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. Pinellas sees spike in infant deaths from unsafe sleeping, and advocates are concerned

    Health

    The reports from the Department of Children and Families are tragic: A Pinellas County mother falls asleep on a recliner during an early morning feeding and wakes to find one of her 3-month-old twins unresponsive. Another finds her 6-month-old daughter lying still, a blanket over her head. Another infant is found wedged …

    Advocates are looking to step up their public information efforts this year after reports show a spike in sleep-related infant deaths in Pinellas County. [iStockphoto.com]
  2. Kellyanne Conway warns of health care spin, but then delivers her own in Miami

    Blogs

    On the same day that Senate Republicans were forced to delay a vote on their healthcare legislation because not enough of them wanted to vote for it, White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway defended the bill in Miami.

    White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway is welcomed by state Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-District 105, at the Miami-Dade GOP’s Lincoln Day fundraiser on Tuesday night.
  3. Sign up for our new daily News at Noon email newsletter

    News

    The Tampa Bay Times will soon launch a daily newsletter called News at Noon. You can make sure to be among the first to receive it by signing up now.

  4. New poll shows tight St. Pete mayor's race

    Blogs

    A new poll shows a tight race between former mayor Rick Baker and Mayor Rick Kriseman, currently engaged in the most expensive mayoral race in St. Petersburg history. 

    Former Mayor Rick Baker answers a question during the mayoral candidate forum at Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church on Tuesday. Mayor Rick Kriseman is in the foreground.
  5. Review: Mark Bowden's 'Hue 1968' a gripping, and timely, history

    Books

    More than 40 years after it ended, America's war in Vietnam is still contentious, still misunderstood, and fast slipping into the fog of history.

     On Feb. 15, 1968, U.S. Marines carry out an assault on Dong Ba Tower in Hue, South Vietnam. In the battle for the tower, six men died and 50 were wounded.