The Why that Makes Me Cry

Like many people, I’ve been using my extra time at home to refocus on what’s most important to me.  As part of that, I am following along with Simon Sinek’s online bookclub for his best seller “Start with Why”.  I was first introduced to Sinek’s concept of ‘Why’ by Colchester leadership guru Debbie Lawrence, in a class where she helped each of us students to find “the why that makes you cry”.

simonbookclubThrough her skillful questioning (and perhaps, it is suspected, some wizardry), Lawrence pulled the why, often with some tears, from each of us.

Just as Sinek states that your why will cause you to have a lump in your throat, and tears to well up, when my why was revealed, my eyes ran over.  It’s a why rooted in a little child who was the only girl on the baseball team.  Who was the youngest kid at Brownies, and excluded because of it.  A kid who wiped out on the slide, and the ski hill, in ways no one had ever seen before.  Who insisted she was the Pink Panther, and therefore male, on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Who wore mismatched socks in high school, just to be different (ah, the 80s).  Just a weird kid, marching to a weird drum.

Not satisfied though, in marching to my own drum, I want everyone else to march to their own drum too.  I’ve always been the friend you call to help you justify doing the thing you want to do.  I mean duh, you want to do it!  Seriously: if you want to leave your relationship, start a new career, or go skydiving I’ll back you up.  And of course, if you want to dye your hair or get a piercing, I’m about it.  Do what you’re called to do with your ephemeral form.  Express yourself.  Be You.

That’s my why, in two little words: Be You.

Through Skin Decision we are able to help people be themselves just a little bit more.  Our team members truly want to help each client be their own authentic self.  To get to know you, to help you select pieces that speak to you and of you.  It’s an art, it’s a skill, and maybe, a little of our own wizardry.

The real magic is when the client looks in the mirror. When they see themselves as they had imagined, now made real.  From the 6 year old with new opal ear piercings, to the 80 year old with a diamond on her nose.  That look is the why that I will cry about every single time.

Be you friends.  Be you!


Grit & Gold

Our two studios have been closed since March 19.  I’m not going to pretend there haven’t been many heart breaking moments since then.  Oof.

Moving our jewelry and valuables away was surreal.  We bring it in, but our clients are the ones that should be taking it away!  Final elbow bumps with employees, even more sad. I really want to keep paying their benefits throughout our closure.  Despite no longer being on payroll, they remain present for our clients and each other. They’re all such good and beautiful people.

SD family BBQ -last summer

We’ve had a space online for clients to buy body jewelry for awhile, and now was the time to rebuild on a more robust platform. I hopped onto that project and will admit I may have got into a few yelling matches with my laptop. Now, it’s here, and it’s pretty alright! I do have more work to do, especially to make it even easier to find things.

Clients have been amazing.  They’ve been making their jewelry purchases online, they’ve been ordering gift cards to use later, they’ve been sending us kind words of strength and empathy.

I know they’re worried about us.  I’m a little worried too. But then I was worried when we opened our second shop. Thinking it would be like when we opened the first one.  It wasn’t. We’d learned so much in the intervening 11 years. And we had so many more people in our corner. And now we have you. You, reading this blog.  Letting us know, we’re not alone!  

We’re still connected, and don’t worry, we’re not going anywhere!

When DJ and I opened up Skin Decision in Truro in 2006, we dreamed of bringing world class jewelry and piercings to Nova Scotia. We had big dreams but we didn’t have much else.  I’ll never forget the night before we opened, 1am, sick from paint fumes and exhaustion, and the sink didn’t fit in the hole in the counter. Eventually DJ took the sink and the counter outside.  And proceded to beat the sink into the hole with brute force and determination. Blood, sweat, and tears isn’t metaphorical. We opened that little shop with a display case the size of a piece of printer paper.

For the last 14 years we’ve poured our hearts and more into the “Little Shop that Could”.  We survived economic downturns, shysters disguised as marketers, and con artists of all persuasions. We put everything back into our business. One day we looked around and instead of that tiny showcase we had huge displays full of gold. Instead of only having each other to lean on, we had a beautiful team. We kept on growing.

That old sink has long since been replaced, but I’ll never forget it.

 This isn’t the end my friends.  It’s a change. But it’s one we’re going to get through.  Together.


My castle is your castle

We’ve recently had a couple of opportunities to share our space at Skin Decision Truro with our community!

We held a bouncing after party for Black Buffalo Records during Nova Scotia Music Week! Lxvndr warmed us up and we became instant fans! She’s SO talented! Fatt Matt was super rad, what a treat to have him in our little shop! Then the Drunken Arseholes, made up of Truro local DJ Moves and rapper Cee blew our minds and entertained us into the wee hours.

Two nights later, Black Buffalo’s Aquasocks won Hip Hop artist of the year at the awards show!

Then Monday December 9, Sam Madore’s Women’s Social Network hosted one of their fun events in our front room! It felt so good to have so many wonderful women in attendance, and I couldn’t help but feel grateful to have gotten to know so many of them.

Sam herself. A favourite to chat with at networking events, I’ve always felt tremendous support from this event organizer and mental health advocate.

Margaret, Truro Farmer’s Market manager and mother to my daughter’s bestie. Also my classmate, book club mate, and advisor on many subjects!

Vonda, owner of Noveltea. Also a book club mate & classmate. And owner of my favourite wardrobe!

Nancy, interior designer, who just painted my kitchen island turquoise!

Alicia, tattooer and Truro Buzz woman! She took the opportunity to speak to Olivia about starting her journey to update all her earrings!

Michelle, who helped me at the BDC, and brought the loveliest gift for our gift drive! (I wouldn’t usually play favourites, but this weighted blanket is gorgeous!)

Krista & Erin from Future Worx, two women who never miss a chance to support our community. They are always so fun to laugh with at events, I often gravitate toward them.

And there were many more in attendance as well. Women I know, and women I hope to.

It was a great way to wrap up the year, and I’m now thinking of ways we might be able to share our space in the new year!


Artist Erin Pettipas, August 23, 1974 – May 23, 2015

While many piercers feel alienated by tattoo artists, I have always felt included in their shops, their jokes, their worlds.  In a small province with a dearth of professional piercers, this has been a blessing to me.  And in an industry that often feels like a family, Erin Pettipas was one of my closest cousins.
Erin ​​ was a talented artist and devoted mother who could sell designer body jewelry like no other tattooer I know.  We had a lot of fun together on the road, having spontaneous dance parties, making fun of the menfolk, discussing our teenagers. She was saving to take her son to Europe, and she had just opened a studio on her property to help her really be there for his last years at home.  She had just gotten another tattoo for her late father, who had encouraged her artistic pursuits.  She had just dyed her hair another amazing colour. She was the definition of “full of life”
How shocking, and maddening and unfair that on Saturday we celebrated her life. Her passionate, fragile, fleeting life. Find joy in each day my friends. 💔

Erin loved this photo, taken during her last guest spot with us, May 2015.

Erin loved this photo, taken during her last guest spot with us, May 2015.

Nap time at the carnival for the SD road crew (circa 2011), Erin in the front seat.

Nap time at the carnival for the SD road crew (circa 2011), Erin in the front seat.


Polysporin and similar ointments are NOT for piercings

When I look at the search terms that have brought people to our website I see something to do with “Polysporin” ointment at least once a week, sometimes daily!

Polysporin says on the tube “not for puncture wounds”.  An ointment is not water-based, so once it gets into the piercing channel it is very difficult to rinse it out in the shower.  Instead the ointment can actually cover your new cells and smother them.  Because your new cells will not be able to get oxygen they may die, and these dead cells may make it more likely to get an infection in your piercing.  In this way, Polysporin could actually contribute to an infection in a piercing.

If you have a true infection, Polysporin will not cure it.  Polysporin is properly used on topical wounds (not piercings) to prevent bacteria from entering the wound.  Polysporin is a simply a barrier to bacteria.  If you believe you have a true infection, please see your doctor and your piercer, and stay away from Polysporin!

For an excellent resource for identifying piercing problems please read : https://www.safepiercing.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/Troubleshooting_Web.pdf

I’m a piercer, not a doctor.  This information is comes from my experience piercing professionally for over 15 years.  Please do not misinterpret my advice for medical advice!


15 years of Piercing

Click here for Julie’s portfolio.

I want to tell you about how I started piercing professionally 15 years ago this month, but I have to go back in time a bit further then 15 years.  
Back to 1987.  In Nova Scotia you could get your nose pierced with a gun by a woman in a jewelry store in Scotia Square mall.  This was all the “body piercing” there was.  I wore safety pins in my ear piercings and I pierced my own ears and those of my friends, usually when we were intoxicated.  I attempted to pierce my friend’s nose, but he passed out.  I also made a friend’s ear bleed for a really long time.  HIV was a new reality I didn’t quite understand.  I decided to quit while I was ahead.   It’s not like piercing was a career I’d ever heard of.  It was more like an experiment.

Piercing a friend's ear in 1989.

Fast forward past a bad relationship and no small amount of hallucinogens to some point in 1995. I was visiting a friend when Merchant Marie phoned and asked if he’d come down for a navel piercing.  She had a travelling piercer visiting from California who was going to pierce her and some other people so she could determine if she was interested in doing piercings or not.  I’m so grateful I was there that day when his phone rang.  Marie had tattooed me in 1991, but the atmosphere of her Dartmouth tattoo parlour, filled with skulls and brass and taxidermy, was completely not from my world as a university student.  I watched while my friend had his navel pierced and Marie had her navel and nipples pierced.  I was so excited.  And concerned: Merchant Marie decided not to take up piercing.  How would I ever get my own navel and nipples pierced?!

I next visited Marie in the spring of 1996 to make posters for the first Cannabis Day Picnic.  I offered to do some cleaning for her in exchange for use of the photocopier, which led to her hiring me to work her front desk.   This led me to learn about (what we thought was) disinfection, cross-contamination and sterilization.   Working for Marie was a dream come true.  I was self-motivated and she was generous.    I cleaned, answered the phone, ran errands, made stencils, and all the while came out of a shell.   At first I was so intimidated by our clientele, but gradually I fell in love with helping people translate their imagination into their permanent body art.    My job was supposed to be part time while I was in university.  I did get my degree, but sometime after reading “Modern Primitives” and falling in love with National blue tattoo ink, I realized I’d never work in another field.

First Annual Cannabis Day Picnic

Then along came a persistent navy medic who wanted to me to pierce him.  He was already very pierced.  He was a “doctor” and he was keen to teach me a little basic anatomy in order to get some more piercings. He had been a long time client of Marie and had even taken us on the Okanagan for an unforgettable submarine ride!
There was only one piercer in Nova Scotia at this time.  I had many friends who also wanted to be pierced by me, and Marie’s blessing to try to learn. With the medic’s guidance I pierced not only him, but most basic piercings on my eager and silly friends, as well as on Marie and myself.

Two of the very first piercings I did at Merchant Marie's.

I will never forget the actual first clients I pierced.   They were two francophone teachers from Ecole du Carrefour.  The man got a nipple piercing, the woman got her navel pierced.  I put a 14g cbr with a hematite bead in each one. Everything went well and they were as happy as I was.  I was thrilled, but I knew I had a lot to learn. I pestered Marie to buy a computer to research tattoos, but I also used it to read and research everything I could about piercing.  I still have my printouts of Anne Greenblatt’s  FAQs from 1998.  Remember when printers put the date on every page?!
Marie’s computer is also where I discovered the Association of Professional Piercers and ordered their newsletters.  I aspired to one day meet their strict membership criteria.  In 2006 when DJ & I opened Skin Decision we were excited to carefully follow the requirements of the APP.  Finally in 2010 I was able to join the APP.  This year I went to the APP Conference in Las Vegas for the first time, where my mind was absolutely blown by information and the amazingness of professional piercers from around the world.  15 years later, I’m still learning more and more every day.

My tongue, circa 1998.