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Designing for women’s pleasure

Not just about the orgasm: we spoke to designer Adele Brydges about the art of making sex toys

What makes a good sex toy?

It’s such a subjective question. I’m a visual person, so for me a good sex toy is something that I have an emotional response to and a mental connection with. Too much focus is placed on the physical sensations of buzzing, spinning, flashing sexy toys, which means subtle aspects of intimacy and pleasure are overlooked. We prioritise the orgasm rather than the pleasurable experience.

How has designing for women’s pleasure changed over the years?

We’ve got more women designing and creating products, so instead of having a masculine interpretation of what a woman wants, we’ve got experts designing for themselves. Consumers also expect more from their pleasure products in terms of aesthetics, design, functionality, performance, accessibility and desirability.

What is your favourite and least favourite trend in sex toy design at the moment?

I don’t really follow trends – my design process and pieces are more visceral. I think we’re starting to focus more on intimacy and personal experience. I’ve been working with TSM Meridian on the development of their Luv-Sense brand and product, which is launching at Sexhibition in August. The product is categorised as a sex aid, but it’s not a sex aid in the conventional sense: it’s designed to encourage intimacy and stimulate our voyeuristic tendencies. It’s a new and creative approach to sex aids.

When did you start designing sex toys and why?

I was brought up in a Catholic family where sex and intimacy were something you didn’t experience before marriage and self pleasure was something you were supposed to feel guilty about. But I’ve always felt that it’s the most natural instinct to love, want to be loved and to feel love.

I took a BA Hons in Ceramic Design at Central St Martin’s. For my final project I created these ornate, ceramic perfume bottles that played with our traditional sense of beauty. They had a sensual, gothic aesthetic: deep, glossy metallic glazes with insects emerging from the body of the bottle.

I approached Coco de Mer for feedback. I’ve always admired their celebration of sexuality and founder Sam Roddick’s respect for quality craftsmanship and her tongue in cheek humour. We discussed the possibility of me creating erotic implements for them.

I wanted to explore sensuality through ceramic design and challenge negative attitudes towards sexuality. I wanted to design pieces that were beautiful in their own right.

Tell us about your ceramic collection – and what’s coming next.

We’ve been using clay since the beginning of time. We have a primal connection with it. We painted on cave walls with it, made utensils and houses from it and historically even created sex toys with it.

It’s hygienic, it’s strong and it’s sensuously slick and smooth against the skin. It adapts to temperature change quickly which makes it a great material for a sex toy because you can warm or cool it before use.

Tactility is such an important component of an arousing sensual experience and it’s something that’s overlooked in contemporary sex toy design. At the moment I’m working with Couture Leatherworker Melissa Tofton in a project that’s exploring the dynamic between porcelain and leather.

I create sex toys using traditional methods in a modern context. My new collection launching later this year is inspired by the Art Deco period, which is so rich in contrasts: luxury, traditional craft and the dawn of the machine age.

Any common misconceptions about sex toys?

That they always make you orgasm.

Culturally speaking, are we getting more comfortable about exploring our sexuality through objects?

People are becoming more open to experimenting, a little less concerned about being judged and more understanding of the benefits of a healthy attitude towards sex.

There’s definitely less stigma associated with using pleasure products and people have more of an open dialogue about their use and preferences. There’s a lot more openness in terms of using them with a partner in a relationship too.

High street supermarkets and chemists are now stocking small ranges of sex toys. Sex toy sales increased drastically after the financial crash – sales of my Petite Budding Rose butt plug almost doubled after the financial crash.

We've been using clay since the beginning of time. We painted on cave walls with it, made utensils and houses from it and historically even created sex toys with it



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