Leather and Love: Inside the Tom of Finland House With Terry Miller

Watch this exclusive video from the It Gets Better Project and the Tom of Finland Foundation.The influence of Tom of Finland is extraordinary. “You can find Tom of Finland drawings in almost every leather bar, and in gay bars all over the world, “said Terry Miller, model, ToF ambassador, and co-founder of the It Gets Better Project (a nonprofit that uplifts and empowers LGBTQ+ youth around the globe). “It was almost like a code — this is where you’re accepted.  This is where you’ll find a community for yourself.”

To commemorate Tom’s, what would have been 98th birthday, Terry visited TOM House, which has served as a safe-haven for LGBTQ+ young people, artists in residence, and for anyone in search of belonging, to give us an inside look into the 35-year old landmark and to chat about the ToF partnership with the It Gets Better Project.

Terry said:

For years, Tom of Finland’s work has served as a means of connecting people and creating a conversation around what it means to be LGBTQ+. In a lot of ways, it’s very similar to the It Gets Better Project. Just like it only takes one person to say “have you seen one of these videos” and then you go online and you find thousands of It Gets Better videos — there are thousands of Tom of Finland pictures and drawings that tell the history of our community.

Watch more from Terry and the Tom of Finland Foundation in this video premiere below.

Learn more about how you can support the partnership between the It Gets Better Project and ToF.

By Bobby Schuessler

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Tom of Finland

Touko Laaksonen aka ‘Tom of Finland’ is one of the most influential and celebrated figures of twentieth century gay culture. Over the course of four decades, he produced some 3,500 illustrations, mostly featuring men with exaggerated primary and secondary sex traits, wearing tight or partially removed clothing.

Now we are happy to introduce Joakim Andreasson, who has been spearheading licensing for Tom of Finland Foundation since 2014. You can read our exclusive interview with him about Tom of Finland Store, and you will find an exclusive interview with Terry Miller, the official TOM’s Man, too.

JA I first came up-close and personal with Tom’s work in Paris when I bought one of the Taschen book in the gay book store in Marais. I was thereafter captivated – And Tom has been part of my life since. I never imagined that I would end up working with Tom’s art in this capacity – But it certainly has been a sexy ride…

JA Tom of Finland is a very fine movie – I have seen it a few times and have been involved throughout the making if it. Each time I see it I get touched by the bigger picture of Tom’s influence. The positive message of what he accomplished is what keeps us going, and keeps us creative in coming up with new avenues to communicate his vast body of work.

Tom, with businessman and friend Durk Dehner, cofounded Tom of Finland Company, and in 1984 established Tom of Finland Foundation dedicated to collecting, preserving, and exhibiting homoerotic artwork.

TM I really am out there to represent the brand in a physical manifestation. I try to present myself as the confident and sexually domineering guy that Tom made come to life so vividly… and I love it! The reaction has been incredible and gratifying. It’s totally fucking cool for guys to point at me and say, “You’re Tom of Finland!”

TM Visiting the Foundation house and getting to run around it all day and just go where we wanted and explore was incredible. Being able to go to Tom’s room, sit at his desk, hands on the last drawing he was working on at the time. It was like the Holy of Holies for kinky gay men. I was in awe. I will never forget getting the chance to lay in his bed and just close my eyes and think, “What was he dreaming of…?”

READ THE COMPLETE INTERVIEWS AND ARTICLE WITH MORE PHOTOS BY JOSH PAUL THOMAS

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NICOPANDA X TOM OF FINLAND 🌈 HAPPY PRIDE!

WHO’S YOUR (LEATHER) DADDY?

During this month during this year, when social and political tensions are at an all time high, where art is being censored—stripped funding because people fear what consequences may come from supporting someone who speaks out … We couldn’t be more proud to get super queer. To celebrate revolutionary artists and homosexuality. Plus it’s really fun.

Better known under his pseudonym Tom of Finland, Touko Valio Laaksonen is acclaimed as the “most influential creator of gay pornographic images” by cultural historian Joseph W. Slade. Most of Tom’s earlier illustrations were for private eyes, burned after being viewed—works of art that no one had ever seen before because in some places the punishment would be death. Tom of Finland found catharsis from the forced privatization of the gay community with his erotic illustrations, creating a cultural phenomenon just as relevant today as it was then.

The Tom of Finland House (TOM House) sits three stories above Los Angeles’ Echo Park, the home and pieces of artwork within it, have been preserved by its Foundation, a nonprofit organization that’s been protecting and promoting erotic art for over 25 years. We were lucky enough to have the home all to ourselves (things might’ve gotten a little weird, shhhh) and meet up with Terry Miller for a photoshoot featuring Nicopanda x Tom of Finland. Miller might not need an intro, but it’s so fun to write about him, how could we not? Miller is an ambassador for Tom of Finland. Which means he embodies the art, sex, style, masculinity, and cultural iconicism that’s found in Tom’s work. And when he’s not doing that, you know, he’s sitting on the Board of Directors of The Seattle Symphony and hosting gay nights around town.

This is the design Tom did for his Foundation in 1989. TOM OF FINLAND (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920-1991) © Tom of Finland Foundation

In celebration of pride, we present a twenty-two piece “Daddy” approved collection, exclusively available at OC, Nicopanda, and the ToF Store. The tees, tanks and hoodies are filled with Tom’s iconic illustrations, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the Foundation (even better, right?). Below, we get queer with Terry Miller on the significance of Tom of Finland (if you don’t know, this is mandatory reading), pride and why in Miller’s life, it’s always leather weather.

CARLY AIMI: What is your favorite Tom of Finland piece of work and why?
TERRY MILLER: My favorite piece of Tom of Finland is The Hitchhiker. This dude has been the secret man of my dreams since I first saw him in my teens. It’s also fueled an obsession with owning a motorcycle that my husband won’t let me bring to fruition.

In your opinion why is it so important to preserve erotic art?
Erotic art has been around for eons, look at Greek art for instance, there was never a problem or issue with celebrating the erotic as long as it was fairly heteronormative. Homosexual erotic art has been in that zone of seeming less important because of our own minority status. Preserving this art now is imperative to claiming part of LGBT history. No matter how out there, or transgressive it is, we need to preserve and celebrate the works of great homo artists. Etienne, Harry Bush, George Quaintance, Tom of Finland, etc. all of it holds value, not just historic and sexual, but cultural.

There’s probably so many gay teens in rural areas that don’t know about Tom of Finland’s work—How do we continue ToF’s reach and influence across the country and world?
Protecting his value by preserving and licensing his work for good use, and carrying on a tradition of gallery and museum shows worldwide is very important. This is much easier in Western Europe where ToF is seen as a positive figure not just by the LGBT community but he is beloved by straight people across the Nordic countries.

This is why Tom of Finland Store’s online presence is such an asset now. A place to build collaborations with other gay artists and designers, and sell and purchase art by Tom all under one “roof”. It makes sense to see a whole collection of work evolving together and being presented in one place.

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