some of the best athletes in the world make terrible coaches, and a master musician can’t always teach someone to play an instrument well. Teaching and educating is its own unique skillset- Being able to convey concepts and ideas in a way someone else understands, being able to modify how you work to better educate someone else, being adaptable to the ways they learn. These are all things that as a piercer we don’t necessarily think of. We can do a consistent, straight, good piercing. But ask us to explain how and there’s a lot of blank stares and hastily drafted diagrams.

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I’ve experienced this often traveling and guesting- I’ve seen a piercer do a technique I’m unfamiliar with or something I want to learn. And I’ve asked about it, and the explanation just. Never made sense to me. It was rushed or too brief or simply not in a way my brain understood. And often the piercer will shrug and apology and state “I’m kind of a bad teacher, I’m bad at explaining things, sorry!” And it’s totally fine to be bad at explaining things. You don’t have to be a good teacher to be a good piercer- you just have to do good piercings. But if you want to have an apprentice, if you want to pass along this craft and do it well and do it right, you do need to be a good teacher. And I don’t see this addressed enough. I see a lot of apprentices turn to forums or online resources to fill in knowledge they aren’t getting from a mentor. I hear them complain that their mentor doesn’t explain things well, or in a way they understand. Their mentor moves too fast or too slow, to hands on or not hands on enough. And this is because many piercers jump into teaching without ever learning how to teach. They assume that they know how to pierce so they will be able to make someone else a good piercer.

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This mentality is harmful, and also very minimizing to the amount of work and effort it is to be an educator. Theres a reason teachers and professors go to school for so long to be able to teach. Theres a reason they hold doctorates and degrees not just in their subject but in the art of education. Teaching, and teaching well, is hard.

So, I’m apprenticing again. As of this month our studio apprentice Natasha is moving into beginning her apprenticeship under Ian. But she’s not his only apprentice this time around- I will be student-mentoring her alongside Ian for the duration of her apprenticeship. Not only will he teach her to pierce, but at the same time he will be teaching me how to teach. Theres an age old adage- be the change you want to see. And as someone who experienced three apprenticeships, which were all sub par or flawed in their own way, I want to see a change of apprenticeships. I’ve written at length about ensuring you are paid a living wage, given a reasonable amount of hours, and being trained correctly and thoroughly. But changing apprenticeships also starts with changing mentors- and with people interested in mentoring taking mentoring more seriously and being more invested in a mentor role being a separate skill they need to have and maintain, and not just taking on apprentices to lighten their workload or have someone to clean up. I’m so excited to start this new journey of teaching and educating, and, eventually, be ready to have an apprentice of my own.

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