The Compendium of Rubber Garment Making
@: buy it online
The Compendium of Rubber Garment Making is, beyond any doubt, the best book ever about creating latex clothing, and then some. In fact, it does also cover caring for latex items, repairs, the fetish fashion market, the history of latex, fashion creativity, the technology used in this field, and so much more on the subject. It is clearly a labor of love for the medium and the art involved in making those amazing outfits you drool over when you visit a kinky website or maybe an actual fetish party (and yes, there are chapters about those as well).
On the technical side, it is written in an uncommonly charming style and it definitely doesn’t feel like an independent production. As a matter of fact, this book has much higher production values than many commercial works – also in its shockingly intensive iconographic support, with hundreds and hundreds of pictures ranging from pattern guides to catwalk shoots of the finished garments. The Compendium is obviously not for everyone, since most of its 668 pages are about practical instructions for aspiring latex fashion designers and makers… but the one word that best describes it is: wonderful.
It is a pity, then, that it is also deeply flawed.
Let me elaborate on that. My point is that there clearly are not many latex clothing makers out there, and that if you were just an aspiring hobbyist after perusing this book you would most probably realize that making your own items is way too complicated, expensive and labor-intensive to ever actually attempt such a feat. So, on this basis alone, even in all of its splendid glory this publication is practically useless. And yet.
Deeply hidden around page 550, where the average reader has probably long given up getting their mind around dozens of arcane pattern-making lore, sits a forty-pages long section worth much more than the price of the book. A chapter that, in all honesty, I believe should be republished and included in every single so-called kinky resource out there due to its immense value to anyone harboring a non-normative sexuality.
The section appears to be the extremely candid story of how the author Catasta Charisma developed his latex fetishism, and how it influenced his life. In true literary fashion it goes from fascinating to heartbreaking to titillating to triumphant, but what is most striking is how honest the writer always is in describing his emotional turmoil. Your own experience may be slightly different, but you will definitely recognize the same surprise, confusion, fear, struggles and acceptance that you felt when you first discovered yourself kinky. The mere feeling of recognition you get from this would be enough, but there is more.
The author doesn’t stop with his life story, but cleverly uses it to analyze the role of fetishes within society in general. He actually comes to very insightful conclusions about that – of the sort that scores of psychologists and anthropologists have been desperately attempting to reach without success. Also, it must be said, the final pages of the chapter kind of drift into speculative territories which are possibly not as well grounded as the rest… but you wouldn’t mind by then anyway.
This is also why this review can just boil down to ‘buy this book immediately if you are truly into latex fashion’, but you will probably more interested in learning about Catasta’s ideas about kinky life in general. Which is precisely the reason why I interviewed him, as you can read below.
Ayzad – In your book you wrote that ‘Somehow being tied up and spanked is easier to grasp as a personal desire than the desire to wear a strange material’ – which I believe to be entirely true. Can you briefly tell us the story of how your own desire came to be and how it developed?
Catasta – My personal desire to wear rubber started at a very early age but began with a different material. At around the age of 5 or 6 years old I was exploring, as most children do, and came across my mother’s drawer of nylons; pantyhose and stockings. I became fascinated by the strange material, how it transformed my physical look when I would insert my hand into it and create webs between my fingers, how the world appeared changed when looking from the inside of the fabric, how it sounded different, smelled different, how the fabric felt as it compressed the body etc. I had accidentally come across a material that seemed playful with the senses but what was equally fascinating was its capacity to stretch. This lead me into exploring lots of different types of stretch fabrics over the years but the one that always drew my attention was rubber. With rubber there was some attraction to its solid nature, the fact that it was a film rather than a knitted or woven cloth. But rubber in the form of wearable garments was not accessible to me, it was a utilitarian substance only, elastic bands, the tread on the soles of trainers, that type of thing. I think when I got into my teenage years rubber gained a kind of unattainable status. I knew it existed in garment form but getting my hands on it would not be easy, no income, I lived too far away from the places that sold rubber wear and I was too young to gain access to such places anyway! This only made me desire it more.
So up until I was around 21 and went off to university my only exposure to rubber wearable items was my grandad’s gas mask from the Second World War. That was an amazing item to explore the world with but other than that and swimming caps I generally used various stretch materials such as nylon to self-cocoon myself. In this swaddled form of bondage I would drift off into my own imaginative realms. As a child with a speech impediment this gave me great calm from my general frustration at not being able to communicate with others too well.
I think with any form of material, when we first come across it fresh to our eyes, we first explore it through ourselves, we explore what the material is like and how our own senses relate to it. After that stage I feel we then seek to explore how the material can be related to a larger world, to our personal space, to our home, to our garden, to our surroundings, the environment that has shaped us. If we have full freedom to do this the material gains a whole new spectrum of potential, it becomes a medium through which we can experience the world around us a new and help us to express ourselves to the world. This freedom is generally only granted though if the medium of expression is conventional. With paint I had this freedom and I became an artist but with rubber sheeting from which rubber garments are made (which in its essence is just a film of paint) I didn’t have this freedom, I learnt early on that my taste for unusual stretch fabrics wasn’t conventional, indeed that it was taboo so even once I was able to start purchasing my first rubber garments I could not develop it much beyond the bedroom. It took many many years before I was able to allow it to become more publicly visible.
I guess that throughout those years I would push myself to see how openly I could wear rubber; wearing it to concerts or movies, going on country walks, travelling by train, doing a grocery shop around a supermarket, those kinds of things. There was a burning need I feel to make my fetish more open and visible. Something wasn’t quite right though, I didn’t feel 100% comfortable and I think much of this was to do with the fact that the type of rubber I wore back then was very plainly of the private type, the black gimp suit with body bondage strapping and hood. It was as if I’d just walked out of a dungeon. I suppose I felt out of context not because I was wearing rubber but because the style wasn’t appropriate and it made the public shy away from me rather than be allured by their curiosity. I went through many purges, many periods of trying to remove rubber from my life, blaming my attraction to it for many things, but this question of appropriate rubber wear I returned to around 10 years ago when I was convinced by a friend that I should start sharing my experiences of trying to accommodate rubber into my life with others.
That was the time when Catasta Charisma was born. At first Catasta was just this black rubbery creature who bounced around in front of a camera for Youtube but pretty quickly took on a shape and personae I hadn’t predicted. Catasta became more flamboyant in the kind of apparel worn. Cat was more about variety and looking to be dressed in her Sunday best. Within a couple of years I went from this lone, isolated individual wondering if rubber would ever have any true meaning in my life to performing on stage with Jean Bardot at the Montreal Fetish Weekend being wickedly tortured inside a vacuum device. And I was wearing rubber everyday openly and answering peoples questions at night regarding their own problems of accepting their fetish penchant.
I loved the honesty of how you elaborated on the above in the book, especially when describing the internal struggle pretty much every kinkster goes through as they learn to deal with their inclinations. What I appreciated most of all, however, were your conclusions about the power of stigmatization… which turns out to be a mostly imaginary power after all. Would you share your thoughts about this?
So from an early age I would be discovered by my parents wedged in cupboards or down the side of my bed swaddled in layers of nylons. This was a kind of behavior which I guess left my parents confused and maybe a little frightened. They would ask me questions but of course I had no answers as a kid. All I saw was the chaos that my behavior stimulated within the family. I was only discovered in this way a couple of times but it was enough to inform me that I didn’t like the consequences of being discovered and that my taste in these strange fabrics was really unacceptable. However, I was constantly drawn back to them, they interested me, I took great pleasure from them but if I was to carry on enjoying them then I would have to take steps to ensure that no-one knew about it. I would have to become secretive. I pretty much lived 30 years of my life in secrecy, with thoughts that what I enjoyed could not be shared because what I enjoyed was wrong. But unable to take my love for rubber etc outside of the immediately controlled environment of my bedroom meant it could not develop truly as it should in the larger world, that I wasn’t practicing my fetish but rather I was being shaped by the stigma I had for having a fetish. My fetish wasn’t developing me healthily as a person, rather I was allowing myself to be developed by my stigma. I wasn’t experiencing any value from loving rubber, only gaining self-loathing and worthlessness from having a stigma about that love.
The thing about having a stigma is that it is often invisible to us. We can come to believe that it is our fetish that is determining how itself is used, that this behaviour, this practice has come about because this is what I want to do with my fetish but in reality the fetish is being governed by the stigma – it is limiting ones options as to what one can do with ones fetish. In this way my stigma blindsided me and I came to believe that many of the social problems I had were due to my fetish and not because of the stigma. A fetish to me is simply an unconventional medium of self-exploration that can only do good in a person’s life, that helps an individual form meaning and potentially purpose but which can be easily corrupted by being stigmatised, taken down unhealthy roads that turn meaning to rot and purpose to waste.
What most fetishists yearn is not necessarily for their fetish to be openly embraced by society but for themselves to be simply free of the stigma they fear they will experience should they be open about their fetish. It can be truly rare for a fetishist to experience direct stigmatization, very few go looking to place themselves in such situations, so it isn’t even so much that they have a real stigma but fear the possibility of attaining one. As such this fear leads an individual to self-impose a stigma, they freeze their capacity to be able to move on in life, to develop their fetish, because they fear the repercussions of what others might think about their behavior. Whether this fear, this belief of terror, is real or not is neither here nor there, it exists for the individual. And this isn’t to say that they are deluded for indeed anyone of us can easily be persecuted for being different, doesn’t matter what form that difference comes in, but the fear can blind us from being able to see where we can safely proclaim our love and so, we never speak of it, we never really even show it to ourselves.
Can the world in general learn something from the path of personal growth through acceptance typical of fetishists?
That’s a tricky one. We all have a little something we can feel ashamed of, something others have informed us about that they find unacceptable. This could be absolutely anything, the color of our skin, our gender, our sexuality, our age, our job, our belief, our social status, our diet, our nose shape, our preference for wearing a coagulated liquid from a tree or a particular type of perfume. We all have either a lot or a little of something or many things which others will feel a need to belittle us for, to ostracise us, to make us focus upon as wrong about ourselves, to make us view that which makes us who we are as a curse. We all experience it. Of course various people get to experience it on a daily basis because they can’t hide away the color of their skin for example, some of us come to fear to experience it after one or two tastes of it and learn ways to keep our shame hidden away. I think for anyone who has lived a life aware of being told they are or have a problem they also become very much aware of the causes of peoples prejudices. Now some people may be just hard and fast prejudicial but I have learnt that most folk can comprehend a little of what one talks about as they would all have felt that sense of being called out for maybe changing the colour of their hair, or wearing that particular style of clothing, having a tattoo or piercing, having or not having a mobile phone or the very latest version of such things. Sometimes one can point out this hypocrisy as it seems most of the time we don’t realize we are shaming the other person despite easily recognizing when we ourselves are shamed. So, I don’t think there is anything more special about the kind of personal growth through having a fetish stigma than there is through having any other kind. Tolerance and understanding can be difficult. However, I do believe that fetishists can learn a lot concerning how they may work through their own stigmas by looking at other persecuted people.
Right. But what about the not-too-uncommon mentally distressed fetishists out there? You often wrote that a fetish is just a medium through which one can explore the world – but not everyone has the skills to properly handle that medium, or to take positive insights from their exploration.
I think one of the biggest problems is that people don’t gain the opportunity to properly explore their fetish. They don’t feel free enough to openly explore it. Imagine you had a fetish for bouncy spherical objects but society gave you the impression that if you showed off this desire you would be scorned and ridiculed. You can only go so far alone in exploring what you can do with that ball. Dreams of kicking that ball around with others is nothing but fantasy. If you face living life having to keep this shameful activity hidden away out of fear of persecution one can easily come to blame the ball as the reason for all your frustration, becoming the focus of both that which you love but which you have also learned to hate for it has marked you, that should you ever be seen with that ball you will be tagged with all the negative associations others have impressed upon it. One knows that these negative associations are untruths and that the ball, the fetish itself, is not to blame but still one can come to resent it, after all, one has no opportunity to say otherwise. Even when an opportunity does arise, when one is at one’s wits end of having this desire and seek counseling, it still comes down to the effect of the fetish on the person’s life and rarely about the stigma. A person may go for counseling concerning their attraction to rubber but is the attraction the problem or is it the fear of other peoples reactions to the attraction the problem and which has steered the practice of the attraction down an unhealthy route for the individual. Rarely is having a fetish perceived in the same light as anything else one may face prejudice for. Many fetishists would not claim to be proud for having the desires they have. They generally isolate themselves away, the unaddressed and veiled stigmatization dictating how their fetish is utilized. Spending their life alone, kicking a ball against a wall! It isn’t that they lack skills to do anything else but rather they feel limited to broaden their skill set. I think a lot of the problems people face is not knowing how to take that first step to open up one’s world. When you become more openly public don’t expect to get a positive response if you look like their worse stereotypical nightmare with tubes coming out of plugged orifices, if that’s your thing then that is YOUR thing and not theirs. Don’t bring strife and fear and worry and anxiety into peoples lives already so full of such things but rather show them magic, show them how truly spectacular and wondrous your fetish can be. Don’t throw a ball at their face and expect them to be happy but rather awe them with your years of isolation practicing how to juggle! When in the light of the public gaze then bloom like a flower but when in private then get down and nasty in the detritus.
Looking at the current societal standards, I can barely recognize the attitudes toward kink compared to when I began my own exploration, thirty years ago. Things have plainly changed for the better in that department, and yet something feels amiss. When you analyzed the matter, you concluded that fetishes become deactivated when they are assimilated by consumerism: once a fetish can be boxed, priced and sold it kinda loses its power. Can you elaborate on that? Are we moving into the era of the unfetishizable?
It isn’t so much that the fetish loses its power but rather there is an exchange of power as to whom the fetish is orientated towards, that it need not be aimed at the most obvious target such as rubber goods for rubberists. All consumer goods are fetish goods. Every item from home insurance to the cars we drive have no value other than that which either we give to them or which we are told they have. When one gets a buzz from buying a rubber catsuit it is the same buzz one gets from buying anything else. Yep the intensity of the buzz wavers according to how pressurized we feel to buy something, the buzz is less for things we feel we have to have in order to survive and more so for those things we feel we don’t need at all but simply must have. Feeling bourgeois is always more exciting than feeling plebeian. I think many people who buy those things we may associate as typically fetish don’t buy them because they have a fetish, a desire to wear rubber as an example, but because of the other connotations that go along with fetish products, the whole dark and taboo side, the side generally established through true fetishists experiences of being stigmatised. They buy the product not because they desire to wear rubber but because they desire to be associated with the connotations that go alongside a rubber product. The fetish products are marketable to people who don’t have fetishes but who do perceive that there is some value to be gained from being seen as having a fetish. And maybe that is a fetish in itself!
Moving on to your book in general, you just need a quick browse to realize that your designs are immensely more colorful and unique than what people associate with the concept of ‘latex fetish’. Why do you think such creativity is so rare in this field?
It’s rare simply because most of the items I make can’t be made in an industrial way and the market for such things is very small. When I make anything in rubber the commercial value of the item to be made is never considered. Oh, I know exactly how much an item has cost me to make but that cost is never planned into the design as I have no intention of selling anything I make. An example of this is a coat I recently made. People looking at the coat think it would sell for a couple of thousand and maybe it would but the truth is it cost me nothing more than the glue as it was made from offcut scraps from other projects. But because of this the coat is a one-off, it can’t be repeated and commercial enterprises require items to be repeatable. But my desire with my garments is not driven by financial needs but by my desire to be exploring my world through rubber. I’m a rubberist, not a bookkeeper. So my creations are driven from my desire to see if some of the crazy visions I have for outfits are doable in rubber and not driven by the practical considerations of whether any particular design will pay my bills this month.
Traditional rubber fetish attire is relatively simple. Beyond creating a beautiful fit, which requires a greater knowledge of the technical side of pattern making, it is simple in the sense that the vast majority of fetish attire seeks to create a streamlined silhouette. Once you know how to make these kinds of garments then, as a rubberist, you can’t help but think about what else could be possible. There is a huge thrill in handling, manipulating rubber as there is in wearing it and playing in it and as you may have picked up, I’m always seeking to expand on things, always seeking to discover where I can take my fetish. I want to celebrate my love for the material.
Another very apparent aspect is that, even with the immense quantity of precise information you offer in the book, only a totally obsessed person would ever attempt to make their own latex creation as a hobby. The complexity is just too much when compared to other pastimes, not to mention the required skills. This is your opportunity to come clean about this: did you write the book just to frighten people into respect for latex designers, didn’t you?
My biggest concern in writing the Compendium is that it can be frightening. The sheer vast amount of information and yes some of the elaborate and complex nature of some of the garments I make could come across as daunting. However, it was written to provide the information to others that I wish had been there when I was starting off. I only began learning this craft in October 2013, so only five years ago. Before that I had only ever worn rubber. I use to enjoy making up my own outfits by mixing and matching garments bought from various companies but one can only go so far with this. I then use to design outfits and have other companies make them up for me but this could prove expensive. So to deal with my big imagination but little wallet I decided to have a go and make rubber wear myself. For sure I come already preloaded with many art and craft processes, I have been making lots of things for a very long time, and many procedures involved in the making of one type of thing cross over into other practices, before you build a house its best to have a plan, before you make a garment its best to have a pattern. I would like people to be able to appreciate what various latex designers do but not necessarily respect them. What I hope is that people will be inspired by my own designs and see that anything is possible, don’t limit oneself, and that when that time comes and a person wants to experiment, to push the boat out and sail into unknown waters, then they might be able to find a little something in the Compendium that will reassure them that their dreams are not fantasy but can be reality.