Scarification–It’s Not for Everyone

By Cameron Cowan, Contributing Editor

This is the story of how a man goes from almost being against tattoos to getting his first tribal tattoo piece with scarification, one of the most intense and permanent body modifications that you can get. I was working at a tattoo shop  where when we first opened, it seemed inevitable that I would be getting some ink. However, I like to take things slowly. The rest of the staff did not. The office had the odor of A&D ointment and aquaphor for the first three weeks we were open. The whining, the pain, and the constant application of various lotions and ointments made me not want to get a tattoo until I changed my perspective a little bit.

My perspective was changed by the artistic process that came together to create my first piece. The idea of having skin peeled from my body leaving an artistic expression on my body fascinated me. When Nick McDaniel and James Rajewski finished the renderings I was excited to get busy. I hooked in my earbuds, went into a deep state of meditation and let Nick do the tattoo portion of the piece. The first time the needle moved across the smooth mocha surface of my skin I felt the permanence of what I was doing. It felt like a heavy pen being pressed down into my skin. An hour and a half later my tattoo was done. Nick had conveniently blood-lined the pieces to be cut. James asked me a dozen times if I really wanted to also do my scarification at the same time. We took about an hour break, had a few cigarettes, and then got to work. He cut five pieces before I finally said, “no more.”

The whole process is extremely methodical. Using the bloodline as a guide, James takes his scalpel and makes the initial outline. That’s the part that hurts the most because it is done without painkiller of any kind. To feel your skin popping with every gentle and surgical push of the scalpel is scary, painful and exhilarating. A close friend of mine remarked, “You’re going to want to feel this again, you will want more.” I was convinced that he was all wrong about it but he was right, the itch is there again. It stays on your psyche, just like a tattoo. Most people go for just the outlining portion of the process but I took it one step further. I decided to have skin removal done as well. For that process he takes his scalpel and every gently removes the top layer of the skin. On small pieces it is barely felt with a little painkiller. With a larger piece it is an intense, bloody experience. By the time the blood was settled I had 22 pieces of skin removed over 1 and a half working hours and 8 hours of actual time. When you’re having skin sliced off, you smoke quite a few cigarettes and little cannabis to keep pain and stress levels manageable.

Very few experiences in life leave me in awe or really transcend my life. Everyday I fall back in love with my arm. The healing process is finally over and all the pieces are raised up. Compared to most people, best first tattoo and body modification, ever.

Do you have a unique tattoo or body modification story? Comment below!



  • July 24, 2013

    Maillot Cameroun

    Maillot Cameroun…

    We do not harbor that I couldn’t remove other individuals’ problems whenever this arrived at….

  • September 20, 2013

    Julie Westerholm Gordon

    I want to see the finished product. This intrigues me!

  • October 9, 2013

    Cameron Cowan

    Hey Julie, that is the piece fully executed. I will be adding more to create a full sleeve.