Iris: Body Piercing Makes Amazing Happen

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Jesse Dobbs, Dustin Robbins and Nick Lott of Iris Piercing. Photo: Michelle Emerson

It was a week before President’s Day weekend, a weekend that means one thing to the owners of Iris—it’s time to gear up for SLC’s annual Tattoo Convention. “It’s pretty much like we’re opening a second shop for three days,” says Iris piercer and co-owner Nick Lott. For this one weekend Lott, Jessie Dobbs and Dustin Robbins, owners and piercers of Iris Body Piercing, transport their piercing jewelry, needles, gloves, back stock and their extensive collection of what Robbins refers to as “fancy jewelry” to the Salt Palace. They also lug a Statim Cassette Autoclave, which sterilizes by steam, to keep their gauze, needles, jewelry and even their gloves sanitary. Then there are the jewelry cases, drapes and other items to give their booth at the convention a similar aesthetic to their newly redesigned shop. Four years ago, when Iris participated in their first Tattoo Convention, setting up their booth was a little less labor intensive. “It was pretty simple. A booth with a case, like ‘here we are.’” Dobbs says, “It’s more artistic and inviting now, not just ‘here’s a piercing place.’ It’s getting the art out there.”

This concept of presenting piercing as art is equally apparent in their newly redesigned shop. “The first day we were here we knew we wanted to turn it into something else, something amazing,” Dobbs says. The massive and long awaited redesign was started in July 2009 and completed at the end of November with the help of designer Scott Truitt and Richard De Spain Construction. 
“The door is in the same place. That hasn’t changed. But it is a new door,” Lott says. According to all three owners/piercers, the window and door placement are about the only things that weren’t changed during the remodel. The floor was replaced with hardwood. The walls were painted bright orange, a muted yellow and a beautiful shade of gold. Futons were replaced with tall modern barstools. The original large wooden and glass cases that housed their jewelry have been replaced with 31 individually lit small glass cubes whose bottoms are lined with a layer of fine sand. The jewelry is separated according to material and carefully placed in the sand with small cards explaining the material and the pros and cons of said jewelry. All of this is lit remarkably well. “When people come in here I think most notice the cases, the lighting and a different feel,” Lott says. 

The atmosphere of the shop has changed a great deal with the redesign. The space is relaxing and tranquil. The jewelry is presented in a way that makes it almost reminiscent of an art gallery. “It feels really good here. You walk in and you know you’re in a place that you can trust—a place that carries really high quality stuff,” Dobbs says. The interior space has finally come to match the warm, inviting and amazing atmosphere that Robbins, Dobbs and Lott have created for their customers since opening their doors five years ago.

Although Dobbs and Lott have known each other since they were teenagers, and Dobbs once approached Robbins for an apprenticeship (for which he was denied), the idea of Iris wasn’t born until all three piercers were working out of Blue Boutique.

“I think we all just kind of knew working at Blue Boutique, there was only so far that we’d be able to take it.” Lott says, “We wanted to not be the side show. We wanted to make a place that was just piercing so people would know that we were really serious about what we do.”

This dedication to professionalism was a driving force behind Iris’ opening. “When you walk into a place that’s dedicated to doing one thing only, they must do a good job,” Dobbs says.

Robbins also notes how much easier it is to answer customer’s questions and address their needs in a working environment like Iris. “The thing that’s really important that we all understand is that a lot of people feel intimidated going into a tattoo or piercing shop.” Robbins says, “We’re here, we got their back and we’ll help them understand anything that they need to know.”

All three Iris owners agree that KOI Piercing was an influence when it came to opening their own piercing-only shop. “There aren’t really that many piercing-only shops in the country.” Robbins says, “When you’re working in a city with just one all you think about is ‘I want to be in my own shop.’” 

“I really admired the way that they worked over there,” Dobbs says.

Although their first year of business was predictably slow, and everyone admits how much time was spent sleeping, playing card games and photoshoping friends heads onto porn photos it didn’t take too long for people to get wind of the new piercing-only studio. “I was surprised by how quickly we started to get really loyal clients.” Lott says, “I think people could feel our dedication to be a piercing-only studio and make it a really cool place.”

Luckily, the Iris piercers no longer have the time to master the art of fabricated porn.  All three are far more focused on the piercing trade that they’ve already mastered. “There are days where we are busy from the time that door opens to after our closed hours,” Lott says.

There are many aspects that make Iris unique, but the one that all three owners seem to take the most pride in is their dedication to using 100% disposable equipment. “When we talked about opening the place we knew we just wanted something incredible, and us as piercers, that was an incredible aspect of piercing.” Dobbs says, “It’s really nice to use something that you can just throw away. I think it saves us a lot of hours.” Although this 100% disposable method does give client a peace of mind, it seems like it could get very expensive very quickly. According to Dobbs building an entire room dedicated solely to sterilizing tools would be just as expensive. Plus the switch to disposable tools has forced the piercers of Iris to rethink some of their piercing methods. “Redefining our piercing techniques to deal with what’s disposable has actually been fun,” Robbins says. 

Swing by Iris Body Piercing on 2431 Highland Drive to check out their new set up and congratulate them on five years of business.

Jesse Dobbs, Dustin Robbins and Nick Lott of Iris Piercing. Photo: Michelle Emerson Photo: Michelle Emerson