Meet the artist behind Doc Johnson’s sex toys

Sure, sex toys are made by people, but the craft of “dick artist” just doesn’t seem real.

Meet Anjani Siddhartha, designer for Doc Johnson, the world’s largest sex toy company. I met her a few years ago when I visited the Doc Johnson factory for my podcast. Back in the recesses of their North Hollywood factory, there’s a special little shed – his office – where dildos surround him. She has all these cool phallic sculptures and molds of different body parts, including genitals – everything you need to design best-in-class anatomical creations.

In his spare time, Siddhartha writes poetry and sculpts Buddhas, Hindu goddesses and alien figurines. However, she has made a career out of applying her artistic talents to sex toys. Once you know Siddhartha, you can’t look at a dildo the same way again, because now you know there’s a thoughtful artist behind every vein.

Siddhartha hadn’t realized there was such a thing as a dick artist until she became one – and she never intended to end up in Southern California. Growing up in Colombia, she was fascinated by French art and thought she would end up in Europe. But she got a student visa for the United States in the late 1980s and thought, “Why not? One year of school turned into two years, three years, four years…and suddenly she was getting her green card and her citizenship, so she ended up staying. (Don’t worry, she came to France later to visit the museums.)

In the early 90s, Siddhartha was part of the gallery scene in Los Angeles. This was during the heyday of the Los Feliz Onyx cafe; according to a 1987 article in the LA Times, the Onyx Cafe was “hooked with art that changes every eight weeks or so and frequented by well-known Los Angeles artists such as Peter Shire, Gary Panter and Cam Slocum”. “It was very famous because a lot of bohemian artists used to gather there,” says Siddhartha.

Her friend from the Onyx Cafe, a famous Filipino painter and sculptor, was quitting her job and referred her to take over. She didn’t know what he did for a job at the time, but when she showed up the next day, she quickly discovered that he worked designing adult toys.

Siddhartha “knew about toys and all that,” but she had never seen one up close. “So I went inside and saw all the toys, and I was like, ‘Oh, that’s interesting,'” she said. For her, it was just a work of art – making a penis, a vagina or even butt plugs was still art – so she felt right at home. “You do the veins, you do the texture, you do the head shape, the shaft shape, everything; I was making it as realistic as possible,” says Siddhartha.

And she was good at it! Siddhartha continued to be poached by industry competitors (with the blessing of his former employers) before landing at Doc Johnson.

Sex toys: from under the covers to the general public

Siddhartha has now been with Doc Johnson for 26 years, long enough to see the public perception of the sex toy industry go from perverted pariahs to fully embraced by the mainstream.

“For the first 10 years, I never told anyone what I was doing for work because I was ashamed,” says Siddhartha. She considers herself a sensual person; even for her, however, talking about sex – let alone working in a sex-related industry – was stigmatized.

She was therefore not open to her family and friends when they asked her what she did for work. She remained vague and said “I am an artist” or “I am a designer”, without giving details. Siddhartha also tried to hide when the media were on hand for interviews. Even within the industry, she felt that designers weren’t as well respected when she started.

“But then when things started to get a little more mainstream,” she explains, it became more natural to talk about it. Eventually his work became a source of pride – and caught the eye of the press. In 2017, a picture of Siddhartha at work was featured in a New York Times Doc Johnson article.

“Now things have changed, designers are seen as very important to the business, and there are even famous designers now designing products for adults, and it’s more mainstream,” says Siddhartha. “But I think at that time it wasn’t taken too seriously.”

I reached out to Chad Braverman, COO and director of product development for Doc Johnson, to ask him about Siddhartha and his role in the company. “Siddhartha is an amazing part of the team,” he replied. “She is able to create beautiful, realistic, non-anatomical designs, and she draws inspiration from everywhere. It’s always fun to walk around her office and see the shapes that have influenced her work. She’s been with Doc for so many years. years and is responsible for many of our best sellers.

Siddhartha likes to know that people use his creations for fun. “How many people in the world have been happy to use something that I designed…that I made?” she reflected.

Sex Toy Research and Development

The destigmatization of the sex toy industry isn’t the only thing that has changed over the years.

When Siddhartha started, the internet was still in its infancy, so it was more difficult to research and interact with the communities Doc Johnson was trying to reach with their products.

“At first it was so simple,” she says. “The process would start with ‘Well I’m going to make a 10 inch penis [or] I’m going to do a seven inch thick penis with a big head,” but for the most part they were just guessing what people would actually want to use.

These days, Siddhartha is a click away from all kinds of research and inspiration. She can see what the competitors are doing. She can also go to online forums and chat with people “and really get into the spirit of the market that we [are] trying to achieve,” she explains.

The open access of the Internet today has been a boon to innovation, as having all this information at your fingertips helps Siddhartha improve existing products or identify a gap in the market and create something entirely new.

However, occasionally, especially before COVID, Siddhartha preferred to do her research offline by frequenting Los Angeles-area BDSM clubs and making friends, then asking them questions so she could address preferences. niche.

Siddhartha also finds inspiration for sex toys in the civilian world. Once, a bundle of Christmas light bulbs gave her the idea for an anal beads. Another time, a curtain rod inspired a butt plug. Occasionally, it will incorporate the unique shape of a bottle. Turns out sex toy inspo is in the eye of the beholder.

Siddhartha’s work usually involves perfecting clay molds by hand – she loves detailing clay molds to make them look more realistic, coming up with different hatch patterns to mimic the texture of skin – or creating products from from scratch, sometimes based on photos of porn stars.

Technology has streamlined the process. Thanks to the digital design tools on his computer, Siddhartha has been able to work from home for a bit during the pandemic. She still works with molds, but a 3D printer allows her to make quick changes and modify models faster than ever.

If Doc Johnson’s design team likes one of its prototypes, they’ll send it overseas for a mockup with soft materials. Unfortunately, some of his favorite creations don’t make it to market because they’re too expensive to produce and therefore the profit margins don’t make sense from a business perspective.

But one of Siddhartha’s favorites who did making the Doc Johnson range was a pair of silicone handcuffs. She explained that some people like BDSM but don’t like the feel of metal chains or handcuffs. They prefer the softer side of kink — more playful than hardcore — so she wanted to provide a more accessible way to play with a silicone handcuff design. “They’re sweet,” she said. “You still feel held back, but if you don’t feel safe, you can just pull your hand and walk out.”

Given Siddhartha’s expertise and open and enthusiastic approach to work, it might come as a surprise to learn that she doesn’t usually use sex toys herself. Sure, she’s had a few experiments – but, to her, nothing compares to plain old skin-to-skin contact. That’s why she became obsessed with Brazilian jiu-jitsu because of the “touch, squeeze” and that impossible-to-reproduce “person-to-person touch”.

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