"Everyday I wake up and think about how I want the day to go, how I want to treat people and how I want them to perceive me and I just embody that." These words came from piecing artist, Colby Smith, as I interviewed him within the walls of the world-renowned New York Adorned tattoo and piercing parlor. So what was my first perception of Colby? Initially it was intimidated as his first e-mail politely, and somewhat jokingly, requested I ask him original questions (he's been interviewed quite a bit in the past). But after meeting him in person I realized his super chill and laid-back energy. While he is appreciative of his ongoing popularity with influencers, bloggers and the public in general, he hasn't let it go to his head.Coby grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, skateboarding around town with his friends while admiring the artists and piercers who worked at the local tattoo shop. He, himself, picked up the practice of piercing by way of a mentor and pursued it in conjunction with his job at a vegan cafe. By the time his Salt Lake friends were getting serious about moving to New York, Colby's curiosity kicked in."I was happy living in Utah but the day before my friends were leaving to New York I woke up and realized it was time for a change. There was something telling me I needed to leave Salt Lake City for New York and it was just a matter of whether I was going to fight that voice or listen. Even though I had never visited New York and it had never appealed to me, I decided to pick up and take off."At the time of the move, Colby was at a crossroads. He didn't have a job lined up and he wasn't sure he wanted to continue piercing. He knew only a handful of people and landed in a pretty rough Brooklyn neighborhood upon arrival. One of the first couple of nights he remembers a gunfight outside of his window and got used to his daily walk past the apartment of a man who was constantly rapping profanities out the window."At first I really actually hated New York. I was no longer a 'big fish' and wondered how I was ever going to fit into this place and where I would begin. I was happy to eventually connect with New York Adorned through a friend. They had been looking for a piercer and after meeting with the staff and owner, it all just clicked. That's what I always say about New York - the island will either accept you or reject you. You come here and things fall into place or it spits you out. I meet people who are struggling so hard, fighting to pay their rent. Sometimes I feel guilty about how it fell into place for me but I also think others romanticize this 'struggle.'"Colby has been working at New York Adorned ever since, meeting 50-60 new people everyday. Whether an opera singer or train driver, the people are what keep him inspired. He appreciates piercing as an art form that only gets better with repetition. He certainly made me comfortable with the whole experience, putting me at ease after determining the best spot for my new ear piercing (I went with cartilage hoop here)."I like piercing and I like jewelry but I like people more. Some come because they want to feel something - maybe they are going through a break up and want to feel some sort of pain, not just from the piecing but from the after effects of aching. Some just want to get pierced because they are in New York and want a reminder of their trip. You see everybody at their most vulnerable, raw state. Everyone has little things they want you to know about and they want you to ask about. I think a lot of people get really lonely in New York because the city isn't really a place to come and make friends. It's a place to be selfish and get ahead...I'm not that kind of person. I'm not in a rush, I'm patient and maintain a calming energy to ease the stress and anxiety of the person on the other side of the needle."After chatting with Colby it seemed clear that New York has been the best opportunity to get to know himself and I really resonated with this perspective. My New York experience has been similar. I'm very grateful for the way things fell into place for me and the opportunity I've had to get to know myself better than ever before. It's amazing what can come from putting yourself in a vulnerable situation. Like Colby said, "Sometimes people lose their individuality when they are in a relationship or comfortable in a group of friends. When you strip all that back and take it away you ask yourself, 'well, am I really that cool?' You come here and you're alone and you need to figure it out."
[wait, there's more...]
Check out my brief Q+A with Colby for more on what he likes (and dislikes) about NYC:
When you first arrived to NYC you were thinking...What the fuck did I just do?
Something you can do in NYC that you can't do anywhere else... Anything you want, so many strange niches that people make careers out of here. New York is a place that rewards creativity.
Something you know today that you didn't know yesterday...Tax deductions $.
Last time you were really frustrated with NYC you were thinking...Time for a vacation.
A common NYC excuse you really hate to hear..."It's too farrrr."
I'm not a tourist but I still...Stay in hotels.
You'll usually find me...In the East Village or the diamond district.
When it comes to NYC, do trust... The water
When it comes to NYC, don't trust...The cops and cab drivers.
It's okay to do this alone...Get pierced.
My favorite NYC street is...Crosby Street.
NYC's best kept secret according to you...The light saber guys in Washington Square Park. Love watching those guys work on their moves.
If you could live one year over again it would be___and why? My heads is always in the future, never the past.
I'll move out of NYC when...I'll always have at least one foot in NY.