Body piercing can be dated all the way back to 2500 B.C., where earrings were found in graves of the people who lived during that time period. Just as with tattoos, piercings are a part of today’s culture, with over half the population having piercings – from a simple lobe or nostril piercing, to other body parts like lips and tongues.

Body piercer Tucci, who works at Totem Tattoo, 28 Route 11, Shamokin Dam, said he was first drawn to piercings and body modification when he leafed through a copy of National Geographic.

“I’ve always enjoyed the sensation and rush you can get from a piercing,” Tucci said. “When I turned 18 and could sign myself up for a piercing, I went to Totem Tattoo for my first professional piercing by Miss Ruth (head piercer and co-owner of Totem Tattoo). It was a great experience,” Tucci said, commenting on the professionalism that Miss Ruth had with her clients – everything from placement to comfortability. “From that point on I was back at Totem at least once a month to get something new done.” The great experience coupled with a friendly atmosphere made Tucci realize this was something he wanted to be a part of.

“One of the times I was getting pierced, I asked Ruth about what it takes to become a piercer. She told me that the shop would need someone, that I need to go through training and have an earnestness to learn and a dedication to the practice. And an apprentice fee to prove you’re serious about it.

At the time, Ruth was working both the Williamsport and Shamokin Dam locations, was looking for a permanent piercer for the Shamokin Dam shop,” Tucci explained. “After a few more months of getting pierced and some prodding from A.J., a tattoo artist at Shamokin Dam, Ruth decided to give me a shot.”

There Tucci began his apprenticeship, learning how to prep the jewelry, determination of correct sizing of jewelry for each piercing and troubleshooting for any circumstances that might arise during a piercing, as well as practicing on “guinea pigs” that Tucci recruited.

“When I was able to show proficiency in each piercing, Ruth clipped my wings and let me take over on my own as the full-time piercer in Shamokin Dam,” he said.

While Pennsylvania does not require certification for piercers, Tucci has taken seminars with the Association of Professional Piercers, who hold a yearly conference in Las Vegas, Nev. According to Tucci, participants can take seminars on anatomy, wound care, medical risks, bedside manner, infection control and certification for first aid and blood-borne pathogens.

“It’s an incredible learning experience and a great way to further your knowledge in the industry and what’s going into being able to provide the best piercing experience you can,” Tucci said.

As with tattoos, Tucci has seen social media have a presence in the ever-changing trends in body piercing.

“Because of Pinterest, every piercer has done a few triple-forward-helix piercings. Dermal anchors are another that I think social media has really helped propel forward. With a lot of companies putting out unique jewelry, with almost unlimited variations in shape and size, there is so much that can be done,” he said. “The most enjoyable piercings are when I can open up a client’s eyes to something they wouldn’t have thought of that works with their particular anatomy.”

In November of last year, Tucci also began making his own jewelry, fashioning plugs for those with stretched earlobes.

“I wanted to contribute something more to my industry,” Tucci said.

After attending a convention and talking with someone who made acrylic plugs with clay objects on them, he was inspired. Using metal eyelets and casting objects in resin, Tucci has been able to create unique jewelry, where no two pairs are the same.

“My drawing ability is pretty much nil, so with my plugs, it gives me the opportunity to create wearable almost-pieces of art. In the very least, I’m able to make people something cool to put in their lobes,” he said. Tucci said he finds inspiration in artists like Salvador Dali, H.R. Geiger and M.C. Esher.

Tucci has used things like deer teeth, fish hooks and watch gears, which Tucci enjoys working with, creating a steampunk look to the jewelry. He finds his supplies anywhere he can – eBay, science websites and bait and tackle shops.

“I’m always on the lookout for new, raw materials. I never know when I’m going to run across something that catches my eye,” he said.

For more information on Tucci and for custom orders of plugs, find him on Facebook by searching “John ‘Tucci’ Santucci.”