Vulva-safe homemade paint?
November 15, 2017 11:39 AM   Subscribe

Inspired by the documentary Venus, I'd like to make prints of my vulva (by which I mean: brush paint onto vulva, press paper against vulva, voila). To make this as safe for delicate tissues as possible, I'm curious as to the best paint recipe out there to use. Considerations: viscosity, should be sugar-free, no unnecessary ingredients. I was thinking of either an organic flour/salt/water paste + color, or tempera (egg yolk + color). Coloring agent: beet root powder, carrot powder, turmeric? Are there any better ideas/dangers? I've seen paint that is supposedly safe for sex, but it has too many ingredients for my liking. Thank you!
posted by sugarbomb to Grab Bag (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Gum arabic watercolor medium has a nice texture, is non-toxic, and is also a common ingredient in personal lubricants.
posted by redorangeyellow at 11:56 AM on November 15, 2017

I have used flour paste with food colouring to make palm prints with toddlers. There is no need for salt, it is basically edible food. It stays soft a long time.
Tempera is a mix of egg yolk and oil, usually linseed oil, you shake it in a bottle so emulsifies. Then use drops of it to make paint using pigment (a non edible powder) It dries up rock hard, and quicker than one mght think, as the consistency is thinnish, not a paste. It might be truly hard to get off your skin.
I would use food colors, as even red beet needs to be strongly concentrated and unless you make flour paste using red beet juice as a liquid i suspect it will be to pale.
Also red beet juice will dye your skin.

Before using anythnig on your vulva, try it on the soft inside of your arm \ elbow.
posted by 15L06 at 12:52 PM on November 15, 2017

Here are some recommendations for this project:

Choose paper that is not sized, that is, made for printmaking or Asian style papers. Unsized paper will be much more receptive to the registration, and give a clearer impression.

A fellow graduate student did this concept with a series of acrylic chairs, and the bowl shape of the chair seat made for a very clear impression of her labia majora. Her pubic hair trumped the texture of the labia, in my opinion, which was a shame. The color she used was a white, which made the impression a bit difficult to read for value. Consider the surface you will choose to use for your body, I keep thinking a leather saddle would make a nice surface, or something with a similar shape.

Parchment paper is great for very fluid projects. It's very sturdy, will stand up to water and heat, and will last for many registrations.

Gum arabic is indeed the binder for water color, but it is a sugar, and is used in hard candies. Gum arabic for artist applications has a preservative that makes it not suitable for consumption.

Beet powder would give you a nice red, but it would not be lightfast, so your image would fade with exposure to sunlight. The Celts used indigo a blue for tattoos, but it is also not lightfast. I am thinking carbon, iron blue, or earth colors like burnt sienna would be lightfast and nontoxic.

I would probably use wax as a binder, as it will be receptive to heat and set up as you make an impression. A wax binder would give you a more viscous paint that would be easier to apply to the netherworld. Burt's Bees makes soft waxes you could use as a binder and they would not be harmful to delicate skin.

Makeups are based with wax for cosmetic application. Most makeups are mandated to be non-toxic for facial quality applications.

Baby wipes are great for cleanup. Application with a sponge.

I would test drive a project like this on my elbow crease or armpit before applying it to The Jade Gate.

Best of Luck. Happy to answer additional questions via memail.
posted by effluvia at 12:53 PM on November 15, 2017 [10 favorites]

Gum arabic is not toxic, and would probably be great for this.

Don't use generic paint though.
Individual dyes and pigments in watercolor, and indeed in all paints, can be outright toxic or cause contact dermatitis. The remaining pigments which are nominally safe have not been made with an eye to keeping contaminants out of them as would be the basic practice in food and pharmacology. Or random adjuvants like the fungicide they may put in it but not mention on the label.

The goache and paint made for children with the "ASTM D-4236”
code would be more safe for fingerpainting, but I wouldn't use it around delicate tissues.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:57 PM on November 15, 2017

The tissue that makes up your mouth is the same tissue that makes up your labia, so if you want to test it, lick some off a spoon or something. But I'd be exploring recipes for edible paint.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:00 PM on November 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'd use this. Use the Kool-Aid packets you're supposed to add sugar to.
posted by metasarah at 1:16 PM on November 15, 2017

Do keep in mind many food based or safe dyes, such as indigo or kool-aid, will pretty immediately dye your skin. This may be a neutral or bonus effect (having an indigo blue or bright orange labia sounds kinda awesome to me honestly) but could be a bit disturbing if unexpected. Indigo or henna in particular will take quite a while to fade, even if you clean up quickly.
posted by zinful at 2:04 PM on November 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

For oils, I'd suggest food-grade walnut, linseed, safflower, or poppy. Check with the manufacturer to make sure there's no vitamin E or other additives in it that inhibit drying. Use a gessoed ground and not raw canvas or raw paper.

Wearing a dust mask and after reading paint making tutorials:

For blacks, I'd suggest grinding up vine or hardwood charcoal and then mulling it with a palette knife or newbought glass muller with oils, tempera, or gum arabic.

For whites, food-grade zinc white or titanium white.

For earth colors or black, food-grade iron oxide.
posted by sebastienbailard at 2:11 PM on November 15, 2017

I wonder if milk paint would be appropriate, but if not may I suggest on the hair front: shave. One can always add any artistic layer of pubic hair later with free hand painting and a delicate brush.
posted by tilde at 3:10 PM on November 15, 2017

Addenda on the parchment paper mentioned above: would be the type for baking, available in the grocery store, not the type of parchment paper for manuscripts. Parchment paper for baking has a bit of silica; so nothing will stick to it, and it makes a great surface for mixing and applying paint to an organic surface.
posted by effluvia at 7:19 PM on November 15, 2017

Can you use makeup? Melt & brush on some hippie "natural" lipstick, maybe? It's designed for mucous membranes.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:45 PM on November 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Solid suggestions in here--thank you! I look forward to getting artistic this weekend.
posted by sugarbomb at 3:45 PM on November 17, 2017

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