This is an interview with John Unger, creater of some really interesting metalwork and some really kinky toys. Check out his work here .
Those are some really wicked looking paddles. I have to admit that I find them intimidating. What made you decide to create nasty little toys like these?
I had the idea when I was trying to think of ways to use tire rubber in an interesting commercial product. A woodworking friend mentioned that he might make spanking paddles from his scrap exotic hardwood, and the idea for the paddles was born. After that, it was a matter of refining the design to make them as sleek, functional and sexy looking as possible. The first versions looked nothing like the paddles you see on the site today-- they were much more like folk art than the industrial chic style that I finally released.
The wicked factor came about in part because the tread marks encourage it, but also because when I first started researching designs of other paddle makers, they seemed to be aiming at a pretty serious crowd. I'm now working on coming up with some more friendly looking designs that will hopefully appeal to a broader audience. The next wave of designs will have bright colored or translucent materials. There will be texture, but not such deep grooves. Sourcing the new materials is proving to be a bit difficult but I hope to get them in production by the end of this summer. I'd like to keep the manufacturing local, rather than sending it overseas.
On your web site you mention that you use recycled industrial materials. Bravo! Environmental responsibility and kink should walk hand in hand more often. Was it hard to find the sources you needed to provide you with right combination of materials you needed for your paddles?
I agree that environmentalism is an important part of any design, and in fact the paddles were inspired by the desire to use recycled rubber. I made the first prototypes from used tires, but found that that didn't work very well. I shelved the idea for about six months while I tried to think of a better way to make them. Finally it occurred to me to use retread rubber, and I was lucky to find an outfit that sold me their scrap material. Once I knew what I wanted, it was not that hard to find.
It turns out that the demand for the paddles has been so great that I used up all the scrap available within the first few months and have had to start using new rubber for most orders. I still use scrap as it becomes available, and am looking for sources for additional scrap rubber. The aluminum is also recycled and I have a better source for that, so I doubt that I will ever have to use new aluminum.
An interesting side note is that the people I get my rubber from also participated in the design of the very first Nike prototypes... the designer went to them when he was developing the the soles of the shoes.
Do you have any plans to expand your product line? If so, can you tell us anything about what you are working on? May I suggest recycled rubber restraints?
Recycled rubber restraints are high on my priority list for new products. I like the idea of collars and cuffs from heavy tire rubber, but will also be doing some lighter gear with bicycle tires and/or inner tubes. I'd like to have about 12-15 products in the line by the end of the first year. I may experiment with harnesses but need to learn more about sizing them, etc.
I'm also playing with ideas for expanding the catalog of spanking implements, but I'm very picky about both the design and function of each new item, so it may be a few months before we see them go live.
You talk about your paddles as products. Is this kind of play something you are into personally? Do you play with your own toys?
Really, I think of all the items which I make multiples of as "products." I don't actually play with my own toys as far as the paddles go, although I do enjoy photos of spankings. I'm also very into photos of latex, but I don't think I'd actually enjoy wearing it. Having someone else wear it could be fun, though.
When developing the paddles did you test them or have them tested in some way?
Yes, there was fairly extensive testing of the early paddles and floggers. I tested them on myself, on models and gave some to heavy players who I felt could offer me good feedback. Once the paddles went live online and started selling, I made every effort to get feedback from as many people as possible and to ask for their opinions on ways I might improve the paddles. JT's Stockroom had some good suggestions, especially. I continue to refine the design when I get new suggestions that seem like a good idea. For instance, initially I had difficulty figuring out a way to provide a ring at the end of the handle that wouldn't also get in the way of holding them. But, when I had a customer who insisted on a ring, I finally figured out a good way to do it. From here on, all the paddles will ship with rings for hanging them in a display.
Good design can be hard to come by in the wild world of adult toys. Are there any toys out there that you are impressed with?
I really like the look of the FeelDoe… That looks like something that would be a lot of fun to play with. Njoy makes some truly beautiful stainless steel toys that I'm really impressed by. I'm also pretty blown away by the Excalibur Aluminum Paddle, available at JT's Stockroom. This was the standard that I tried to meet or beat for design when I started making my own paddles… I wish I knew where they were getting the gorgeous handle that they use on that piece.
For cheap thrills, I've been pretty happy with Hustler's A Little Head Masturbation Sleeve. I've tried a fairly wide variety of cyberskin type products and this one is just as good for much less cost than many other similar products. It actually holds up better than some of the more expensive products as well.
Thanks, John! I'm really looking forward to trying out my very own paddle.