Photos C/O Lauren Goodman

From side tables to sex toys, Hamilton-based artist Lauren Goodman’s work is all about blending functionality, feel and form.

Formally trained in fine woodworking at Williams & Cleal Furniture School in England, Goodman has a business designing and creating handmade furniture.

She also collaborates with other artists at Hamilton Audio Visual Node (HAVN), a multimedia arts collective. Additionally, she co-founded Sister Moon Collective, which focuses on fostering community and safer spaces through art.

In 2013, she helped create sex-positive submission-based zine Milkweed, where she was introduced to the erotic art scene. However, it was only recently that she began making erotic art of her own. She began creating hand carved wooden sex toys as a way to experiment with erotica.

“A friend of mine and I were talking about how wood is not a medium that people make sex toys out of,” said Goodman. “So just kind of sort of playing around using these offcuts to make different shapes and forms and sort of coming to forms that I like.”

Sex toys are a personal project for Goodman. Whereas her furniture is commission-based, her sex toys are more about personal exploration.

“This is me exploring my sexuality and what I want, and breaking down stigma that I have myself,” she said.

Through her erotic art, Goodman aims to normalize discussions about sexuality. By making beautiful, artistic sexual objects, she hopes to help break down taboos around sexuality and encourage people to explore sex openly.

“The idea is to break down this stigma of sexual objects, that they have to be in a little box under your bed,” Goodman said. “Why can't we put our ‘dirty’ thing on a plinth in our living room, and then when we want to have sex we grab it off the plinth and go have sex?”

Goodman finds that the sex-positive movement is slowly becoming more widely accepted.  In some ways, Instagram is helping to encourage this shift.

Instagram facilitates connections between like-minded artists from around the world, and in doing so builds an online community for an art form such as erotica that may have otherwise been considered niche.

Additionally, sites like Instagram provide opportunities for people to explore sexuality while maintaining some level of anonymity. Goodman notes that people who are reserved about sexuality in real life can find a sense of liberation and openness through social media.

However, the advent of digital media presents a unique set of challenges for Goodman. As a woodworker, the visual element of her work is only one part of the picture. The tactile component of her art is also vital.

“Even with the tables that I make, or lamps, or anything like that — I want you to touch them and feel like it's silky.,” she noted. “I want it to be tactile pleasing as well as aesthetically pleasing, as well as functionally working. And all of these things intersecting to make a beautiful piece of art.”

As online markets replace brick and mortar stores, consumers lose the ability to physically interact with work and provide real time feedback.

Goodman noted that many queer-centric, sex-positive shops are shutting their doors. This means that people lose tactile access to sex objects, as well as the ability to talk to people about sex.

Goodman points to the need for an independent, sex-positive sex shop in Hamilton.

“I would love a Girl On The Wing that just sold sex toys — you know, like the local stuff, really curated with nice colours — that would be amazing, that would be a great store,” she added.

The absence of sex-positive shops in Hamilton speaks to a larger observation about the city’s approach to sexuality.

While Hamilton is known for being an artistic city, it does not have an erotic art scene. She observes a history of sexual repression that pervades into the present day, noting that Hamilton only legalized burlesque last year.

“I think that those deep-seated ‘ickies’ towards sex is really fervent here. And that's maybe why it's a little stifled on the erotic side,” she said.

Goodman also points out that the absence of an erotic arts scene in Hamilton is in part to due with the city’s proximity to Toronto. Hamilton-based artists can take their work to Toronto if they are interested in pursuing erotic art in an already established scene.

Despite the lack of an erotic art scene in Hamilton, Goodman finds that artists often explore themes of sexuality in their work. She finds the artist community in Hamilton to be open, progressive and welcoming.

For Goodman, this openness is key. By exploring sexuality openly and honestly in her work, Goodman hopes to work away at her own internalized shame, and encourage others to do the same.

 

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Flint is one of Hamilton’s sister cities. It is located in the state of Michigan, and it has a population of 102,434. It would take roughly four hours to fly there, and like Hamilton, it was built upon a prominent trade industry (in our case, steel; in theirs, lumber). We don’t typically have much to do with Flint, and most of the time the idea of a “sister city” seems like something arbitrarily assigned across the globe.

Our status as sister cities was made official by Sister Cities International, and we have been linked to them — along with our other sister city, Fukuyama, Japan — for close to 60 years.

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We aren’t very close, geographically or socially, but we hold a connection with them that is beyond our local bounds. For those who do not know, the citizens of Flint are currently the victims of a water crisis. Their only sources of water have been contaminated due to old and poorly maintained piping infrastructure made of lead, and their water is currently considered poisonous. They need $55 million dollars to fix the existing damage, and their citizens, including children, the elderly and animals, are falling ill at a rapid pace.

We know that they need help, and we know that we’re intrinsically on their side, but why aren’t we, as a community, doing anything?

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Hamilton’s Mayor Eisenberg has reached out to the mayor of Flint, offering to provide necessary aid, but aside from one dedicated citizen donating a few thousand water bottles to the city, we don’t have much else to show for ourselves in terms of providing tangible help in any form. And when I refer to “us” or “our,” I don’t necessarily just mean the city as a whole, but the separate McMaster community as well.

It’s an age-old fact that McMaster students have found it difficult to assimilate into the city and become members of the community. But so long as we are living, working, or being educated here, we are part of the “City of Hamilton.” And with that being said, we are more connected to our brothers and sisters in Flint than any other university community.

Our lack of initiative related to helping Flint speaks to the rough connection we have as a university to our city and municipal responsibilities.

Flint has multiple colleges and universities within its borders. Students and faculty are people who are being affected by this lead poisoning, and if we were in their place, the support of our sister university could mean a lot and make a difference.

The University and its hospital are two of the largest businesses in the city. Even if the city may not necessarily be able to provide some form of financial support to the citizens of Flint, it could be possible that the lucrative business of our institution could be able to provide help in some way, shape or form.

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Our lack of initiative related to helping Flint speaks to the rough connection we have as a university to our city and municipal responsibilities, a shortcoming that we have been trying to mend. Many people have no idea that Flint is Hamilton’s sister city, let alone that Hamilton has sister cities. While most students can get away with going a full undergrad not getting to know their city, when something like this comes up, as members of this community, we should be proactive (as we are with many other initiatives on campus) in doing something to help or raise awareness for this cause. As a campus, the biggest thing we have going for us, outside of our finances, are our numbers. We have bodies, and lots of them, who can stand up and make a difference for a municipality that doesn’t have a lot of support from elsewhere, and one that is an innate part of our own city culture.

Not too far from us, and not too long ago, the town of Walkerton, Ontario was in a somewhat similar situation with an E. coli problem. The town benefited from the help of its neighbours, and Flint is now in an even worse situation that needs dire help. We may not always identify with this city we live in, but when Hamilton and its related communities needs us, we need to be there to help facilitate action and effort.

Photo Credit: Rebecca Cook/ Reuters

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