I sat down with Justin Sayne in his downtown loft during his last week in Los Angeles. He was in the midsts of packing up his shop and moving back to Arizona to continue his work.
anniebear: We’re here with Justin Sayne of Justin Sayne Leather-see what he did there (laughs). So you craft fine leather toys and accessories. You’re pretty well known for that because you use some interesting materials, that being the crocodile skin. Is that something you’ve always worked with or did you sort of happen upon that material?
Justin: I came across that material a couple of years ago at a leather convention in Prescott, AZ of all places. I saw the tales from across the room and I’m like that’s a fetish toy. I wasn’t sure how and I wasn’t sure what, I mean it was thirty yards away and there was a table of them. From great big to small and I was thinking that’s brilliant, that’s the part of the animal that nature intended to be a whip-this is on! Coincidentally when I looked at it I realized I already made single tales in the same fashion out of latigo. Pretty much the stuff they make belts out of. A couple of other toys, little slappers were pretty much the same thing the only difference was the material and exactly what to do with the material. The parts we’re using it doesn’t really matter if its alligator or crocodile because the part is about the same on both animals at that point. I generally use farmed alligators because that’s what’s available a lot. But strangely enough we’ve gotten elephant, giraffe, the list is just so vast of what the exotics are right now and what’s coming. You’ve not seen anything unless you’ve seen an elephant trunk flogger.
Do you have one?
I sold it.
(Laughs) Was the elephant ill gotten?
No no no! They’re farming them and more than that we outlawed the import of trophies so the safari trade died. That’s where all the poaching material is going to anyway. Nobody told mom nature that we were going to quit taking animals. It’s not like we were hunting only the ones-there was still a controlled hunt in Africa. The poachers were taking too many. Well elephants and giraffes breed well. Rhinoceroses not so much, I can’t get rhino. But you tell mom nature that now you need the water and food and space not all of the animals that are but all of their offspring, their not going get knocked off they’re not going to be hunted and thinned out so you just don’t turn up mom nature. Now they’re to the point where the government is paying people to come and take them. On top of the farms. That’s what happened with the lion deal. There’re so many big animals out there this country says I can get more out of this used up lion by taking this animal the other males are going to push further and reproduce even harder.
So when I ran into the alligators, there’re tons of these, there’s plenty of them but not so many that everybody is going to be able to get their fingers on it.
Do you dye the leather yourself or do they come in those colors?
They come in so many colors. Seriously, this mix up in the Middle East has done weird stuff like they’ve been raising sheep and lambs over there for a long time, they still do it by hand. And we weren’t getting a lot of the import export trade out of the
Middle East for a long time so now we’re in a situation where all of these skins have hit the market and not only has it put the Asian, American, South American markets on alert because here’s a whole new continent putting out skin and not only the skin they’re producing now but the stuff that’s stacked up over so many years. So everyone is stepping up their game. The leather is just bitchin’ right now. I can get lambskin that look like a mirror.
Yes, you can see yourself in them.
Do you feel like the flogger and toy market has been more saturated because of that or has it kind of just stayed steady?
Well you’re seeing some of those materials in the custom market and strangely enough its giving us the leverage to compete with the “use it once throw it away” market. Before a guy with an idea and a cute little leather toy really kind of got chuckled at when he said he was going to make a living off of this. These days it may be beans and rice it may be very fancy beans and rice.
Do you work by yourself or do you have friends or colleagues?
Up to now I’ve worked with myself. I’m starting to add others and its kind of odd. There’s a lady from Indiana I met her here [in Los Angeles]. She’s actually looking at coming to Arizona to work full time as well, between the two of us I’ve got more shop space than both of our Los Angeles places combined. Another fella has been adding some support and he’s going to be around a while. So I mean people are starting to catch on and hang on you can kind of tell you’ve got something going when people start to show up.
Right, and support.
As opposed to “hey man high fives can I get a discount”?
So how long have you been working with leather in general?
I started, what is this 2016? I started in 09-10.
Quite awhile then. Self taught?
Yes and no. I had a really good mentor, Debbie and she actually hired me-it’s a long story. She hired me on a whim. I knew nothing about leather it wasn’t even to do with leather it happened to be her show season and when I was done with what she had me do she asked me if I could model a loin cloth. And I’m like what the fuck is a loin cloth. A couple of very uncomfortable pictures later she kind of figured I was a good sport and started showing me what I was doing. The fetish stuff actually came from-it started in her shop and being a single woman with a child in a small town and a quiet leather business she decided it was too much fan for her fire so she taught me everything she could at that time and mostly; 1. Don’t ever turn down a leather worker that really needs something ever. 2. Always teach someone that’s serious about cutting leather, never say no, no matter how much you don’t like them and, 3. Don’t ever make a mistake. Ever. If you break something lay it aside and see what its good for.
Like if you make a wrong cut on something because you can always parts of it later?
Well a mistake is something you didn’t mean to do that means that its different, that there’s potential there, its just not what you need today.
That’s a really good way of looking at stuff.
You see what I mean? It’s not like tearing a piece of paper, something had to die for that. So you make a bad cut you can’t throw it away but even on the floor I just sweep it up, the little tiny pieces in the nooks and crannies. I keep as much as I possibly can. I’ll find something for it. It’s something waiting to happen. Some of my best stuff as far as I’m concerned was junk that was lying around the shop that one day I happened to be straightening up and set them together and go GASP! It happened to me the other day.
My bandana was lying on the floor. I use these for shit. They’re fun. But girls especially are familiar with a nice soft cotton bandana. My stuff is expensive, I’m looking for stuff under $100, stuff under $100 made of leather-people don’t want it. They complain it’s too expensive. You hand them something that’s worth $100 for $50 and they’re like “but this $400 one is so nice.” So it’s a struggle. So I’m sitting here thinking what about blindfolds, what about gags. If you just fold these and sew them and maybe put a leather band around them, everybody knows how to use this as a blindfold, they know how to tie it, its comfortable. Do it a little further and you’ve got a ball gag. It’s beginner stuff, its cheap but they come in all colors. Point is, I’ve had a million of these. But the one that was laying on my table, I was like, look there’s my blindfold. It’s a mistake! I took my thing off and laid it on the table.
And then the idea!
That’s where it comes from. The bulk of what I’ve got that was cool either came from a mistake or trying to right a wrong or trying to fix something I broke. Even the leather convention I was at when I found the alligator was because I made the mistake of actually buying expensive leather. I needed something cheaper. I had to go digging that up. That was the last thing Debbie taught me. Make those mistakes home runs.
Switching gears a little, it seems like you’re pretty active in the LA scene.
I wouldn’t say I’m active. I appear.
You make appearances (laughs). So you hosted the slave auction and you’ll go to the market events with your leather. Do you really go to play parties much?
No. If I’m not working it, I don’t go.
How did you get into the stuff that you go to in the community? Did you just approach people and say hey can I host or did you already know people?
When I got to do the slave auction I was new in LA. I wasn’t even sure that I was staying. I was just lingering. My problem, the issue I had with moving here-there’s business and there’s pleasure and in my situation those too things massively overlap. So my thought was don’t go into a scene (into this scene) expecting to make the money and get the women and not give back. Because that’s really what it comes down to but that’s exactly how these people are going to see it. “Who is this guy? We’ve been building this scene forever. Now he’s going to come in here and earn off of us and get the girls and giggle?” No. That ain’t nice. So before I even busted out a toy or even told anybody who I was I went to the dungeon, I paid the cover I told them what I wanted.
First time I got toys out was in private with the boss. The first time I got a toy out in LA on this trip was out of request in private. That being said, I left those toys in that private room. Went to the club I paid to hang out in. That’s the way it was for the longest time. From those conversations actually I heard about the slave auction and went and begged for the opportunity. I had to straight out explain I’m a retired auctioneer. I’ve never done a slave auction. This was just great! What can I pay, I’ll donate stuff! And they asked me to come back indefinitely as far as I know. Its really just about giving before I expected anything. That’s how its supposed to be. I just got active by just trying to pay some respect before I expected anything and I don’t know if it worked but I tried. I’m sure I got my haters.
I haven’t heard of any haters!
Oh come on, at least one or two?
Ok…I’ll try harder.
(Laughs) How long have you been kinky either actively or just knowing it was within yourself?
My mom bought a strip club when I was fourteen. And I got to work in there
When you were fourteen?
You really got an education.
Yea, I wouldn’t have been able to define kinky when I started cutting leather. I really thought that I was just the naughty black sheep more than anything. I worked strip clubs my whole life. Gotten out of it, got back into it. Actually paid my way to auctioneer school from selling some stock and my tips from Christies. Everything that I did in life was from what I was making at the strip club. By the time I got cutting leather I’d gotten out of all that. My son was around full time, gotten a house in the middle of nowhere, little cottage. I was done. It was actually Debbie that said the market’s down I need for my RenFair material to turn black and have a line of toys so I can just double up easily. She just simply had this theory that the closest thing to RenFair material was bondage material and she would just simply cross over. She thought it would be seamless.
So I didn’t know what a flogger was. She sent me home to figure out a line of toys and I didn’t even know the definition of flogger. You could have shown that to me and I’d have been like oh that’s tickly! Now when I finally started going to parties I realized there’s something to this and where I’m from you don’t hit girls so that was a problem. And I kind of came out of the Phoenix scene and was extremely heavy handed. So you can see that from the toys, I mean they’re brutal. And I can’t say I always knew I was kinky but I do know that the journey when I figured out what kink was on accident, there was definitely a fit there, an outlet personally I had no idea I had an artistic bone in my body. You know the whole artists label is something that I try to shun. But people keep using that word and people could be wrong but I didn’t even know that existed much less creativity. I knew I could get through my life but some of the stuff I’ve seen come off my table I never dreamed of. I didn’t know I was kinky until in the essence of the word until I found a girlfriend that made me confortable. There I was dabbling, earning, designing, providing toys for people to be kinky providing stuff kinky had never seen before and there I was, “can you show me how to use this?”
This thingy I made?
No seriously, I had a string of Doms that would handle my shit and try it out because I had zero clue and had no problems saying so! And don’t want to, go on right ahead. I really didn’t know I was kinky until I was dating this fetish model that she sat down at my table and we made her a toy. And it was a slappy and stingy on one end and had a real thuddy handle and then it had a tickly tip on the other side. And that was what she wanted. She Wanted thuddy, tickly, and stingy. And we went through the whole entire process of custom making something just for her tender little needs. And by the time it was done I was dying to use it and it worked very well. (laughs)
I saw some of your stuff in The Black Room [a fetish leather store] in Vegas. That’s pretty awesome huh?
Yea I love those guys
How long has that been going on?
Franz [the owner] has been supporting me from the jump! That guy, that scratchy old German no matter how pissed off, busy, late, that guy has been a supporter from the beginning. As far as I’m concerned, there’ll be stuff in The Black Room until The Black Room Turns white.
Yes, we actually interviewed Tara while we were in Vegas but Franz couldn’t join us.
She is phenomenal, she works her ass off.
I know they’ve been having a hell of a time in Vegas with all of the drama with the dungeon. It’s a shame.
What’s worse than that, Tara took on that whole entire place so the globe would have an accessible dungeon to come and have and they could fly straight into Vegas. Her heart is in this. If the best place to put that would have been Berlin and she’d have had that opportunity she would have went there. The fact that it’s so easy to get into Vegas from every country on Earth, and just minutes from the airport in a place that size, the fact that she would take that on. The community should have busted their ass to make sure she succeeded, there should have been zero question.
It seems the local community there isn’t unified around any one thing.
I had a club in Phoenix, I don’t know what it is but it’s a real fractured community as well. Not as much now but it was then just like Las Vegas. Somebody new coming up now we’re gonna have a place to play. It’s not that it was up against the fifty others. Here’s a place you can buy a piece of leather you can get strapped to a cross, scream as loud as you want and oh yea if you get here before ten o’clock there was a Greek restaurant in the parking lot. I’d have free night and people wouldn’t show up. Now some nights the place was packed even if it was a twenty dollar bill to get in. When it came to hey lets make sure we maintain this space no matter who’s running it, nope not even a flicker and then everyone will complain that there’s no place to go. Not like in LA where if you don’t like where you’re hanging out there’s three others within driving distance. That has nothing to do with the house parties.
What advice would you give to someone brand new just starting out?
Take advice. We all give it, you should take it. You don’t have to take it and run with it but take notes. Maybe ask around. Take that advice to a munch or a party. Spread it out a little bit, asking will fill someone else’s ears that hadn’t heard it. I mean I could give “play safe” but nobody is going to listen to that. Take advice, We all have some. And as many Domly Doms that are out there that will chuck it out for free, suck it up, take it with a grain of salt if you have to. We’ve all had experiences. We’ve all fucked up, me first. We’ve all hurt people we didn’t mean to. Don’t hang your head and be like “I didn’t know.” We’re not all super Dom or super sub. Don’t be shy about stealing advice, dip into other people’s conversation. Butt in if you have to. I don’t think there’s anything better that can be said.