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Tattooos and Body Art: Tattoos


Self Harm Cover-ups

Shannon Larratt finds out how to cover up self-harm scars with branding and scarification.

Cover-up tattoos are common – people often get a design, but then change their minds and want it covered with another image. Similarly, it’s becoming more and more common for people to choose branding and scarification to cover up old self-harm scars.

A girl called Suz wrote to me with some pretty pictures of a series of stripes that Blair (one of the world’s most celebrated branders, see Bizarre 126) branded around her scarred left arm. I’ve seen other self-harm reclamation pieces by Blair, where he’s used scarification techniques to hide scars that the wearer had mixed feelings about. So I asked Suz to tell me more…

“I met Blair two years ago,” Suz told me. “He saw my scarred arm and we got chatting about getting some work done. Next thing I know it’s a year later, we have a design planned, and I’m flying back to see him in Canada. It was an experience I’ll never forget. I’ve got a substantial number of mods, but I’ve never had one that changed my outlook on my body and how people perceive me.

“I’d been self-harming for years, so it wasn’t possible to tattoo over the scars. I’d originally thought of skin peels as I’ve had some done by body mod legend Samppa Von Cyborg that turned out nicely. However, when I got chatting to Blair we decided to go for a branding using a hyfrecator (medical apparatus used in electrosurgery). I was only visiting Canada for a short time, and with a skin peel the chance of infection would’ve been too high to risk the procedure.

“The thing I love about this work is it takes something with negative connotations and – not that there’s anything wrong with the cover-up route – transforms it into something beautiful, without hiding it or being ‘dishonest’ about your life history.”

After I posted Suz’s story online, Ron Garza – another key member of the body-mod glitterati – sent me a story about similar work he was doing. “After filming for the Discovery Channel last year and working with a plastic surgeon on the show, I discussed ideas with him for scar cover-ups done the same way tattoo cover-ups are done on a larger scale,” Ron told me. “He thought it was a brilliant idea and suggested that we consult local surgeons to discuss the possibility of going in after surgical procedures and making medical scars into designs, decided on by the patient and myself before the operation. I thought it was a great idea.

“The koi carp piece (right) was conceived as a ‘reclamation of self’ piece, and a way of covering over self-injury scars and allowing the wearer to have a fresh beginning. Originally a phoenix was requested, but when we started drawing the design a koi carp seemed to fit much better with the old scars. I actually removed some of the old tissue to level the skin, and tried to create a level scar in a field of uneven skin. I’m quite pleased with the results thus far. I’m sure when we add some grey wash to the work it’ll give the entire piece more depth and really take the emphasis off the old scars.”

Which just goes to show, if you want to cover up your self-harm scars, you have a host of body mod options. Scarification, branding and tattoos can all work in the right conditions. Take your pick.

For Samppa go to Myspace.com/voncyborg, for Blair go to Byblair.com, and for Ron Garza, Rongarza.com


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Blair's branded cover-up of Suz's arm

  scarification cover up


  scarification cover up


scarification cover up

Suz's self-harmed arm



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