Stephie Von Hütter Thomas of Skinethics Body Modification Studio tells us a little about herself in this interview that she did for the DCAC blog!
First I just want to thank you for letting us interview you. When I first saw your photo on Tumblr I was in awe of your unique beauty and immediately wanted to know more about you. Your tattoos, especially those on your head are amazing and very unique. When did you first get inked and how did that come about?
I didn’t get my first tattoo until roughly around age 28…I was a late bloomer lol. I married young and had small children so pursuing personal interests aside from my education wasn’t my top priority. As I was entering my junior year of college and feeling somewhat accomplished I decided to seek out my first one. I have always loved jewelry and was very excited to be pierced in areas other then my ears. I got my first “body” piercing in my mid-twenties.
I know from speaking with you that before you became a piercer you had a very mainstream job. Can you tell us about that and how you made the transition out of the mainstream workforce?
I was an accountant in my past life. When I enrolled in college my father was very adamant about the need to pursue business as a degree because it is so versatile so I took his advice. I did well in my accounting classes so figured what the hell…I’ll major in that! I loved the firm I worked for but I just wasn’t fulfilled. I had always worked in the business world in some capacity and found it to be very spirit crushing and in many ways representative of all the things I loathe about this world. The business world was never my dream. I always wanted to work in a creative atmosphere…the arts…entertainment…something along those lines and it just didn’t happen in my small town.
I had gone through some major transitions in my personal life including a wicked divorce, my children were still young but no longer babies and I needed to re-evaluate my life. After a great deal of soul searching I decided that never again would I live my life by someone else’s terms. As a mother it was important to me for the girls to see me as someone who is true to herself and stands behind her convictions. I began getting more tattoos and more piercing work knowing that it would affect certain aspects of my professional life but with faith in my own resourcefulness. I felt like I needed to get back to who I was before surrendering my identity to a toxic marriage, redefine my direction and start to outwardly express it.
I took a job at my fathers communications company because I was qualified and my appearance was not so much of an issue. The job was going well and I was reasonably content however it would be a temporary situation. Two years into that career move I met my soul mate who happened to be a tattoo artist, married him and moved out of state. Three weeks after moving to Ohio the piercer who was partners with my husband at the time announced that he wanted to leave the industry. Apparently he saw my arrival as the right time because he immediately offered to apprentice me and sell the piercing portion of the business to us. It was a happy accident and we have been a family business ever since.
I love looking at your suspension photos! They are so incredible. For those who don’t know much about suspension can you tell a little bit about it, what it’s like, why people do it, etc?
Suspension is just …amazing….it is really difficult to explain it. Everyone who practices suspension does it for different reasons and seems to get something unique out of the experience. I am fairly new to the suspension community in that I only began suspending in July 2012. I can tell you that I have seen how people are profoundly changed by the experience and I see great value in its therapeutic effect. One can only speculate what drives a person to suspend because as I said it is different for everyone. For me it was about pushing my mental limits and reminding myself that I am stronger then I look. There is a healing aspect to it that seems to change people, cause them to re-evaluate there position in life…its quite profound for many.
What was your first suspension experience like? How many have you done total?
I have suspended four times so far…three suicide suspensions and one knee suspension. My first suspension was much like other firsts in my life…I was calm however there are always those thoughts in your mind about whether or not you will handle it well. I did great and was overwhelmed by the huge adrenaline rush I experienced after the fact. I felt like I was on an endorphin high for days. Each time has been a little different. The most recent was my knee suspension and that has been my favorite so far. In the short time I have been involved with suspension I can already say that it has become an important part of my life and I will continue on that path. The positive energy and the bonding with others during the process only serve to add to the meaning of it all.
Society can be so cruel and it can be hard to handle the way people judge you purely on how you look. How do you handle people like that and do you have any advice for those who are struggling with it?
I think it’s really all about how you carry yourself and how you behave. I’m a wife, mother, a graduate student soon to be entering the doctoral program, a business owner…and I act like it. I don’t make my body art an issue and because of that I think others tend to look past it as well. Don’t get me wrong…I get approached and bombarded with questions just like every other modified person…I just try to smile, be polite and behave the same way I would if I had no mods at all. If someone is mean or out of line then I tend to give it right back to them by pointing out their obvious flaws so that they check themselves and their judgments. However, I do so in a manner that isn’t indicative of the stereotypes. I don’t reduce myself to their level with name calling, swearing or other derelict behavior. Kill them with kindness I say…be above reproach so that regardless of what they think of you, you will always walk away the bigger person and not a walking stereotype.
I think it is really important to know that you will be judged and to prepare accordingly. Have life plans so that you can support yourself while living your life YOUR way. Don’t get heavily modified and then get angry when WalMart won’t hire you…that is a given. The world is not fair and people are people. I mean lets face it, this lifestyle would not hold as much meaning for us if everyone was doing it. Live your life however you want to.. but just know that there are no half measures. If you choose to live outside of societal norms then you will need to do it all the way and be able to support yourself at the same time. This is why I continued to pursue my education, as I know that I will never walk into another accounting firm and be hired. I am just about to finish my Masters in Industrial Organizational Psychology and I will be starting the PhD program in the fall. My thoughts are that as time moves forward I will be able to research and write about the modified community from the position of a business person, a psychologist, a mother and a heavily modified middle aged woman. There are too many biases in the psychology profession…the modified community needs more voices on the inside…I intend to be one of them.
Thank you so much for sharing a little of yourself with us Stephie!