Italy: known for its style, flair and…sex toys? Silvia Picari from Turin will surely convince you so.
Each one of Silvia’s artisan dildos and butt plugs is truly unique due to their wooden construction. Read on to learn all about it from Silvia herself.
BRIAN GRAY: So who is Silvia Picari and what’s been your journey into the world of wooden sex toys?
SILVIA PICARI: Silvia is a human being, a person who is basically calm and relaxed, she likes to joke, to ironize, to live lightly and reflect on the meaning of things (she’s much more but it is difficult to talk about it in a few lines).
Formally I am an architect, designer, artisan and passionate about product design. I love getting my hands dirty and living creatively makes me happy, so I felt the need to develop a project in which I could freely express myself.
The fact of having chosen this particular trade, stems from personal research on the nature of human relationships and on the importance that empathy and love assume in the construction of a happy and cooperative society.
I wanted to make my own product, I wanted to make it in a craft way to feel in touch with it and give it uniqueness. I wanted to give character and meaning to my work.
I have put together these aspects of my way of being and I have undertaken this new, very personal path.
Your Italian compatriots Persian Palm opted for ceramics for their dildos. You’ve chosen wood. What are the key advantages and selling points of wood as the key ingredient rather than other substances?
I think it’s not a matter of advantages of a material over the other, but rather a matter of personal sensations and tastes.
Each material to the touch, offers different sensations. The ceramic, glass and steel sensations of cold and heat, the stone is heavy, the silicone is realistic. Wood is natural, it is a living and warm material.
The soft warmth of the polished, solid wood, but still able to gently press on the natural forms of the human body, offers intense sensations of warmth and fullness that is definitely worth trying.
In addition, I personally find it beautiful. The veins and shades of color are always different and make each piece unique. Even if produced in series, two wooden toys will never be identical to each other. Because of its unique nature, this material as well as pleasant, dignifies the very act of giving pleasure.
How much support did you receive from friends, family, and business contacts? Is this a bootstrap enterprise or did you look for funding from other sources, enterprise grants etc?
I received and received a lot of support from family and friends. They are my main supporters and advisors and they actively help me when I need it most. Since I started this business, I was lucky enough to meet many people who were enthusiastic about my work and collaborations that made me grow professionally.
Mine is a small craft business born less than a year. I care about the craft aspect of my work, but as with all new businesses, it is precisely when we start that we need more support. I am working to find funding, but I have to admit that in Italy from this point of view, we lag behind.
As well as offering products for immediate purchase on your website, you also offer tailor-made experiences for clients whereby they come to your Turin premises to be directly involved in the construction and finishing of their products. How well is this being received by the media and customers? Is this a growing offering, or is it still quite a small select customer segment?
The tailor-made experience is also possible for those are not in Turin. From anywhere in the world, the “tailor-made” purchase includes a meeting / consultation by appointment that, if you do not have the possibility to reach my workshop, can be at the customer’s choice, by Skype, phone or mail. This meeting is designed to establish a direct contact between the customer and the realization of his personal toy.
This kind of experience is perceived in a very positive way because it makes the purchase a participatory and conscious action rather than a passive exchange of assets. I consider it a fundamental aspect of my work, the added value that differentiates my products from those in series.
According to my experience it is definitely a growing offer and I am working to improve it more and more.
You previously operated under a different moniker. What was the reason for the change of identity? And what was the rationale behind choosing to use your own name rather than a more descriptive, symbolic or metaphorical brand name?
The reason is that the very idea of this project, as I told you before, comes from a personal research path and is strongly linked to my way of being. For this reason, it evolves and changes with it.
When I started this project I wanted to show my products and underline the playful and sex-positive aspect of the design. For this reason I chose an onomatopoeic name, a “vibrant” logo and, in general, a sparkling and colored image.
In the meantime I have perfected my craft skills, listened to tips, suggestions and selected the most interesting shapes and colors to create new models. I acquired skills and awareness, I grew up and I decided that my project had to grow with me.
This new image wants to better tell the way in which my objects are born, from the idea to the realization and to represent that personal growth that translates into the continuous intent of improving my work. Using my name it means to presenting myself to those are interested in my products, by establishing a more confidential relationship and thus underlining the added value of a craft product.
What three adjectives would you want your customers to associate with your brand?
Unique. Because I care to underline the craftsmanship of my products. Each piece is handmade and as such is always different from the previous one.
Ethical. Because it comes from sustainable production and ecological materials. Because the design of products is designed to represent a healthy and positive idea of sexuality and relationships between human beings.
Familiar. Because I like to have a direct contact with people who are interested in my work and my products. I am pleased to inform and advise the customer in buying the product that best suits his needs and make sure that he feels comfortable during the purchase.
A well-positioned company seeks to ‘own’ one word in the minds of consumers (i.e. Volvo and ‘safety’). What would be yours?
I would say that my word is “Love”.
Like the love I put on crafting each piece. Love, empathy and sharing is also the concept that gave life to my products, and an instrument of love is the dildo itself, through which we learn how to love ourselves and consequently also others.
Good marketing is important for any company, not only to thrive but just to survive. What have been your key marketing learning points and observations so far?
Surely I have learned that marketing is very important, but also that there’s a way of doing it.
Personally, I like to think about it as a way to tell the company and its products, to share the enthusiasm and passion behind the realization of each toy.
I don’t agree with aggressive marketing made of glamorous ads and invasive mailing lists. I prefer the idea of a confidential and kind storytelling, aiming to make people interested on what the company does. Content-based marketing, whose purpose is to establish a sincere and lasting interest from the customers, that respects the intelligence of consumers, involving them in the business experience rather than making them a passive target of announcements and declarations. In this way the customer purchases because he understands the product, appreciates it and shares its value.
What has been your biggest marketing challenge so far, and what steps are you taking / have taken to overcome it?
My biggest challenge is certainly being able to tell and explain my products in the best way.
They are pleasure objects, but they are also wooden sculptures, artistic totems to be exhibited, symbolic objects that represent my point of view about love and sexuality in a provocative and amusing way. They are artisanal objects and as such, the result of an ethical process.
To tell all this, I work a lot on the website, writing clear and detailed contents and updating the photos. In addition, I use social networks discreetly, publishing photos and videos of the various stages of processing or examples of customized products to give an idea about the possibilities offered.
If you could get another erotic brand (whether lingerie, sex toys, fetishwear, pleasure products, BDSM equipment, events or other) involved in a joint marketing campaign, event or other collaboration with yourself, who would it be and why?
I am very interested in collaborations with brands not necessarily related to the adults products trade. I am fascinated by the idea of bringing my products closer to the world of design and culture, for example.
This is not to deny the natural belonging of my products to the sex toys trade but, on the contrary, because I think that this type of objects should be part of everyday life in people’s lives. I like to think that, exposing a beautiful dildo on a beautiful bookshelf, it would be viewed into the common imaginary, as a sign of a peaceful relationship with sexuality and, more generally, of an open and tolerant mentality towards others.
Nevertheless, I adore the experimental part of my work. I like to develop new ideas and products, so another kind of collaboration that I dream to have, is with other artisans specialized on crafting materials different from wood.
Time is our most precious commodity, especially for entrepreneurs. How do you maximise yours, and what tips have you picked up along the way?
For a craft company, time takes on a different value than a company that produces in series. In this dimension, we do not work on quantities, but on the quality of the product. Quality means experimentation, thoroughness, attention to detail. We work on customized pieces and this means listening carefully to the needs of the customer and studying the right solutions to satisfy them. You work with your hands and this can lead to unforeseen problems. For all this, it takes time.
Of course, my week is organized on a regular way. I divide the days between production and painting of the pieces, I have dedicated days for contacts with retailers and collaborations, others for communication and marketing and so on, but if I have to be honest, when it comes to making a piece, I’m so absorbed and involved in the processing that I’m not very careful with the flowing time.
And what do the next twelve months hold in store for Silvia Picari?
I am very positive about next year. It will start from January with a collaboration that fills me with enthusiasm, the one with The Fish & Chips Film Festival – Turin International Erotic Film Festival. The festival, will take place in January from 18th to 21st and, as for previous editions, the third will also feature from a careful selection of films and short films that, as a fundamental requirement, represent sex as liberating and never discriminatory. For the Festival, I will be a technical sponsor. I will make the trophies for the winning feature and short films, a limited edition of pieces for the crowdfunding and a new line of personalized products.
Other interesting collaborations are planned with art and design galleries and a project related to publishing with Valentine aka Fluida Wolf (feminist, writer and interpreter): a limited series of plugs to be attached with the book by Tristan Taormino “The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women “, of which Valentine wrote the preface and edited the translation.
In the meantime I am working on the development of new products, but I don’t want to anticipate anything, it will be a surprise for 2018, stay tuned!
Thanks Silvia, for a very informative interview. Best of luck for 2018 and beyond!
ARE YOU AN AMBITIOUS, MARKETING-LED, COMPANY IN THE SEX TOY, LINGERIE, FETISHWEAR AND EQUIPMENT OR DATING / EVENTS SECTORS?
If you’d like to be interviewed about your entrepreneurial journey and associated marketing issues that will be interesting to the Lascivious Marketing web fraternity, then get in touch!
Until next time!