You could say Kasey Bonn has nerves of steel.
The 18-year-old is likely one of the youngest business owners in New Zealand, opening a new chapter in the history of Queenstown's Innersteel Body Piercing studio.
The Skyline Arcade business closed after the sudden death of its owner David van der Camp, aged 54, in mid-March.
He was regarded as one of the best piercers in New Zealand.
Now his legacy continues with the reopening of Innersteel by his young offsider, who is the new owner and director.
Bonn reopened last Saturday, the holiday weekend and Luma event combining to provide the "perfect" busy week to open, with record numbers through.
Brought up in Queenstown, Bonn left school after getting her level 2 NCEA qualification, keen to start working.
Her mother told her she could leave if she found a fulltime job.
She had been working part-time in retail and she came across van der Camp, recognising him from a previous piercing.
Randomly, she asked him if he would ever teach somebody how to pierce. He told her he had been thinking the same thing.
He invited her to lunch the next day for an interview and the pair "just clicked straight away" and quickly became good mates. He asked if she would work fulltime for him.
Asked whether she had thought of becoming a body piercer, Bonn said she always knew she would probably end up doing something "a wee bit different".
She had always loved working with people and she was also keen on music and quite creative.
Still, she did not expect to become a body piercer "that's for sure – but hey, life has its ways," she said.
Bonn acknowledged embarking on her new career was rather daunting.
"I was really scared. You don't want to hurt people, right". But, she said, what was a "little bit of temporary pain for a lifetime of beauty".
Her first piercing was a nipple of one of her friends.
Doing it fast and doing it right was the key.
"If your technique is really correct, it'll be minimal pain," she said.
The support of van der Camp was "incredible" and she was grateful to have been taught by one of the best piercers in New Zealand, if not the world.
Covid-19 meant he could not afford to keep her on fulltime so she worked for him at the weekends.
She had been away on a van trip for five weeks with her boyfriend and it was the day she intended to see him when she returned that she heard the "absolutely devastating" news of his death.
She opened Innersteel for two days, selling jewellery and piercing queues of people to raise money for his two sons who were his "pride and joy in life".
About $17,000 was raised between that and a Givealittle page.
Initially, Bonn was not sure what she was going to do as she processed what had happened. But after a long chat with her parents, she decided she would keep the business – and van der Camp's legacy – alive.
Since then, she had been overwhelmed with the support she had received, both from her family and the community.
"Everyone's so stoked I've taken it on. People have a safe place to go for piercings."
And that was important, she believed, as Innersteel was the town's only piercing shop.
If people chose to do piercings themselves, the results could be a "catastrophe", she said.
Piercing was particularly trendy at present; from her perspective, it was a non-permanent form of self-expression.
She was learning "so much" about running a business – "what a business actually entails" – including the likes of ordering stock, something which she had never had to do.
She had also turned the studio into her space, adding lots of plants and a photograph of her mentor so his presence was still there.
Asked what van der Camp would have thought about her foray into business, she said she believed he would be "so proud" of her.
"He wouldn't want anybody else to be keeping it going. We genuinely had the best relationship ever, we were literally best friends.
"Age is just a number," she said.
- by Sally Rae, Otago Daily Times