Breaking stereotypes, one sparkle at a time


Meagan Rockafellow

Steve Olin poses with Meagan Rockafellow after piercing her rook

Meagan Rockafellow

   “Ok now take a deep breath in three, two, one,” Steve Olin said. Immediately, pain seared through my left ear. I clamped my eyes shut, pushed my hands down tight onto the pink reclining table I was laying on, and tried to continue to breathe.

   The pain increased with every little movement, and I instinctively lifted my shoulder to try to block the pain. “Just a little bit longer,” he said as I clenched my fists tighter waiting for the pain to subside. 

   Finally all movement around my ear ceased and Olin said “all finished! I will let you down so you can look.” He quickly pushed in the ledge I had been setting my legs on and returned to his table to start cleaning. I sat up slowly, becoming increasingly aware of how hot my left ear had become as I approached the mirror. My mom and Olin watched for my reaction as I turned my head to the right to inspect my hot, left ear. “I love it!” I said as I saw a new piece of jewelry resting in the rook of my left ear. He had given me a little bit of sparkle.

   Piercing shops and tattoo parlors have held negative stereotypes for decades. The cliche that all piercers are druggies and criminals have tainted the image of piercing shops, but Steve Olin, local piercer and owner of Studio Seventeen, wishes to change that stereotype, one sparkle at a time. 

   Olin’s love of piercing originates from a trip to Claire’s. “I got my first ear pierced at eight at Claires in the Westshore Mall, and I blame them for everything. It was just kinda the gateway to everything, you do it and think ‘oh that wasn’t too bad’ then you start looking at all the other jewelry and then you see a shop and they are doing all sorts of other crazy piercings and it just opens that can of worms,” Olin said. 

   After that can of worms was opened there was no turning back for Olin. His interest in piercings increased as he read books in school about African tribes and how many were forced to get piercings as part of tradition. He was fascinated by how something that is forced in other cultures is a luxury in others. Even then piercings and tattoos had a negative stereotype. “Everybody said it was such a taboo thing and I was always asking why?” Olin said.

   He eventually started piercing himself in order to learn and practice. “I was one of those people who started piercing myself growing up; it was the easiest route to learn and I didn’t want to hurt someone else in the process. I figured if I was gonna do it, I better learn on myself that way if I screwed up I wasn’t hurting anybody else,” Olin said. 

   Today, Olin owns Studio Seventeen in downtown Holland. He works hard to make sure that his studio has a welcoming environment for all people, young and old. Olin sees a large range of customers every day. 

   One in particular stands out in his memory. A few years ago a 98-year-old lady made an appointment to get her ears pierced. When she walked into the shop, Olin knew she would be a client he would always remember. He was touched that he was able to fulfil one of her last wishes in life, to make her sparkle again. “That is literally word for word what she said: ‘Boy you gonna give me my sparkle back and that’s all I wanted.’ She had me close to tearing up ya know,” Olin said. 

   He has a picture of her on the wall in the studio so that he will never forget her or that special appointment.

   Olin also has many young clients who come to Studio Seventeen to get their ears pierced for the first time. When Olin started professionally piercing 11 years ago, children were typically not brought to tattoo parlors because of all the negative stereotypes surrounding the tattoo artists and piercers. 

   “It used to be so taboo to take your child to a tattoo parlor because ‘you can’t do that!’ It is surprising I guess seeing how accepting it is finally becoming,” Olin said. 

   A few weeks ago, Olin had another memorable encounter with a young client’s dad. After bringing his daughter to Studio Seventeen to get her ears pierced, the client’s dad was so impressed that he asked Olin if he could interview him for a report for the City of Holland. “So many people make it seem like we are horrible so it is nice surprising them with that aspect that we are not all criminals,” Olin said.

   Jr. Erika Allen, a Studio Seventeen client, said that the studio and Olin definitely defy the stereotype surrounding tattoo and piercing studios. “They are a really welcoming place, and they seem really experienced in what they do. Steve was super friendly, when I got my first piercing there he made it way less scary,” said Allen

   Sr. Madi VanOmmen also had some great experiences with Olin. Over the past few years, VanOmmen has had three piercings done by Studio Seventeen, and she highly recommends the studio to anyone looking for some extra sparkle.  VanOmmen said, “They did an amazing job and were very comforting before all of my new piercings. Steve is super cool. I love his excitement about piercings and he does an incredible job.”

   Olin and his studio also make a difference in the community outside of the shop. Studio Seventeen is one of the only studios in the area that is a part of the Association of Professional Piercers (APP). “We have kinda one upped things a little bit, being members of the APP we do have first-aid, CPR, and AED training, which isn’t a requirement but it is just something we did because again it is good to have that knowledge,” Olin said. 

   First-aid knowledge helps the employees at Studio Seventeen ensure that they are prepared for every emergency, in and outside of the studio. “A nice surprising thing about having that training is there has been more than once where I have been coming to work and someone is down on the side of the road and everybody else is panicky and I know how to help,” Olin said. 

   One instance in particular, Olin remembers vividly. “This last instance it was a 77-year-old man that wasn’t wearing a seat belt, jumped the curb, sideswiped one vehicle, and then rear ended the semi-truck. And I pulled up and the semi truck driver gets out and he is just screaming, he is just yelling and I am like, ‘Did anybody check on this guy yet?’” Olin said. He anxiously approached the car and opened the door to see the man face down into his passenger seat and unresponsive. Remembering his training, Olin tapped the man to see if he was unconscious. After nothing but grumbles as a response, Olin was able to help sit the man up and help keep the crowd calm until the paramedics arrived. 

   “So many people think we are all just druggies and criminals and all this and it’s like dude no, we actually have training that can help and that we do try to help outside of here whenever possible. I am definitely not going to try to become a first responder or anything but it is nice when you just happen to be in that area to be like ‘oh hey I know how to at least keep things calm,” Olin said. 

   Studio Seventeen is succeeding at breaking the stereotypes surrounding piercing studios inside and outside the studio. Olin and his studio are making Holland a better place, one sparkle at a time.


Check out Studio Seventeen’s website and follow their social media

Instagram- @studio.seventeen_                    Facebook- Studio Seventeen

To book an appointment call (616) 392-9292 or email [email protected]