Arka is an online shop specialising in plugs and tunnels for stretched ears and was one of the first web shops based in the UK for this kind of jewelry. Mark, the founder of the company, started the shop around five years ago after being commissioned to photograph body jewelry for an overseas store. He saw a market for a similar venture in the UK and Arka was created.
It sounds like a story line from a film, but while he was traveling in the far east Mark came across a temple in the Himalaya called Arkaja –
“Arkaja is an ancient sanskrit word. It means ‘sunborn, coming from the sun’. Arka itself means a ray, or a flash of lightning, and hence a name for the sun…The people running it were really chilled, welcoming and down to earth…There were Saddhus there with knee length dreadlocks…one famous Saddhu had held his arm above his head for 18 years.. An extremely serious body mod, as his arm had withered away and was now completely useless.”
This experience inspired the name Arka when Mark was working as a graphic designer putting together a catalogue of body jewelry –
I was given a range of hand carved horn ear stretchers to photograph.. They were a tribal range with inlaid bone patterns. I fell in love with them as objects…I started stretching my ears there and then, just so I could wear them! I thought… if I like them so much.. other people will too. I searched around the internet and found that there weren’t too many people selling stretching items at that time so I thought I’d give it a go. I started small and gradually built up my stock. As far as I’m aware I was the first uk based shop on the internet that was purely dedicated to ear stretching jewelery… there’s a few more now, but none as good as us!
While Arka sells plugs and tunnels for stretched piercings, Mark, after getting his ears pierced at 15, has never been into severe modifications himself and sees his only body mod – his stretched ears – as a part of the resurrection of tribal culture and he has a keen interest in the history behind people’s desire to alter their appearance permanently.
From my research I know that tattooing and ear stretching were a very widespread and ancient practice… and they resonate with me. The page ‘I am not my body’ on the Arka website has more interesting facts, like Buddha and Tutankhamun both had stretched ears!
As well as running Arka, Mark produces music and his current project is called ‘Ominous’ where he can experiment with sounds and techniques and combine his love of primitive culture with tribal-esque dub.
It’s down tempo, dark, dirty and dub inspired. I’m the main producer / programmer and I work with various artists on different tunes. My tastes and influences are very broad, but I’ve always produced dub as my main output. Although I like to mix it up a bit and include grimy sounds in the mix.. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t..I used to play live relentlessly in my previous bands, but ‘Ominous’ is purely a studio project.