Pinterest Ear Project Q And A - With The Amazing Whitney Thompson
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Published Monday, March 2, 2015

Ear Project Q and A - With the Amazing Whitney Thompson

A fresh triple forward helix with a requested staggered placement using 14k rose-gold jewelry from BodyGems.

It’s on Tumblr. It’s on Pinterest. It’s on Facebook, and maybe Myspace or like LiveJournal (but who’s still using those?) Is it on Google Plus? I’m not going to check, but I assume it is. I’m talking about ear projects, one of the most photographed, shared and searched piercing-related things on social media.

You may be wondering: what’s an ear project? An ear project is the blueprint for the perfectly decorated ear. Your perfectly decorated ear. In a nutshell, it’s a plan for a complex series of piercings, sometimes using specialized jewelry designed specifically for the piercing.

Do you want a triple lobe piercing, with rings going up your helix and an industrial? Stretched lobes with dermal punches that look like a dog paw? Or are you thinking of a large, multi-branch industrial that incorporates twists and rings? Whatever you’re going with, an ear project can be a great way to showcase your amazing auricle.

That’s an ear anatomy joke. Moving on.

First things first,

This is a 2 year healed 3-point industrial with lime opal jewelry combo from Industrial Strength and Anatometal.

Words of warning: Do not get this work done somewhere where they use piercing guns. Do not. The trauma caused by the gun in a helix or cartilage piercing can cause cauliflower ear and other complications that you do not want. Plus, you should never get piercings from a gun anyways. But for this, definitely no guns.

I talked to the incredible Whitney Thompson, who is a professional piercer at Tattoo Charlie’s in Lexington, KY, and APP member, about ear projects, and she had some great notes, as well as some cool pics of projects she’s done with clients.


What are the first things you go through with a client when they’re talking about ear projects? Things they need to be aware of, caveats, limitations?

A fresh industrial with black onyx jewelry from Industrial Strength.

Whitney: Their Anatomy should first and foremost be evaluated to consider if their ear is appropriate for the project they’re interested in. Second would be their career, hobbies, and lifestyles. For instance, I play Roller Derby so during the months that I am skating and participating in full-contact games, I wear a helmet amongst other padding and would likely have a troublesome time trying to heal a cartilage piercing.

One big question people seem to have is How much, how soon? What are the practical limitations to an ear project session by session? I’ve sometimes seen single pieces of jewelry going through five or six piercings at once, or someone doing ten piercings around their helix. Is there an upper limit on that, or a point where healing/swelling becomes an issue?

Whitney: You definitely don’t want to overwhelm your body, sometimes ear projects are progressive, not completed in one session. This better allows the body to heal or each individual piercing a little easier before adding more to the mix. That’s not to say you can’t walk away with two or three initial piercings but I typically won’t do more than four cartilage piercings in one session, unless the client is a regular and they have already had plenty of experience healing multiple piercings at once. Cartilage lacks blood supply and circulation, making it a little trickier to heal than say a lip piercing.

When someone wants a piece of jewelry to go through three piercings or four or whatever, you often hear the common wisdom as “You should get all of them done at the same time, jewelry in, and let it heal so all the angles are right.” What do you think about that? Do people sometimes come in and say, “I’ve got these two helix piercings, let’s do a third and put a trident type thing in there,” or “I’ve got three helix piercings, can we thread a spiral through all of them?”

Whitney: Typically when it comes to traditional industrial piercings, multiple point industrial piercings, or orbitals, I suggest getting them with one individual piece of jewelry. You run a higher risk of each individual piercing healing at a different angle if you use individual rings or posts.

Healed triple forward helix, conch, orbital and lobe piercings with rose-gold and titanium jewelry combos from BVLA, Bodygems, Neometal, and Anatometal.

What do you see as the trends in ear projects right now? The stuff people are coming in and saying “I want this”? Where do you see it going in the future, particularly considering the big custom jewelry pieces that are being incorporated more and more?

Whitney: The biggest trend I’m noticing in our studio lately are triple forward helix and daith piercings. They’ve become some of the most highly requested cartilage piercings.

What are some of the coolest ear piercing combos that you’re seeing out there? (i.e. multi-layered industrials, multi-helix combinations, etc)

Whitney: That’s a tricky one. I believe some of the most unique ear projects I’ve seen to date have come from Rob Hill and Joshua Campbell. I love their creativity.



Looking for more great piercing pics? Check out Whitney’s Instagram and Tumblr.

Looking for me? Reach me at [email protected], and on twitter @charleswriter.