Etsy is a veritable cornucopia of feminist DIY products including, but not limited to, crocheted uterus-shaped menstrual cup bags, various "CRUSH THE PATRIARCHY" needlepoints, and a vast, roiling sea of buttons emblazoned with empowering messages.
Nestled within this glorious bounty are several high-end pieces of vulva art (some artists bristle at their work being dubbed "vagina art" because the vagina is but one part of the vulva as a whole; others don't really care about the distinction).
In the spirit of discovery, VICE reached out to several of the most prolific and/or intriguing vulva artists of Etsy to learn the secrets of their craft.
Images via Facebook.
ARTIST: Dorrie Lane
SHOP: Wondrous Vulva Puppet
PRICE: $85 for a mini puppet - $250 for a full-size one made of mohair
ABOUT: Dorrie created her first Wondrous Vulva Puppet in the 90s to help her teen daughter feel comfortable with her anatomy. The vulva was a hit at school, as vulvas often are, so Dorrie began producing more. Her business quickly expanded, and she started selling them to sex educators, sex therapists, and general genital-enthusiasts. As one might expect, they have appeared in an episode of Portlandia.
VICE: What is your ultimate goal in creating these Wondrous Vulva Puppets?
Dorrie Lane: When I first made them, my ultimate goal was for them to be in every store next to Barbie. The ultimate goal is really just to get them out there so they're mainstream.
My friends' kids were raised with vulva puppets, and it just became an article in the house. These kids all had really positive experiences learning about sexuality, so it's contributed to respecting women. [They recognize] that it's all a circle, it's where we came from. Respect comes out from that, and it should come back to that. My ultimate goal, really, is that that message comes through.
Tell me about the design of the vulva puppets.
For me, it was really important that the vulva was anatomically correct, that it felt good. If you put your finger in the vagina, the vagina is made of velvet, gathered velvet, and it feels like a vagina. And the g-spot is made from ribbons. When you put your finger through the vagina, you can feel the variation. And it really encourages women to get to know their bodies. It really does. It really encourages men to ask questions about clit play or what women like.
Have you thought about a penis puppet?
I do have a penis puppet in the works. When I have time I'll get to it. It'll be like nothing you've ever seen before.
Do you think men really need help celebrating their penises?
I think that men need to understand the beauty of their genitals as well. The mock-up [penis puppet] I've got going now is responsive: the balls retract as the erection comes up. There are different ways you can play with it. It's totally like the vulva puppet. You can play with it, and it's gonna be a puppet. Jim Henson is turning in his grave.
The idea there is the same as the idea of the vulva puppet—make it beautiful, make it touchable, and make it anatomically correct. For me, it's really more about embracing our sexuality, rather than what everybody else seems to be doing. I don't know what they're doing. For me, it's about embracing it and really feeling comfortable with a part of our bodies that, in American culture, is totally repressed.
Images via Etsy.
SHOP: Scarlet Tentacle
PRICE: $170 - $225
ABOUT: Scarlet Tentacle was conceived of in 2009; since then, proprietor Kira has been selling embroidered vulva art, sexy coloring books and greeting cards to the masses.
VICE: How did you get started as a vulva artist?
Kira: I used to work in the marketing department of a mainstream porn distributor and I was incredibly burnt out by the double standards I was immersed in: I was the only woman in my department surrounded by lots and lots of men making an incredible amount of money employed by selling sex while denigrating and mocking the female performers who made the products they were making their living off of—not the sex-positive utopia I'd hoped that job would be.
I started embroidering vulvas as a direct response to that environment. I wanted to make something completely unexpected and confrontational that didn't pass judgement on sex, sexuality, or sex workers, and the combination of art featuring vulvas and embroidery seemed to fit that.
What drew you to embroidery as a medium?
The shock value of not only creating art featuring vulvas, but of art featuring vulvas made with an incredibly gendered medium, is very appealing to me. Embroidery is a craft that takes an incredible amount of time and labour, and making a piece that took so much effort felt like a way to further comment on treating sexuality and sex workers as disposable goods.
And practically, I wanted a portable medium that I could work on while commuting to and from my porn industry job and during my lunch breaks.
What's the best reaction you've ever gotten to your work?
My favorite reaction to my work was at Renegade Handmade in San Francisco a few years ago. Two women in their 40s or 50s came up to me after browsing through my booth and as they were paying, asked me, "How long have you identified as femme for?" I was completely flabbergasted, since usually I have to come out to people very explicitly and very often, and I asked them how they could tell I was queer and femme just by looking at me. They looked at each other and laughed and told me, "Honey, you're standing in front of a wall of embroidered vaginas wearing pearls and high heels. We knew."
Image via Etsy.
ARTIST: Whitley Sullivan
PRICE: $200 for one (1) vagina orchid sculpture
ABOUT: From the looks of her shop, Whitley Sullivan primarily creates bow ties, none of which are particularly yonic. However, one stand-out item—a $200 vagina orchid sculpture (featuring a clit piercing)—caught my attention.
VICE: How did you get started creating vagina art?
Whitley Sullivan: I got started pretty much because I'm a lesbian and I love the vagina. It makes the world go round.
Why did you choose to make a vagina orchid?
Because I love vaginas. Also, my mother is a florist so we would always have flowers everywhere. And you're literally smelling a vagina [because flowers are the reproductive organs of some plants]. When a man/woman gives someone roses for Valentine's day, they just gave someone a bundle of vags, which is so funny.
I just did it because I thought it was creative and funny and a good way to get a laugh. Let's be honest—even if you love penises or vaginas, we all know they are not the most attractive things on the human body. No matter how much you say you love it.
Have you done other pieces like this, or is the vagina orchid a one-off deal?
I pretty much have, like, three vagina orchids that I made. That's it, really. I'm trying to sell them, but no one wants one. Maybe I will drop the price. If you're interested I'll give you a good deal!
Image via Etsy.
ARTIST: Michelle Gauthier
PRICE: $20 - $70
ABOUT: Michelle's vagina-related art consists of cross-stitched vulvas, ovaries, tampons, and the occasional cross-stitched penis. A great holiday gift for the more traditional of your playfully-erotic-art-collecting family members.
VICE: What would you say is the message behind your pieces, if there is one?
Michelle Gauthier: I love making vulvas/penises/breasts/tampons because they bring attention to a subject that usually isn't openly talked about by most people. I want to promote body positivity, sexual health, and let people know that they shouldn't be afraid to talk about sex!
What is the best reaction you've ever gotten to your work?
The best reactions are usually when people see me stitching in public. I take public transit a lot, and to pass the time I'm always making something. People will stare, ask me if I'm really stitching what it looks like, or just ask me why. There's also the reactions of family members and other "conservative" type people. They think I'm really weird.
How much vulva-related art would you say you have around your house?
I've definitely started networking with other artists who do vulva-related art. Off the top of my head, I have a beautiful vulva ornament, vulva buttons, and a lovely knitted vulva in my room.
Images via Etsy.
ARTIST: Kniqui Nimbus
PRICE: $25 - $95
ABOUT: Kniqui's art relates to the vulva in a mystical sort of way. Highlights include cement garden vulvas ("put it in your garden and you will see the meaning of fecundity"), vulva cabinet knobs ("Labia lovers rejoice!"), and decorative BDSM vulvas ("This piece may be used simply as Dungeon Decor, or you may use it in a working to control your lover's sex in regards to fidelity and chastity"). In short, a vulva for every type of hobby.
VICE: How did you get into vulva art?
Kniqui Nimbus: My love for the vulva goes back to my childhood when I fell in love with my own. My mother caught me masturbating and told me it was dirty. That was when I started doing it discreetly during and after bath-time.
About five years ago I created my first heart vulva for a dear friend and sister lesbian. It was a p apier-mâché wall hanging. She loved it so much and told me, "You could totally sell these." I began creating and selling them on Etsy. I started with a Virgin Mary Yoni (a later edition of this was featured on the disappeared Regretsy), then I got a request for the Bride of Christ nun vulva.
I noticed your work intersects with the occult and BDSM. How would you characterize this intersection?
I characterize the intersection of my art with the occult and BDSM as an obvious one for me personally. The power and imagery of them combined excites me. The womb and vagina are occult or hidden mysterious places of power and the vulva is the facade, or in my art, a beloved icon.
What misconceptions bother you about your work?
I am bothered when someone characterizes my work as "vagina art." I prefer vulva and do not mind yoni, labia, pussy, lady-bits, wajaba, bajango, gash, or even cunt. I do not object to the word vagina or the vagina itself. It is the ignorance of what a vagina is. I will surely someday do vagina art and I doubt I would even have to label it mature on Etsy since most people wouldn't even know what they were looking at.
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