Monday, April 4, 2011

Kink Monday - Shibari


Today, for Kink Monday, our topic is Shibari, and I am SO happy to have a special guest with us today -- MaillerPhong of Interwoven Images! Mailler has distinguished himself as an artisan of rope and eroticism. He was kind enough to answer all my nosy questions about rope, models, art, and his new book, Interwoven Images, Vol. 1.

Annabel: First of all, what came first for you? Photography or Shibari? What led to your interest in these areas and how long did you have to practice to get so good at it?

MaillerPhong: They essentially grew in tandem. When I was growing up my mom was a semi-pro photographer, so I was always around photography equipment, and picked up a few concepts by osmosis. But I didn’t get involved in shooting seriously until I became involved in bondage, in the summer of ’08.

A couple friends were in the kink scene and told me about rope bondage. I was pretty vanilla at the time, though I always had an interest in unusual artistic mediums (and of course a healthy appreciation for the female form). I looked at the different bondage sites that were out there and liked some of what I saw, didn't like some of what I saw; and figured that as I was a reasonably artistic guy, I could do as least as well as what was out there. So when I started my own journey it was pretty squarely from the artistic, photographic side. (It was only after several months that I started investigating the scene itself and exploring that side of bondage)

When I started I had plenty of spare time, so I just threw myself into it. I got several how-to books, and was intrigued by the more decorative work of Two Knotty Boys in particular. I liked the more unconventional, freeformish approach of western fusion bondage over the more traditional, standardized ties of ‘real’ shibari. After a few months of getting proficient in handling the rope and practicing the ties in the books, I branched out and started tying my own designs and was off to the races.
Because I’ve been shooting and tying both for less than three full years, I’m still very much in the learning process. I would say that after 6 or 8 months I felt proficient with the ropes; on the photography side, I’m still largely flying by the seat of my pants. Each photo shoot produces better images than the last, both from a technical and an artistic point of view.



Annabel: Can you explain the concept of Shibari for those who aren't familiar with it?

MaillerPhong: Shibari is a form of rope bondage that has its roots in Japanese culture. It can be done sensually or sadistically, to please or to punish; but has definite confinement and aesthetic components. The style of bondage I do for my photography isn’t shibari as such; mine is more stylized and primarily decorative, without much regard for confining or restraining the model. It’s more suited for wearing as fashion, than incorporating into a bondage scene.

Annabel: Can you describe a typical session? How long does it take to do some of your more intricate ties?

MaillerPhong: *shrug* My photo shoots are just like any other art nude photo shoot, that happens to involve rope. The model arrives, we do some bookkeeping, I tie her up, take some pictures, untie her, wait for marks to fade, do the next tie. When we’re done, we do some more bookkeeping, she leaves and I start editing.

The length of the tying process can vary quite a bit. Simple ties can be done in 5 minutes; more complicated ones, up to an hour. For an elaborate, knot-heavy tie, I could spend a half hour working on it, then look at it when it’s done and think ‘hmm that’s crap,’ and start all over again. It’s not uncommon for me to have only part of a design worked out beforehand; much of what I tie is improvised during the shoot. I do try to have the fancy centerpiece knots tied prior to the shoot, but other than knowing that I want to do a tie with such-and-such knot in the center, the rest of it falls out of my brain as we go.



Annabel: Have you ever had a shibari mishap? What happened?

MaillerPhong: When I was first starting out I agreed to rig for a friend-of-a-friend’s photo shoot. This was when I was still vanillish, and had little concept of ‘negotiations.’ So I did a simple wrist binding on one of the models, and it turned out she was claustrophobic; something she hadn’t disclosed to me or the photographer. So after a few shots she had a panic attack, and I had to get her out of the ropes.

A few times more recently models had not eaten before the shoot, and became faint when tied up. In those cases we were able to get them down and untied without serious incident.

Though none of these resulted in injury, they do underscore the importance of discussing health issues with prospective models and knowing as much about their needs and concerns as I can, so we can work around any possible issues before they become problematic.

Annabel: Is it different tying someone you're in a relationship with, versus tying a model hired for a shoot? How difficult (or easy) is it to find people to tie up?

MaillerPhong: It is different tying someone up you’re close to. There is the emotional connection, and presumably you’re more familiar with how they react to being tied up. With models there’s a very clear demarcation of roles – she’s there to model, I’m there to rig and shoot. With a girlfriend things can get, erm, more personal. And there’s always the possibility of an ex-girlfriend demanding her pictures be taken down after a messy breakup; professional models have a much lower chance of that happening.



I’ve been fortunate to have worked with many excellent models. Sites like ModelMayhem, and later Fetlife, have connected me with women of incredible talent and beauty. Models who are in the scene enjoy being tied up for its own sake; both kinky and vanilla models really appreciate the artistry of the ties I do and the style I present the models in. People have told me ‘I don’t like bondage, but I like what you do’; there are a few models who will shoot bondage only with me. I take that as a tremendous compliment.

Annabel: How much rope do you actually own, and where do you store it? Is there a particular type of rope you prefer?

MaillerPhong: I have far too much rope. :-)

I started out, much like many other people, with nylon and MFP rope from Home Depot, because it was cheap and readily available. I then moved to hemp, because of its superior feel and appearance over synthetic rope, and accumulated about 7-800’ of that.

I’ve now largely migrated to using jute, because of its appearance and weight savings compared to hemp, and have 5-600’ of that. I like using 30’ and 15’ lengths, with a few 45’ lengths on hand if I need cover a lot of area with a single rope. I find it much easier to use multiple, shorter lengths of rope than one huge, ungainly length.



Annabel: Wow. That is a lot of rope. I notice most of your work involves women. Have you ever tied a man or considered doing so?

MaillerPhong: I’ve not shot any men, though I have tied a few as part of scening. My own personal taste is toward shooting women, so I've largely trained myself to have that eye; some future projects in the pipeline will involve men. So don’t worry, there will be male eye candy coming soon. :-)

Annabel: *blush* Erm...yes, we kind of like male eye candy here. Okay [shuffles through questions] Oh yeah... Are there any big organizations or conventions for shibari enthusiasts?

MaillerPhong: There certainly are! The biggest in the US is Shibaricon, Memorial Day weekend in Chicago, IL. I’m actually teaching a couple classes at this year’s Shibaricon, as are many other very talented riggers and kinksters.

There are many other events across the US, as well as Europe and elsewhere. A couple that immediately spring to mind are Boundcon in Germany and the London Festival of the Art of Japanese Bondage. Fetlife.com is an excellent site to find out about these and other events.

There are also several websites that focus on shibari. Fetlife has a strong contingent of riggers. www.forumbondage.com and ropebondageforum.com are two others.

Annabel: Tell us about your book. What made you decide to publish a collection of your photos? How long did it take to compile the book?


MaillerPhong: Well, I knew that there was a dearth of art bondage books in general. And the books that were out there were of varying styles and quality. In particular I thought my work would stand out because it isn’t shot in the ways that most other bondage photography was shot. It isn’t overtly sexual; the women aren’t minimized or made helpless by the rope; it isn’t shot in a dingy hotel room or a hardcore fetish club. Instead I use the rope to accentuate the model’s own strength and beauty.

My photography combines fetish, kink, art nude, glamour and fashion into something unique that could be left on a coffee table without being ashamed that the neighbors might see it.

Making the book took a year and a half. I shot most of the photos from May ’09 to October ’09, finishing up in August ’10. Then a few months of layout and preparation; I released the book in January ’11. I’m already well underway with content for Interwoven Images Vol II; I’ve also plans to release some how-to books.

If you'd like to see more of MaillerPhong's work you can find his book, Interwoven Images, Vol 1, here. (click!) You can also visit his website
InterwovenImages.com to learn more about his work, buy prints, and read a more indepth bio.

I would like to thank MaillerPhong for stopping in today and making our Shibari edition of Kink Monday something really special.

4 comments:

  1. What a fun interview! I love his work.

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  2. Great job Annabel. Enjoyed the interview.

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  3. I enjoyed the interview too. I'll be lurking around since my dear friend, Mrs. Rhaw, pointed me in this direction.

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