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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Polymer Gauges

Several weeks ago I was contacted by a few of the rudest and most ignorant people I've ever had the displeasure of conversing with. Most of them I didn't bother writing back. These people seemed to be very upset because I sell polymer gauges in my Etsy shop as well as on my company website I was told that polymer is not only dangerous but that the ideas I had for different kinds of designs were "retarded" and "looked like a 4 yr. old made them". Why any grown person would take the time to write me these awful things about items they do not personally like- I have no idea. It would seem to me that these people are in desperate need of something better to do with their time. I contacted a fellow polymer gauge artist and found that she too, had been harassed by such people.

 Among many of the hate mail I received was one I'd love to spotlight.  In my shop I sell decorative tapers. I was "informed" that a taper is used ONLY to stretch your ears and that if I had my ears gauged I might know what I was talking about. He told me I shouldn't be selling something I do not wear and if I did wear them my "ears would have fallen off by now". He even gave me a link to a wikipedia definition of taper.  Well...I actually DO have my ears gauged and I do wear my own work. Yes- I do understand that in modern ear stretching a taper is a word used for something which stretches your ears. The definition I was given was roughly this- 

Taper: a spike-like tool used to stretch gauged ears to the next size- usually made out of stainless steel. 

Let us take a look at the actual definition of "taper" as found in Websters dictionary. 

Taper: 1 a: a slender candle b: a long waxed wick used especially
 for lighting candles, lamps, pipes, or fires c: a feeble light
2 a: a tapering form or figure b: gradual diminution of thickness, diameter, or width in an elongated object c: a gradual decrease.   

Etymology:Middle English, from Old English tapor candle, wick, perhaps modification of Latin papyrus papyrus

Date: before 12th century

Yes- within the modern world of gauged ears taper only has one meaning- but through the course of the  actual history of human relations this word has come to mean many different things. I began gauging my ears in the first place because I saw someone wearing a Plastic taper. I love the way tapers look and I CHOOSE to wear them solely for decoration. Instead of following the heard I have chosen to go off on my own and wear something different to express myself... What a concept! So yes, I sell tapers in my shop for healed ears because I personally like them. If anyone else disagrees.... don't buy them- simple as that. 

The same man told me that he had many gauges and obviously knew more about it than me- a person who so obviously has none and knows diddly squat... right? He told me that polymer is toxic and I am endangering the lives of my customers with my product. Besides the fact that I am not forcing anyone to buy my product  I feel the need to remind everyone here that it is also the responsibility of the customer to research and decide what they are willing to put in there bodies. Non- Sterile wood, stone, bone, clay, dirt, and even animal feces and lard are just a few of  the many different materials used for body modification over the millennium by tribal peoples around the 
world who were doing this long before it became an American FAD.

 Polymer clay is Guaranteed by it's makers to be Non-toxic as long as it is fired correctly. It's used to make many different pieces of jewelry including the many different pairs of gauges I have worn, without complication, for many months at a time. PMC, another clay I use in my studio, stands for precious metal clay. It comes in silver, bronze and gold and again- is used in many different kinds of jewelry including classic earrings worn by millions. 

My point is simply this. Setting constraints and boundaries upon art or any type of body modification, especially out of blind ignorance or "know-it-all syndrome", completely defiles their purpose in the first place. Self expression is within the roots of human nature as far back as anyone can remember. Who are you to tell me, or anyone else, what I can and cannot make into or call art, wear on or in my body, or how I should express myself according to your mainstream society?! The whole point of my tats, my gauges, and my art is to express the fact that I am different from everyone or anyone else. If all of you get together and decide to gang up on a fellow gauged person for being tatted or gauged in a way that sets them apart from you- you
 are no different than the conformist main stream people you set out to be different than in the first place.Unless of course you just gauged yourself to be like your totally cool and popular friends... then I suppose your staying true to yourself. 

Now please enjoy an interview with talented polymer gauge artist- 

Giovanna Coraggio

How long have you been making polymer gauges? 
4 years I started making them out of the old white sculpey and painting them. The first pair I made was a pair of purple tri-rails with little designs carved into them. I broke one the second day! 

Are your ears gauged? 
Yes, 7 years this summer. 

Do you wear your own work? 
Absolutely! I started making clay ear art for myself! I can make anything I want and it’s a great way to promote around town and it’s free!

Have you ever had any problems with your piercings from wearing polymer in your ears?
No, not at all. I have a good routine though. I take any jewelry out, wash, dry and oil my lobes every night. 

Roughly how many customers have you sold polymer gauges to?
200. But I’ve made maybe twice that many earrings. For myself and friends before I started to sell. 

have you ever had any complaints? 

Where do you stand on the issue of the safety of polymer gauges? 
As far as PVC, we are exposed to pvc in countless everyday household and commercial products from the plastic cup you get a to-go drink in, the container premade tofu comes in, to my Chaco sandals and Tupperware containers. The list goes on. There are many styles of polymer jewelry that have prolonged contact with healed skin, like pendants and beads. If you wear acrylic plugs, you are exposed to PVC just the same as if you are wearing polymer.  In regards to phthalates, here is a quote from a study on I found online; "In summary, phthalate esters found in these polymer clays offer little or no acute toxicity concerns and are not a chronic hazard concern even assuming a large (24 mg) daily ingestion of these clays. Analyses of these clays for residual vinyl chloride found non-detectable (<1>

What is the name of your shop?

What is your favorite pair so far? 
Oh gosh!!! I have a new pair every week! That is hard, but right now, I’d say it is the Morrocan Hoop! They are so fun to wear!! 

What is the longest you have gone wearing polymer gauges in your ears without taking them out? 
A couple weeks if I’m wearing plugs, from the time I wake up to bedtime if I’m wearing an intricate style that could break. 

What would you like to say to the people who stand against your art form?
Ha! I wasn’t aware there were people who actually stood against this art form. ☺ I’d say live and let live. Don’t buy it if you don’t want it!

Thank you Giovanna!


  1. Hello, I featured you on my blog a little while back on women-prenuergalore
    and I only have this to say
    I am tottaly for self expression and art and I am for what people truly are and love, and besides I love what you do,lol keep going and believing and never mind those ignorant ones along the way , I guess there will always be a few to try and bring your down I guess.
    Happy work and Happy Monday to you.

  2. hi! im interested in making my own gauges as well..just for myself,not to sell or anything.i have a 4 and 6 in each ear,and just want to make some simple swirlies,and maybe plugs..any tips? thanks :)

  3. just going to point out that a lot of hate may be coming from the fact that you sound very ignorant about the body mod community. it is not 'gauging' or 'gauges' they are plugs, tapers, tunnels, etc. not gauges. the size is the gauge, not the jewelry itself. gauging is not a correct term for stretching.

    i think what you make is adorable, and i can almost promise you that if you were to change the terminology you use, there would be much less hate thrown your way.

    just as a quick note- ive had my ears stretched for almost a decade now, and am almost at 2" so i didnt want to let you think that i was just some silly person trying to be bossy.

  4. I completely agree with this particular article!! you are 100% right and I agree with EVERYTHING you said! there's my 2 cents. :) I think polymer clay gauges are fantastic and love them! I too have healed guaged ears that have been done long before it took over the states.