Skindependent Suspension is a team that most people in the suspension community are familiar with. Their dedication to high standards and education and the beautiful suspension photos that come from their team have gained them quite a bit of international attention over the last few years. In celebration of their five year anniversary, the team has published their first book which is now available, appropriately titled FIVE. Between publishing a book, running a suspension team, body piercing, planning the first Australasian Suscon, family life, and a hundred other things that Eden Thomson somehow manages to juggle, he took a moment out to talk with me about his team, the book, and their upcoming 2015 suscon.

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Skindependent’s new book, FIVE, is a celebration of your team’s first five years together. I feel like the best place to start with talking about a project like this is the beginning. What made you decide to form Skindependent?

Great question! Well, in the beginning, it was the studio that I work at currently (Absolution) that was offering suspension. For the time, they were doing a great job of it and the more I go involved with it, the more I felt we could evolve with this art form.

It was this realization that I felt forming an official team of like minded individuals would be a great start, and with the help of people like Allen Falkner and Håvve Fjell, it became a reality. I approached my now employer about officially starting a group in Christchurch – funnily enough, it was this same meeting that he offered me a body apprenticeship at the studio. It was a surprising win/win.

As your team has changed and evolved over the years, what you feel the biggest improvements have been to allow the group as a whole to progress?

I think it has been the desire of the individuals to learn and push themselves. We have had a lot of members come and go, but now I feel we are really solid and it makes a huge difference having members that want to be in the crew. This, coupled with continuing our education and traveling, has seen us make the improvements needed to be the team we are and continue to be. The learning never stops – ever. As soon as you think it has, it’s time to put the gear down and move on.

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When did you first get the idea to make a book to document your team and the work you do?

I have always liked the idea of releasing something official documenting our work in a hard copy form. It made sense that the 5th anniversary was a perfect time to release it, and because we had a consistent year of photos showcasing some of our best work, it was time to act.

Martin Booth of Light Fantastic does such an amazing job and we are very thankful to have him capturing our every move.

Your team is well respected by members of the community worldwide, not only for the beautiful suspensions you do, but also for the hard work and incredibly high standards you have. As a team leader, what has helped you to create an environment with members that are so eager to learn? Does it take work on your end to keep their enthusiasm and passion for learning going, or do you all work to keep each other on your toes?

I am so thankful to have a team that want to learn and better themselves, but as a team leader, it is up to me to be constantly assessing everyone’s skill levels and helping them evolve to where they want to be. Not everyone in the team wants to learn every aspect of suspension, and that’s ok, it’s about helping them get to where they want to be – but I can only do so much, the rest, is up to them. Having set such a high standard arms the crew to be always striving for the best way to do things. Our way of course is not the only way to do things, but is a good base knowledge for the crew. There is always something new to learn and we love interacting with others, as this helps us change the way we think and approach different areas.

Having worked with your team, it is really incredible to see a group who all have such a love for what they do. How does your team bring in new members as part of the crew?

This is a tough one – it’s actually quite hard finding the right person. Usually, we recruit based on different individuals enthusiasm who attend or meets, but it is hard, because it is very important to me that any potential new member blend well with the crew – I value the crew’s input greatly, so, of course, we vote on any potential new candidates. This year will see us focus on education and evolving within the crew (including myself) more than ever – I am excited! Dedication is also another huge factor. You can’t get better unless you can devote a certain amount of time into the crew, I am only ever interested in investing time in others who want to learn.

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I am absolutely biased when it comes to my opinion of you and your crew, but I don’t think there would be any argument in saying that you are inspirational to so many team leaders in the community because of the constant work, education, and dedication you show to your team’s advancement. You are constantly improving yourself, and manage to hold onto your standards in a country where it can be incredibly expensive and difficult to do things the right way. When you first started, did you ever expect Skindependent to be where it is now or to have the community recognition that it does?

To be honest, it hasn’t really crossed my mind too much. I think any recognition we have received is a direct result of the time and the effort everyone (the crew) has put into the team. Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are and also all the help we have received internationally as well. It has been a really tough road, but when you love something as much as we do, it’s always worth it.

The community is growing faster and faster, with new teams forming and connecting with each other all over the world. What would your advice be to some of the new teams that are getting their start in body suspension, or more importantly, what do you wish you had been told when you started?

“Don’t buy that – it’s shit” hahahaha (we have wasted a lot of money on things that were no good). My advice to any new team starting out would be do your homework. Read before you crawl, crawl before you walk, walk before you run and so on. Don’t do 2 suspensions, then try and replicate what you see happening at the Oslo SusCon. Understand what you are doing and why. Understand what you are doing and why, and finally, understand what you are doing and why.

Make friends in the community and be open to constructive criticism, that is how you improve and evolve. It may cost you an arm and a leg, but attend whatever international convention you can, there is one happening in most major parts of the world now and will be one of the best learning experiences you can have.

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Suscon Australasia is the next big step for you guys and only a year away. I think it is wonderful to see your part of the world being provided with an educational opportunity that many teams there have never had the chance to be a part of. Would you like to share what is lined up for the event so far with classes, dates, and any other details you might want to leak a bit early?

Of course! SusCon Australasia has been a dream of mine for a long time, I never actually thought it would become a reality – but it is quickly looking like it will be! I wanted to combine the educational aspects of the Dallas Practitioners Suscon with the relaxed atmosphere of the Oslo Suscon, which I think we will hopefully achieve. I have chosen to host the classes on a separate day to the suspensions so practitioners can really focus on what is being taught, then, they will be able to put into practice what they have learned with the guidance of the team leaders at the event.

With the growing popularity of suspension, I definitely think that this is a much needed event for us to host over here. I understand it can be a very costly exercise for teams to travel overseas to the international conventions, so I am hoping it will be a much more affordable jump over to New Zealand to participate in one here.

We have some key figure heads booked to host classes here, which I feel is an amazing draw card for practitioners. Learning from the world’s best? Sounds perfect! So far the class line up is as follows:

Suspension History (public class) – Allen Falkner (TSD / USA)
Introduction to suspension – Misty Forsberg (HCS / USA)
Right tool, right job – Eden Thomson (Skindependent / NZ)
Aseptic technique in body suspension – Allen Falkner (TSD / USA)
Hook placement and pre-suspension technique – Håvve Fjell (WoD / Norway)
Bedside Manner – Mike Coons (Hooked / USA)

We also hope to have a hands on belay basics class, knot tying and a live elaborate suspension demonstration be shown on the floor over the 2 days in the conference hall (TBC)

The dates for the event are Thursday 22, Friday 23, Saturday 24 January, 2015. We also have a Blood borne Pathogens and Principles of Infection Control Seminar (open to all body art practitioners) being held on Wednesday 21 January and taught by Jason Shaw of Health Educators.

Thank you so much for your time, Eden. Congratulations on all of the accomplishments you and your team have seen so far. I am sure we will continue to see you inspire us all as you guys move into your next five years together. 

For those interested in order Skindependent’s book, FIVE, please visit their website here for more information on ordering. Also, keep an eye on their website and Hook Life for more information on how to register for the Australasian Suscon as it becomes available.