Restrained Elegance is 21 today!

Wow, it feels like a huge achievement. My little website that I launched to help pay for fun bondage photoshoots is 21 years old today.

No, it’s not an April Fool’s joke!

I wouldn’t have chosen April 1st as a launch date – in fact the site was supposed to launch on April 4th. But when I checked how the site set-up was doing, from next to the swimming pool in a Los Angeles motel whilst waiting for Stacy Burke to arrive for what would have been something like my tenth photoshoot, I discovered not only had the site and the billing gone live, but the site already had its first member. So 1st April 2001 it was, a few days early.

I’d spin you a long tale about the adventures we’ve had in those years, from hobby to hobby-covering-costs to second job to making more money than being a physicist to making TWICE as much money as being a physicist. Quitting my academic career and going full-time. Getting a photo studio. Getting rid of the photo studio at the very earliest opportunity. Finding a new partner, running the business together. The friends and colleagues made along the way, location trips and bondage and spanking and BDSM and bastinado and all manner of kinky good things. Government crack-downs, billing company woes, PayPal blocking my business account, ATVOD, credit card company rules, the rise of social media… it’s been quite a ride and it shows no signs of stopping yet.

But I don’t have time to go in to all of that, because I’m backing up everything we shot on a two-day shoot with Lauren Louise and I’m getting ready for a marathon cosplay D&D BDSM shoot next week which I’m SUPER EXCITED about because Zoe posted one of her character/costume creations on Twitter last night and it looks bloody awesome.

So I’ll leave you to look through today’s bumper crop of archives which tell a bit of the story of Restrained Elegance. If you’ve missed out on any of our updates from the last few years, I’m running a 50% off sale on our eStore this weekend only. I’ll run a discount on the Classic store for older sets later on this month.

Thank you all for your help and support and enthusiasm. You’ve made all of this possible, and your continued support is what lets us tie up hot girls and film them for you for a living to this day!

Hywel

A quick taste of 2022… and we’re on TV again!

Hi Everyone

With the COVID situation here being much improved because of the vaccines, we’ve been powering through trying to shoot as much of next year’s content as we can in the last month or so. Here are a few quick tasters plucked from the back of the camera to hint at some of the awesome bondage videos and photosets you’ll be able to enjoy as a Restrained Elegance member in 2022.

As always, thank you for your continuing support. For the last 20 years we’ve been able to build a dream and a place to share that dream – the only reason we can do it is your kind support.

Ariel and I are in the very fortunate position that we are both professional BDSM performers and producers, we don’t have kids in school or day jobs and our friends and families are very liberal and supportive. So when the call comes around to represent the BDSM community in various TV shows and so forth, my feeling is “If not us, then who?” (Ariel’s feeling is “Pick meeeeeeeeee! I want to be famous!” of course!)

Which means we’re on TV again tonight: “Sex Actually” with Alice Levine, UK channel 4, 10 pm. It’ll doubtless be available on-demand too. You may have to use a VPN to pretend to be in the UK to stream it from other countries. I’m going to be peeking out at the TV from behind the sofa, hoping the program makers have been kind to us… and I dare say Ariel will be live-tweeting along to it. Join us!

Cheers, Hywel

Happy Birthday Restrained Elegance!

I’m not often lost for words (as you can probably tell).

But today’s 18th birthday of my little website-to-help-cover-shoot-costs website leaves me a bit gob-smacked and unsure what to say.

I’ve said a lot of it before- how I never expected the site to turn into a business or to make my living doing this. I certainly think I would have been astonished at the sheer technical progress that we’ve made – from crude scans of slide film to the first digital SLRs to cameras which routinely now deliver results far superior to those of the highest end film medium format cameras of 2001.

We’ve gone from 30 second videos shot on miniDV tape (and thinking that was remarkable- a TV-quality recording from a small box) to 4K footage that equals what Hollywood was shooting on just a couple of years ago. From flaky Jessops-own-brand flash lighting with a recharge time of several seconds to portable studio flat packs capable of overpowering direct sunlight and yet which can be carried in one hand. From tungsten hot lights from the stone age to large LED panels delivering colour-tuneable and dimmable light of delightful quality.

In bondage terms if I’m honest I’ve made less progress, but I’ve still gone from home-made cuffs and ropes from B&Q to tying awesome suspensions and travelling the world with a collection of brightly coloured ropes and heavy metal bondage, locking up 250 of the world’s most gorgeous women.

I think the thing of which I am most proud, though, is this page from the RE maintenance pages (a system written for my by one of my University friends, drafted in as most of my friends have been in one way or another):

This is the list of people who have contributed to the site behind the scenes or behind the camera. In 2001, I would never have thought that I’d have worked with over 50 people on my little website project with them contributing everything from ideas and bondage gear through to their time and energy and even donating material they have shot and paid for because they feel that Restrained Elegance is a safe, respectful environment where their creative output can have a home.

I’m quite shy, terrible at small talk, forget to smile and consequently off-putting on first meeting. People think I hate them. Plus I’m a weapons-grade introvert, so after a few days I shut down and have to go and hide. All of which makes a miracle that we’ve managed to sustain a BDSM community around something I created, really!

That Restrained Elegance is still here today is a testament to the power of the collegaite, collaborative model of doing business. Even if that business is making erotic art.

I prefer photography to drawing BDSM because of the opportunity to collaborate with models. I have some idea how to light and how to frame a shot. I’ve got some idea of how to tie safely in a way that’s relatively flattering. But that’s all for nothing without the skill and technique of a model who knows how to work with that and pose herself towards the camera, with exactly the right sort of sexy-but-scared bondage emotions projecting on her face, putting dynamic tension onto the ropes that translates to eroticism on the screen.

I’ve got some idea of what makes a cool story-line, but nothing beats working together with other creative people in a stimulating location to come up with ideas that are superior to anything we’d have come up with on our own. That’s why the highest point of a very high plateau of good experiences for me are the Restrained Elegance location trips, where we all pool our ideas and have a week-long frenzy of creative output.

And the other thing which I would never have imagined in 2001 is how lovely our members would be. That’s not to say I imagined you’d all be horrid- I don’t think I had any preconceptions. Indeed it was a surprise that there were any people out there who would be interested enough to sponsor the creation of more BDSM erotica. I don’t think I expected to meet so many people, discover that so many couples enjoy the site together, find people whose exposure to the site led them to explore BDSM in their personal lives, maybe even catalysed them to realised that they were kinky.

I really didn’t expect so many of them to turn out to be photographers, authors, artists and film-makers, either. If you’d suggested to me back in 2001 that my future fetish model wife would be travelling the world working with people who have been members of the site at one time or another, I’d not have believed it.

Well today is the first day that the website might be older than some of its members, and that’s a huge privilege and responsibility. We’ve got two big location trips coming up, and we’re adding more sets to the total created by the Restrained Elegance collaboration. We’ve got a new contributor, Drago Bee, whose work you will be seeing here over the coming months and hopefully years (Ariel will tell you more about that in her piece on the site’s birthday).

As always, this is only possible because YOU support it. The money you choose to pay to us goes directly to making more BDSM erotica (literally: 80% of the site’s turnover goes straight back out on shoots, models, locations and equipment. The rest allows me to eat and keep a roof over my head while I manage all this creative effort from so many people). Restrained Elegance will keep going so long as you think our output is good enough to support. Maybe another 18 years, who knows? I hope so!

Hywel

KinkyElephant.com update – invitation only

Hi Everyone

A few months ago I created KinkyElephant.com, a social media “instance” on a network of Federated social media sites called Mastodon. My intention was to provide a space for fetish producers, models, amateur photographers and fans to meet and post which would be safe from shut-down by corporate social media operators like Tumblr and Twitter.

Well, this week Tumblr dropped the news that they were banning all non-work-safe postings. And in the two days since that happened, membership at Kinky Elephant has exploded.

In one way this is great. But I’m paying for KinkyElephant’s hosting out of my own pocket, and the numbers risk overwhelming the server. I don’t mind paying some of what is effectively YOUR money from RestrainedElegance.com and SilkSoles.com purchases to provide a social space for us, but I can’t afford to take over the whole of sexual Tumblr as a public service.

I’m upgrading the hosting plan for the instance, but I’ve had to temporarily suspend public sign-ups for the service whilst we decide what to do.

What I would like to do is to revert to the original plan of providing a space for bondage and kinky people to post. Everyone can follow what we post from other instances – for example, from Mastodon.social or Switter.at which are bigger, publicly-funded instances.

But for the actual membership of KinkyElephant.com I may restrict it to Bondage industry types, models, amateur bondage photographers, and fans who are customers of RestrainedElegance.com, SilkSoles.com, or have bought from our eStores etc..

If you would like to join in, please contact me and I will issue you an invitation so you can join while public signups are closed!

All the best, a still very-post-viral Hywel

Tutorials Survey for 2019

Hi Everyone!

When I was starting out, I was greatly helped by bondage producers and models sharing their expertise online. Our tutorials are a way of paying that back.

But what topics should we cover? What is the best way of presenting it? Are you even interested at all?

I’ve put together a quick (3 minute) survey to help me plan our tutorials for 2019 and I’d really love to know what you think!

Take the Bondage Tutorial Survey here

Thank you!