For those who still believe that all piercings are more or less the same, the amount of people willing to wait and travel for highly sought after piercers like Adrian Castillo might seem ridiculous. After all, while tattoos are generally considered an art form, piercing is much more often viewed as simply being able to put a hole at the right place in someone’s skin – something just as effectively done in a high school bathroom as a high-dollar shop.
But for the real masters of the craft, piercing ears, noses, and other body parts is just as much of an art as creating tattoos or music. For Castillo, an OC native and one of the most respected piercers in the country, piercing and music are both forms of creative expression he values. As a longtime punk rocker, piercing allows Castillo to delve into some softer intricacies that his music dabblings might not support.
“I’m a control freak, so when people walk into the piercing room or in music, I have to take control of the situation.” Castillo says. “But I play really aggressive music, and my piercing style is much more delicate, elegant, and dainty. It’s cool and it’s fun that I get to be creative in both aspects.”
Castillo knows that his delicate appreciation for piercings might be lost on some people. Already, his tastes for decorating ears (and the occasional nose, lip, etc.) have proven to be a bigger hit in New York City than they were on the West Coast. According to the piercer – who’s now based out of the widely respected New York Adorned when he’s not taking cross-country trips to pierce in Pacific Time – clients looking to get pierced in the Big Apple are more interested in the finer points of body jewelry compared to your average OC customer.
“I’m very particular about what I will pierce on someone or won’t pierce on someone, as well as what I think will look best on someone,” Castillo says. “In Orange County, I don’t think some of the more conceptual body piercing has really caught on too much. The clientele is a lot different. We get a lot of celebrities and models and diplomats, and I have a certain aesthetic that I do that people come to me for. They’re a lot more open and trusting to let me do what I want to do.“
That’s not to say Castillo has any animosity toward SoCal, of course. After piercing for nearly a decade all over Southern California and recently spending some time displaying his craft in the Pacific Northwest, Castillo would love to make regular trips to work in OC and LA, it’s just a matter of finding the right fit as far as a shop or studio goes. After all, piercing out of a random street shop for Castillo would be the equivalent of Mario Batali slaving in the kitchen of a McDonald’s. Sure, the shop’s customers would get what they want, but Castillo’s piercings would be much better appreciated at a location that understands piercing as an art.
“There are just certain pieces of jewelry that you can put in certain places that makes it look like a concept instead of just ‘Oh, I want a hole in my ear,’” Castillo says. “I didn’t get into that until a few years ago when I started seeing piercings coming out of New York that were really not just piercings, but pieces. Now it’s made me a little bit snobby when it comes to other piercings.”
Long before Castillo developed his keen eye for perfect piercings, the artist was introduced to the art form through the music world. Considering that he still loves playing music when he can, the freedom of schedule and style that piercing allows is still something that keeps him happy in his career. After all, it was the touring life that got a teenage Castillo interested in piercing in the first place.
“As a touring musician, I’d always been around that culture of tattoos and piercings,” Castillo says. “I got back from touring right after high school, and I realized I should either go to college or get a job. I went the college route for about 10 seconds and then realized I couldn’t do it. My best friend at the time was a body piercer and told me I should learn to pierce. It just kind of went from there.”
New York Adorned, 47 2nd Ave, New York, NY, 212-473-0007. Instagram: @adriancastillo