Archive for the ‘photos’ Category

“there are always statues to talk to”

August 5, 2010 Leave a comment

As with every other time I’ve been with Max (short of Shibaricon), I’ve written and sent him a journal of reflections and chronology summarizing our time together.  This one was particularly difficult to write, and it took me a week of struggling with words and with memories to be able to form something coherent and, more importantly, honest.

I stumbled, that week.  Perhaps, with a little more distance and time, I will see the stumble for the small thing it was, and not amplify it into a monstrous calamity in my head, as is my wont.  Either way, it was a good lesson in knowing when to ask for help.  Because as much as I tried to fight off my chameleon myself, I couldn’t win the battle alone.  As it was, it took lots of talking, listening, and fighting with my uncertainties to bring my defenses down and let Max in again.

Every time I do this, he settles deeper into my life and becomes that much stronger of a presence in my world.

As always, writing these journals leaves me very reflective and withdrawn, too focused on memories and introspections to notice much else.  As I worked towards finishing the final leg of Max’s trip yesterday, I took a break to visit the Legion of Honor Museum.  It seemed an appropriate venue in which to handle the flood of thoughts swamping my head.  While walking through galleries of paintings and sculptures, I reflected on the past year.  I have not mentioned it here before, but last weekend marked a year since I stepped foot into the Center for Sex Positive Culture, met Max, and then proceeded to have a 15-minute suspension scene with him later that evening.

As Max noted while here, I looked a little alarmed every time he mentioned our anniversary to friends we were with.  To be fair, neither of us planned his trip to coincide with the date, nor had I even realized what the date meant – me, the one who’s fanatical about recording things in correct chronological order.  And, because my mind had centered on Folsom as the one-year mark, I completely overlooked the date that we’d met.

Max commented on the funny way these disparities happen, especially with non-monogamy.  Just how do you commemorate the forming of a relationship without the social normative markers of marriage or even, in our case, a first date?  After that 15-minute scene, the next time I saw Max was to be in service to him throughout Folsom weekend, two months later.  There was no gradual progression of coffee dates to dinner dates to play dates for us, so it is a bit harder to pinpoint one moment in time, or one event, as the start of a relationship counter.

And yet, we have somehow arrived at the one year mark after getting together for weekend to weeklong service dates almost every month since Folsom.  New Year’s Eve, a visit in March, SEAF, Shibaricon, and now, Max’s visit with me, in my own home in San Francisco.  It certainly gives me a lot to look back on, as well as a lot to look forward to.

Going through the museum also took me back to my trip to Seattle for the Seattle Erotic Arts Festival.  The festival’s occupied a lot of my head space lately too, as I try to form a coherent article around my experiences there.  I remembered the amazing pieces of artwork I saw and the mesmerizing performances that electrified the exhibit hall.  Wandering through the Legion of Honor, I realized just how starved for art I’d become.  My mind switched to the work around me.  I was enamoured with the classical sculptures and head busts on display, and I marveled at their Rodin collection.  The classic Renaissance paintings and Victorian furniture, I spent less time looking at.  But regardless, it was revitalizing to be surrounded by artwork, alone and insulated by my own thoughts.

At the museum store, I spotted numerous books I’d love to read: Undressed: Why we draw, Love, Sex, & Tragedy: How the ancient world shapes our lives, and The Buried Book.  I also spied a book with a painting of a nude woman entwined around a swan on its cover, which I didn’t pick up but reminded me of the Greek mythology that most captivated me when I was younger: the story of Leda and the swan.  I have always been enraptured by both the story and the paintings it inspired, especially Michelangelo’s rendition.

Sex. Art. Eroticism.  My own arts background helped build a foundation for my sexual identity and gave me a vast amount of appreciation for the human figure, as well as respect for the power of the erotic allure.  I looked at some paintings and wondered at their power to captivate, and the emotions in the eyes of some of the sculptures made me want to weep.  How can art be so powerful?  So evocative? So piercing?

It was an inspiring visit.  I should make the Legion of Honor a monthly visit, and I look forward to slowly making my way through all of the museums in this city.

(notes: all photos were taken by me, and I confess, I took closer note of the media than the artist’s name in some cases. Also, this post’s title is a line from Tanya Davis‘ poem, “How to Be Alone.”  I still can’t stop playing that video…)

How not to make a whip

July 10, 2010 4 comments

Short of a heel knob pineapple knot, I am finished with the whip that consumed the better part of the past two and a half weeks of my life.  My left hand is incredibly sore, my right only slightly less so.  And the almost-finished product is far, far from perfect.  But, all in all, I’m happy with my new toy, and have been enjoying practicing swinging it around our living room and cracking it a little bit.

That said, every step I took with this project was so completely ineffective to the point of being ridiculous.  From taking apart bullets to get lead shot, to cutting and beveling twenty strands of leather with a utility knife, I made this the most labor intensive process possible.  I have learned, more than anything else, how not to make a whip.

I also have to make a confession: the shotbag, bolster, and braided belly I documented on this blog does not exist in the final whip.  After I completed that part and was waiting to get more supplies to make the overlay, I made the mistake of visiting Mr. S Leather and looking at their signal whips.  They were much thinner and lighter than what I had with just my belly.  So, in a fit of crazed inspiration, I cut out a new shotbag, took apart the old belly, and poured the lead shot into the new bag.  I used the same bolster, trimmed down to fit around the new core, and then, looking at the unbraided strands, decided I wanted to try and bevel them to see what the difference would be like.

I spent an afternoon painstakingly beveling both sides of each of the eight inner braid strands, by skimming my utility knife down the edge at a roughly 45 degree angle.  I would end up doing this for the twelve outer laces as well.  Does my wrist and forearm want to fall off right now?  Yes, yes it does.

But, enough of that.  Here, in photo form, is a rough chronology of the whipmaking:

Part 1: Shotbag and bolster

Part 2: Braiding the belly

The new braided belly

Braiding the overlay

Rounded base for the heel knob done, and wrist strap attached.

And, just for the record: yes, believe me, I’ve noted and groaned over every imperfect braid and lace, but at this point, I just need to accept it as is, because no way in hell am I going back through and cutting new laces.  At least, not until I get my Aussie strander, which still hasn’t arrived.  But, seriously, it would be better just to make a new whip rather than try and fix everything that’s wrong with this one.

Anyway, I’ve accomplished the basic goal for this, which was to prove to myself that I could actually make a whip.  It’s not too bad for my first leather project, I think.

Categories: firsts, geekpost, links, love, photos

the saga continues…

June 29, 2010 2 comments

I’ve almost finished braiding the first layer of my whip.  Although – three hours and a torn off blister later -I’m wondering if my hands will last a second braiding.  Continuing with the theme of making this whip in the most tedious way possible, I hand cut the laces using a cutting mat and exacto knife.  I had gone to a local leather store in the hopes of finding a lace cutter, but all they had was the equivalent of a pie cutter for leather.  However, they did have six foot long leather straps a half inch wide, and for $2 each I could get the leather I needed fairly cheaply.

I also buckled and ordered an Australian strander for help with cutting the overlay laces.  Maybe by the time it gets here, my hands will be up for another round of leather braiding!

Here is a close-up of the whip so far:

It started out with 8 strands, and I just dropped it down to 6.  I will braid it a bit more before dropping it down to 4 and finishing it off there.

Some things I didn’t do:

  • bevel the edges of each strand.  Those white outlines on the lace show where I cut the strands and exposed leather where the dye didn’t penetrate through.  If I’d beveled them, the strands would have laid a bit more snugly, and those edges probably would be less noticeable.
  • use braiding soap to lubricate and condition the strands before braiding them.  Mostly I wasn’t very motivated to find a pound of lard.  If I did this over, I would try to make up this mixture, though, because it was a bit difficult to braid the leather smoothly.  Perhaps for the overlay…

However, since this will be the belly, these things won’t be noticeable and hopefully won’t affect the whip’s performance.  What I have been most careful with is keeping the braid straight, as I’ve read that a skewed braid will impact the way a whip throws.

Part 1: Shotbag and bolster

Categories: firsts, geekpost, links, photos

about that phobia…

June 27, 2010 Leave a comment

I was going through the archives, wanting to revisit some specific moments from last year, when I reread this post, entitled “childhood phobias”.  I suppose it is a testament to how long it’s taken me to process Max breaking through my needle phobia that I’ve not yet written about it – here, at least – since it happened in April.

My SEAF weekend visit to Seattle at the end of April was intense in many ways.  Of those days, Saturday and Monday were particularly memorable.  But Saturday is what this post is about.  It was a full and eventful day: a late morning brunch with new friends, a surprisingly stressful shopping trip, a short break for dinner and some chores before heading out to SEAF again, and then, there was the rest of the night.  The post-SEAF evening found me tied by my hair to a tree branch outside Max’s house, in frigid Seattle April weather.

Before long, I was inside the house, on my back, my hands tied behind me, already buzzed and high and not at all expecting to hear the popping of a container lid as Max said softly, “It’s time to poke some holes in you.”

And because I was already soaking in endorphins, it took a moment for the impact of that statement to fully hit me.  By then, Max was already sitting on top of me, taking needles out of a little black box (an evil black box), and before I had time to exhale the breath I didn’t know I was holding in, he was sliding needle after needle into my chest.  I would have screamed – from feeling that first pinprick of pain, then the needle sliding sickeningly against skin and flesh, and the second stab of the needle coming back out – except I was afraid to move my chest.

By the time Max was done, there were seven needles in my flesh, and I was utterly gone.  My eyelids felt like stone, and I was breathing short, shallow breaths.  I could barely think past the high, much less speak.

And removing the needles was just as heady and intense.  I could feel how the needle dragged across my flesh as it slid out.  Max counted each as he pulled them out swiftly and methodically, dropping them into the sharps container nearby.

And then it was over.

Afterwards, in talking with others about this scene, I was asked frequently if I enjoyed it.  And I’d hesitate, finding it difficult to give a short response.  I don’t know how well I responded to that question for the first week after it happened, but now, what I would answer with is this:

I can’t tell if I enjoyed the needles specifically, it having been my first piercing and a built-up phobia.  But then, this was not about enjoyment.  It was about giving someone a part of me that was very hard for me to give.  It was about trusting someone enough to let them take control.  It was about the intention of the act, and knowing the pleasure he took from it.

Taking all of that into consideration, then, I can say that I enjoy the aftereffects of the piercing.  It was a powerful experience, and one that brought me closer to Max.  In the earlier post on phobias, I wrote: “For something like this, I’m sure it will take a much longer-term relationship: of building closeness, trust, and intimacy over time.”

It is pretty thrilling to realize that I have been able to build up that level of closeness, trust, and intimacy with someone.  And, well, it is pretty spectacular that that someone is Max.


June 25, 2010 7 comments

If you didn’t think I was serious about the whips, here is proof that I am actually obsessed.  Yesterday I got the package I needed to start making my whip: 3 boxes of 50 cartridges each of rifle ammunition.  Why did I get tiny copper bullets that I then needed to pry open to get the lead shot out, instead of just a bag of lead shot?

That would be because I didn’t find that site until just now, despite it taking hours to even find a site that sold #12 lead shot.  Sigh.

Well, now I know.  But yes, instead, I bought 150 copper cartridges filled with tiny balls of lead.  It was the tiny balls of lead that I needed to fill the core of my whip.  So my afternoon was spent prying each cartridge open with scissors and an allen wrench and dumping each ounce or so of lead shot into an empty pill bottle.

Once I’d done one box, I decided to start making the shotbag.  Following these two tutorials, I cut a tapered strip of leather, duct-taped it into a cone shape, and filled it with the painstakingly-extracted lead shot.

Over the shotbag, I tied on a leather bolster, which is now as far as I can go until I cut some laces to start braiding on the first layer of the belly.  So, there’s still a lot of work to do, but I am still inordinately proud of how the whip looks so far.

I can’t wait to start braiding!

Categories: art, geekpost, photos

2. obsession

June 17, 2010 1 comment

I obsess.  When I develop an interest in something, I dive headlong into it until, weeks or months or years later, I re-emerge, exhausted and ready to move on.  Thus far, rope has held my interest the longest, and I’m pretty sure it’ll stick around for awhile, although I no longer obsess furtively over “best conditioning practices” or whatnot.

Easy access to the Internet has allowed me complete research power for finding out every factoid, rumor and forgotten technique I could ever want to know concerning my subjects.  From Photoshop to rope to bootblacking, and most recently, leather whip-making, I literally have the expertise, learning process, and detailed examples of thousands of people to peruse, from blogs detailing a personal project to forums dedicated to the topic.

I suppose you could say that my sudden interest in learning to work in leather is more an extension of my growing passion for bootblacking.  It is a fairly natural progression to want to expand one’s knowledge in leathercare beyond just footwear (delightful as such footwear can be).  When I was at IML, I received some great advice on how to care for my leather jacket – an article of clothing whose condition I’d taken for granted.

But back to whip-making.  Brought on by sudden inspiration, curiosity, and the question “just how hard is it to actually braid leather into a whip?“, I started searching for tutorials online.  Youtube is a really tremendous resource, and I quickly found these gems.  So now I want to make my own leather whip – a 4-foot snakewhip or signal whip, I think.  I don’t really want or need a handle, nor do I want a monstrous 8 foot bullwhip.

Granted, this would be a tremendous project, given the time and materials it requires.  Precut lace at the width I’d need (6mm it seems) is expensive, so my other option is to collect leather straps and make lace myself.

We’ll see if this ever comes to fruition, but in the meantime I had fun de-cording some nylon rope I had and making a test whip with 12-plait braiding (and an 8-plait belly).  It was actually quite easy once I learned the braiding pattern, and the whole thing took less than 5 hours, including undoing and rebraiding the belly once I got the hang of dropping strands.  Like learning to make rope, once you’ve seen how it’s made, it becomes demystified.

Yes, I am obsessed.

Categories: geekpost, photos, sundry

Shopping trips and sexual identity

May 23, 2010 3 comments

An accumulation of recent events and activity has me thinking a lot about this long, circuitous journey that has become my personal and sexual identity.  Or maybe it should be identities; or, better yet, the spectrum of identities upon which I find myself traversing.

When I visited Max last month, we took a brief shopping trip along with one of his partners, Red.  There is perhaps nothing more innocuous than a shopping trip.  We were, specifically, shopping for a little black dress for me, along with a pair of wearable heels (the pair I brought were 4 inch monsters I managed to convince myself I could wear for 2 hours straight. Despite the fact that I overwhelmingly favor flip-flops and hiking sandals over any heeled shoe).

What began as nothing more than a fun outing became unexpectedly troubling and triggering for me.  It’s embarrassing to admit that here, that I let a shopping trip get to me.  Of course, no one chooses their triggers, but still.

I wrote privately in depth on some of the personal history I have with this, much of it related to family shopping trips and the way I felt like a dress-up doll.  In short, I grew to hate clothes shopping as a child.  And as I grew older and my various family members continued to press specific clothes onto me, I only felt more repelled by it, especially shopping for feminine clothing.  I decried the physical limitations of dresses and skirts, hated wearing bras, and opted to hide in bookstores on family outings to the mall.  I still get an immediate visceral reaction to being around clothes, and I swear clothes racks make me claustrophobic.

Related to all of this is the issue of self-image that I was struggling with at the time.  There were years where I refused to look at myself in the mirror.  There were the constant disparaging remarks about my weight, size, and skin, and constant comparisons made against my peers.  And of course, rather than achieving anything productive out of that, I just withdrew more within myself, and isolated myself from others.  I had no overwhelming desire to be more like my peers, and as my best friend also had an unfavorable opinion on most of the rest of our schoolmates, I did not feel compelled by any sort of peer pressure to assimilate.  I just never cared that much about what I happened to be wearing on my body, as long as it was comfortable, kept me warm or cool as the weather dictated, and allowed me to climb trees.  I admit, there was also the detrimental belief that pretty clothes and makeup could not fix what was not fixable to begin with, and the accepted belief that I just was not that kind of girl.

I probably spent all of high school looking pretty scruffy and disheveled as a consequence.  It wouldn’t be until halfway through college that I would start to care more about my clothes.  And this was expedited by my relationship with Tim.  I dressed up for him, because he wanted me to.  He bought me dresses, each a bit shorter and more revealing than the last, and encouraged me to wear skimpy outfits around campus.  And he encouraged me to wear makeup, and for him, I did.  I often wonder if I would know anywhere near as much about makeup application as I do now, if not for him.

When I broke things off with Tim, I felt like I’d lost a huge sense of self.  And there was no time for me to process everything because I had to go to Costa Rica for my study abroad program a month later.  There, amongst an intimate group of students and acres of rainforest and wilderness, I tried to keep myself together.  It was difficult to fully enjoy the trip with the weight of this recent emotional baggage, and when I could, I emailed or messaged with J and confided in him.  All the while, I was coming to love my trip and the people I was with, especially once we flew to Cayman Islands for the coral reef ecosystem portion of the study abroad.  There, I fell in love with long, flowing beach dresses and skirts (what my mother, in fits of anger, would call “gypsy clothing” derisively).

Once I returned from Costa Rica, I left almost immediately again for Taiwan, where I stayed for most of the spring and summer taking a class at a local university.  There, despite my aunts’ best attempts to take me shopping (for miniskirts and bras, no less), I strove for autonomy, found my own apartment, and started hanging out with expats, where I would meet and start dating M.  Luckily M approved of whatever I wore, and I felt free to continue indulging in my newfound interest in this particular style of dress.  And since I, the darker-skinned American, was already seen as the Other on the island, it was a given to my relatives that I would dress and act oddly anyway.

Once I finally returned to the States to continue my fall term at college, I had repieced together parts of my identity and felt freer to express it than before.  I began to enjoy going, alone or with friends, to the local thrift store in search of cheap clothing, where I often found dresses I liked (and discovered I looked good in).  I stayed away from anything above the knee, feeling still raw at the intentions that Tim had in encouraging that specific kind of dress.  I am reminded of a conversation I had with a close friend, D, where we were discussing dating habits and history.  She told me how she felt that each preceding partner influenced her choice in and attraction to future partners, and how she often looked for opposite qualities from her most recent partner.  This is how I felt about my clothing choices.

So for the most part, I stayed away from anything that could be described as revealing.  I was also tentatively working in the concept of clothing as a part of my identity.  It was still incredibly vague and formless, but I think it was around then, early spring of my senior year, that I began to realize the power and messages that clothing can convey.  And I was doing my hardest to convey a sense of independence, freedom, and purity to fend off the guilt and shame that lingered around the latex skirts, collars, and garters and stockings that defined my time with Tim.

Then, lo and behold, a year later I discovered the public kink community.  Specifically, I fell in with the Bound in Boston crowd, met Dov, even went to a suspension-themed play party in NYC.  I dusted off those garters and stockings and a little black dress, the only fetish-y articles of clothing I’d kept, and found that I was no longer reminded of Tim just by looking at them.  I wore them one last time, to that NYC play party, before I finally threw them away.

And now?  Now, after moving to San Francisco, discovering the immense kinky community here, and attending IMsL, I find myself drawn and attracted to a new aesthetic, yet one reminiscent of my childhood: leather, jeans, and boots.  Thanks to the increased exposure to the leather community, Max introducing me to bootblacking, and working at Wicked Grounds, I’ve come to embrace my love of boots with gusto.  Since purchasing my first pair of Frye’s harness boots, I feel like I’ve found a part of myself, as utterly clichéd as that sounds.  I’ve never felt so compelled or attracted to any piece of clothing, much less any kind of footwear.  But when I walk around in these boots, a jolt of thrill courses up my legs with each step, and I feel a strong sense of power.

At this moment I still oscillate between the easy comfort of soft, breezy cotton dresses that I can quickly slip into and the harder, angular lines of jeans, boots, and leather jacket that fill me with such satisfaction.

So, how does all of this tie into the visceral reaction I had to shopping for a little black dress?  I guess, in all of this, I’ve still kept away from adding both formal dresses and fetishwear to my wardrobe.  And so, while I have a fairly clear idea of what I look like in my gypsy dresses or in my tank top and jeans, I still don’t know how to pick out fancier dresses for my body’s shape and size.  I don’t have any experience wearing nice dresses and heels, and rarely have I needed to.

Perhaps that was enough uncertainty and doubt to bring back all of that history in one solid punch to the gut.

Perhaps my aversion to short black dresses specifically has to do with Tim, and the way he was trying to change me, as a person, through what I wore.

I’m not sure.  I certainly wasn’t happy about the way I was feeling, and it was affecting the way I acted with Max, which made me even unhappier.  Despite knowing, logically, that Max did not have the same intentions as Tim did, I could not stop the emotional doubts regarding the purpose of the trip from racing through my head.

I knew from when I first agreed to be in service to Max during Folsom that I would have to deal with an abundance of emotional baggage.  Yet I never expected that baggage to rear its head, nine months later, at a thrift store in Seattle.