Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

In her own words: Dangling from my piercings makes me comfortable in my own skin

Shannon Michael, 29 of Palm Beach. Body suspension artist. The photo is courtesy of  Shannon Michael

Photo courtesy of Shannon Michael

Shannon Michael, 29 of Palm Beach. Body suspension artist. The photo is courtesy of Shannon Michael

Shannon Michael, 29, Palm Beach | body suspension artist

She tattoos people for a living but considers this her art: having her skin pierced with temporary holes and being strung up by hooks for onlooking crowds. The traveling performance artist, who has participated in shows from the Tampa Tattoo Arts Convention to New Orleans' Voodoo Fest, spoke with Floridian about how she got into suspension, what it feels like and why she loves it. These are her own words:

I originally saw it through piercers I'd worked with. … "Wow, this is some other level of pushing your body." I researched it and learned it had a deep-rooted ritualistic aspect. That's what sparked my interest. …

You talk about what you're wanting to do, how you want to hang. You discuss that with who's going to pierce you and who's going to rig you. … You tend to avoid certain areas, whether it's a fresher wound or if you don't feel it's comfortable. … You don't go to the muscle; it's just as deep as your skin. It doesn't seem like very much, but it's hearty enough to hold the weight. We used to use fish hooks, but now we use a specifically designed hook for suspension. … The piece that goes through you is a piece of titanium the thickness of a straw. …

Usually I try not to let it build up, because it will. My adrenaline kicks in before I even get pierced, because I'm anticipating it. By the time I get pierced, it's not as bad as I was thinking it would be. … It kind of stings. It feels pinchy. Once you're hanging, the skin feels really taut and almost becomes numb. … The more hooks you have, the less painful it will be. … Once I'm fully lifted off the ground, I don't feel it much. … "Oh, I'm here, I'm already doing it." Fear and pain is replaced with a satisfaction of success and perseverance. …

You can swing. You can hang. It's really what you want to get out of the experience. I feel like the more you move, the less you feel what's going on. … Any time I felt I was doing anything really painful to myself was when I was the most still. … I could feel every little thing because there was nothing else; there was no sensation of wind in my hair. …

It's more pushing the limits of your mind than your body. Once you do it, you realize your body is a hell of a lot stronger than you expected. Most people say, "I wouldn't do that" versus "I can't do that." … I've seen people who are 18 do it, and I've seen people who are almost 80 do it. I've known people who do some pretty extreme stuff to themselves, hang other people from them. I've seen some of my friends do it who are just frail little girls. … I've hung people who are more than 300 pounds just from six piercings in them. I've seen it from just two piercings. That's a lot of weight to be putting on two little dinky hooks. …

I struggle with anxiety. … It definitely puts things into perspective of what I'm capable of doing. I use it to re-center myself. … I think I'm more afraid of common, everyday things like driving in a car in Philadelphia, new personal interactions. I'm more afraid to make myself vulnerable than I am about my actual vulnerabilities. … I realize, what am I nervous about? I refer to it as an adult spanking. … "Stop it, you're throwing a fit for no reason. Just do what you've got to do."

I would never get in front of a crowd if it weren't for suspension.

It just made me feel more comfortable in my own skin.

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

In her own words: Dangling from my piercings makes me comfortable in my own skin 09/28/16 [Last modified: Thursday, September 29, 2016 2:03pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Lightning takes defenseman Cal Foote with top pick in draft

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — Former Avalanche defenseman Adam Foote said his son Cal lived in the locker room.

    Cal Foote, second from left, is welcomed to the Lightning by GM Steve Yzerman, far left.
  2. It's Rays' turn to pound Orioles pitching (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG - Ah, the fantastic four.

    The Rays smashed the reeling Orioles 15-5 on Friday, scoring a season-high in runs, to climb four games above .500 for the first time since July 1, 2015.

    Rays third baseman Evan Longoria scores on a triple by Logan Morrison during the first inning against the Orioles.
  3. Lightning picks defenseman Cal Foote

    Blogs

    Cal Foote is the son of former Avs defenseman Adam Foote.
  4. Kids today: They don't work summer jobs the way they used to

    Business

    WASHINGTON — It was at Oregon's Timberline Lodge, later known as a setting in the horror movie The Shining, where Patrick Doyle earned his first real paycheck.

    Teens Ben Testa, from left, Hannah Waring and Abby McDonough, and Wegmeyer Farms owner Tyler Wegmeyer walk the strawberry rows at the Hamilton, Va., farm in late May.
  5. Jeb Bush back in the hunt for the Marlins, now opposing Derek Jeter

    Blogs

    Associated Press:

    Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has switched sides in pursuit of the Miami Marlins, and he’s trying to beat out former teammate Derek Jeter.