Pro-Piercer Interview – Mike French
Major apologies are in order for the lack of blog updates, but I have a good excuse…I swear! I’ve been focusing all my efforts on opening a brand-spankin’ new, high end piercing and tattoo studio!! Born This Way Body Arts is now open and we’ve got the area’s best piercers, best tattooers and the largest selection of quality body jewelry!
Enough about the studio…on with the interview! This interview features APP member Mike French of Omega Red Piercing and Tattoo. Mike has been a good friend of mine for a few years, and I’ve always admired his dedication to excellence in our industry.
Knoxville Piercing: Let’s start with the basics – how did you get your start in the body art industry?
Mike French: I first go into piercing because I looked at it as a facet into tattooing, and after learning more about body piercing I grew to love it more and more, and ended up with my focus 100% on piercing. I “learned“ at a local studio in Cedar Falls Iowa. At the time I was a junior in high school and working 2 jobs. Shortly into my apprenticeship the owner of the studio went to prison and I was pretty much thrown into the position of head piercer/manger. I worked and managed that studio for a bit until it just got too taxing for a high school senior. Shortly after I graduated high school I closed that shop and opened a studio of my own out of necessity, due to all the other shop in my area being low quality. My studio was a one man shop when I first opened and over the years it has grown exponentially. I have had the opportunity to travel a ton and learn from some great people.
MF: At this point in time I own 2 studios, hopefully a 3rd coming soon. I first opened as an accident almost. I opened in the first place because I didn’t want to work for any of the low quality shops in my area. When I first opened in October of 2000, I never thought it would go this far or become what it has become.
KP: What challenges did you overcome to get where you are at today?
MF: To be completely honest as I look back I didn’t really overcome any major obstacles. My family was always really supportive and helpful. And also I think since I was kind of secluded from the industry a bit, I feel I didn’t get bogged down with politics and industry drama. I have been pretty lucky to come from a family with business and d.i.y. skills so I had a great support system in that avenue.
MF: My jewelry company, Omega Red Handmade (available at Born This Way Body Arts), focuses on custom handmade brass, copper, bronze, and stone. I try and focus on ethnic inspired jewelry that is relevant to the industry today. I’m not trying to be a big company or sell people stuff they don’t want, my jewelry is not for the everyday client, it’s for a specific market. I make jewelry for the love of it and for the people that love it. When it stops being fun, thats when I’ll stop making stuff. I got started making jewelry with the help from my friend Mathew Vige from Equipped for Eternity. He is also a tattooer and worked in my College Square Mall location for a while and during that time he taught me the basics and I just ran with it.
MF: I have had the opportunity to travel a lot, domestically and internationally. I look at travel as the opportunity to gather as much information as possible. Any time I travel, I try and soak up as much information as possible. I don’t only focus on learning more about piercing, but also about studio marketing, history and any other topic I can get a hold of. I feel there is no reason to travel if your not going to absorb as much of every aspect of that destination.
KP: You are currently a member of the APP and are teaching for the first time this year. What is your class about and why should others attend?
MF: My class is called marketing outside the box; it will focus on the need for tangible marketing techniques for piercing studios. I think people should attend the class because they will be opened up to new and exciting marketing ideas they have not heard of before, and I’ll be giving out information and contacts I have accumulated over nearly 10 years in the industry.
KP: What do you feel is the biggest problem in the piercing industry today?
MF: Oh, the biggest problem with the industry… I don’t know if I can pick only one. But I would say attitude. I feel it’s a major issue when dealing with others in the industry. I also feel a lot of new kids coming in to the industry are more worried about trying to run before they can walk, in that they need to learn the basics and master them before trying
to do cuttings and such. I just think that people in the industry need to be happy they are getting paid to do something they love, and not have a chip on their shoulder. In my opinion being humble will get you a lot further then being too cool for school, and the individuals I look up to are some of the most humble people in the industry.
MF: I look for commitment and perseverance. We put our apprentices thru hell but if they want to be in the industry and work in my studios they need to make it through it. I am a big advocate of “break them down to build them up”, we try and break them down to their core and really see what they are made of. I don’t want to waste my time and theirs if they cant hack it. I’m very old school with my dealings with an apprentice; they do dishes, wash cars and anything else we can think of. I feel piercers and tattooers are too fast to give out apprenticeships to friends and girlfriends, people need to be more secretive with this information and not give it out like candy to anyone that asks.
Personally I feel I have worked very hard for a long time to get where I am today and why should I just give that info away for nothing. We charge our apprentices and treat them like crap, and the 2 that I have had finish, are great piercers and people now.