Every now and again you find something that amazes you. The first time you see snow. When you realise HMV actually stands for His Master’s Voice. The day you meet the person you love. The moment you comprehend the full splendour of the human vulva.
Seeing Odile Fillod’s 3D clitoris was one of those revelations. Our first thoughts were “OMG it’s HUGE and BEAUTIFUL!”, followed quickly by “I can’t believe half the world has one of these and they don’t even know what it really looks like!” Lost in wonder, we pondered how we could share this joyous discovery with the world. As a society, we are barely cliterate: every kid can sketch a cock and balls, but how many can accurately identify the clitoris? We like thinking by making, so we started building a Twitter bot.
(Did we mention we’re currently on honeymoon? So, this is, like, a honeymoon bot. Or honeybot, if you will.)
Odile’s 3D model is available to download, so we opened it up in Blender and had a play around. Looking for shape references, we also also came across Sophia Wallace’s 2013 sculpture Adamas, and a few other 3D renderings. We decided to create our own 3D model, so we could get a smoother, lower polygon mesh (you can download our model here, under MIT licence!) The initial concept was just to take the 3D object and randomly rotate it, distort the shape a little to simulate genetic variation, and educate the world on the female form.
The problem with this approach is that it looks a little flat. Those glorious curves are difficult to grasp from an unusual angle if you’re unfamiliar with the shape. So we started applying some surface textures, to give the eye some clues about the underlying curvature. A grid pattern was too cold, rough textures looked diseased, skin-like surfaces too uncanny valley. We needed something more… organic. How about textures from nature? Flora/fauna? Maybe we could find something in the public domain? Conveniently, the Victorians loved botanical illustration. The British Library has a Flickr archive of historic illustrations, some of which are community tagged and searchable, such as Flora from the Mechanical Curator Collection. The US Department of Agriculture Pomological Watercolor Collection contains over 3,000 studies of apples, plus a whole bunch of other exotic fruits.
Fortunately for us, these famous fruit fetishists have been dead long enough that most of their works are now COPYRIGHT FREE! So, we downloaded a bunch of botanical studies and started projecting them onto clitorides. (Did you know the plural of clitoris is either clitorises or clitorides? Nor did we!)
A promising start, but perhaps too Laura Ashley. Too “what if Portmeirion made sex toys?” Instead of tiling the prints, we experimented with projecting them over the whole surface of the shape. The result is much more abstract, more surprising.
Pretty cool, huh? We tweaked the shaders to improve the surface finish, and added some shadows to place the object in context. We swapped the genetic distortion effect for a random tweening between erect and resting states. (The clitoris gets erections, guys! Everyone gets erections! High five!)
The next problem was picking a background colour that would work well with every image. We wanted a high contrast palette: Andy Warhol meets Georgia O’Keeffe. We identified a dominant colour in each image, and then automatically picked a complementary colour with matching brightness and saturation.
Magic! A reliable process for generating pleasing images. Now all these beautiful specimens needed was names. Sticking with the botanical theme, we decided to give them proper scientific binomial nomenclature. We found a list of Latin plant names we could clean up and randomise to create thousands of unique names in the format “Clitoris (genus) X (species)”. And that’s how we landed on the project name: Clitoris Vulgaris. The double meaning of vulgar=common/rude seems appropriate for a common-or-garden body part that is sadly misunderstood.
That’s it! @clitoscope is posting a beautiful new species of clitoris each day. We hope it gives you a little moment of wonder at the awesomeness of the human body.