Louisville Magazine

DEC 2018

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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22 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 12.18 SHIFT Nimble Needlers Piercing ears, facing fears. By Anne Marshall Photos by Mickie Winters A blond teacup of a human named Madelyn, all of six years old, sits on a gray cushioned table at Twisted Images, a tattoo and pierc- ing shop on Bardstown Road. She's on a curious outing for a child on a Saturday afternoon. A large white bow fastens Madelyn's hair away from tiny, bare ears that are on track to sparkle. Around her, two women move in fast-forward, busying themselves with black latex gloves, sterile swabs, Q-tips, needles in germ-proof packaging, two corks the size of thimbles. -e women share a matching tattoo — a candle that burns from both ends, because neither takes well to slowing down. Nor do they care much for a bare canvas. Jewelry twinkles from their ears, dimples, noses, tongues — 39 piercings between the two of them, all of it accessorizing the artistry that inks nearly every peek of skin, from Lord of the Rings quotes to the Grateful Dead skull to a peacock,‰a nod to the Hindu god of piercing. One of these women, Amy Willmore, who's part-owner of Twisted Images, stands ready at Madelyn's left side. -e other piercer, who goes by Bunny, takes the right. -ey squat a bit, Žrm their stances, get set. Madelyn grips her mother's hands and stares straight into her eyes. "OK," Willmore says, "practice breath." Madelyn sucks in, blows out. Willmore and Bunny place corks at the back of the girl's lobes. -ey each hover a needle over the exact spot they've determined is right for earrings, marked by‰a dot in green marker on each lobe. "Big deep breath," Willmore says. "Hold." Madelyn in"ates. Mom holds her breath as well. Grandma too. "Blow it hard," Willmore instructs. Two sharp needles poke through Madelyn's soft lobes and press into the cork. An earring loaded into the back of each needle slides into home. Madelyn's mouth widens, a wail ready to spill. Willmore's quick, with an alert: "It's over. It's over. You have earrings." -at usu- ally tames the screams. -e whole thing's over before a tick can tock. One second, typically. Madelyn dives into her mother's chest, perhaps still shaken by the pinch of pain, her mouth now squiggled into a frown. "You did it! You did so good!" her mother shouts. Minutes later, it is with epic delight that Madelyn stands before a full-length mirror admiring the green opal earrings that make her feel so, so fancy. "Look at that smile," Bunny cheers. "Yasssss!" Madelyn's mom hands her daughter a $5 bill, and Madelyn tucks it into a skull, the "tip skull." Willmore, who has been piercing the ears of young kids for several years now, says she's never certain who will cry or who may chicken out. -e girl before Madelyn, a six- year-old named Reagan, barely registered emotion when needles hit "esh. About a month ago, a Žve-year-old named Maria screamed as if she'd been plunged into a pit of porcupines. "Probably about 30 percent scream. About 60 percent cry before we touch them," Willmore says. "-ey get, like, Shit, this is about to happen. -eir eyes glass over." (Adults do this too.) Willmore wants this childhood milestone to be fun, without trauma. Sometimes she and Bunny dress in animal onesies. Willmore, who's in her early 40s, is a talker, a jokester. "It relieves stress putting holes in other people," she says. She has a deep hyena-ish laugh that knocks around the old Victorian house, home to Twisted Images. "One day, we sat with a girl for two hours," Willmore says. "Every time we got our hands near her ears, she was like, 'No, no, no, no.'" Eventually, she was ready.

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