You Can Decorate A Dildo In Hackney Wick

A Shunga — Japanese erotic art — style dildo at Decorate a Dildo

“We invented dildos before we invented agricultural equipment,” says artist Adele Brydges designer of ceramic dildos. I find it bizarre that our ancestors would prioritise fucking fake dicks over food. Like, “Oh, I’m really hungry cos crops haven’t been invented, but never mind I’ll just give myself a good rogering.” Anyway, it is Sunday morning, and I’m in Adele’s Hackney Wick studio for a spot of dildo designing myself.

“This is a butt plug I made,” says Adele, passing round an ornament you might see on someone’s dresser. This too is ceramic. I once interviewed a surgeon about inanimate objects he’d retrieved from rectums and I feel like I’m having a flash-forward to our next conversation.

Then we’re shown something that looks like a shoe horn. It is only when I look it up on Adele’s website afterwards that I realise it is another thing to stick inside yourself. “Insert either end,” says the blurb, to “stimulate A and G erogenous zones.” I didn’t even know there was an A zone, but apparently the sexy shoe horn “doubles as the most amazing massage device, especially along the neck and shoulders.” YES! Anatomy I can identify and attend to, without fear of rupturing anyone!

“The workshops are an opportunity to get people talking about female sexuality”

Photo: Enam Asiama

Adele makes each dildo herself, and she shows us what they look like at each stage of the production process by lining up samples on the table. Basically, the dildos shrink as production progresses, so it is like looking at the sex-toy version of Russian dolls. Or dil-dolls, if you will.

Having studied Ceramics Design at Central St. Martin’s, Adele teamed up with ritzy bijou sex store Coco de Mer to sell her designs. Her “approachably smooth ceramic butt plug with a delicate rose print” is available for £120 (“use plenty of lubricant to ensure a smooth and satisfying entry”) and a version of the dildo we’re decorating today is up for grabs for £150.

So how did the dildo decorating classes come about? “I feel empowered by what I do,” says Adele, “so I wanted to open that up to other women. The creative process is sensual, and people who don’t work in the creative sector, don’t get the opportunity to play and explore their sexuality and sensuality through another kind of medium. I think the creative process is more than creating artwork — it’s a powerful vehicle for change.

“The workshops are an opportunity to get people talking about female sexuality, and to look at that in a slightly different way.”

Adele has been running the workshops for the last 18 months and she tells me they’re booked by s spectrum of ages — from groups in their early 20s, to people in their 50s. “I’ve even had someone in their 70s,” she says, “It’s amazing that it’s brought so many women together, over such a cross-section of society.”

“It’s more of a ritual and a ceremony than just wanting to climax”

Choosing pictures for the porcelain penis. Photo: Samantha Rea

The dildos are indeed the work of art you might expect from a Central St. Martin’s alumnus. However, Adele is emphatic that they are not simply ornamental — they are fully functional.

“Some people think that because it’s ceramic it’s going to be fragile, but once they’ve used it once…” Adele trails off before telling me about a woman from Chile who did a workshop when she was in London. “She was dubious at first, but now she’s put away her vibrators and she loves using the ceramic. She feels like it’s a more simple kind of pleasure, and she can tap into her own responses rather than just getting herself off quickly.

“It’s more of a ritual and a ceremony than just wanting to climax, and she’s enjoying the journey of pleasure.”

I have brought an apron with me, but it turns out that dildo decorating isn’t as messy as I imagined. We choose our designs from a range of pictures that include flowers, safari animals and Shunga — Japanese erotic art. Each picture has a story behind it, and I once spent an evening acting out these stories at a Japanese immersive dining experience. This involved urging my co-star to, “hurry up and put it in!” in front of a roomful of kimono clad strangers.

Flicking through the picture options, I am captivated by a beautiful green crab, so I decide to decorate my dildo with seafood, fish, and fruit. “That’s quite, um… the fish theme… for a dildo,” says someone hesitantly, as I sit at my workspace, cutting out a haddock. “Yes, I am not even acknowledging that,” I reply, equally vaguely, sipping my prosecco. I am not in the habit of drinking this early on a Sunday morning, but I think it is an excellent idea to get the juices flowing when faced with a porcelain penis.

“In case you’re thinking this is millennial nonsense, Cleopatra was onto this ages ago”

I get my crab wet. Photo: Karen Gurney

The pictures we’re working with are enamel decals, which are a bit like transfers. You put them in warm water until the back comes off, then you press the picture onto the porcelain. In keeping with my seafood theme, I arrange some mussels at the head of my dildo, in the manner of the three-spurt ejaculate emoji.

We can also place decals inside the dildo. Yep, inside because it is hollow. It comes with a cork, so it can be filled up with hot or cold water. “It was inspired by a Victorian dildo I came across,” says Adele, explaining, “ceramic takes on temperature, so you can warm it up and cool it down, and it’s a way of adding another aspect of sensation because the dildos don’t vibrate, so it adds something extra without it being mechanical.”

The designs of former workshop attendees. Photo: Decorate a Dildo

And in case you’re thinking this is millennial nonsense, Cleopatra was onto this ages ago. According to Adele, Cleopatra apparently invented the first vibrator by hollowing out a dried up courgette (or something) and imprisoning angry bees inside it. On reflection, from a risk/pleasure perspective, I think filling the dildo with water is an EXCELLENT alternative to angry bees.

As we sit cutting and sticking, someone asks me what other events I’ve covered and I recall the full body orgasm workshop which took place round the corner from this studio. I describe the “Energy Sex” exercise in which we had to imagine we were penetrating each other with a metre long penis. “So it was very phallocentric then?” I am asked. It is only later that I am hit by the irony of being asked this at a dildo decorating workshop.

“Use plenty of lubricant for a smooth and satisfying entry”

Adele is on hand to help with the dildo decorating. Photo: Samantha Rea

I am sad to leave my dildo, but we must leave them with Adele, for the last stage in the production process, before they’re sent on to us. I plan to use mine as a fancy hip flask, filling it with wine or amaretto.

Samantha Rea can be found tweeting here.

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