Local man perfects art of piercing


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Steve Easley, the owner of Release Body Modification, gave himself his first piercing when he was 13.

"[It] was not professional by any means," Easley said.

He had no professional tools to get the stud into the skin between his chin and bottom lip.

"The way I went about doing it was absolutely ridiculous," the 28-year-old said. "I took a guitar pick and put it between my bottom lip and my gum. Then I took an X-Acto knife and spun it into my lip until the hole was big enough to fit the stud.

Now the hole is about the size of nickel. It is filled with a large stone that separates his chin and bottom lip.

As a 7-year-old, he knew he wanted to work in a tattoo shop. He could only enter the shops with an adult at that age, so he used to make his uncle's girlfriend pretend she was his mother so he could watch the artists work.

"I used to draw a lot in elementary and middle school," said Easley, who now has countless tattoos sneaking out from the sleeves and neck of his black sweater. "But I lost interest in doing tattoos because they are so permanent; the smallest error, and it completely falls apart. Around middle school, I became interested in piercings."

He began piercing as an apprentice at the age of 16, two years too young to get the piercings he was giving to customers.

His work schedule did not reflect his age. He went to school from 9:30 a.m. to noon, directly followed by apprenticeship until 8 p.m. He then slept for a few hours until his job at a dog-food factory from 11:30 p.m. to 6 a.m., followed by a few more hours of sleep until school again.

Easley began working for the shop he apprenticed at in Clinton and eventually made his way to Iowa City to do piercings at Nemesis Tattoo Studios.

"[Easley] has come a long way since I first met him," said friend and colleague Kyle Bingham. "He was piercing up in the front corner of [Nemesis]. He took the money he made from working, saved it, and bought a bunch of jewelry. Doing that allowed him to open [Release]."

Today, Easley has an apprentice of his own, 19-year-old Morgan Deheer of Des Moines. Deheer, who is four months into a two-year apprenticeship, said she hopes she will be able to continue working with Easley once her apprenticeship is complete.

"I started coming here because Steve is a really good piercer," she said. "He does a lot of cool stuff that I'm interested in, like suspensions and pulls."

People who practice suspension — piercing large hooks into a person's skin and then lifting them off the ground by the hooks — are uncommon in Iowa City, but Easley recently started a suspension group. The group boasts about a dozen people already, and Easley said he hopes it will grow.

Suspension is a practice that Easley said he's come to enjoy in the past six years since he first experienced it.

"Everybody has her or his own reason [for suspension]," Easley said. "Entertainment, religious practices, rights of passage, to prove to themselves that they can. The way that I see it, if you can have your body lifted off the ground from hooks in your flesh, then what can't you accomplish?"

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