Happy Friday friends freaks and fiends of Speakeasy Tattoo Los Angeles!
What a week!
Only one week until Thanksgiving! What better way to add onto those quarantine lbs than to stuff our faces with empty carbs and dense Tofurkey!
But who cares?! Are you really that concerned about arbitrary standards of “ideal” beauty? Hell no!
If you are really worried about it, just grab a corset and cinch away those inches!
Oh boy, what is he on about this time?
Who knows, but talking about corsets makes me want to talk about one of my biggest, all-time favorite artists.
As you all well know, as fans of the various artists here at Speakeasy, the artists here have a wide variety of styles. And as you also well know, no art exists in a vacuum. Otherwise it would suck (insert
raucous laughter here at amazingly well-crafted joke). We all have things or other artists we look to for inspiration. For me, aside from the traditional tattoo masters of yore, no other artist has affected me nearly as much as John Willie.
You may not immediately know the name John Willie, but I can almost guarantee you are familiar with the influence he had on what nearly everyone associates with what has come to be known as “fetish” culture.
Willie was born John Alexander Scott Coutts in 1902 to a wealthy British family living in Singapore. While serving as a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Scots (a British Infantry Regiment dating back to the 1600s), was booted out for marrying a nightclub hostess without permission in 1925. This effectively banished him to Australia.
It was in Australia that Willie was introduced to the world of extreme high-heel shoe fetishists. Divorced by 1930, it was here that he would meet his future wife and artistic muse, Holly Anna Faram. By 1942, Willie was producing and selling his own artwork and designs for extreme footwear, eventually producing his own exotic shoe company called “Achilles.” It was at this time he chose the pseudonym of the suggestive “Willie.”
Faram would remain a mainstay in Willie’s art, serving both as an artistic model for his illustrations as well as a good majority of his fetish photography. Sadly, again, their marriage dissolved when Willie chose to move to North America, while she
In New York, he started Bizarre magazine in 1946. It was filled with themes of bondage, high heels, sadomasochism, transvestism and body modification, as well as his most famous stories ‘The Adventures of Sweet Gwendoline’, ‘Pauline’s Peril’ and ‘Hairbreadth Harry’.
Needless to say these subjects are viewed as taboo even to this day, let alone in the immediate post-WWII years of the late 40s-mid 50s. And while he was rejected by his own family and treated as a deviant, he was able to circumvent censorship and orders to cease publication because he was careful to avoid “nudity, homosexuality, overt violence, or obvious depictions of things that might be read as perverse or immoral and that might rankle those parties who were capable of banning, censoring, or blocking circulation.”
And while at a glance, one can see why his art was viewed as almost sadistic and cruel, quite the opposite was the case. Willie was a pioneer is the consensual bondage practice. Speaking to this subject as well as censorship, he said:
“What you do, or do not do, is your own business, all that matters is that the enjoyment be mutual… There is a partner to suit everyone somewhere, but the search will be difficult until we can discuss our likes and dislikes, openly, in good taste, without threat from our own brand of standardized Police State.”
Important words to live by.
There is much more to his almost tragic story; dying penniless in 1962 of a brain tumor, but I dont want to spoil everything for you. If this is something that intrigues you, I recommend picking up Taschen’s “Best of Bizarre” books, featuring tons of Willie’s art that isn’t readily found on google.
If Willie’s art is something that appeals to you, you’re my kinda person. I would love to tattoo some of his iconic work on anyone interested!
Hope you all have a great weekend, and get that corset ready for Thanksgiving!