How it all Started: the Story of Empire Labs
Dr. David Claus, PhD. is the original founder of Empire Labs. He has a doctorate in Chemistry from UCLA, and he was happy to relate the interesting and winding path that led to the creation of a special formula that enables people to mold extremely detailed and realistic replicas of their genitalia. With a family affinity for science and a chemist of note for an uncle who got famous for his magnesium extraction work, there was no question what he would do with his life. â€œIt was just understood,â€ he told me without hesitation. â€œI have a science family. It comes naturally to me.â€
What was your inspiration in the first place for â€˜the special formulaâ€™?
I was in my last year of grad school in chemistry and a childhood friend of mine asked if I could create a specific kind of material for him. He worked at a big film special effects studio at the time, and needed a silicone-like material with very distinct properties. It needed to be something he could use in place of a siloxane resin, that would cure at room temp, in an aqueous mold without shrinking, and it should be able to capture fine detail.
I thought I could help my friend out, but definitely didnâ€™t think anything would ever come of it. I consulted with my chemist uncle and a couple liquid material formulating plants, and by adding an organosiloxane to an existing resin, I eventually came up with a fairly simple but highly usable new material.
We made up a little batch, I gave it to my buddy, and he loved it. I soon began producing it through a plant I worked with, and my friend started buying up huge amounts for his studio right away. He got my name got out to other effects companies, and I was soon selling it throughout Hollywood for use in horror films, etc. My new material also found a place in ballistics gels and auto crash testing. Then, once CGI became a viable alternative to producing actual effects, things slowed way down, and it was back to school for me.
A couple years later, an incidental meeting with a podiatrist led to the development of an orthotic kit. The kit utilized the exacting properties of my elastomer to create a highly customizable, long lasting orthotic. Part of the process was to make an exact copy of the bottom of a patientâ€™s foot. The result was amazingly realistic looking, and that turned out to be the real draw of the kit. Patients liked the idea of realistic, exact copies of their feet.
When did you first get the idea for using liquid rubber and molding powder to make penis replicas?
Word about my kit got out. Cheri Magazine heard about it and emailed me asking if they could get some of my kits for a contest. They wanted to know if they could order 27 kits from me, and if the kits could be used to replicate penises. I customized my original orthotic kit and worked it out so that it could clone a penis instead of a foot.
I sent the kits to Cheri and in the meantime, I decided to put an ad in the back of the San Francisco Bay Guardian for a â€œPenis Molding Kit.â€ Ultimately, Cheri never did the contest, but for me, a company was born. As the business grew, the original penis molding kit evolved into the Make Your Own Dildo Kit. By 2000, there was a big demand in the adult industry for the kit and I was steadily selling more and more.
How did you end up developing the Clone-A-Willy kit?
I developed the Clone-A-Willy kit to appeal to a broader market. The Make Your Own Dildo kit is large and fairly heavy, therefore international customers thought it was too big and heavy to ship. To address the problem, I decided to develop a lighter, more accessible version.
I finished developing the Clone-A-Willy kit in late 2002. I was blown away by the response from the adult market. The Clone-A-Willy opened up the possibility of going broader nationally and even internationally. Adam and Eve put the kit in its catalog and it was the top selling product for at least a year. Clone-A-Willy literally became a phenomenon in the adult industry.
What made you decide to move the business up to Portland?
I met my business partner, Joe, at a trade show in California. We had similar ideas and got along, so we decided to partner. At the time, Joe was based in New York, and I was based in San Francisco. We decided to move because we wanted to be in a city where we could expand and have access to other major business hubs. Portland was the perfect choiceâ€”it is cool, a great test market with the sex-positive attitude here, and everything else we were looking for. After moving to Portland in 2003, weâ€™ve continued to expand and thrive, selling and shipping our growing line of products worldwide.
Whatâ€™s your favorite Empire Labs product?
The Clone-A-Willy. Itâ€™s the most refined product, itâ€™s cool and has expanded to an entire family of products such as chocolate and plaster. This company was built from Clone-A-Willy.
How many times have you used the Clone-A-Willy over your career?
Over 100 times.
What body parts have you cloned with the Clone-A-Willy?
Almost any body part you can cloneâ€”my willy, breasts, butts, faces, ears, feet, hands, armsâ€¦I think the only thing I havenâ€™t done is clone a whole body, but you could do it if you had a big enough vessel.
You say youâ€™ve used the CAW kit more than 100 times â€“ whatâ€™s your funniest mishap?
Well, maybe not a mishap, but we take sample clones to adult conventions to show what the final product looks like; we have a â€˜modelâ€™ penis that we use to make clones for samples and demonstrations. We even do a clonings of the model at the shows. Every single convention we go to, we leave with fewer samples than we went there with. Even though itâ€™s a rule to not take samples from the tables, they always find a way to walk off. I guess our original model should be proud!
I asked for a photo to post with this â€“ something Vintage David and you gave me this fantastic photo of you with a cadaver from UCLA. Everyone I know whoâ€™s worked with a cadaver has named it. What was this fine gentlemanâ€™s name?
I think we called this guy Parker. Story behind it was that he was always being parked in the middle of the lab â€“ in everyoneâ€™s way.
Dr. Claus has studied in a wide array of lab environments, from engineering organometallic and coordination compounds to dissecting actual human bodies. It was eventually revealed that his real strength was in the science and function of polymers.