October 3-7 of this year was the third annual Camp APP members retreat. Started in 2015 by former APP President Bethrah Szumski, Camp APP is a members-only retreat in the mountains of Hard Labor Creek State Park, in Rutledge, Georgia, about an hour outside of Atlanta. It was started as an alternative to the grandeur of APP’s annual conference in Las Vegas, and to provide a space where APP members can learn and compare notes in a more intimate, personal environment.
Andru and Zach both volunteer their time for the week at the annual APP Conference in Las Vegas, giving back their time to the community that has given us all so much. Unfortunately, this means that they don’t always get to attend all of the classes they want to because they are covering shifts, and the Conference, usually a good balance of work and fun, becomes much more about work. Camp APP promised a different experience to the intensity of the annual APP Conference and Expo, so we got their shifts covered and sent Andru and Zach off into the mountains of Georgia. Here is their report:
I had a wonderful educational and relaxing time at the third annual Camp APP members retreat. This was my first time at camp. I found it relaxing and really fun to have the summer camp experience I never had as a youth—but mixed in with the Association of Professional Piercers mini-conference educational vibe.
A couple things that stood out as really remarkable was the ability to have a techniques class where you could actually show on someone's anatomy where you would mark and what piercings they were suited for. This was especially awesome in regards to genital piercings and unique anatomies—with attendees who were comfortable being naked!
Aside from the workshop techniques class," The Rise of Artisan Jewelry," taught by Cale Belford, was incredibly interesting and brought up a lot of conversation about to the resurgence of artisan jewelry within our industry. "Bumps, the Good Kind: Intro to Genital Beading" by Ryan Ouellette was the most simple and straightforward walkthrough of methods and techniques for genital beading, and all the pros and cons from someone who has done plenty of them. I found it gave me insight and increased confidence in techniques I already had in my toolbox. I found the first aid Narcan training very informative and eye-opening to the major issues some of our colleagues are dealing with in their hometowns.
I was able to meet new APP members I didn't already know and I got to spend some quality time with my fellow conference volunteers hiking, swimming and enjoying the beautiful and quiet nature. My first experience at camp was a great one.
— Andru Rogge
Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah. Here I am at Camp APP 2017.
Camp was fun. I found out after we got there that our particular campsite is where one of the Friday the 13th movies was filmed. Go Camp Crystal Lake!
They called it "Advanced Curriculum." It was refreshing to learn in an environment that didn't include all the “hustle and bustle” of Las Vegas. It was like those movies where the "cool teacher" takes students outside for class. The entirety of Camp was only about forty-five APP members, making for much smaller, more intimate classes. Classes covered such diverse topics as STATIM repair and Narcan training, in addition to piercing techniques workshops. My favorite talk was "Extra-terrestrial Origins of Body Jewelry," a presentation by John Johnson from California. He talked about the stuff that makes the stuff that makes your jewelry. Turns out it all starts in outer space—which is one of my favorite topics of conversation!
The techniques workshop was less restricted than at the annual APP Conference, particularly the genital piercing section that was taught in part by our good friend Elayne Angel. It was excellent seeing Elayne outside of a studio and getting the chance to just hang out with other folks who I typically only see once a year in Las Vegas. (A few of the people in our cabin were fellow Conference volunteers, and it was great spending time with them without having to rush off to our next shift like at other APP events.) It was great to be in such a different social environment with the people who have become some of my closest friends over the years.
We spent a lot of time on the lake, as there was a nice dock and a little boat that we had access too. Every evening, as soon as the sun was behind the trees, we were out on that boat. John and Shorty spent a lot of time fishing (not so much catching). Paulie couldn't get enough of that boat. We all got on that boat and stormed an island on the lake at two in the morning—just to make sure all those thorny vines could really cut us up.
Ryan Clark set the pace for naked dock diving, and Andru and I joined in shortly after. We also tromped through the woods and found a geocache location on the far side of the lake! While we walked back, we came across what I described as a "glass graveyard," a field of bottles of all shapes and sizes. Some of them were half buried with stuff growing in them like a terrarium, others were fully intact, including a Mountain Dew bottle I picked up that I would later Google and find dated back to 1965. I had no idea that Mountain Dew's slogan was once "It'll tickle your innards." Kind of pervy, if you ask me.
There were late nights, most of which I spent laying on the dock looking at the sky. It was a full moon that week, and nearly every night was cloudless and clear. While there, they fed me breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day—a luxury I don't even get at home—and the food was really good! I've been working so hard keeping track of my weight lately, and while I was at Camp I friggin' gained seven pounds that I still haven't lost.
All in all, it was a great experience. It was my first time in Georgia, and I spent it with great friends, took advantage of serious learning opportunities, and my surroundings were a nice change from the city living I've grown so accustomed to in Philadelphia. The only thing that would've made it better was if my dog was there. Maybe next time.
— Zach Fitzgerald