Tarot of Bones: Interviewing Lupa Greenwolf

Thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview!
How long have you been reading tarot? What got you started?

I started reading tarot in 1996 when I was a newbie pagan. It was a period where I was trying out everything–tarot, herbs, crystals, totems, etc. My first deck was the Shapeshifter Tarot, because I liked the concept of being able to assume the forms of other animals, even if only in spirit, and the artwork was lovely. In 1999 I discovered Ted Andrews’ Animal-Wise deck, and it was love at first sight. We worked out our own directional/elemental spread together, and it’s been my main form of divination since, more from a totemic perspective than a strictly tarot-based one.

Coming back to the tarot through the Tarot of Bones has been something of a homecoming for me. I’m older and more experienced, and I have a more nuanced and personal view of the cards and their symbolisms. Early on, I stuck mostly to the books; I was especially fond of P. Scott Hollander’s “Tarot For Beginners”. Now I’m reforming my own relationships with the tarot cards, and while I follow some of the common themes, there’s a lot of personal interpretation.

I love what you say on your website about your use of Bones, especially the part, I hope you don’t mind if I quote, “Through bones we can speak with our evolutionary ancestors; through divination we create patterns that help us make sense of the world around us–and the worlds within.” What started your wonderfully morbid hobby of collecting and creating art with bones?
I’m not sure I’d call it “morbid”, though it certainly is wonderful! When I was a kid I was always bringing home little natural treasures–feathers, leaves, bones, etc. These were unfortunately lost when we moved from one place to another. However, in my late teens I found myself with a pickup truck and a small income, and so I was able to go to craft stores, antique shops and the like to pick up hide scraps, old fur coats, and so forth. In 1998 I began creating and selling artwork made from these remains, first small projects like pouches and necklaces, and then more elaborate costumes and other pieces.

It’s an intensely spiritual practice for me, always has been. I wanted these remains to have a better “afterlife” than being a trophy or status symbol, and I wanted to care for the spirits that were still within them, even if they were just haunts or impressions. So everything I create, even if it has a seemingly mundane purpose, is sacred. Everything gets a ritual purification with prayers once complete, and I make offerings through donations to nonprofit organizations that benefit wildlife and their habitats. These are our relatives, even if somewhat distant, and they deserve care and attention like our human ancestors.

They’re also a constant reminder of the world beyond our human-centered habitats. We keep thinking in terms of “natural” and “artificial”, when in actuality we are just human apes and everything we do is an extension of the big brains we evolved as a survival strategy. Yet we make decisions as though we are the only ones who matter. My hides and bones, especially my skull collection, help remind me otherwise; they’re sort of a council that I consult.

What other items besides bones are you drawn to as tarot and art mediums?
Honestly, I mostly stick to making art with animal remains and other natural and recycled materials. I have drawn on a wide set of skills in creating the Tarot of Bones assemblages–painting, sculpting, adhesives, design, etc. And I do use these skills in my more general artwork, but it’s more along the lines of using acrylic paints to decorate a leather pouch or animal skull necklace, rather than creating an acrylic painting on a canvas as is more traditional. This is the first tarot deck I’ve designed, so I don’t know what I’d use for a medium if I created another one, but I do have a few ideas on the back burner.

I use a lot of recycled and reclaimed materials. Every one of the backboards for the assemblages came from a thrift store as did many of the other materials, from paints to faux flowers. Even a lot of the hides I work with in my artwork are secondhand or salvaged. Most of the bones were bought new or found out in the great outdoors; a lot of that is because I was very particular about which ones I used, both with regards to species and condition.

I know many readers also fall into the subcultures of vegan and animal rights activism while others simply feel uncomfortable with using animal curios. What reactions have you received over your deck?
I actually haven’t taken much flak for the Tarot of Bones in specific; I think the information on the website helps a great deal, particular where I do explain why I chose bones as opposed to other materials. Bones tend to cause less consternation than, say, fur, and I even know a few vegan pagans who pick up bones from the woods for their altars. I have gotten some negative responses for my art in general over the years, ranging from nasty comments online to, well, nasty comments in person. They usually follow the same few patterns–trying to convince me to stop my art, telling me what a horrible person I am and how someone should use my bones in artwork, etc-

-so I’ve come up with some stock responses over the years, and I try to keep the conversation brief and civil since arguing is pretty pointless. It happens to everyone who makes hide and bone art, unfortunately, and too often the people who come in swinging aren’t interested in hearing anything that doesn’t toe their party line. So I try to keep the conflict to a minimum in situations where we aren’t able to have a more constructive conversation.

My hide and bone art is part of how I am an environmentalist; it helps remind me and others that there is more than just the human-centered world we live in, and brings a more nature-centered energy to homes otherwise filled with drywall, furniture, computers and other human things. I reclaim a lot of materials in my art, and I make sure everything gets a use–even tiny scraps end up as pillow stuffing. I donate part of the money I make to environmental nonprofits, and because I have a flexible schedule I can do some volunteering locally, too. And a lot of the vegan alternatives to my materials are pretty bad for wildlife and their habitats; plastics are almost all made with petroleum, crystals and metals are often mined with very polluting methods, cotton and other plant fibers are grown in massive monocrops that destroy habitats and poison animals through pesticides and fertilizers. Never mind that everything you buy at, say, Michael’s was made in China by underpaid, often abused labor, and was sent to the U.S. on ships that pollute the ocean with oil and other unpleasant things. I try to minimize my use of these supposedly “cruelty-free” materials, and buy them secondhand as often as I possibly can.

Without giving away your trade secrets of course, how do you purchase or find or gather your bones?
I have a few different hide and bone dealers whose sources and methods I trust for legal and ethical reasons; Custom Cranium and Frozen Critters are two of the main ones, and for resin replicas I like Arctic Phoenix and Bone Clones. I used to have more access to wild land where I was able to collect bones on my own, but these days I have neither the resources nor the time. And since I share a small apartment with two other people and we have no yard, bone cleaning isn’t really an option so I have to stick to pre-cleaned bones. But I’d rather be making art with them anyway, so it all works out–I get to support small businesses, and I have more time for what I really love doing.

Why did you decide to create permanent pieces rather than ones that you could move around and change between photos for the tarot cards? I understand this decision raised the cost of creating the tarot deck for you?
First, I’m an assemblage artist, not a photographer, when it comes to the Tarot of Bones. So my primary art form involves putting the items together into a completed piece of artwork which will then be ritually purified and sent off to its new home. The photo is just what’s necessary for translating that assemblage into an easily replicable format–tarot cards. And a lot of what I do to the materials in the process of putting together the assemblages permanently changes them, like painting them or adding a sculpting compound, so it wouldn’t make sense to make them temporary anyway.
From a spiritual perspective, creating a permanent assemblage rather than a temporary one seals the energy in more thoroughly. A photo is not the same as the real deal, though it can convey some of the power. These assemblages are shrines, both to the spirits of the bones within them, and the spirit of the cards themselves. I wanted them to have a long-term form, rather than an ephemeral one. Honestly, I can’t wait for the official release party where I plan to have all of the assemblages on display in someplace that is NOT my apartment!

Yes, it did cost a lot more, to be honest. I could have just cycled through a few dozen skulls and bones and other materials in varying combinations with temporary assemblages, with many of them appearing in more than one card’s artwork, and saved a lot of money. But I had a grander, more elaborate vision than that, one that involved individual species and the symbolism of different bones in the vertebrate body. Since I needed to have a lot more bones for that purpose, why not just have bones for each unique assemblage?

Will you be selling any of the finished pieces?
They will all be for sale once the Tarot of Bones is officially released, though I want to keep one or two for myself. I love having them around, but they take up a LOT of space; most of the free wall space in the apartment at this point is covered in them, and they need to do the equivalent of growing up, moving out and getting a job. Plus the money I’ve crowdfunded has all gone to materials, perks, and other costs. Selling the pieces will help me pay myself for the time and effort I put into designing the deck in the first place. I’m fully self-employed, after all, and every hour I put into the Tarot of Bones was an hour I wasn’t able to put toward more immediate income to pay my rent and bills–but I had to have a place to live and food to eat all through the process anyway. So selling the pieces will help me get back my initial personal investment in the project.

You are currently ahead of schedule, if you stay that way can we expect edits to the current image releases or anything surprising before the release date?
Well, the pictures you see on the website right now are just quick snapshots saying “Hey, look what I made!” They’re not the final photos for the card art. So after I have the assemblages done I’ll be setting up a better photography studio in my home and taking the final pictures and then editing them with GIMP. I may go back and tweak a few of the assemblages before then, but the production schedule probably won’t get moved up too much. The printing will take a while, and I want to hire a professional editor for the book and they’ll need time, too.

Can you tell us a little about the companion book? Will it be a basic tarot cards defined or will it be just as unique as the cards themselves?
The Tarot of Bones companion book is not meant as holy writ or the final word on what each card means. But it’ll give readers more of an idea of why I created each card as I did, why I chose specific animals, etc. It’s a guide to the Tarot of Bones in specific, and while you can certainly use other books and your own interpretation when you use the deck, there’s a lot of valuable information that may help you navigate the deck as its own individual entity. I won’t be going into the basics of tarot; there are TONS of books that do that. But I will likely be including some unique spreads along with my card interpretations.

What is your favorite piece so far?
That’s a tough one. I think my perennial favorite is still the Magician. I really like how the design turned out; it best illustrates my personal style as an assemblage artist. But I also have a deep, abiding love for the Four of Wands, the second assemblage I ever created. And I’m tempted to keep the Hermit for myself, too.

Why did you choose crowdfunding for your tarot deck rather than the more traditional route of going through a major publisher?
Honestly? Creative control. I’ve published books with a couple different publishers, and while they’ve let me have a fair bit of control, this is a deeply and intensely personal project. It is the product of almost two decades of art and writing experience, and it draws together all of my skills into one Magnum Opus. I’m outsourcing very little with the Tarot of Bones; I hired Narumi of Lotus Lion, who has done several graphic design pieces for me, to create the back design for the cards, and again I’ll have an editor for the book. But I’m doing everything else–the photography, layout, etc.

Also, in doing a bit of research, it’s harder to get a publisher for a photo deck; they tend to prefer other sorts of art. Since I wasn’t willing to morph the photos of my assemblages into computer-generated designs, I just decided to do this on my own. It’ll be my first major foray into self-publishing, so I’m drawing on my experience in the publishing industry to help me along. And I’ll be getting some mentoring with some of the skills I’m less familiar with, like the photography.

Were there any surprises in the crowdfunding process?
Yes: the amount! The IndieGoGo campaign last spring met its initial goal in four days, and doubled the amount by the end of the six week campaign. I was incredibly surprised and honored that that many people wanted to back the Tarot of Bones. It just made me want to make even more sure that the final deck and book will be amazing. I also was wowed by the emotional support people gave throughout the project, all the cheering and high-fives I got. I mean, I have some of the best supporters and fans in the world, so the quality doesn’t surprise me–but I was amazed by how many people came out to help! At this point I’ve pre-sold 250 deck and book sets just through that one campaign. And again–thank you to everyone who contributed.

Speaking of crowdfunding, there will be another IndieGoGo campaign in early 2016, for those who missed out on the first one?
While the spring 2015 campaign paid for all the materials and some related expenses, a lot also had to be factored in for perks, upcoming shipping costs, and the like. So I’m far from being in the black on this, and this second campaign will primarily be for the purpose of covering printing costs for the deck and book. The IndieGoGo campaigns are NOT my only source of funding; I’ve also been drawing funds from my art and book sales once rent and bills and other expenses have been paid. But I had a lot of people say they were unable to support the last campaign due to finances or finding out about it after it ended, so this is a win-win situation: they get a second chance to pre-order the deck and book and other goodies, and I get another healthy shot of funding so I can stick to my production schedule and the planned Summer 2016 release.

What advice do you have for those out there thinking of creating their own tarot deck?
Do smaller projects first. This has been a HUGE investment of my time, skills and energy, to say nothing of money. If you’ve never undertaken a big art project or written a book before, I don’t recommend this sort of thing as a starter project. Smaller projects will help you hone your skills to a finer degree so that you’re more prepared physically and mentally when the time comes to get started on your tarot project.

Once you are ready, make sure you have a solid concept. You don’t have to design all the cards at once; I went into most of these assemblages only sure of what card it was going to represent and what bones I was going to use. But those two factors–the bones and the meaning–were the common thread I had to work with throughout the entire project, and they helped to tie them all together. So make sure you, too, have at least one solid thread that binds your cards into one deck.

Also, don’t take my production schedule as something to measure yourself against. Remember I’m self-employed and I’m already in my studio almost every day. So I’m working on the assemblages and the book manuscript in between working on other projects throughout the day. I have the luxury of getting this put together relatively quickly because I’ve done this sort of thing before on a smaller scale, and I’m already immersed in a creative setting much of the time.

Will there be a release party online or off that fans can attend?
There will definitely be an in-person one in Portland, and likely some pieces in galleries after that as well. I’m not entirely sure how to pull off an online party, but I’m sure something can be arranged there, too. I want everyone to have the opportunity to celebrate with me, even if they can’t be with me in person.

What amazing creative projects can we expect from you in the future?
Wellll…a lot of them are currently secret projects under development. I don’t like to announce things until I have a pretty solid plan, because I don’t want to let people down. That and I am a VERY busy person, and unfortunately I just don’t have the time to enact everything at once. So while I have several books bouncing around in my head, some other elaborate art projects on a similar scale, and some new avenues unrelated to anything I’m doing now, I need to maintain my focus on the Tarot of Bones until it’s out and everyone’s gotten their packages of goodies in the mail.

That being said, I do have a new book coming out from Llewellyn in January, Nature Spirituality From the Ground Up: Connect With Totems in Your Ecosystem, which I’m really excited about as it talks about land-based, bioregional totemism in a lot of detail. You can always keep up on my progress with the Tarot of Bones and if you’d like to see what else I’m up to head on over to The Green Wolf.

Tarot Poetry: An Interview with Marjorie Jensen

Arcana: The Tarot Poetry Anthology is a diverse collection of 78 poems, including original verse and new translations by contemporary writers and Tarot readers. The book can be pre-ordered through the publisher, Minor Arcana Press.
Tarot poetry began in Renaissance Italy with artists like Teofilo Folengo. Many famous poets–including T.S. Eliot, W.B. Yeats, and Marge Piercy–have used Tarot in their work since. Our era is now blessed with our own poetic creations as those featured in Arcana. Editor Marjorie Jensen has brought many of these amazing poets together from an international community including Rachel Pollack, Tanya Joyce, Cecilia Llompart, and Sierra Nelson.

PictureMarjorie Jensen is an educator, writer, and Tarot reader. Since completing her Master’s degree, she has taught (Tarot) poetry and prose workshops at U.C. Berkeley and has edited several literary publications, such as 580 Split. Her published articles include “Structuring Sonnets and Tarot Spreads” in Tarosophist International as well as “Cards are Told” in Unwinnable Weekly. She is also a contributor to Spiral Nature.
See more of her writing and featured Arcana authors on Tarot Poetry WordPress.

I see that you are both a tarot reader and a lover of books as well as an editor. What got you into tarot? Would you mind sharing with us your favorite tarot deck? 
My mom reads Tarot and gifted me my first deck—the Aquarian Tarot—when I was about fourteen. My paternal grandmother read intuitively with playing cards, so I guess you could say my love of reading cards runs on both sides of the family! Currently, my favorite decks are the Paulina Tarot, the Wizards Tarot, and the Rider-Waite-Smith.

What initially inspired the Arcana Tarot Poetry anthology? 
When I started writing my unrhymed sonnet sequence based on the Major Arcana, I wanted to read an anthology of Tarot poetry. I like research, and I found a number of books and poems by individual poets, but no one had created a volume of Tarot poems that brought together multiple authors. So I decided to make the book I wanted to read.

Minor Arcana Press calls Arcana a “muse: enchanting, inspiring, and empowering.” What are some ways that the tarot has inspired and empowered you? 
I love writing with the Tarot and using it in writing workshops. Collecting Tarot is like collecting art (but generally on a much smaller and cheaper scale), and I find art to be a wonderful muse. Also, I feel that the Tarot enriches my spiritual practice—my private rituals as well as the spiritual connections I make when reading for others. 

Arcana is described as “groundbreaking” in its uniting poetry and tarot. Before this project, you published articles like “Structuring Sonnets and Tarot Spreads” in Tarosophist International. Do you foresee a trend of combining tarot with poetry, art, and literature in the future? 
There are some deep connections between Tarot, art, and poetry, going back to renaissance Italy, and what we are able to do now with the internet allows niche communities—like Tarot poets—to come together and be seen. One of the things I enjoyed with this project was seeing how writing from people who spend more time in Tarot circles harmonized with writing from people who spend more time in poetry circles. Both poets and Tarotists give readings, but now a little more light is being shed on how similar those readings can be. And I think this light will continue to grow.   

When this book first came into view to the public it was being crowdfunded through Indiegogo. Why did you and Minor Arcana Press choose to use crowdfunding for the project initially?
Indiegogo did not make its crowdfunded goal, how did this effect printing and publishing the book?

Minor Arcana Press is a small non-profit with a limited budget, so we thought that crowdfunding would be a good way to help cover printing costs and other costs of making the book. Not making the Indiegogo goal means we will be publishing fewer copies of the book. Later this year we will also be putting out an e-book edition so more copies can enter the world, but we will have a very limited press run of paperback editions. Also, not making the goal inspired amazing generosity—for instance, Mary K. Greer offered to waive her fee for the introduction. Gifts like hers made it possible for us to still put out a small press run of physical copies.

What was it like working with authors and artists like Rachel Pollack (one of the poetry authors), Siolo Thompson (who did the interior art and front cover) and Mary K. Greer (who did the intro to the book)?
In addition to Mary’s generosity, and both her and Rachel have been wonderfully supportive. They have also been very accessible and welcoming. Anne Bean, Minor Arcana Press’ layout designer, worked more closely with Siolo than I did (I believe they knew each other before this project because they are both based in Seattle). I feel very blessed to have so many talented women involved in this project—I have been inspired by their words and images.

Some of our readers are both tarot enthusiasts and writers. As an editor, what advice can you give them if they are interested in writing for a project like this in the future? 
Be yourself. After reading hundreds of submissions, I think the best poems draw on personal experience/experimentation/style. The worst seemed to regurgitate all the clichés about Tarot. Utilize the Tarot to find your distinct voice.

Minor Arcana Press is having a launch party for Arcana on August 26th. Will you be there? What can readers expect at this online shindig? 
I will be there! The launch party will be held at Hugo House in Seattle—I’ve never been to Seattle before. There will be Tarot readings as well as poetry readings, and I hope we will be able to post some pictures/videos online. I’m planning on having similar events in other locations, especially Oakland (where I live). 

Will there be more like this anthology in the future for us to look forward to?
I really enjoyed making this book, and would be interested in creating another anthology in a couple years. In the meantime, I plan to finish and publish my Major Arcana sonnets (which are nearly complete!). And I have some fiction that my muses are demanding I work on after that, so my next anthology might end up being a multi-genre collection with drama, fiction, and essays as well as poetry.

Interview with Nic Buxom

Nic Buxom is a 26 year old Pro-Switch and comic artist who “makes light of the inner workings of the dungeon and BDSM scene.” She’s been working at her local dungeon for 6 years now and creating her comic blog since 2009. She was gracious enough to take time out of her busy schedule to talk to me about her art, lifestyle and kink. I am a huge fan of her artwork (as I’m sure you’ve read before on a previous post) and enjoyed her candid responses and, as always, her great sense of humor.

Nic Buxom

D Faust: In your comic, you show yourself as starting work as a Pro Domme because you were broke, a most noble reason. ^_^ However, what, besides money, has kept you in the business?

Nic Buxom: That I got involved in the Pro-Domme industry due only to money problems is half a joke. I WAS looking for a better paying job (retail is a monster) but I also desperately wanted to do something I enjoyed for a living. I was a lifestyle BDSM player before moving to pro so fetish and kink was something I did for pleasure, anyway. Why not get paid to do it? It’s everyone’s dream to do something they love for a living and working in a dungeon has been exactly that for me through the years. I’m very lucky to be able to say so.

D: How did you come into the BDSM scene in the first place?

Nic: When I was in highschool I discovered I took pleasure in controlled pain. I had never heard of BDSM or anything of the like but I knew I was fascinated by bruises and liked the way they looked and felt, among other things. I had some friends who shared my interest and we began to explore practices that I now know fall into the BDSM and fetish realms, though at the time I was oblivious that there were people out there like me that shared these interests.
My best friend and I engaged in collar and leash play, puppy play, flogging, bondage and other common practices associated with BDSM. It wasn’t until I got my first computer and gained access to the internet that my world was opened up and I realized there were societies full of people just like me. The web was a great tool for me to meet mentors and begin to explore other activities and play partners, as well as visiting my first dungeon!

D:How did you train yourself as a Domme starting out or were you mentored?

Nic: When I began in the scene I was very submissive. I tried many activities from the bottom and learned from them. I thought I was going to be a submissive forever! I had no interest in topping. I was much more shy and introverted then and didn’t get a rush from Domming like I did from being on the receiving end of pain and direction. Still, you can’t help but learn in those situations. When I started as a pro I came in as a submissive. Both the Mistresses I worked with AND the clients helped me to learn and train to be an excellent Domme. I still love to switch, though I primarily Domme now. Some clients have been seeing me for years and have watched and helped me to develop. Many of these men gifted me some of my first tools that I now use extensively in topping, such as paddles and my extensive collection of TENS units (an electricity device I specialize with.) Absolutely the most helpful, though, has been the other women that I work with. The great thing about working in a dungeon, as opposed to working independently, is the wonderful family and society you grow with. We all teach and support each other and there are so many different talents to learn from, particularly ones very familiar with the pro-scene. It was essential to my personal growth (in and outside of my business) that I worked with such grand, eclectic ladies.

D: As a Domme, do you own a slave or submissive outside of work?

Nic: I have never owned a personal slave or submissive because, to be honest, I have never had much time for it. I think it’s a fallacy that a personal slave will make your life easier by handling everything for you. Sure, they can run errands and help out but there is still an exchange expected. Your slave cooks you dinner, you sit down and enjoy it and then you’re expected to get back up and play with him/her and give her what she’s in the relationship for. It’s like any other “vanilla” relationship, everyone has to get something out of it. Slaves can be VERY demanding for your personal attentions and I just don’t have time in my busy schedule to emotionally support another person. I know many of my clients consider themselves my personal slaves because they are very loyal but they still pay me for my time and so I still consider it business. Plus, I get to send them home afterwards with no hurt feelings and my time spent with them has a solid end point, agreed upon ahead of time. I never have to worry about them encroaching upon “me-time” or personal space. Some people like to engage in 24/7 BDSM relationships and that’s great for the people it works for but I like to have my vanilla time when I’m not thinking about business and protocol.

D: What advice would you give someone interested in becoming a ProDom or ProSub?

Nic: Firstly, this business is not for everyone. It sounds glamorous and easy on paper but I assure you it doesn’t lend itself to everyone. If you want to work in the sex industry in any capacity you must, must, MUST be able to tell people “no.” Sticking to your limits is so important for your comfort and self-worth and people are ALWAYS going to ask you to betray your morals, scruples and comfort zones. People who can’t stand up for themselves and what they believe in will get taken advantage of and made miserable in an industry like this one.
Beyond that, don’t bluff your way into the job. Alot of new Dommes want to preach about all the big names they’ve studied under and how great and amazing they are. Just stop. Get to know the tools for real. Study under a good mentor for real. And if and when you enter a dungeon or encounter other Dommes don’t play “biggest Domme in the dungeon.” What I mean is this isn’t all about chest puffing and strutting. It’s a mistake to think that Dominatrix’s stalk about cutting people down with their words and whips. We’re all real people outside of and beyond our work and should treat one another as such. When you get in the room with a client and he’s paid for his time THEN you can throw on the persona! When you’re just interacting with other workers and people outside of a scene then drop the attitude. And DON’T play with a tool you don’t know. You’ll hurt someone, and not in the fun way!
So, be strong-willed and respect yourself and your limits, really learn the tools and be courteous to others. If you put the time into this, like anything else, it will pay off and be a truly fun and rewarding business.

D: In your comic you show the weirdest thing you’ve ever done at work, what was the most favorite scene you were ever paid to play in as a Dominatrix or submissive?

Nic: That’s a toughie! I’ve had so many scenes that have tickled me in so many different ways. Some I enjoy more from a pleasurable aspect, some more out of humor, some out of ease.
If I had to pick one favorite I think it would be the night when a very familiar, regular client came in just before closing time. Everyone knew him and he was pretty indiscriminate about who he played with, or even what we did in session. He was a very submissive man who truly enjoyed seeing a Mistress take pleasure from him so he would do just about anything you wanted. (As a side note, many submissives claim to want to do whatever you want and then change their minds the moment you actually do what you like. It’s typically bad form to leave a scene negotiation at “whatever you want” instead of being clear about limits and desires. Everyone has things they like and things they hate and it’s important to communicate them for the safety and enjoyment of everyone involved.)
Since it was closing time there were only about 4 girls left, including the receptionist. Somehow it was arranged that the client would play with all 4 of us at once. We locked up and headed back to a playroom together. The scene consisted of us all dancing around to silly, bouncy songs on the radio, laughing and clapping while the client danced around with us, naked but for a sparkly tu-tu and headband. It barely felt like work and we all had a great time like it was one big party. The client took turns dancing with us while the rest watched, laughed and danced with one another. We did that until his credit card was declined.

D: I love your comic, it’s so funny and light hearted. What got you into drawing your life as a Dominatrix?

Nic: I’ve always drawn. Even when I was a tiny child I drew on anything I could get my hands on. I was the kid who got in trouble for drawing in the margins of her homework (though my grades were still always exceptional.) I’ve also always loved comic books and have long been interested in writing/drawing one of my own. I decided that in order to practice and hone my skill I needed to start regularly drawing comics, even if they weren’t any good to start. I didn’t want to use any solid characters or ideas I had because I was too fanatical about character design and getting everything perfect so I knew I had to pick something I could play and tinker with, something light and easy to formulate content for, something I could draw swiftly. It was someone asking me to begin a blog about my Dominatrix work that gave me the idea… Why write a blog when I could illustrate a comic? I began NicBuxom purely as a pet-project! Something to practice. I thought I would move on when I was comfortable with the comic medium. Little did I know it would take off and become so dearly loved by many (including myself!)
NB has taken on a life of it’s own. What started as purely humor and practice has become a platform for me to educate people about tolerance and other important issues, in a fun way. I write about my experiences as a Dominatrix as more than just education into the industry and lifestyle but with the underlying message that we’re all people, we’re all human, despite our differences. I hope I have alleviated people’s fear of the unknown for more that just my lifestyle, but of the entire world around them.

D: Many of your comics deal with accepting self image no matter weight, height and even hairiness. How have you come to be comfortable in your own skin and how does that help in your line of work as a Domme?

Nic: To be honest, starting working at my dungeon helped ALOT with my self-image and my development into the happy and confident woman I am today. I found that being surrounded by very outspoken, strong-willed, beautiful women of all shapes and sizes really helped to change my attitudes. They were the stepping stone and the booster I needed to realize that just because you don’t fit the societal depictions of beauty DOES NOT mean you are not beautiful. And it doesn’t hurt to have clients that worship you like a queen, either!
One absolutely needs to be confident to work in the sex industry. You have ALOT to deal with specifically regarding your body, personal space, comfort zones etc so you need to be able to say “no” and value yourself no matter what.

D: On your blog, you are selling “The Things You Love Are Monstrous”, an art book created by yourself and MC Griffin. Do you ever plan to sell a book of comic compilations?

Nic: First, let me say that MC Griffin is an outstanding artist and that if you can look up more of his work, you should. He’s been my friend a long time and we collaborate frequently, though “The Things You Love…” is our only attempt at publishing together.
As for a personal collection, I’ve long and hard considered it. I admit, I’ve become quite comfortable in the webcomic medium and that “The Things You Love…” was a way for me to test the waters on interest in my work in a more physical, tangible form. I don’t feel that a hardcopy of NicBuxom would do well, considering all of the content is free online. Sure, I would offer never before seen sketches but I don’t agree that that is incentive enough for a publication to be worth my time and money right now. Were I to publish, I think I would publish a collection of sketches or pin-up style unique characters. Something from me you couldn’t see anywhere else and as a taste of the further extent of my work. For now, I have no intentions of doing a hardcopy publication but you never know what the future holds…

D: Your blog and comics show your travels across the United Stated for personal and work reasons. Have you found that areas differ on how they view your line of work?

Nic: I have not worked very frequently outside of LA so don’t take my impressions as an authority on any other region. The number one thing I have noted is that (surprisingly) many areas do much more “hardcore” play than we do here in LA. My dungeon is a legal business and so we abide by the laws of our city. We are particularly careful to abide by prostitution and obscenity laws in my place of business. When I travel I get asked for much more wild play and often things outside of my personal comfort zone. I’ve nothing against girls who engage in prostitution but I personally chose not to. I’ve been asked much more frequently in other states if I am a “full service” Dominatrix and the East coast has a higher interest in scat and other play involving bodily fluids and functions. Many of the women I’ve worked with who were first Mistresses in New York are shocked by the softer interests in LA. It’s more my style out here but maybe it’s just because this is the scene I’ve been raised in.
What I’m particularly surprised by in other areas is that people have no concept of what a Dominatrix is. I don’t expect anyone to know the ins-and-outs of my business and I understand better than anyone that there are many misconceptions but for someone to have NO concept at all doesn’t make sense to me. Our media consistently portrays BDSM activities. Look at any of your favorite pop artists music videos. There’s bondage, spanking, latex, crops, ball-gags, puppy play and more. Not to mention our media, movies, radio etc. I expect someone to at least get “whips and chains” coming to mind when they hear Dominatrix but I’ve met many people who needed a full explanation and could hardly believe I wasn’t weaving them a fairy tale!

D: You’ve been to a few different adult conventions, which was your favorite? Why?

Nic: It used to be AdultCon. When I first started at these conventions they were busy, people were friendly and I’d prance about the whole day getting lots of attention and selling lots of product. There was also plenty to see and lots of fun goodie bags. Unfortunately, lately with the economy the way it is and other factors the old AdultCon scene has become abit tired and much smaller. Suddenly the crowd is different, too, and while I’m very tolerant by nature and practice I’ve still noticed the ratio of creeps has grown much higher. (I even had a small stalking scare…)

My new (and unexpected) favorite has been HempCon! I don’t smoke marijuana and I’ve never even tried it so when I was first assigned a HempCon job I had a bad attitude about it. I thought I wouldn’t be able to associate and make a connection with the people there and that there wouldn’t be anything interesting for me to see. While it’s true that the hordes of friendly offers to share a smoke are wasted upon me there, I was proven wrong about the people and convention itself. Vendor and attendee alike were overall very easy to get along with and very friendly. The people are what really make a good time at a convention but there’s lots of amusing things to peruse, as well, even for a non-smoker like me.

D: What can we expect from your comic and blog this year?

Nic: This year there are alot of personal changes in my life and so I know those will be reflected in the comic.
I’m planning to move into my own place (for the first time!) with my boyfriend and take on new business ventures. I’ll likely be doing some independent Dominatrix work outside of my dungeon and I’ve also recently begun cam and phone work, something completely new to me. I expect these new venues to give me loads of new script ideas for NicBuxom and expand the realm of sex-industry that I’ve thus-far explored. I may even take on some vanilla work again (which I haven’t done in over 6 years) and I know I’ll have alot to say about that. I may have some retail complaints that more people can associate with! But worry not, the main focus will still be BDSM.
I hope to also have some more artwork up for sale as I’m beginning to expand onto painting wood cut-outs that I’ll proudly be sharing on NicBuxom (and maybe even displaying at future conventions!)

D: What plans do you have for your Dominatrix career in the year 2012?

Nic: This year has been hard (already.) The economy is at its worst in my lifetime and our industry is suffering for it. We dungeon girls are feeling it just like the rest of the world because our clients are feeling it. Even my regulars are cutting back on their visits this year. Because of this I’m expanding outside of my dungeon. I’m exploring more independent work, I’m doing some online fetish and photo sales, I’m taking phone and webcam sessions. I’m even looking into starting up a personal paysite with monthly memberships to host my photos and video and to make myself more available to fans who can’t reach me in the dungeon. I’m excited to explore these new tools. I’ve seen many of my coworkers utilize them over the years but I’ve always stayed in the comfort zone of my dungeon. Now, however, times have forced me to branch out but I’m hoping it will be a good thing! I’ll still be available at my dungeon, I’m not letting go of it that easily. This is place is too big a part of who I am and what I want out of my life.