Every month, Patrick Forrestal and Josh Lingle make more than 400 pieces of glass artwork in a shop just outside Port Townsend. These one-of-a-kind creations aren’t meant to be viewed from afar, but to be handled in every sense of the word.
The two glassmakers work for Crystal Delights, a company that offers glass sex toys and sells to customers across the United States and globally via the internet.
“It is all made with love,” Forrestal said.
Forrestal, a master glassmaker, has been working for the company for the past 18 months, and has been in the glass industry for over a decade.
“My favorite part about this job is answering the question, what do you do for a living?” he said. “That answer is different for different people. It is fun at family reunions.”
Lingle, who is the son of one of the owners of Crystal Delights, has been with the company for the past four years.
The two artists use a glass artist’s lathe to hold the raw material in place, turning it evenly so a propane torch can be used to heat the glass evenly.
Adding oxygen to the propane heats the flame up to about 3,600 degrees, Forrestal said.
The glass rod itself spins in a circular motion as the flame is applied, allowing the artist to create the shape they want, somewhat like a lump of clay on a potter’s wheel.
“Glass is an interesting medium because the raw materials affect the final product,” he said. “Making every piece, even if we are making a similar piece throughout the day, every one really is one of a kind.”
“Glass does its own thing,” he said. “You can do the same thing to it and it will do something different every time. They are all different.”
Despite the delicate beauty of the shapes they create, there is great danger in glass work. Glass doesn’t conduct heat, Forrestal said, but it does radiate heat.
“You are exposed to a lot of that with your face and your hands. Something that comes right along with glasswork is burning yourself, cutting yourself. It is part of the learning process. As soon as you think that is out of your system, you will do it again.”
After the glass is shaped, it is placed in a kiln heated to about 1,000 degrees overnight to be tempered.
Many shapes and sizes
Crystal Delights offers a line of butt plugs, dildos and dilators -- the latter used for medical purposes.
The hottest seller is the plugs, said Andrew Schwartz and Shellie Yarnell, co-owners of Crystal Delights.
“We didn’t start out to be butt plug experts. It just kind of happened,” Yarnell said. They were the quickest and easiest product to start with and were almost instantly successful, he said.
“We kind of just took it from there and have listened to the feedback from our customers and adapted and changed it over the years.”
While most look like large chess pieces - pawns to be exact - others are helical.
Yarnell said that design is meant to prevent discomfort.
“Most people’s fear of a plug is the initial pop of the bulb,” she said. The spiral shape twists in and reverses back out.
While in the past, such items would have been taboo, that is not the case anymore, Yarnell said.
This kind of pleasure and play has become mainstream, he said. “It is nothing to be ashamed of.” From actress Jennifer Lawrence talking about butt plugs on Conan O’Brien’s talk show to articles in mainstream beauty magazines like Allure, stimulation of the prostate is a little more accepted than it once was.
And such toys are not only for homosexual men, Yarnell said. “That is absolutely not the case.” She cites research, found on Healthline and other doctor-edited websites, indicating prostate massage with a plug can decrease chances of prostate cancer and relieve prostate disorders and conditions.
More traditional sex toys also deserve consideration, Yarnell said.
“The majority of your nerve endings run in that saddle shape and anybody who hasn’t experimented with those nerve endings has no real idea of what they are missing.”
Built to be durable
Although Crystal Delights’ sex toys are made of glass, they are highly durable. Yarnell proved this point during an interview by smacking a metal table with one of the pieces repeatedly to show it wouldn’t break. Glass is a favored material because it is easy to clean, hypoallergenic and can be heated or cooled to preference, unlike latex or plastic.
The strength is derived from the type of material used, which is referred to as Borosilicate glass. “It is a hard glass,” Schwartz said. “It is sort of the equivalent of Pyrex(™), although the chemical properties of Pyrex(™) has changed. Borosilicate is probably stronger.”
The tempering process makes the glass even tougher, a process that competitors in the Asian market do not generally perform, Schwartz said. That means similar products fetch a cheaper price. But, Schwartz said, buyer beware.
“We properly anneal all of our products so they are much stronger and much more robust,” Yarnell said. By slowly cooling hot glass objects after they have been formed, residual internal stresses introduced during manufacture are balanced out, making the material less prone to breakage.
The line of vaginal dilators offered by the company was developed with a surgeon in New England who uses the instruments to treat vaginismus, Schwartz said, an involuntary muscle spasm of the pelvic floor muscles that can make it impossible for a woman to have sexual intercourse, to undergo a gynecological exam, or insert a tampon
“Most of these women want to have babies and they can’t,” Yarnell said.
The dilators help relieve vaginismus by progressively dilating the vagina with a series of dilators, each larger than the last. There are currently six sizes of glass dilators offered by the company, which sells them to hospitals, the U.S. Government, and the general public, Schwartz said.
Once the treatment is concluded, the women who have been treated are able to have traditional intercourse and bear children, Yarnell said.
Dilators are offered by other companies, but they are generally constructed of hard plastic, are long and have round bottoms.
“They are not comfortable,” Yarnell said. “With our dilators (patients) found they could insert them right up close to the body. They could wear them long-term. If you are able to dilate longer you are much more successful.”
The dilators can also be used to treat women who suffer side effects of having cancer in the reproductive organs, Yarnell said.
The dilators are also used by transgender individuals who have undergone medical procedures to change their sex.
“They use it to build the pouches they need,” Yarnell said.
Booming internet sales
Crystal Delights recently closed its brick and mortar storefront to focus on mail-order and online sales.“We are most successful doing mail order and we ship all over the world,” Yarnell said. “We decided to concentrate on what we do best.”