The first time Molly Freilich tried to make a plaster molding of a Fleshlight, it didn’t go well.
“I was just winging it,” says Freilich, about trying to make an imprint using the popular vagina-shaped sex toy. “I tried casting a Fleshlight so it would look like a butthole, but it went very, very badly. The plaster got kind of up in there. It was not successful.”
Since then, Freilich has made plenty of ceramic representations of buttholes, just not with plaster molds. These days, she opts for hand-stamped images of…well, you know.
Freilich is a Greensboro-based artist and ceramicist who has been making erotic pottery, erottery if you will, since around 2015. The introverted artist found that she had a hard time speaking about sexuality, so after enrolling in a gender and sexuality class in college, she used her studies to broaden her own comfort and understanding of the body. Now, she sells everything from mugs with buttplug and dildo handles to cups with suggestive lips, both of the mouth and vulval variety, through her online Etsy shop.
“I was uptight and oppressed out the wazoo,” Freilich says. “I was doing that work while I was studying. I was able to use that academic foundation to give direction to my curiosity in a safe and structured environment.”
While all of Freilich’s piece are striking, some of the most eye-catching forms include her strap-on dildo mugs upon which Freilich hand alters variously colored dildos into handles for the wheel-thrown terracotta drinkware she creates. They’re artistic for sure, but also meant to be functional, she says.
“Ceramics is pretty approachable,” the artist says. “It’s not meant to be shocking in any way. It’s not meant to be repulsive. I hope it lets folks be curious to come and take a peek at it, maybe pick it up.”
Still, she says she has gotten some pushback at local events where she’s sold her pottery before.
“We’re in the Bible Belt for sure, and I think there’s a lot of people who have this concept of what ‘family-friendly’ is,” Freilich says. “I’m really not a fan of the thinking that anything is inappropriate when it comes to bodies. It shuts down the entire conversation.”
Instead, Freilich says that being open about sexuality and our bodies creates dialogue about complex issues surrounding consent and bodily autonomy that are important for all people, even children, to understand.
“The way that people try to shut it down the most is by saying, ‘What if kids see it?’” she says. “And No. 1, a kid is probably not going to be able to recognize a buttplug, and there’s a separation between sexuality and harm. And what kid do you know that doesn’t know that penises exist? Little kids are fascinated with buttholes. Kids know that these things exist…. If you’re taking your kid to a fine-arts museum, they’ve probably seen naked people and that is no more harmful than somebody else’s pottery…. A boob vase is not going to do anything to anybody.”
While Freilich has a very open approach to sexuality now, she admits that it took her a while to get to that place personally. She says when she first moved from her native Pennsylvania to North Carolina for college, she felt uncomfortable being naked. So, what did she do?
“I started doing nude modeling,” she says. “It was very scary…. But it was just getting in my way as a whole. I was very uncomfortable with myself physically so that was one of the most solid steps that I took. I still do that now. It was necessary but very alarming at the time.”
Freilich says this incredibly stressful form of exposure therapy helped her become more open to talking about bodies which translates into her work.
“What I’m thinking about when I’m making them is that bodies are super cool and nothing to be ashamed of,” Freilich says. “Sexuality looks like a lot of different things, and that’s a great thing that is perfectly fine to be curious about.”
And for those that are still opposed to seeing dildos on mugs?
“I’m not going to stop making them, so it’s kind of a lost cause,” she says.