Christmas, Bondage-Style

Spend the holidays happily tied up.

Nelson attended and dropped out of the University of Miami, Florida International University, and Miami Dade College. He started going to goth clubs, but tried to suppress urges to spank or pull hair.

He was pretty good with computers, and in 1997 began working for the county as a computer analyst. Then, at age 26, he married his teenage sweetheart, a girl named Sara, and channeled his creativity into making picnic benches for his family. "I was being what everyone else wanted me to be," he says.

A year later they divorced. Nelson began drinking often, going to fetish parties, and enjoying himself. He even spanked a girl — after she asked him. "I felt, I felt, um, intimidated," Nelson says. "I was like, 'Are you sure?' I was thinking, Isn't this wrong? I'm not supposed to like it."

Leidys and Jenica try out a spanking bench.
Ivon David Rojas
Leidys and Jenica try out a spanking bench.
In the wee hours of the morning, in a desolate warehouse, Nelson builds his bondage furniture while smoking cigarettes and drinking Red Bull.
Ivon David Rojas
In the wee hours of the morning, in a desolate warehouse, Nelson builds his bondage furniture while smoking cigarettes and drinking Red Bull.

But he did. A lot. The spanking had nothing to do with sex; it was just, well, pleasurable."It was like I could breathe better," he says.

Still he felt ashamed. In 2003 he married again — to a woman named Marcelle — and quickly had two children, a boy and a girl. They moved into a rental house in Miami Springs.

While fatherhood fulfilled something in Nelson, his relationship with Marcelle soon deteriorated. He realized that she — and perhaps anyone else — would never understand him.

At night, while his wife was asleep, he sketched plans for bondage furniture. There were spanking benches and crosses like those he had seen on the Internet and at fetish parties. He also played around with his own designs for stocks (the kind that clamp someone's head and wrists between two pieces of wood) and kinky sawhorses.

This past August, Nelson went into free-fall. He moved into a warehouse near Tamiami Airport, threw down a futon, stocked the fridge with Red Bull and Lean Cuisine pepperoni pizzas, and invested in wood-working tools. He spent a few hundred dollars on wood, mostly pine two-by-fours, and some black paint and cherry stain.

Nelson continued to work at his computer job during the day, but as small planes buzzed overhead in the night sky, he hammered together the cross that within a few weeks would become his first piece of fetish furniture. He posted it for sale on eBay (of course, he first tested it on a female friend), and a local fetish photographer won it for $100. "I like to say that all of my pieces are quality assured," Nelson jokes. They are also cheaper than some. Take, for instance, "The Spankmeister," a spanking contraption made in western Massachusetts. Cost: $1,000 ($1,800 with brass and bronze hardware).

Soon Nelson built a website to sell his furniture. He named it Azazel's Fetish, after a Biblical angel who was cast out of Heaven. He quickly sold two more crosses and a spanking bench.


Smoke Gallery is a grungy little space on a dodgy street in Wynwood. Owned by tow truck operator Esteban Corbo and construction worker Emilio Remoir, it was recently described by Ignore online magazine as "completely — emphasize completely — oblivious to and independent of the incestuous local [art] scene."

But Emilio, an intense-eyed, dark-haired artist, has known Nelson for years. The gallery owner first saw his friend's work while he was visiting the Tamiami Airport warehouse. "It's the whole Bruce Wayne/Batman thing with Nelson," Emilio says. "He can freak with the best of them, but he's also the kind of a clean-cut buddy you can bring home to meet your family."

So on November 11, Emilio invited Nelson to exhibit four of his pieces at Smoke. The gallery owner decided to station the fetish pieces in the gallery's back courtyard and have Nelson whip anyone who was willing to submit during the November Art Walk. "I just thought it would be interesting to mix the art and the fetish," Emilio says. "Fetish is very aesthetic-driven and image-oriented, and so is art."

Emilio, who's a construction worker when he's not curating art shows, also appreciated Nelson's woodworking skills. "Nelson's a very functional guy; he's always like, 'How can I make this piece function better?'"

So the artist donned his rubber apron and a gas mask. Within a half-hour of setting up, women he didn't know were asking him to rope them to one of two crosses and flick the leather tassel at their bodies.

Nelson didn't speak as he flogged a heavyset woman in a white miniskirt, black boots, and a black top. She had never been whipped before, but grinned widely as he cracked the leather whip on her backside.

Between lashes, Nelson explained his craft. "It's cheaper to buy the materials at Home Depot," he said. "These cost $500, $600, even $1,000 online. I can make one for less than $100 and sell it for two or three." He explained how the cross folds for easy storage and how it has a support leg attached to a chain so it won't tip over when someone is shackled to the wood.

As he ran his hands over the stock, Nelson showed off industrial-looking hinges.

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