In his old Cedars loft, which was formerly a grocery store — and way, way before that, a brothel — James Nawashi makes rope for a living and has been doing so for years. The rope he makes is specifically used for fetish play; consenting adults bind each other with it for fun and pleasure.
Nawashi, known in the Dallas fetish community as “Dallas Kink,” or “D.K.” more commonly, has been practicing rope suspension and bondage since the early '90s. In that time, he’s done upward of 200 guerrilla photo shoots around the city and started Bondage Expo Dallas, which is held downtown every year.
Business is good. On the morning of this interview, Nawashi and his wife/business partner are awaiting a shipment of 7 tons of jute, the raw material used to make the rope he sells on MyNawashi.com. His rope ships all over the world.
Nawashi is also an avid Dallas history buff and photographer. He photographs his guerrilla suspensions, otherwise known as "hangs," himself. By staging his hangs in public spaces around the city, many historically significant, Nawashi also documents Dallas' evolution with his photographs. He's suspended models at Fair Park, the old Texas Stadium and NorthPark Center, to name a few locations.
Once he even pulled off a suspension at the High Five interchange at LBJ Freeway and Central Expressway. “Eight [police] cars showed up," he says. "Four on the overpass and four underneath, where the [two models] were. It was an adventure. A lot of explaining, ‘This is an art project,’ and they’re like, ‘People are driving by thinking that people are hanging. We’ve had people jump from here, we’ve had people die here.’ And we’re like, ‘It’s just an art project.’ They’re like, ‘OK, are you done?’ I said, ‘Well, we were gonna ... yeah, we’re done.’"
There have been a lot of close calls, but he says security personnel and drunks have posed way more of a hindrance to his photo shoots than Dallas police. One of the officers offered Nawashi and the models a ride back to where they were parked. Once they got back to their car, Nawashi asked the officer for a favor: “Could I take a picture of [one of the models] tied up in front of your car?”
Surprisingly, she accommodated the request. “She was like, ‘Yeah, that’s fine,' so I take a picture of [the model] and [the officer] says, 'I’ll get in the picture!'” he says. "I was like, ‘Awesome!’ I ended up posting that picture but cropped out the cop's head just to play nice because I don't know that she really ... knew what she was getting into.”
Nawashi insists his photos aren't just ego-driven self-marketing, or even hobbyist snapshots. One of his primary motivations is to engage the city and its history with his rope suspensions. “One of the places I really feel connected to is Sylvan Avenue bridge,” he says. “I’ve done several suspensions there. It’s just a location that provides you with a great view of the city.”
Often the process of selecting a location for suspension is collaborative. “A lot of the knowledge I gain about the city comes from the models, and especially Laura [Ostteen]," says Nawashi. "She’s such a history hound. Any place we go you know she's usually got some sort of fun fact and trivia about the place."
Nawashi says that even in conservative Dallas, he sees bondage becoming more mainstream. "Everybody has their own view of how weird and and kinky things are, but it does feel like it's becoming more accepted. Fifty Shades of Grey and that kind of stuff. If nothing else it desensitizes people some, so it’s not quite so shocking.”
Nawashi encourages anyone who's curious about rope suspension to check out Dallas' bondage community. “If anyone wants to learn rope they should know that there is opportunity," he says. "It's a very rich rope community. There are tons of people who not only are really good at tying, but who are also really good at teaching, and then tons of other people who just have a passion for bondage, who will share what they know.”
Although bondage may still be perceived as a “deviant art,” Nawashi thinks that label might not be an entirely bad thing. “If everybody was kinky, then what would kinky be?”
Check out Alex Wagner's video below, to see Nawashi suspend Laura Ostteen from the Sylvan Avenue Bridge.
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