Scarification: World’s most shocking and extreme body art
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
IMAGINE having a stranger cut or burn your skin with the hope to leave a permanent disfigurement that will remain visible on your body for the rest of your natural life.
It might sound like a horrid act of vengeance carried out by members of an outlaw motorcycle gang, but it's actually a voluntary body modification procedure known as scarification.
With one in five Australians now tattooed, the art form is no longer considered a form of rebellion, leaving people looking for new ways to push the boundaries of what is acceptable.
Enter scarification - the art of branding or cutting custom designs, pictures or words into the skin with the hope they will leave a detailed scar.
Traditionally used by tribes around the world to mark important life events, scarification has slowly been becoming an accepted form of body modification across the globe.
Not to be confused with self harm, the process of "cutting" uses sterile surgical scalpels to slice single lines into the skin to produce relatively thin scars of a certain design.
For those wanting larger area of scar tissue, a removal technique is used to peel large strips of skin from the body, although this method can result in an inconsistent texture.
In terms of branding, artists either press a piece of heated metal onto the skin like what is done with livestock or a thermal cautery tool with a heated wire tip can be used to cause the burns.
And while this might sound like they have to be carried out in a dodgy back alley, there are no laws stopping people from offering the extreme procedures - artists are only required to follow local governments skin penetration guidelines.
As a body piercer, Tina Seiferling used to perform cautery branding on herself and others.
"The process is performed using a cautery pen - a medical instrument used to burn off skin cancers and perform vasectomies," she told news.com.au.
"The tip of the pen heats up to 1200 degrees and burns through the flesh quickly and easily.
It is not very painful - sort of like using your fingernail to scratch over bad sunburn."
Ms Seiferling said she had always enjoyed body modifications and with several piercings, branding was the next logical step for someone looking for an alternative for tattoos.
"The appeal of something like this is that it's different, it's not ink on skin and heals leaving a white to light pink scar which people sometimes find more appealing than traditional tattoos," she said.
"I did a skull on myself and people have mixed reactions when I tell them it's a brand. Most think it's a white tattoo or a tattoo removal."
"Should you wish the scar to be raised and prominent you irritate the burn, pick at the scab and apply some sort of irritant like shaving cream to really aggravate it," she explained.
"For more simplistic results just leave it and the scab will eventually fall off leaving a more subtle appearance."
As one of only a small number of artists in Australia offering a scarification, Peter Sheringham has been offering his cutting services to clients for over 15 years.
"I practised on fruit before I started to work out how to do the procedure on human skin," he said.
"It's an interesting form of body art that is much more a commitment because it can't be lasered off or covered up like a traditional tattoo.
"Similar to tattooing, we make sure people are very serious and genuine about wanting the procedure. We are not going to just carve your girlfriends name into your arm."
"It looks more uncomfortable than it really is and will only be painful when washing under the shower for the first few days," he said.
"It's more susceptible to infection than a tattoo, but if you do proper after care and don't go on a trip to Bali immediately following a session, you should be fine.
"It'll generally heal within two to four weeks, but over a period of many the scar will develop and change in appearance."
Mr Sheringham said he is one of maybe half a dozen artists in Australia offering scarification at a commercial level, which often means people fly from all over the country for his services.
"The clientele looking for cutting is quite bizarre. I have done mothers from the country, young boys and girls, and gentleman well into their 50s," he said.
"While I do think it will always be a niche art form, I have had many repeat customers because after they get their first piece done, they think of new ideas and come back for more."
"Because you don't know how the client will sit, I generally charge on the work the client wants done instead of an hourly rate," he said.
"And it might be expensive, but this is something you want to get done in a professional studio not a backyard job.
"Make sure you do your research and look at the artists' portfolio before committing."