What’s your name and tell us a little about yourself?
Jesse Villemaire, born in '75, raised in Cambridge, Ontario Canada.
How long have you been piercing?
I began piercing in 2001. My first business venture was "Twisted Body Art" in Hespeler, Cambridge. Although it was short lived we then moved to Preston with a new business name "Eternal Body Art." Staying strong for three years in Preston brought even bigger dreams and ambitions. I developed a new vision and I followed my dreams once again. I walked away from Eternal and introduced Thrive Studios to Cambridge in October 2005. With a solid staff and a very comfortable atmosphere I believe we have created the experience everyone is looking for within a tattoo studio.
How did you become a piercer?
With a dream of owning a tattoo studio, a friend of mine approached me with an opportunity to join him in this venture. This opened the right doors and he helped arrange a piercing apprenticeship for me. A local piercer at the time was wishing to leave the industry for personal reasons and decided to pass on her knowledge to me.
With my apprenticeship being cut short, I was left in a position to look elsewhere for the answers I needed to continue my career as a piercer. At the time, BMEzine.com became my main resource absorbing as much information as possible. After I cross referenced everything I learned through my apprenticeship, with the experienced piercers I met online, I then realized I had to retrain myself to meet the standards of those in the industry I looked up too.
With the encouragement and support of my friends and family, I decided to continue pursuing what I love to do. I wanted to exceed in piercing and business alike. This vision has led to the position I am in today.
What education do you have as a piercer? Did you go to a piercing school?
First it’s important to know that there are currently no regulations within the piercing and tattoo industry. We’re not required to have any proper training or schooling. This is quite concerning as many people believe that all tattoo artists and piercers have some sort of body art licence and have attended a school of some sort. This leaves YOU as the main person looking out for your own personal safety and it’s up to you to do the proper research prior to getting a piercing or tattoo.
That being said, I do pride myself with furthering my education each year. I personally continue to dedicate myself to the industry and work close with our local health board officials to ensure our industry continues to grow in a safe manner. Here at Thrive Studios you will be pierced under strict hygienic, clean and safe conditions. I will guide you through your experience making it very comfortable and continue the support throughout the healing stages of your piercing.
Not all tattoo and piercing studios operate on the same level or have the same qualifications as others. This is why you’ll find some studios just offering the lowest prices without providing you a safe experience. As the industry grows in popularity, so does the risk of unqualified practitioners entering this profession putting you at high risk. Most reputable studios are sometimes booked in advance and are definitely worth the wait.
Did anyone inspire you to become a better piercer or did you have a mentor?
Tom Brazda's willingness to create new and innovative ways to keep the industry progressing has inspired me to continue learning. Also with Tom located in the Toronto area, close to my hometown, it was easy to visit him for even further guidance. In my early stages of piercing I tried seeking out well known piercers and trying to introduce myself to them. I was excited to talk all about piercing with those who I looked up too. I enjoyed showing them my piercing portfolio accepting any helpful criticism that they shared with me. I feel as though this had really helped me grow as a piercer over the years.
What kind of piercings do you offer?
I offer all types of body piercing including earlobes, nostrils, navels to the more advanced ear cartilage, microdermals and even male and female genital piercings. Please have a look through my portfolio and you’ll see I’m well versed in many piercings. For those of you interested in learning more about genital piercings please click here if you’re over the age of 18. All piercings preformed at Thrive are done with single use, sterilized piercing needles and are a lot less painful than the out dated piercing gun method. Piercing guns should ever be used within our industry. It’s time to get educated; it’s not the 80’s anymore. Please read the F.A.Q. section to learn more about the risks associated with piercing guns.
How do you personally further your education within the piercing industry?
As I’ve always pushed myself to learn more I started to seek out further education early in my career as a piercer. I learned about the Association of Professional Piercers (APP) and started attending APP conferences yearly since 2004. The APP is an international health and safety organization providing piercing techniques, business, and health education classes at the annual conference for piercers, health inspectors, and others related to the industry.
A goal of mine was to become an APP member and build my studio to fit the criteria of the APP standards. After years of building a studio that I can personally be proud of I finally submitted my application to become an APP business member. As of March 2011 my application was accepted by the association requiring me to meet minimal health and safety guidelines during my piercing practices while upholding my dedication to piercing with the highest quality, implant grade jewellery. Currently I am proud to be one of only a few APP members within all of Canada.
Throughout the years at the Las Vegas, APP conference I have attended numerous classes including, blood borne pathogens, first aid, infection control, aseptic technique, equipment management, bedside manner, studio set up and inspection, jewellery material, anatomy (oral and body), genital piercings (female/male), employee management, medical risk assessment, marketing and customer service.
In early 2010, the APP board members approached me about teaching at the conference. I was more than happy to oblige and I had the privilege building the first ever hands on workshop alongside a handful of respected piercers. The class was named “Sterilization and Piercing Studio Set Up”. This class instantly became a great success at the conference. I’ve been teaching the class yearly since then and it continues to be one of the most sought after classes, selling out each year. I’ve also been a speaker for numerous other classes such as marketing yourself and your studio, maintaining balance between life and business, and public speaking.
It really sounds like you’re passionate about education; do you teach as well?
Yes I do. In June of 2002 I was introduced to Health Educators blood borne pathogens training seminar at NIX tattoo convention. Since then I became hooked on absorbing as much health and safety knowledge dedicated strictly to the body modification industry. As there was so much information to be covered in such a short period of time, I decided to sign up for as many BBP classes offered by Health Educators. I mainly attended the classes in Toronto, Buffalo and Las Vegas.
Over the years of attendance I became friends with the founder of Health Educators, David Vidra. He saw that I had the drive and ambition to help educate our industry, while being a well respected individual. Mr. Vidra offered me an apprenticeship within Health Educators in early 2009. Throughout my apprenticeship I was required to travel to as many classes possible and required to do research on numerous topics. I was a co-teacher alongside David, offering my insight and knowledge to many classes.
As of June 2011 I have successfully completed my apprenticeship and I’m currently the lead instructor of Health Educators Canada. I have personally taught numerous blood borne pathogens classes dedicated specifically for the body modification industry. Some of the classes I’ve been a teacher at have been, Toronto (NIX), Calgary, Montreal, Buffalo, Halifax, London, Orangeville and Cambridge. Although I am strictly a piercer, my passion for piercing and tattooing still motivates me to move forward within the industry, wanting to safely pass on the proper knowledge to the next generation of practitioners in this field. In the future I see myself travelling more frequently across Canada helping many studios continue their education with health and safety.
Do you offer guest speaking?
As our industry continues to grow at an alarming rate (a random quote I heard recently - at least one new studio per day opening in the U.S.) I also wanted to educate the students and next generation of kids looking to get tattoos or body piercings. I started contacting the local high schools, colleges, drop in center’s, and troubled teen housing…basically anyone who would listen. I spoke to numerous classes over the years and have recently teamed up with Guelph Public Health to bring this education to even more students. I now have an hour long presentation that I present to students throughout the Southern Ontario region. If this is something you could see beneficial in your school or workplace, please contact me for more information.
Is Thrive Studios inspected by Public Health?
Our studio is inspected yearly by Region of Waterloo Public Health. Since our opening in 2005 we have always passed with no issues. Our inspection report and spore test results are always available to view at Thrive Studios.
I have a great relationship with our local public health inspectors. I offer my services to them anytime they have questions or concerns. I often allow them to bring any their new staff to our studio so I can personally show them around, making them feel comfortable, and answering any questions about tattooing and piercing.
What do you feel makes you stand out from the rest?
I believe my passion for piercing shows through with each piece of my work. From the basic navel or nostril, to the more complex surface piercings or ear projects I feel rewarded by the feeling that is experienced by my clients. I enjoy helping them in their transition during these modifications. Each client has their own personal reasons for getting this work done and I will take my time to ensure that each client receives the experience they deserve. Even if you have been pierced elsewhere I will gladly help you with any questions or concerns you may have.
One of my qualities would be making each client feel comfortable during the whole procedure. I am often complimented on my good bedside manner. I also maintain an excellent rapport which is long lasting even after they leave our studio. I will put the safety of my clients first. It is very important to me that you are 100% satisfied with your visit and all your questions are answered before you leave our studio. I also love to talk a lot and educate everyone that walks through the door.
Over the years I’ve developed a piercing technique that has helped many overcome their fears of getting pierced. Using these latest piercing techniques and the highest quality jewellery, I believe I can virtually make any piercing quite painless for you. I trust this is one of the reasons we are one of the busiest studios in the region.
What have been your challenges if any?
My main challenge has been dealing with the business side of the industry. I've moved locations four times now and have dissolved a partnership. All these challenges have led me to recently open my own studio with a very comfortable working environment with a solid crew. Owning a studio brings the stress levels that can usually overtake many new businesses. Overcoming stressful situations and operating a smoothly run studio brings the feeling of accomplishment and pride.
The challenge of operating a busy studio, working full time as a piercer and also teaching as a Health Educator has proven to be difficult at times. However if I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t do it. I balance this busy lifestyle with numerous hobbies I’ve attained over the years such as skateboarding, snowboarding, motorcycles, rock climbing, hiking, kayaking, snowshoeing, and basically anything relating to being outdoors!
Whats new or cutting edge in your opinion?
What I find exciting lately is the innovation of quality body jewellery being made today by a few of the best manufactures in North America. They have been setting extremely high standards for themselves and the jewellery speaks for itself. Some clients want me to invent a new piercing for them, something that no one else has ever seen. Too be honest I believe that it’s all been done before, however you can certainly re-invent the look of your piercings with jewellery that no one has ever seen before.
At Thrive we can set up personal jewellery consultations with you and custom order anything. In many cases you can basically build your own piece of custom jewellery, from deciding on what metals, the colours, the gemstones, cut and colour, opals, cabachons, gold and diamonds etc…the list goes on and on. We’re proud to offer you jewellery that you won’t find in any common mall store. View our jewellery section for more information.
Some other “cutting edge” excitement; scarification may not be new but the level of skill that is surfacing from artists throughout the world is outstanding. To name a few artists really pushing the boundaries of scarification are Wayde Dunn, Dave Gillstrap and Ryan Ouellette. I've had the pleasure of working with these artists in the past and really admire their style. Check out my scarification interview for even further information about this art form that I offer.
Any closing remarks?
As this industry is highly unregulated it is important to do your own research prior to getting pierced or tattooed. Body modification is becoming more popular each day and unfortunately there are many people trying to cash in on this industry at your expense. Don't shop by price, shop by quality. If you're not comfortable or they can't answer all your questions in anyway, walk away. We’re not the cheapest studio in town but I strongly believe we’re the best. Be safe and you'll have a memorable experience! Remember it's your body, it's your decision.
If you have any further questions I'm available anytime to help. I'm also willing to take you on a personal tour of our studio to help you learn what to look for prior to getting a piercing or tattoo. Also be sure to read over the frequently asked questions as you’ll learn even more. I hope to meet you very soon!
Below are the numerous course certificates I’ve received throughout the years.