We are pleased to have had the opportunity to speak with Betony Vernon; a designer, author and sexual anthropologist whose stunning works have graced the bodies and boudoirs of those with excellent taste in the exquisite and erotic for over 20 years!
Volonté: What first lead you to create erotically inspired jewelry? Did you set out with these types of pieces in mind when you began gold-smithing or were you drawn to it later?
Betony Vernon: I started to make jewelry when I was 17 and I designed my first erotic collection in 1992 [called the Sado-Chic Collection]; this was a response to the gap I noticed in the classic erotica market, [as] sex and luxury were never associated. The Sado-Chic collection remains today my signature collection and the point of departure for what later became the Paradise Found Fine Erotic Jewelry Collection.
I honestly had no idea where the erotic collections would take me but they have been my sole focus since 2001. I have always been inspired by erotica and when I was in my teens I collected BIZARRE (John Willie’s fetish magazine). It was this aesthetic that shaped my first erotic designs.
V:How has your background in Art History influenced your work, both your jewelry and your writing?
BV: My background [allowed] me to have an informed overview on body ornamentation throughout history, however I am firm believer that one should not look to the past or what has been done before as a source of inspiration to create something new.
When I was studying Art History I was also pursuing religious studies; [as] art and religion went hand in hand up until the 17th century, they were inseparable. My passion for world religions resonated in my philosophy of the boudoir as well as my design philosophy. I consider the body as a sacred temple and I aim through my work and the objects that I design for the body to glorify the human instinct to seek enhanced pleasure, intimacy and love.
V:Your first erotic collection Sado-Chic was created in 1992, what differences have you noticed in your business between then and now?
BV: When I first started the Sado-Chic collection anything that had to do with sex was still considered off limits. Fashion and design could be sexy but they could not be overtly sexual. 2017 marks the 25th anniversary of the Sado-Chic collection and I no longer feel as if I have to defend myself―this being said there is an enormous divide between what is considered sexually acceptable or not, especially pertinent in reference to fashion retailers. I realized immediately that I would have to do my erotic designs underground after having a very prestigious fashion retail institution tell me that the erotic designs following my classic designs were unacceptable for their clientele.
This experience and many other similar reactions led me to understand that I was blazing a trail and that I would need to be careful who I presented the collections to. In 2001 [I] came into the public light and I began to teach my sexual wellbeing salons in the UK, France and the USA. I was aware that I would have to become an educator if I was going to continue to do the erotic designs.[These] salons became the starting point for my first book, The Boudoir Bible: The Uninhibited Sex Guide for Today that was published by Rizzolli and is now available in 5 languages.
V:Given the diversity of your work thus far, do you have a favorite piece?
BV: [One] of my favorite pieces is the piece that lead me to understand that my work could reinforce intimate bonds; the Sado-Chic Kit can worn as 3 separate pieces or all attached together to create one unique hand piece which may in turn also be shared with a lover. Being bound, however symbolically, to someone that you are sexually engaged with is a very powerful experience.
BV: I have always wanted to enhance my repertoire with vibration.
V:Is there a particularly notable custom piece that you remember having been commissioned for?
BV: Maybe one of the more notable custom pieces that I designed was commissioned by Swarovski, a neck brace that was chosen by Lady Gaga for her Paparazzi video.
V:What is one piece of sexual advice you find yourself giving the most frequently?
BV: I encourage people to treat the entire body as a sexual whole because if we focus on the genitals alone we find ourselves having fast sex, and fast sex does nothing to reveal the true potential of our body’s ability to incite deep and, dare I say, transcendental pleasure.
I also encourage people to explore the tools and techniques of full body stimulation, to really treat the entire body as a sexual organ. I promote the use of vibrators and dilettos as a way to alleviate men from the pressure to perform, there is nothing like a vibrator or diletto to extend the length of our sexual ceremonies.