Fed up of poor quality piercing jewellery? Want something completely unique? Meet Andy Dunn the former butcher who turned passion into profit after starting up a back garden business making organic jewellery.
Article – Pippa Blenkinsop
Photography – Rich Luxton
For many redundancy spells disaster – for Andy Dunn it was anything but. The 22 year old body mod enthusiast from Brighton had long been disappointed in the quality and variety of UK piercing jewellery, so when he left the local butchers in 2008 it gave him the perfect opportunity to tackle the problem. “There was not much in the way of good organic body jewellery in this country… I started making a few plugs for myself, some friends, and for Quentin, and it just sort of snowballed from there.” So much so that he now has his own business, Southshore Adornments, which he operates from his garden studio. There he makes everything from plugs and tunnels to labrets and weights as well as custom pieces for clients across the globe.
With literature on plug making scarce Andy admits that he is completely self taught. “I started off with just a lathe and woodturning tools but you get to a point where you reach a stump and you think ‘right, now I need this tool because it will make that job easier.’ There was a group on the internet that was just for plug makers where there was a lot of information being shared and, like a lot of people, I went in there and asked ‘how do I make plugs?’ but most people just told me to piss off and figure it out for myself. It’s blunt but it’s the right way to do things.” However, Andy has had the benefit of guidance from expert piercer Quentin of Kalima studio in nearby Worthing. “When I started making initial pieces he would come back to me and say ‘this needs to be longer’ or ‘this needs to be shorter…’”
Andy now works with a variety of different materials from plastic to precious metals but it is natural materials – in particular, wood, with its infinite variety of grains and colours – that really gets him excited. Having started working with native hardwoods such as boxwood he has now progressed to more exotic hardwoods including amboyna, blood wood, pink ivory and his personal favourite, black and white ebony. A self-confessed wood collector, Andy is always on the lookout for something different to add to his treasured timbers. “If you see rare wood with a nice grain you’ve just got to get it. When I came across a piece of zebrano [so called due to its light and dark striped grain] I made a noise that wasn’t human because it was something I’d not seen before – I just had to have it” he admits.
Where many craftsman favour consistent grains, Andy seeks to celebrate nature’s spontaneity by deliberately using the knots or natural voids of burr woods as the focal point of his solid pieces (provided it can be cut into cross sections, as he usually produces plugs in pairs). He also enjoys experimenting with different combinations of textures, tones and colours and often uses inlay techniques to combine two woods in one piece or will use the wood as a setting to showcase anything from gemstone cabochons and pieces of recycled pottery to walrus ivory.
As well as a master of materials, Andy is a craftsman with a conscience who ensures that all his timbers are from sustainable and ethical sources as are all the other natural materials which feature in his work such as bone, ivory, and horn. “All the buffalo horn and bone which I use is just collected after the animals die naturally and deer antlers are collected after mating season after they’ve been shed.” Once more, all the materials Andy uses are biocompatible including synthetic plastics PTFE and Delrin which can be autoclaved and used for initial piercings.
To further ensure his products are non-toxic Andy does not use any glue in their manufacture but prefers to use alternative setting methods such as prong, bezel and pressure settings – the last being a highly skilled process where cabochons are held in place purely by the force of their surrounding material. Equally, he avoids artificial stains, paints and varnishes. Instead, once each piece has been sanded to 2500 grit (extremely fine), a vegan-friendly carnauba wax is applied to seal and enhance the natural beauty of the material. You vegans out there will also be pleased to hear that all pieces are finished with polishing cloths and wheels which are 100% animal fibre free. Once more, animal and non-animal products have their own sets which are stored separately.
Want to get your hands on some of Andy’s creations? Ready-made, one-off plugs ranging from 2mm to 70mm gauges are available to buy online as well as hoops, weights, labrets and stretching sets. However, if you have something more specific in mind don’t hesitate to get in touch because when it comes to piercing jewellery Andy’s unofficial motto is “if people want it, I can make it.”