Rubbed the Right Way

When you spill something on a couch or a chair made by Sas and Colin Christian, there's no need to worry about spot remover. Just break out the tire cleaner and wipe down the piece of furniture, and it shines like new.

"Actually, we've found that Son of a Gun [brand cleaner] works the best," Sas says in a British accent. "Some of the other tire-shine stuff has petroleum in it, which breaks down latex. Tires contain some synthetic rubber, anyway, so it's fine for that."

If you haven't guessed already, the artist couple makes furniture from latex -- the same stuff found in condoms. Some of the pieces, like a black couch featuring a raised pattern of skulls, are dark and gothic. Colin himself would make a good vampire with his long, black hair and devilish goatee. He dressed as Dracula for his wedding in England five years ago; slender, blond Sas wore a corseted Elizabethan dress. But they don't dwell exclusively on the dark side. Some of the furniture pieces made by the couple are done in vivid reds and yellows.

The Christians, who moved from England to Miami in 1992 and now live in Boca Raton, know all about the properties of latex. They've been designing and making rubber clothing -- the skintight kind fancied mostly by fetishists -- since they began experimenting with latex in 1990 in London. But both the expense of materials and the wet, cold climate in the U.K. prompted them to move to the U.S. "Rubber dries and cures quicker in the warm weather," explains Colin. They headed to Miami because they had friends there.

In 1993 they began selling latex outfits as Hotbox, Inc. Readers of Penthouse may have noticed some of their skimpy rubber dresses in the magazine's photo spreads.

Sas, age 31, and Colin, age 35, still design clothes, and both paint and draw. But they're focusing these days on functional-art furniture. Examples of all of their styles of work are on view in the exhibition "Girls on the Loose" at the Gallery Cafe in Fort Lauderdale.

Colin's movie special-effects background helps in sculpting the latex furniture, while Sas' cartoonish, Japanese animation-inspired images -- mostly of tough, provocative female figures -- are lacquered onto coffee tables and other wooden furniture. One piece, appropriately enough, is a low, octagon-shape sushi table, which will allow its owners to enjoy two facets of Japanese culture at once.

-- John Ferri

"Girls on the Loose" opens Saturday, May 1, and continues through May 31 at the Gallery Cafe, located inside the Chili Pepper nightclub, 200 W. Broward Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Admission is included with club cover. Call 954-525-5996.

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John Ferri