The History and Culture of Stretched Ears

People have been decorating and making changes to the appearance of their bodies since recorded history began. This has taken many forms through the ages, such as tattooing, piercing, stretching, scarring, branding, muscle sculpture, hair styling and many more, and for almost as many different reasons.

The three major purposes of these forms of body modification have historically been tribal (to display allegiance to one tribe or group of people), in war (to scare the enemy and distinguish friend from foe), and for fashion and perceived beauty. Ear stretching has been popular for centuries, but this popularity has increased in Western culture in recent years.

For some, there is a profound spirituality in the protracted process of stretching ears, while for others it is fun and more involved than simple ear piercing, and the fact that fewer people do it adds to its appeal. Others have their own reasons, but irrespective of these, stretched ears have always been part of human history and will continue to be so.

Reasons For Stretching Ears

Just as with other forms of body modification or enhancement, people have historically stretched their ears for a number of reasons. For some cultures, this represented a coming of age, while for others it was carried out to enhance beauty or sexuality. Throughout the ages it has been used both for religious reasons and to protect the subject from witchcraft or evil. Ear stretching is still carried out all over the world for a variety of reasons, including those mentioned above.

If you travel to Africa, you will find that stretched ears are common among many indigenous peoples, including the Maasia in east Africa, the Mursi in Ethiopia, and it is also carried out in some Asian countries such as Thailand. In South America, stretched ears are common amongst the Huaorami of the Amazon Basin, but you generally need go no further than your own hometown to see some excellent examples of ear stretching. Stretched piercings and flesh tunnels are now a common form of ear adornment for Western youth.

Icemen and Pharaohs

One of the more famous examples from history is Ötzi the Iceman, a 5,300 year-old mummified body found in the Alps between Austria and Italy. In addition to several tattoos, Ötzi had an ear stretched to around 7 mm – 11 mm diameter. The giant Easter Island statues display stretched ear lobes, the likely reason for them being known as ‘Long Ears’. The story goes that the statues were carved in honour of the original inhabitants of the island representing them with the earlobe stretchings that were part of their culture. When a different tribe arrived on the island, they were known as ‘Short Ears’, and were forced into slavery by the Long Ears. Eventually there were more Short Ears than Long Ears, and the latter were overthrown and the statues toppled over.

In Egypt, the boy king Tutankhamen is represented as having stretched ears, and his famous golden death mask features holes that can take 10 mm diameter bars. The processes used to stretch these famous sets of ears are not known, because there are many techniques that can be used. It is likely that primitive stretchings were carried out using wooden plugs or bamboo, and although a few people like to return to these early methods, they are not recommended today for health reasons.

Stretching Ears is Not Reversible

If you are interested in stretched ears, there are certain factors of which you should be aware. The first is that it is generally permanent. Once stretched, your ears stay that way. The holes do not heal over like a normal ear piercing, so make sure that you are happy with having stretched ears for the rest of your life. There is time at the beginning to stop and allow your ears to heal back to normal, but once the diameter reached 10-12 mm, it is too late and the hole will not close up. Another is that it takes time and patience. You do not visit a piercer and come out after an hour or two with stretched ears!

If you have decided that you want it done, you are advised to have the procedure carried out professionally. Yes, you can go it alone, but a professional will provide you with the best results, and it will also be safer. It will be quicker if your ears are already pierced, because otherwise you will need that done first and then wait up to 8 weeks for it to heal. Then you can start of the stretching, or gauging as it is often referred to.

That is because the diameter of the needles used is referred to as their ‘gauge’. The gauge of a needle drops as the diameter increases, so that an 18-gauge needle is small – in fact, that’s the gauge of an average initial piercing. Once you reach a 2 gauge, the diameter is that of a pencil and so on down. An 11 mm hole is 000-gauge (actually 11.11 mm or 7/16 inch).

Ear Stretching Should Not Be Rushed

As already explained, ear stretching is a slow process, and you should never try to rush it. If you try to rush, it will likely take longer eventually because unless the ear has time to get used to each lower gauge it won’t heal properly. You might then have to start all over again. Gauged ears should not bleed and there is distinct procedure to follow. Fundamentally, you increase the diameter of the piercing in small steps, allowing healing between each step. A common way to achieve this is to use an insertion taper, where one end of the taper is the same diameter as your existing hole, and the other side is of larger diameter.

This can be in the form of a stud that you wear until you are ready for the next size up. The next stud will have one end at the current diameter and the other at the lower gauge (larger diameter). That is pushed through and secured, and you wear that until the next insertion, and so on. If you keep your ears and jewellery clean and sterilized between sessions using anti-bacterial soap or saline solution then you should heal fine between each session – allow about two weeks between sessions.

Take the Advice of the Pros

It is very important to follow the advice of the professionals, and do not try to cut corners. Many people have ruined their ears by failing to be patient, so don’t let that be you. Follow cleaning instructions to the letter, both during and after the entire stretching process. There are many different types of ear jewellery available for stretched ears, including flesh tunnels, bars and rings.

There is also a wide choice of materials, from wood or plastic to gold and platinum. Many prefer glass while others find Teflon best, particularly if they suffer allergies. Niobium, surgical stainless steel and titanium are also popular materials for stretched ear jewellery.

Keep in mind that not all can be worn indefinitely, particularly the porous materials such as wood, shell and some plastics that can harbour bacteria, yeasts and fungi. Such jewellery should be regularly removed and thoroughly cleaned and sterilized. Ear stretching sets you apart from the usual crowd, and can be a very distinctive form of ornamentation. It is something that few people regret having done.

Artist’s Signatures – How Do They Change the Value of Art?

Signed in pencil, signed in the plate, what does all of this mean? The way a print is signed and it’s impact on the value of the art causes a great deal of confusion. You will see prints that are unsigned, signed in the plate, stamped signature, estate signed and signed with a blindstamp. There are no hard and fast rules about how an artist should sign their graphic art. It is more important to know what the normal procedure was for the time period and what the normal practice was for that particular artist.

Centuries ago, most artists never considered signing their art. Numbers of pieces are unsigned, but that does not mean that the artist is unknown or that it was not done or approved by him or that it has no value. Rembrandt, considered one of the greatest etchers did not sign a number of his etchings. Most of the modern masters, Picasso, Chagall, Miro, did not sign certain editions. This is when it is important to work with a knowledgeable dealer since unscrupulous people have forged pencil signatures on authentic art in order to command a higher price.

Signed in the plate means that the artist has signed their name in the matrix (wood, metal, stone, etc) so that it is printed within the art. This is the way that an artist would sign their work up until the 19th Century and many of the earlier artists would not have done that much if it had not be decreed by guild law. Generally speaking, because in art there are always exceptions, a plate signed work of art is more desirable than an unsigned piece, but is less desirable than one signed in pencil. Since artist from the 14th to late 19th Century did not sign their art in pencil, the lack of a pencil signature has no impact on the value.

Signed in pencil is usually the type of signature that collectors prefer.

It has become a tradition for the artist to sign their name in the lower margin under the image. They may also include the edition number, title and date. We can thank James McNeil Whistler for helping to introduce and promote the hand written signature at the end of the 19th century. The hand signed signature signified the integrity of the print, that it is original and distinctive from a reproduction. Whistler charged twice as much for his hand signed pieces than he did his other pieces from the same edition, even though there was no difference in the quality of the art. Seymour Haden would sign his name to any of his earlier unsigned etchings for a guinea. Picasso sold 15000 signatures for the Vollard Suite.

Unfortunately, the hand signed signature no longer has this same meaning since many artists sign and number their offset lithographic or giclee reproductive prints. Nor is this a new phenomenon, Kathe Kollwitz signed photolithographic reproductions of one of her aquatint series. Still, the implied message has remained and pieces that are hand signed generally are more valuable than ones that are not. What makes all of this very confusing is that it is possible to have a fake signature on an authentic work of art and an authentic signature on a reproductive work of art.

Sometimes, instead of hand signing the art or signing in the plate, an artist will use a stamp of their signature and apply it to the art, usually in the lower margin where you would normally find the hand signature. A stamped signature will sometimes be confused for a hand signed signature.

Heirs and estates have been creating posthumous editions or reproductive editions that bears a special signature. They sign the art to give the impression that it would have been authorized by the artist if they had not died. These signatures could be hand signed, stamped signatures or blindstamps by the heirs, museums or any authorized organization. The value of these is usually much lower than lifetime impressions. But of course, there are always exceptions!

The History of Body Piercing – Interesting Facts

Piercing is an ancient form of body modification. Almost all the cultures have practiced it at some time and nowadays piercing is extremely widespread in Western Europe and America and is rather popular in other countries.

Ancient Egypt is recorded to be the first place where pierced mummified body was found. The ear piercing it has is said to be done more than 5000 years ago. There were large gauge plugs in the ears of this body. Certain types of body piercing in ancient Egypt were restricted and even the royal family followed those rules. The interesting fact about navel piercing is that only Pharaoh had the right to have his navel pierced. And any man who got or was going to have his navel pierced would be executed. Egyptians from the higher class had the right to wear earring, displaying in such way their wealth.

Even in the Bible there are some words about the piercing. In Biblical times piercing was a sign of attractiveness and status.

Romans pierced their body not for the sake of beauty but for practical purpose. They had their nipples pierced in order to signify their virility and strength. Pierced navel of men symbolized patient dedication to the Roman Empire and courage and even Julius Caesar had pierced nipples. Gladiators had genital piercing through the head of the penis to prevent serious injury in the combat. They tied the organ back to the testicles with leather stripe that was hold by the ring in the penis.

In the ancient tribes of Maya, Aztecs and American Indians tongue piercing was a part of their religious rituals. They believed the blood-letting ritual of piercing of the tongue bring them closer to their gods. Septum piercing in the Maya and Aztec warrior tribes was done to frighten the enemies. They also wore gold or jade labrets in their lips to show their attractiveness and to enhance sexuality. In the Solomon Island and New Guinea septum piercing was also widespread. They used bone, feather and tusks for that purpose. So did women in Central and South America. The holes in their lips were stretched to incredible sizes and that was believed to be very attractive.

During Dark Ages Medieval church restricted piercing and this type of body modification died down. But during the Renaissance piercing was back. It was widespread among the sailors to pierce one of the ears. Firstly, it showed their long-distant adventures and secondly the gold earring was the price for the proper Christian burial of a sailor who died in the shipwreck and was found on the shore. Noble men during Elizabethan era had at least one ear pierced. Pierced nipples with sparkling rings and chains joining both nipples were common with royal women. The upper crust of society in Europe at that time and later pierced their nipples and genitals both for aesthetic purpose and delightful pleasure.

The Victorian age piercing was the time when piercing began to become popular with new strength. Prince Albert piercing is named after the husband of Queen Victoria Prince Albert who had his penis pierced in order to wear the tight-fitting trousers that was very popular at that time. Later other types of genital piercing became popular both with men and women. At the end of the 19th century almost all women had their nipples pierced. During the first half of the 20th century ear piercing as well other piercings almost died out and piercing regained its popularity in the 1960th when hippies began to wear nose rings. Later the interest in body piercing grew and celebrities, singers and sport stars began to do and to show their piercings. And nowadays all imaginable types of piercing are available.

Why is Abstract Art So Popular?

Abstract art is popular because it has a purpose in this world both for the artist and the viewer. Many people collect abstract paintings to beautify their surroundings, as an investment, or to update their lives with contemporary culture. They often feel a connection with the colors, the forms, texture, or energy that the artwork gives off. The artwork changes their living space and creates an atmosphere worth living in.

For the artist, creating the artwork can be an expressive means to channel creative energy and emotion. The action of painting is actually considered therapy and very meditative for many abstract artists. The evidence of this has been documented to be especially true in today’s modern fast pace world.

Abstract art also covers a broad spectrum of painting styles. The general understanding is that this type of art does not depict anything in the natural world and the subject is simply a visual language of color and form. While this is true of non-representational works (which I love to create), this is simply not true for all abstract art out there. The word “abstract” means a departure from reality, but this departure can sometimes be only a slight one. This in-turn leaves room for partially abstract landscapes, figures, seascapes, etc. to be categorized as abstract art.

The beauty of abstract art, both for the artist and the viewer, is that anyone can take what they see and interpret it however they want. Of course this is true of any type of artwork, but considering the nature of abstract artwork, the creative mind has even more freedom to roam and interpret what is appearing before the senses. Abstract artwork is a non-traditional free art form that resonates with the feelings and emotions of today’s contemporary artists and art collectors. As long as this is true abstract art will continue to be so popular.