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Betony Vernon: Sex & Design

The Jeweler Creates Erotic Sculptures with Tuscan Marble Once Used by Michaelangelo

The slopes and quarries of Tuscany’s Monte Altissimo provide a dramatic backdrop for the designer and sexual anthropologist Betony Vernon’s first foray into marble, shot by NOWNESS contributor Estelle Hanania. The créatrice behind erotic jewelry line Paradise Found, Vernon has exhibited at the annual Salone del Mobile and London’s Victoria and Albert museum, in addition to collaborating with brands including Missoni and Gianfranco Ferré. A native of Virginia now based between Paris and Milan, she traveled to the famed marble headquarters after being asked to contribute to KAMA: Sex & Design, the forthcoming exhibition at Milan’s Triennale Design Museum, for which she decided to expand her repertoire to include marmoreal creations, recruiting the help of Henraux President and foundation spearhead Paolo Carli. “I want to see the material, I want to learn, I want to have a scalpel in hand and chip away at the marble and feel the way the handle bounces off it,” effuses Vernon, who Carli placed with one of the company’s long-term artisans for the project. A stalwart leader in marble, Henraux has worked with storied artists including Henry Moore, Joan Mirò and Tony Cragg since its establishment in 1821. Its quarries, meanwhile, have been in use since they were discovered by Michaelangelo and excavated by the Medici family in the 16th century; today, an educational institution dedicated to preserving that age-old level of craftsmanship in the region takes advantage of the remains. “Think what’s been made with marble,” Vernon says. “It is the symbol of skin.” The newfound sculptor weighs in on sex and substance.

What do you find most sensual about Italy?
The abundance of Caravaggio, the remnants of Pagan culture, and the primary ingredients that make for fabulous food!

Do you have a favorite or little known aphrodisiac ingredient?
Puntarelle with salsa d'acciughe. Puntarelle is a fall vegetable that I have only ever seen in Italy and that seasonality is one of the reasons it’s so sexy.

What piece of art do you find most erotic?
It is impossible to choose just one! The Frescoes in Pompei, Gustave Courbet’s Origin of the World, Irving Klaw’s images of Bettie Page, and John Willie’s fabulous erotic illustrations all come to mind at once!  My head is spinning.

What is the best piece of erotic literature?
Anne Desclos’ The Story of O.

What's the most interesting new fetish you've heard about?
It is certainly not new, but suddenly revived: the moustache fetish!

(Read More)

Conversations (1)

  • Creacomp
    Phantastic pictures! A friend of mine has a summer academy for sculpturing in marble. From his place you have the wonderful view of the Altissimo, you can even walk to the place the pictures were taken (disclaimer: it is an early walk of a view hour) <a href="" target="_blank"></a>

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    Through a Glass Brightly

    Director William Snieg Conjures an Underwater Ballet with Crystal and Clouds

    Submerged glasses and decanters by fine crystalware makers Lobmeyr, Baccarat and Saint Louis are animated with billows of color in this short by Parisian art director William Snieg. Collaborating with set designer Marcel van Doorn—who devised the formula for the multihued injections—and interior stylist and regular Wallpaper* contributor Leila Latchin, Snieg aimed to capture the elegant movements of the mixed-liquid clouds as if a magical ballet. “I wanted to transcribe the grace of these figures, that look sometimes like fine silk, sometimes like a smoky mist, against a pure base—crystal,” explains Snieg, who art directs campaigns and short films for Louis Vuitton and Dior. In selecting the crystal, Latchin sourced from companies whose centuries-long histories are filled with stories. “Lobmeyr, Baccarat and Saint Louis have all attracted prestigious clients requesting extraordinary commissions,” she explains. “Each boasts an incredible archive and masterful artisans whose skill transforms molten crystal into these exquisite pieces.” 


    Featured crystalware

    Lobmeyr drinking set no. 240
    This very thin crystal, blown to a thickness of 0.7 to 1.1mm, is referred to as “muslin glass,” after the finely woven fabric. It looks very delicate but is remarkably resilient due to its elasticity and construction.

    Baccarat’s Harcourt decanter and glasses
    Designed in 1841 (making it the oldest set in the collection), the flat facet cut magnifies the light in the crystal.

    Saint Louis Bartholdi decanter
    Founded in the 16th century and named after King Louis XV, Saint Louis is the oldest of the three companies. The decanter is engraved with many facets decorated with Venetian cuts.

    More stats

    Secret Science
    Marcel Van Doorn’s undisclosed formula mixes a white liquid base (with a greater density than water) with powerful dyes to create a glittering color and graceful movement. 

    A glass tank was filled with water and the crystalware carefully submerged and composed. Various techniques introduced the dyes into the tank—after that it was up to the liquids to work their magic.

    One tank collapsed during shooting as the water pressure on its wall was too great, and a second also finished in the trash. 

    Over 600 liters of water were used.

    Cloud colors
    Klein blue; byzantium purple; vermillion; lemon yellow; fuschia.

    The Red Epic, a video camera that shoots close-up details at 240 frames per second in 2,000 pixel resolution. The lens was a Zeiss Master Prime (one of cinema’s best). 

    Acceleration/deceleration from 1,000% up to 2,000%. Color calibration executed with DaVinci Resolve.

    Shoot duration
    Nine hours.


    (Read More)

    Swimmer Shaved

    The Art of the Close Shave Demonstrated in Fashion Filmmaker Bart Hess' Sexy Short

    The seductive curves of a toned figure are slowly unveiled by the ultimate seamless shave in designer, animator and photographer Bart Hess’s sleek new film. Inspired by the aerodynamic forms of swimmers currently battling it out in the Olympic pool, Hess was aided by a pair of human shavers manipulating a two-meter long blade in turning a mechanical act of grooming into a strangely hypnotic performance. “What is important to me in my work is a sense of estranging,” admits Hess, who added the white bar in post-production to compound the uncanny feel of the film. “I want to show the spectator an image that may not be recognizable right away.” Collaborating on textiles with designers like Ann Sofie Back and Iris van Herpen, and sculpting unique outfits for photographer Nick Knight’s editorials for AnOther Magazine and US Vogue, Hess is known for his experimental treatment of materials, like the 15Ib slime dress created for Lady Gaga’s Born This Way album and video. “Normally within my work I am looking for the limits of a material,” says Hess. “But in this film I was looking for the limits of the shaving ritual by scaling it up to include the whole body.” Here, Hess takes NOWNESS beneath the skin of his shoot. 


    Studio Bart Hess, Canalstreet, Eindhoven, Netherlands.

    Shoot duration
    Ten hours. 

    One male model, one director, one cameraman, and two shavers.

    Amount of shaving cream used
    Twenty-eight cans.

    Cuts from shaving

    Body surface covered in foam

    Amount of hairs shaved during the shoot
    Approximately 24,000.

    Closeness of shave

    Supermarket b-brand shaving-foam; one tiny pair of Speedos to avoid cuts to the more sensitive body parts.

    Sound effects
    Manipulated real-life shaving sounds.

    Shaving appliance
    Two-meter-long metal blade.

    Olympic record to beat
    21.3 seconds (men's 50 meters freestyle). 

    Potential health hazards
    Choking on the foam (luckily the model was a swimmer so he could hold his breath).

    Director's motivational speech
    “You are brilliant! Let's do that three more times!”

    (Read More)


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