Arts and crafts shows might make you think of folksy knickknacks, DIY housewares and homemade jam. But at Come As You Are’s pre-Valentine’s Day Erotic Arts and Crafts Fair, you’re more likely to find folksy vagina art, DIY dildos and homemade lube.
This is the sixth annual edition of the event, which clearly has staying power. But is it weird to see grandmotherly crafts intersecting with activities we’d rather not picture our grandmothers engaging in? Ask Susan, from Sex on a Stitch, one of the vendors. Her products are the perfect combination of matronly and provocative: crocheted nipple pasties.
“Someone once called them ‘tiny toques for tatas,’” she says.
Susan learned how to crochet a couple of years ago from a YouTube tutorial, and it wasn’t long before she was fashioning colourful yarn into the titillating accessory popularized by old-time burlesque queens (she also makes merkins, for those who’ve been feeling a bit chilly down there this winter).
She started off selling at non-erotic craft shows, where her work wasn’t always entirely appreciated. “A lot of people generally don’t know what they are. Even though I have a picture of a naked model wearing a pair on my table, they come over and say, ‘Wow, these are really ugly earrings!’ Or ‘Do I put these on my drapes?’ Other people come over and they take a minute, and you can see the moment when they get it. And then the reaction is either ‘Oh, that’s not for me, that’s disgraceful,’ or, the majority of people, they giggle and say, ‘Who would have thought that crochet could be anything sexy?’”
Susan’s pasties come in a variety of colours and themes (tassels or tassel-free): rainbow for Pride, gold/purple/green for Mardi Gras, and even some that say “Thelma” and “Louise.”
Her customer base? Bachelorettes, crafty people and lesbians. “I had a table here at the fundraiser for the Dyke March last year, and what a hoot I had . . . Straight women, generally speaking, go for the tassels, ’cause they know that’s what the guys are gonna like. Gay women tend to go for the ones without tassels. I think they’re wearing them more for themselves.”
But women don’t have a monopoly on nipples. What about men? “I’ve sold a couple of pairs to guys, but I don’t know if they’re for their girlfriends or wives or partners or what’s going on there. I don’t ask questions.”
While some claim they buy her wares for tan-line-free sunbathing, there’s a more compelling reason: “Everyone who gets a pair knows they’re gonna get laid . . . You buy a pair, you go home, put ’em on, you’re gonna get laid. So when people say ‘Which colour should I get?’ or ‘Should I get tassels or not get tassels?’ I say, ‘Trust me. Put them on. Whoever you’re showing them to is going to like them.’”