Downeast Tattoo Show

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BANGOR – Polytetrafluorethylene is not your typical tattoo show conversation starter, but when it’s used to create a pierced human back corset – laced together with bright red ribbon – it’s bound to draw questions and attention.

Jessica Russell, 31, of Lewiston, a nail salon technician, had her first piercing to create her human corset using polytetra-fluorethylene, or PTFE, done in August so that it would heal before the 15th annual Down East Tattoo Show, held over the weekend at the Bangor Elks Lodge on the Odlin Road.

“Once I put that in, I decided I didn’t want metal anymore,” said Russell, who has a total of 66 piercings, 31 of which are done with PTFE hollow tubing. One well-known brand of PTFE is Teflon.

The corset was created by double rows of five piercings on her lower back that are tied together with the red ribbon.

A huge black-widow-spider tattoo, with PTFE piercings at each knuckle of its eight legs, sits on the top of Russell’s back and is connected to the corset by a silver chain and black suede cord.

Each end of the PTFE plastic tubing is secured by a small silver ball.

The annual tattoo show has always been a place for tattoo collectors to show off their artwork, event coordinator Al Cook of Howland said Sunday.

“It’s like going to a museum,” he said. “Tattoos are like paintings. Now, it’s real art.”

When the event started, piercings were done but things have changed considerably over the years, Cook said.

“It was a lot different and simpler,” he said. “Now they’re bigger and more obvious and people are starting to combine piercings with tattoos.”

The annual tattoo show had around 30 vendors, who spent the weekend applying ink to patrons, piercing body parts and selling merchandise.

Body piercer “J.B.,” aka James Bernard, owner of Mystical Emporium in Auburn, who did all of Russell’s piercings, said that as the popularity of piercings increases, so does its acceptance.

The exciting news with PTFE is that worries about rejection and sensitivity to hot and cold, associated with metal bars, are minimized.

“PTFE is extremely flexible,” J.B. said Saturday while bending a piece of PTFE that is pierced though his chest. “It’s used in angioplasty and other surgeries. It basically eliminates rejection problems.”

In addition to nonstick cooking pans, PTFE is used in medical applications because human bodies rarely reject it, the Plastics Distributor & Fabricator Magazine Web site, based in LaGrange, Ill., states.

The use of PTFE for piercing is becoming commonplace in Europe but is a relatively new, and sometimes controversial, development in the United States.

“It will take up to a year” for a PTFE piercing to heal, J.B. said to a group of onlookers who gathered around Russell at the tattoo show to take photos and ask questions. “There is no migration (movement of the piercings) and no rejections, unlike metal.”

Russell, who got her first piercing in 1999 and believes that her corset is one of the only ones in Maine, says she hasn’t even scratched the surface of her body-piercing goals.

“I want to have 100 piercings that are totally healed and functional,” Russell said.

Another goal is to try to beat the Guinness world record of 600 surface piercings done to two people in 8½ hours, a feat she hopes to attempt with her husband, Scott Russell, J.B.’s apprentice, sometime in the future.

For the time being, Russell said she just wants to keep her corset for as long as she can.

“I’m so used to (the piercings) now, I have to check to see if they’re there,” she said.

To prepare for the tattoo show, Russell also got her eyelid pierced about two weeks ago.

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