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Cory Silverberg

Inside Toronto's Erotic Arts and Crafts Fair

By February 9, 2011

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There are many things to love about Toronto. One of them is Annanda DeSilva. In addition to being a performer, an artist, and a worker at the world's only co-op sex shop, she's also the curator of this year's Erotic Arts and Crafts Fair an celebration of DIY sexual culture that takes place on the second floor of the historic Gladstone Hotel in Toronto's west end. The event has grown considerably since I was involved (I'm a former worker-owner at said co-op), it now regularly welcomes over 1,000 visitors to the free one day event. Since many of us won't be able to make it to the fair, and I no longer have the inside scoop, I asked Annanda if she could spare a few minutes to fill us in on what's going on in the world of erotic arts and crafts.

This is your first year curating the fair, so I'd like to get your take on something. I think I have an idea of what erotic art is, but I'm still not sure I fully understand erotic arts and crafts. In your mind, what makes something an erotic craft, as opposed to art, or even porn?

The difference between "art" and "craft" is pretty subjective and often debated, but I think it has to do with the function of the final product(s). People often view "art" as a painting or photograph that you hang on a wall and interact with by standing at a distance and pondering while you scratch your chin, whereas when someone is crafting, they are often aiming for a finished piece that could be worn, used around the house or otherwise physically/tactile-ly interacted with - crafts are seemingly perceived as art's more touchy-feely, domestically-inclined cousins.

So something like a lapel pin with a glittering anus depicted on it might be the crafts-y counterpart to an anus mural, for example.

Interesting example! Is that the sort of thing people can expect at the 2011 Erotic Arts and Crafts Fair? Are glittering anuses the order of the day?

Maybe! This year we've got handmade bondage gear made out of heavy-duty canvas, crocheted nipple pasties, burlesque-themed pins and greeting cards, choose-your-own sex adventure zines, giant oyster shells with reclaimed fabric vulvas sewn into them, knitted hickie-hiding scarves, silkscreened underwear.

Sounds very crafty. I know that when the idea first came up for the fair it seemed to me very unusual. But I find when I tell people about it most people think it makes perfect sense. Do you think there's a particularly good kind of fit between sex and crafts?

For us it started with artists. This is the fifth annual Erotic Arts and Crafts Fair, and every year it gets bigger (last year we had over 1300 people though the fair in one day). At Come As You Are we think it's really important to support artists in our communities by having art shows in our Queen Street store - the EACF is another facet of our understanding that sexuality and creativity are very closely linked.

Sex and creativity really are interconnected - there are so many ways people communicate their experiences, desires, needs and boundaries, including arts and crafts! Seeing one's own experience reflected in someone else's art work can be incredibly affirming; flipping through a playful and thoughtful zine can open up totally new conversations with friends and lovers; A sassy pin can let you wear your kink on your sleeve; A little creativity in the bedroom (or kitchen, or garage) can make sex play more comfortable and accessible. It's awesome to be able to celebrate our beautiful dirty minds at an event like this.

Can you give people a sneak peek at what to expect at this year's fair?

It's kind of a cozy atmosphere, and it's tucked away upstairs at the Gladstone Hotel. People can expect an up-beat and friendly atmosphere with DJs spinning fun music all day and you can have a drink if you feel like it, maybe a boob-cupcake... I would recommend that if people are feeling a bit nervous they might be advised to come with a pal so they can feel a bit more comfortable.

In terms of arists/crafters, they're all amazing. A few the come to mind right away are Shannon Gerard's Boobs and Dinks Early Detection Kits, plush body parts promoting body awareness and self-exams, Ben Stirling made these propaganda style posters that are a tongue-in-cheek promotion of sexual exploration, and of course skipping Hallmark this Valentine's day we love The Misanthrope Speciality Co. who will be vending their handmade greeting cards to send to friends and lovers this month.

Find out more at EroticArtsandCrafts.com

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