Knot Your Average
Expert rope maker and Shibari practitioner Master M Hatter gives us a glimpse into this world of artistic entanglement.
For those that don’t know, Shibari is a form of ancient Japanese rope bondage. It’s more literal translation is quite merely ’to tie’. This ancient art form uses nothing but rope and technical knot tying ability to restrain and suspend its practitioners. Far from being limited to Japan this ancient form of BDSM is now a thriving practice all around the world.
With restraint and suspension of the human body being the primary application, it makes sense that the rope used should be of superior quality with a focus on aesthetics such as texture, softness, smell and colour. Fortunately, we managed to catch up with Master M Hatter to discuss how he makes such exquisitely beautiful rope, the writing of his book, celebrity customers and even Brexit.
Is there a story behind your name?
I have always worn a hat, well since about the age of 15. Once in a while, I tried to grow out my hair, and it just turns into a huge afro. So in my younger years, I wore a bowler hat. So Master Hatter seemed a fairly natural name. It became Master M Hatter because I forgot my login on a site I was on some 15 years ago so couldn't use Master Hatter and it became Master M Hatter.
How did you decide to start making your products?
I started off as a consumer. I spent birthday money on hempex rope which when I first started someone told me was perfect (its great for uplines but horrible against the body). Next, I brought from another supplier and the rope stank of JBO (a petroleum derivative). I tried to treat the rope myself and ended up burning it. I tried buying commercial rope and treating it and spent hours and hours, and the final rope was still rubbish. I then brought rope from three or four suppliers before I found a set I was happy with.
Next, I found myself a country fair where they where demonstrating rope making and I thought I can do that and make myself rope! Finding good quality yarn was really tough and took a long time, and the rope making and treatment took a long time to perfect, but when I was happy with the rope, I was making I had some friends who asked if I would make some for them, and bit by bit it became a business.
What are your customers like?
We have a really wide range of customers, our bamboo ropes and clothes are very popular with people in DD/bg relationships and for people who enjoy self-tying. We appeal a lot to pastel goths, and princess, and sell a lot of beautifully colourful rope to people who identify as “alternative”. Alongside that, we sell natural rope which tends to be popular among people who are interested in traditional kinbaku.
What’s your most popular product?
Carebear bamboo Rope without a doubt! Its super soft, and have beautiful pastel colours. It's not suitable for suspension but its great for bedroom bondage and selfie.
What’s your most interesting piece?
I imported some lotus Silk yarn - it's glorious and spun it into what I consider to be one of the most beautiful ropes I have ever made. The raw materials for the rope where so expensive however that it makes it completely impossible to sell it! One hank of 8-meter rope would cost £200.
What separates your products from bigger manufacturers?
We are rope people. We use all the ropes we make, and we passionate about quality. We are not the cheapest supplier of rope on the market, but I think the customer service we give and the work we put into getting things perfect is really valued by our customers.
Has a customer asked for something that’s gone too far?
Because we hand make rope from home, there is a limit on the length of rope we can produce in one run. For shibari the standard length of rope is 7-8meters; however, we can make some of our ropes in up to 14meter lengths. We have been asked for longer, but we can't make them longer by hand.
Do you use or wear your products yourself?
Absolutely! I will only sell a product I am happy to use myself, and I tie every day.
What's a typical day like? What is your favourite part and why?
I get up at 8am, and after a cup of tea, I make rope. Around 12 I am picked up from my family home by my partner and slave Cheshire (I live with my wife and children). We then put ropes into dye, or treat ropes and have some lunch. In the afternoon I normally get in at least a couple of hours tying, on some days its a whole day, or teaching, or filming tutorials for www.mmhrope.com. More tea, and some time spent on Instagram and Tumblr, then finishing off any rope orders and ordering any stock for jewellery. I head back home for 7 pm and dinner and putting the kids to bed. In the evening I review videos of other riggers works, going through taking notes and seeing what I can learn. If I am working on a book, I will do a bit of work on it, and I tend to get to bed at around 2 am. The schedule changes day by day depending on the demands of the weeks and who is visiting.
Tell us a bit about the materials you use and how you source them?
Our bamboo is manufactured for us in China. For a while, we brought bamboo from a reseller in the USA, but we wanted something that was a bit softer, so we contacted probably 40 manufactures and went through samples. Importing in large quantities was a real learning process! Our Jute comes from Bangladesh. We were really lucky to find the firm, and we import a ton of yarn at a time. For Hemp, we buy from Romanian. Our clothing lines are all made by my mother! She is a seamstress by trade and spent years making children clothing so seemed the perfect choice when we wanted to launch a range of made to measure clothes for big kids.
How do you see your industry evolving and what are the most significant problems you see with it today?
The biggest challenge facing us as a UK manufacture right now is BREXIT. We import hemp from Romania, Cotton from Turkey, a no deal exit from EU will significantly impact our costs.
Do you have any famous clientele?
We have a number of well-known clients, the only one that I can name (as she publically posts photos of the rope we made for her is Kelly Eden
What are your plans? Do you have any new products on the horizon?
We are always looking at new rope lines we can bring out - fresh colours, and new outfits. I taught some rope workshops in Istanbul recently, and I may start teaching more. I am a big believer in learning from videos which is why we put out so many video tutorials, but I would like to travel more and get to meet more rope communities.
What has been your favourite moment on this journey so far?
I am really lucky and get to have lots of favourite moments, for me, when someone sends me a picture of them in a dress they have got from me or rope that I have made that's really special! It's also lovely when people drop me a line and say that they have enjoyed one of my books.
BONUS QUESTION: What’s your biggest tip for sexual satisfaction?
Be honest. It can feel really intimidating talking about your deepest darkest desires, but being open about what you enjoy and what works for you, and really listening to your partner is the best way of having a good relationship and great sex!