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Interview with Trashy Kittens

trashy kittens

 

Trashykittens.com posted an interview with me on their site today. Because it's in their member's only section, I've reproduced it below for your reading pleasure. On the other hand, if you don't go join TK, how are you gonna see all the cute, gothic kittens? If you want to get an idea of what you might see there, go check out their livejournal blog. There's lots of free pics that should give you a pretty good idea of whether you'd like to join their site.

Here's what Trashy Kittens wanted to know:

Have you always been into spanking?
Actually, no. When I first had the idea to make the paddles, it was something I came to as a designer rather than because of my own personal kink. I did a lot of research to make the best product I possibly could… I looked at products by other companies, examined the weight, length, width, balance, feel, look, etc. I wanted to make something really new and unique, but I also wanted to be sure that it would really function well. I did a lot of reading online and looked at a shitload of porn, and talked with a lot of people.

I'm very happy with what I came up with, but I still make changes to the product line as I discover better ways to do things. In the time since the products were launched, I think I've made about five changes to the design. I get a lot of great feedback from buyers, people who read my blog, and store owners. I listen to what they say and try to find ways to implement it whenever I can. I strongly encourage people to let me know what they think about even the slightest issues because my goal is to make them as happy as I possibly can.

I was always open to spanking and bdsm, but just didn't find it a personal kink. Of course, as the paddles have taken off I've been spending more time in the scene, and I really like the people and culture so it's possible that spanking will come to be a turn on for me. I do enjoy demonstrating the paddles!

When did you start making toys to spank people with?
I launched the product via a brand new blog about five months ago. The response has been just amazing! I thought that the paddles would probably just be a small, part-time side gig, but the business grew into a full-time job almost immediately. The paddles have been featured or mentioned in movies, TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, websites and blogs. Really, the only media where they haven't yet appeared is books.

What inspired the idea of using recycled materials to make your BadAss Paddle line?
I do a lot of work using recycled materials. I had been trying to think of a use for used tire rubber all week when a friend who makes high-end furniture told me he was thinking of making spanking paddles from his scrap exotic hardwood. I had the idea instantly, but it took a couple years to source out the right materials, make prototypes and get the paddles on the market.

Using recycled material is something I feel strongly about as an artist and designer, especially because it offsets the fact that I make my living by creating more *stuff.* Beyond that, I enjoy the creativity of designing for recycled content. I like to try to make objects which look as refined and sexy as if they had been made entirely from new stuff, but sometimes I also find that existing objects taken out of context can provide a lot of metaphoric depth. An example of this would be my Great Bowl O Fire made from scrapped propane tanks. Using a torch to cut flame designs into a tank that held flammable gas in order to hold bonfires has a kind of layered meaning that really appeals to me. You couldn't get that kind of depth from something that just rolled off an assembly line.

Generally speaking, what are most of the toys made from?
I tried using rubber from old tires on the first prototypes, but it didn't work well.

  1. The tread isn't deep enough to leave marks.
  2. The rubber is too thick, making it really heavy.
  3. The rubber curves both ways… it won't lay flat for paddles, and doesn't have enough flex for floggers.
  4. The reinforcing wire sticks out the sides and is likely to cut into people or leave slivers.
  5. Cutting through the reinforcing wire was extremely difficult.
  6. I thought people might be concerned about dirt and grime, even if the rubber was clean.

That kind of stalled the whole project for a while. It was several months before it occurred to me to look for retread material and see if that worked better. So, the rubber tread I use now is not from old tires but is new material used to retread old tires. Originally I was getting scrap rubber from a tire retread factory, but the paddles have been popular enough that I used up their entire supply of scrap and have had to start ordering new rubber by the 100 pound roll. The aluminum is salvaged from recycled street signs, and I can get those by the literal ton, so I probably won't run out of that. The handles are made from steel tube and bicycle grips. There's also rivets and/or glue.

Do you consider your spanking toys works of art?
I consider them more an example of industrial design. There's a fine line really, between good industrial design and art… Basically, I think both should be beautiful, innovative, solve problems or ask questions. The only real difference is that design really must be functional, where art can get away with being something that only works on an emotional or intellectual level. For me, great design is stuff that people get passionate about, like a '57 Chevy or an ipod. Most of my favorite art these days also has a functional angle, in addition to making people feel or think. The paddles attempt to ride the line between art and design: They're highly functional, look great, but they also make people think a bit because there seems to be a conflict between BDSM and eco-friendly products. Is there a conflict? I don't think so, but a person has to look past the immediate surface assumptions to see that. In a lot of ways, I think good design is more work than art although therre are always exceptions.

What other types of artwork are you into?
I work in a lot of different media. I do sculpture, furniture, gates and fences in steel; I do mosaic in tile, glass, marble and bottle caps; I work with copper and stone. There's a fairly extensive portfolio of my work at www.johntunger.com.

I've been making my sole income from art for the last five years, and though commissioned work is a big part of that, I also do pretty well selling work through galleries and at shows. To a lesser degree I work on illustration and design, but I rarely accept work in those fields, because I prefer working for myself as a design client. On the side, I sometimes play guitar or blues harp and for fifteen years before I got into visual art I toured as a poet, performing in venues as intimate as Stone Circle and as large as the Reverend Mudd Poetry Tent at Lollapalooza. I still love writing for my blogs, but am so freakin' glad that I'm no longer trying to feed myself that way.

I'm mostly self-taught in all of the above. I find that each of the different media I've worked in has taught me stuff that applies to all the others as well. Moving between them tends to keep things fresh for me so that art-making doesn't become just a day job like any other.

Is making spanking toys a fulltime gig, or something you just do for fun?
It's been a life-saver this winter! Usually winter is slow for artists because people are not thinking about their yards or gardens and don't want to have major projects going on indoors, either. The paddles have sold well enough to provide almost my entire income since November. I actually bought my house and studio by making the down payment with a commissioned mosaic. I'm hoping that the paddles will sell well enough to pay the rest of the mortgage off by the end of the year... It's not a very pricey house, so 1000 paddles would do it.

Would we see you at any upcoming shows?
I just recently got back from the Dirty Show in Detroit, an annual erotic art exhibit. That show was a blast and the audience had a great time trying the paddles out. I don't currently have any shows scheduled, but I've been getting a lot of invites to either attend shows or send paddles for demonstrations. I'll almost certainly start doing more events this year, and will list them on my blog as I firm up the dates.

Any last words for our readers?
Just thanks for the interest and support, I suppose. If anyone has questions or ideas they want to talk about, I'm pretty easy to get in touch with online or by phone. I don't do IM, so email is usually the best way to start a conversation.

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