It seems like, these days, barely anyone has a single ear piercing anymore. We've moved on from lobes and auricles to forward helixes, conches, rooks, traguses... if there's part of an ear there, we'll pierce it. (Of course, plenty of these piercings have existed in various cultures throughout history — but Westerners are just starting to catch back on.) And while some people build up their collection of piercings over a period of years, there's a fairly new trend on the scene that lets you get it all over with at once: the curated ear.
Jewelry designer and piercer Maria Tash is a particularly large proponent of this method, which basically means you get a bunch of piercings all at once (or work with the piercings you already have), then pick jewelry that goes nicely together to fill all the holes. "The phrase itself first emerged in late 2015, early 2016," Tash tells me during a visit to her studio in NYC. "It describes styling of the ear with jewelry in a very deliberate and beautiful way. Something that resonates with the wearer's personal aesthetic." Often, this means all the jewelry comes from one shop — no more mixing and matching all those studs you've collected over the past decade.
On the day I went to Tash's storefront to test this curation method out for myself, it was bustling with customers looking to get their hands on some of the jewelry she's become famous for designing and chat with the expert piercer themselves. Even when we attempted to find a quieter corner to chat in, customers tracked Tash down, listening raptly as she answered my questions about the process. Clearly, this woman is someone to be trusted in giving your ear a complete makeover.
To kick off an ear curation, Tash does a quick assessment of the customer's personal style. There's plenty to take into consideration: "What are they wearing? What other types of jewelry are they wearing? What are the metal colors of the the jewelry that they're wearing, if any? Is their style sort of minimalist? Is it more avant garde? Is it boho?" Tash explains. "You take jewelry style, the metals they're already wearing, their personal aesthetic style, and their anatomy and you start making choices."
"Their anatomy" simply means the shape and size of a person's ear. While she says that it's "unusual" for a type of piercing to be totally impossible, factors like a smaller tragus or fold over the helix of the ear can make piercing in those areas difficult.
I already have seven piercings, so Tash opted against adding any new holes to my head and instead sought to find creative new ways to dress the existing ones up. She started with two piercings I have right at the start of my helix on my left ear. "You have two low piercings here... Did you do those yourself?" she asks. I tell her I hadn't self pierced, but that they were done with a gun about 10 years ago. If I went to a piercer today, she tells me, they'd say it was a terrible job — but that I shouldn't worry, because she can make them look cool anyway. And she did, by sticking a hoop through the two holes (check out the "after" in the photo on the right below).
Other than that hoop, Tash pretty much let me pick the earrings myself, giving suggestions for what would look good along the way. The key to a curated ear is going somewhere with a vast selection of jewelry — that way you can try on a bunch of different styles before deciding which to purchase. Tash even has some clip-ons, in case you want to try a piece on even before getting pierced.
Tash could tell from the earrings that I walked in wearing that I tend to opt for yellow gold, so she recommended I try some white gold jewelry just to switch it up. "When you look around [the shop], is there anything that speaks to you?" Tash asked. "Do you like any of the snakes or the rings with some skulls on them?" I did, in fact, like the snakes (pictured in the right photo above) — and Tash recommended trying one for my forward helix piercing, since it was developing one of those bumps that are fairly common for cartilage piercings. Tash said my bump seemed likely to be a sac of fluid (a little gross, but more treatable than a keloid scar) which meant the wide, flat shape of the snake earring could help squish the bump into flatness. Sick.
There were fewer holes to work with in my right ear, yet Tash managed to arrange the new jewelry in a way that felt completely unique to anything I'd tried before. I never would have thought to put a hoop through my ear sideways, but now I'm obsessed with that whole arrangement — especially paired with a dangly chain like Tash did here.
I kept the snake earring, which actually has helped the bump on my forward helix go down. As for the rest of the look, it was fun to play dress-up on my ears for a day. I tend to wear my earrings for months (or years) at a time without giving them much thought, but working with Tash on a curation got me excited about jewelry all over again. If you're also feeling a bit under-inspired by your current piercing situation, I'd highly recommend swinging by a store to that offers curation sessions with tons of options to try ASAP.