Whether it's a sleeve, a shoulder piece, a septum ring or a stretched earlobe, the body modification industry is alive and buzzing, especially near UCF.
With 11 tattoo shops within a 5-mile radius of the UCF campus, it's no surprise that some UCF students enjoy being pierced and inked, while others enjoy being on the other side of the needle.
Sarah Spevack, a senior majoring in psychology, enjoys both. Spevack, a body piercer at Body Language Custom Ink on East Colonial Drive, has been a piercer for about three years and has eight piercings and 10 tattoos herself.
Spevack knew she had a proclivity for piercings the summer after graduating from West Boca High School in the Deerfield Beach area of South Florida.
"I was always interested in it as a kid," Spevack said. "I thought piercings were cool and I ended up dating a guy that was a tattoo artist."
From there, Spevack got her bloodborne pathogen license with the state of Florida and apprenticed at Rockstar Tattoos, a now defunct studio in Deerfield.
For those unfamiliar with a piercing apprenticeship, Spevack said they typically last around six months, when the would-be piercer learns how to be sterile when administering a piercing and how to pierce safely, and learns necessary anatomy.
And for those actually looking for a piercing apprenticeship of their own, Spevack said the best way is to just ask.
"Definitely go to all shops in the area and ask if they're looking for an apprentice and don't go in with any other type of knowledge," Spevack said. "A lot of people don't understand the sterilizing and techniques. You have to learn them it's not something you can figure out. Don't be afraid to go in and ask. Everyone's going to be really nice."
Having also worked as a piercer at Age of Ink off Alafaya Trail as well, Spevack cites the piercing she remembers the most as an 11-stud microdermal piece done on a woman's back in the shape of an anchor.
But even having done such intricate designs, Spevack does have some limits as to what — and where — she will pierce.
"I won't do any male genital piercings," Spevack said. "I didn't learn that part of it, [and] that's not something I or someone should do without knowing how to do it."
As much as piercers themselves have to have knowledge of piercing and procedure, so do clients, said Monica Sabin, a piercer at Dungeon Body Piercing & Tattoos and a UCF alumna. Because the bloodborne pathogen course isn't very intensive, Sabin said both quality apprenticeships and quality shops are important to successful and safe piercing.
"You just take that course and it's up to the apprenticeship to teach you how to pierce people. That's why it's important to clients and consumers to do their research. Anyone can get the certification."
In an attempt to set themselves apart from the other Orlando-area piercers, Leo Cabrera and Monica Sabin over at Dungeon Tattoos are members of the Association for Professional Piercers, a nonprofit organization that deals with vital health information in regard to body piercings.
"We're all about educating people about getting safe piercings done with quality jewelry in a safe environment," Sabin said.
Such membership essentially denotes that Cabrera and Sabin hold themselves to an especially high standard with their piercings and their craft, Sabin said. Shops themselves cannot be members of the association, only the individual piercers. Sabin and Cabrera, Sabin said, are the only Orlando-area piercers with such credentials. The next-closest members are in Winter Haven and Palm Beach.
As for college students getting pierced, especially among college students, Age of Ink Tattoo Artist Michael Manfredi has definitely seen a few trends.
"The most common are the nostril, the tragus and navel piercing. Those are the top three piercings we do," Manfredi said.
But piercings aren't the only aspect of the body-mod industry that Manfredi has seen. For tattoos, themes have seen some repetition.
"Words are always popular. People are always getting quotes tattooed. Feathers, bird silhouettes and infinity symbols too," Manfredi said. "Sometimes they incorporate all three into one tattoo, and they're especially popular among the young, female crowd in the tattoo industry."
But repetition doesn't mean monotony, and the excitement in the industry is even attracting students in a professional sense.
Kyle Hutchinson, a junior studying graphic design, is considering pursuing a career in tattoo artistry, mostly due to its similarity to graphic design.
"You have clients and you have both digital and 2-d aspect," Hutchinson said. "It's almost as if you're doing graphic design without the whole 9 to 5 office environment."
But whether their inspiration is popular or personal, body modification, be it tattoos or piercings, has captured the attention — and skin — of many UCF students.