Bamboo Silk Rope

I have been selfish in keeping this to myself. But OMG bamboo silk rope! I’ve been buying from Reborn Ropes on Etsy. The rope has a bit of bite (less than hemp, more than nylon) and does have quite a bit of elasticity, so not for suspension. But the colours! And it is so soft!

I find it an absolute pleasure to tie with. Even with tied rather than whipped ends and having to hide the tassels. I may get around to whipping all the ends someday (yeh, right). It’s displaced nylon in every colour I own it in. Hemp’s only staying for load bearing purposes.

I’ve just put in an order for another four standard Hywel sets in the few remaining common colours that I didn’t have. So once I’ve selfishly got that order you can all bombard them with sales
It’s honestly the nicest stuff to tie with I’ve tried in 25+ years of rigging.

If you wonder what a standard Hywel set is, it comes from measuring and cutting ropes in “Hywel arm spans”, which turn out to be 1.3m. We use 2’ers (=2.6 m) for wrists and ankles, 3’ers for frogties, 4’ers for chest & crotchropes, 6’ers for decorative stuff/ropes to ceiling etc.. Their standard length is 8m, which is just exactly wrong for that – it cuts down to 4m (not quite a 3’er) and 2m (definitely too short for a 2’er). But they kindly made me custom 10m lengths, which cut down into a 2’er and a slightly over-length 4’er (which is fine) or 2x3ers.

So 7 x 10 m lengths make 4 x 2 ers, 2 x 3 ers, 4 x 4 ers, 2 x 6’ers, with the longer lengths running a tiny bit long rather than short (which was REALLY ANNOYING cutting down the 8m ropes).
It’s not cheap but I’ve absolutely fallen in love with tying with it.

I may have a go at whipping ends or maybe dipping or taping. It’s not the knots I mind so much as the tassels, which can spoil the look of a really neat rope rig a bit. So I might try taping past the knots and see how that works. Trouble is with 12 ropes in each standard set, 2 ends per rope, and 20 or so colours, we get up to 500 or so rope ends needing treatment! So I’ll have to be sure I’m doing the right thing because it’ll probably take me a full work day to do them all.

2022 Plans – Part One

We always have a January meeting to decide our priorities for Restrained Elegance and Silk Soles. It’s a bit of a weird one this year because of Omicron: we don’t know whether there’s going to be lockdown, or it’s going to burn itself out, or what. So Ariel and I have planned conservatively and are planning on working from home for January at least.

We shot a mountain of material in Autumn/Fall while we could get models in to the house and I’m excited to get stuck in to the editing. You’ll already have seen the first results from the stellar shoot with Alba Zevon, there’s three days’ worth of that shoot to edit. There’s some red-hot footage with Scarlett Foxette, some sultry steel with Bex White, and multi-girl adventures with Lucy Lauren, Chloe Toy, Faye Taylor and Ariel. I’ve still got plenty of Charlie Ten, Stephanie Bonham-Carter and Kitty Quinzell to edit, and a stock of material with people like Sophia Smith, Rachelle Summers, Natalia Forrest, Zoe Page, Anna, Temptress Kate, Lauren Louise, and more.

New Year’s Resolution is to get stuck in to editing the rest of the Cosplay Dungeon D&D film we shot with Lucy Lauren in March 2020. This was the last thing we shot before lockdown, and I’ve been superstitiously sitting on it because it’s really really hot and I’m very proud of it, and for some reason I didn’t want to “lose” it from my stash. Bad Hywel, get it edited and get it out there because it is super – and hopefully we’ll be shooting the next one in a few months!

Alexander Lightspear has been an absolute superstar working machine over the last couple of years, shooting
as many different models as possible to help me keep up the variety of new faces while it’s been tricky for us to schedule so many shoots. So I’ve got literally dozens of sets of Delta, Cheryl, Irene, Nicole, Elaine, Sylvia, Kitty, Agnes, Thelma, Anne, Annette, Peggy and Suzanne to come. Best wishes to him in 2022 especially as he got COVID in the Delta wave – hope Omicron leaves you be, Alexander.

In total I have over 400 stills sets on disk right now- back up to a good couple of years stock, which is what I always liked to run at. It’s a bit short on variety of models and variety of locations (because COVID) but I hope you’ll somehow bear up under the strain of more Delta and Alba Zevon?

Videos we have about 100 – a bit shy of two years’ worth, again not with as wide a variety of models as I’d usually hope for in my on-disk stock. We’re going to book more video shoots with more different models as soon as we can.

I’m excited to expand our video shoots this year because we’ve got more custom requests coming in. We also have an increasing number of sales of videos on video platforms like Clips4Sale and ManyVids. Buying patterns have changed the big platforms now have their own dedicated pool of customers who don’t buy via other routes.

To sell well on these platforms ideally you need to update daily to stay on front pages. You’ve allowed two versions of each clip, so that means a new video every two days. I refuse to sacrifice the hard-won RE technical quality, so that might not be achievable. Ramping up from the current one video per six days to one video every three days seems like a good start!

We’ll see what that means for RE updates as the year goes on. I’ve stuck to two photosets to one video since we changed update schedule, but as I said at the time that may have to change as the industry evolves. So we might experiment with more like a half-and-half mixture once we’ve got more videos coming down the pipeline. I LOVE shooting stills so I’m never going to stop, just adjust the mix.

I’m really excited by the shoots Ariel and I have planned for the start of the year, and getting geared up for the two big multi-model shoots we have in the calendar for April and May already. Fingers crossed they will all go ahead as planned! Then I’ll be fitting in solo model shoots focussing on customs and videos with as many of the RE regulars as possible to fill out the variety on disk, and grab some more of
the rising new bondage stars as soon as I can too. 2022 should be very exciting!

For the moment, SilkSoles is going to stick with its stills format. Confession: I’ve not cracked the formula for shooting SilkSoles videos that sell well. The growth side of the business is clearly bondage videos. I LOVE shooting beautiful barefoot babes but I can’t justify the extra time and editing to do foot fetish videos when a bondage one will sell ten times as many copies.

Elegance Studios has been overtaken by events. When website videos ran to 5 minutes, a 45 minute Elegance Studios video was a real event and quite distinct. Now website videos run to 30 minutes routinely, the lines have become so blurred that almost everything is shot like an Elegance Studios video was back in the day! We’re still doing big productions like the D&D cosplay series but it’s integrated into the video pipeline to go onto clips stores etc. as well as appearing here.

We’re excited for 2022 and we hope to see a lot of you this year!

Where are we on customs?

Apologies to the ten or so people waiting on me for a reply on custom video commissions. Just wanted to post a general note as to where we are with them.

All 2021 Restrained Elegance custom slots were filled, the customs have all been shot, edited and have now been delivered. If you’re still waiting on something from me, get in touch because I’ve sent out the links to you and they should already be with you.

We have a small number of custom slots with Ariel (and me) still left available for shoots in December which she is producing. Contact her via AskArielStudio.com if you want to grab one for 2021.

We’re due to do the last big shoot of the year this week with a visiting star model but I don’t want to jinx it by saying who or taking custom requests.

I prefer to work with someone a couple of times to learn their comfort zones and limits before I accept customs with them anyway, and I’ve got MORE than enough ideas of my own to shoot with her.

This is the last in a run of shoots over the last few months trying to squeeze a year’s worth of shoots into 3 months, which we’ve succeeded at really well- we’ve shot over a hundred photosets and 70+ videos (some of which are an hour long) since the summer and I’m blown away by how spectacular some of the performances have been. A lot of us have missed working with creative collaborators. I haven’t shot this many sets in this short a space of time since the very early days of the site, when everything was quicker to shoot because I didn’t know what I was doing and had neither the skill nor the equipment to do it properly.

This shooting schedule has been hectic, which is one of the reasons I’ve been putting off thinking about 2022 customs. The other is that we don’t know what the COVID situation is going to be like over the winter. I’ve booked the first big shoots of 2022 for April and May because I’m reasonably confident they will happen unless the situation deteriorates drastically. It’s a lot easier to schedule one model coming here for three or four days or a location shoot with two or three models for a week in a controlled environment where we can get food delivered and function as a unit than it is to figure out the usual custom-friendly one day here, one day there shoots with lots of different models.

Since I’ve got BIG plans of my own for those first two big shoots in the calendar for 2022, I don’t have many free timeslots for them. I’ll offer some “lucky dip: five elements you choose, the rest we improvise around it” timeslots for the first big location shoot nearer the time when I am more confident that we’ll be able to do it.

What I hope and plan is to do some smaller shoots with other models sooner than that, COVID situation permitting.These shoots with other models will either work on the lucky dip customs, or on the basis that you will have to cover at least half a day’s filming with the model you want, more if she is coming from a long way away. Natalia Forrest might be able to get here for an afternoon, but Penny Lee needs to come for at least two shoot days to make the drive worth her time.

So once I’ve got through this week’s big shoot and caught up a bit, I’ll start to put together the 2022 schedule and post requests for customs with particular models. The more requests we get, the sooner I’ll be able to schedule them to come and shoot. I will reply to everyone waiting for me to get back to them once this big shoot is done, too.

Cheers, 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

Ariel’s Blues Reinstated and General News

Hi Everyone

Ariel’s Blues

Somehow I managed to create a duplicate of the “Ariel’s Blues” set in the RE archives last week when I added the link to the shopping cart page for the set. this resulted in a php error trying to access the set. Should now be fixed, apologies, many thanks to John for drawing it to my attention!

The first cake Ariel even ate in my presence. Far from the last, it turned out.

OnlyFans

In general news, you may be aware of an upheaval going on in the internet adult industry at the moment. Mastercard, under pressure from various less-than-honest “anti-trafficking” groups, have put in place restrictive new rules. Fortunately, this should not affect us here on Restrained Elegance and Silk Soles – as luck would have it our record-keeping and model release system is already largely compliant, and we don’t have the issue with third-party posted content that platforms like Clips4Sale and OnlyFans have.

(On a strict reading of the rules, they would have to employ human beings to check EVERY bit of content and in particular EVERY live stream to make sure it was not in violation of the rules – something that’s obviously impossible unless they are going to hire 10% of the population as full-time porn watchers. This is a standard not demanded of any other platform – YouTube or Facebook can’t manage it with some of the biggest businesses in the world, so sites like Clips4Sale and OnlyFans clearly cannot.)

Clips4Sale have behaved pretty well during this. PLENTY of information, lots of support, clear guidance for producers and performers and reassurance on things like privacy policies (because we don’t want to be uploading the full ID’s of every performer we’ve ever worked with without some assurances that their data security is up to it- in fact if producers in some countries do that they’ll probably be in violation of their local data protection laws). I’m spending this week uploading all the recent content to Clips4Sale before the deadline to file ID and model releases for each new clip, so that I will have a sensible workflow going forward without a huge overhead for legacy stuff.

OnlyFans on the other hand have catastrophically blown it in terms of their handling of the situation. Creators found out about it from OnlyFans announcing stuff to the press, not to them. They then issued some contradictory statements, finishing with an amazingly gas-lighting tweet about how they value sex workers – which is pretty hypocritical given that they have NEVER promoted any sex workers on their twitter feed, ever. Their new rules are also much more stringent when in comes to sexual content – masturbation will be out, for example. Needless to say, that nukes a hell of a lot of models’ OnlyFans content. So there’s a huge upheaval going on – Ariel is deciding which platforms to transition to whilst making sure she delivers everything she promised to her current OF subscribers. I know many of our other regular models are doing likewise.

Please support the models while they make these transitions- if you subscribe to their OnlyFans, please stay as a subscriber until they know what platforms they will be transferring to, then follow them there.

One thing that IS positive about this is that I think MasterCard, OnlyFans, and the dishonest evangelicals pushing the “trafficked women” narrative have been taken by surprise by the fact that 95% of the press coverage is supportive of the sex workers. That’s not what happened when they pulled the plug on PornHub’s billing and I don’t think they were expecting it. There are a few differences this time around. The first is that PornHub facilitated piracy on an industrial scale with notorously poor standards for getting it taken down, no requirement for verification for uploads (because they pretended we were all coolz uploading our own personal sex lives, rather than it mostly being pirated stuff). OnlyFans on the other hand has been requiring proper verification for all content uploaders since day one. Second, PornHub was rightly synonymous with the tackiest uploaded pirated porn, whereas OnlyFans is all about empowered sex workers sharing their own content – and everybody knows it. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the journalists writing about this stuff made contacts with sex workers during the PornHub push, and so have people to talk to to get our side of the story. The evangelicals are not getting it all their own way this time, because everyone can see that what they are doing is nuking the safe space that sex workers have built into a multi-BILLION dollar platform. OnlyFans is famous for girls getting their tits out and getting paid for it, frankly, which is VERY different from the cesspit of PornHub. Let’s hope we can fight back this time.

https://onlyfans.com/arielanderssen

Hasselblads plural

For the last decade or more, my Hasselblad has been the workhorse camera for the site. It perfected the “RE look” with very clean, crisp images, studio lighting, and bold colours. For the last five years or more I’ve been experimenting with adding other looks to my armoury, but the core aesthetic of the site is definitely the one that culminated in the Hasselblad (after 15 years of trying to perfect it with Canon dSLRs).

A couple of weeks ago I did a REALLY STUPID THING: I shouldered the Hasselblad’s rucksack without having done the zips up first. The camera landed nose-first on a concrete floor, and the 120 mm macro lens BOUNCED. Shudder. This kit originally cost me more than my car. Amazingly, it seems to have survived apart from a badly bent metal lens hood which took most of the impact.

But it made me realise that I no longer had a backup for the core RE look: I’ve sold all the old Canon dSLRs, and the Sonys excel at stuff like available light and shallow depth of field but just never quite achieve the crispness and purity of colour that the Hasselblad manages effortlessly. Realising this properly gave me the shakes – if that had happened on day one of a location trip, I might have really been in trouble.

Fortunately, there’s a happy ending. Hasselblad kit lasts forever (even if you drop it onto a concrete floor, seemingly) but its value does not. So I was able to acquire second-hand an H3Dii-50 (50 megapixels to complement Dave the Hasselblad’s 31 but with a faster sensor because of microlenses) and 80 mm and 120 mm lenses. It cost me £4000 which is a lot – the same as a new Sony mirrorless body- but which suddenly seems like an absolute BARGAIN compared with the original retail cost, which would have been ten times that! I must say, if you are a photographer and you like the crisp-clean-saturated look for studio work, go buy a second-hand Hasselblad kit. It won’t do what your modern mirrorless will do (eg Autofocus is really slow by comparison and you need to use focus-and-recompose – no fancy face recognition here) but for this one job, it still reigns supreme. I’m very much happier writing my kit list for our next location shoot knowing that this time I will have a proper spare.

First shots with the backup Hasselblad

Shoots!

Amidst all this upheaval, we’ve also tentatively resumed shoots with external models. We’ve just shot with Charlie Ten and Kitty Quinzell, and have more shoots coming up, COVID permitting.

Site revamp delayed

One thing I must apologise for is that all of this has delayed RE’s much-needed site revamp. I have a working version of the members’ home page in a new layout, but to be honest I’m not happy with it. It solves some of the current issues but to my mind introduces some new ones, and I stalled, not knowing how to solve those.

So plan B, once the current upheaval calms down a bit: I’m going update the current layout to remove some of the most egregious problems like the limited full-width display where content gets lost in the middle on a really big screen, and streamline and simplify some of the menu options. That will give me time to experiment with other layouts and see if I can come up with something that feels like an all-around improvement, rather than something which swaps current limitations for a bunch of new ones.

Right. Back to work uploading stuff to Clips4Sale before the deadline there.

Cheers, Hywel