The girls from Howitt Street are getting together in NYC next month for a bit of a ladies weekend. Thinking about what’s to come reminded me of an article I wrote for a class assignment on one of these ladies. I got a great mark (thank you, Cait), and a suggestion to submit the article to various women’s magazines. I did not. I lacked the confidence. And so, because half a decade has gone by, and I have made a promise to myself to post once a week (minimum) on the Universe and Me, I submit the article here.
Off the Cup: Turning a hobby into a smash hit
Caitlin has a creative side. It involves your grandmother’s teacups and giving them new life as jewellery. The 27-year-old scrounges thrift stores, never paying more than a dollar for a teacup or plate and even takes pieces from strangers and friends alike and turns their heirlooms into something modern and personal. Her now successful entrepreneurship, the suitably named, Bull in a China Shop, stemmed from a combination of factors. Caitlin reflects on how BICS, as she casually calls it, came into existence, “I was in law school and was stressed and preoccupied with life and my parents suggested an outlet: art class. I decided to smash things instead. I always loved teacups but didn’t know what to do with them. I had short hair and had a hard time finding studs and jewellery, so I thought I’d make my own.”
At first, Caitlin did her art for herself. It was her way of balancing the pressures that school demanded of her, “being a lawyer is a sterile profession and it’s an angle to me that is off the cuff.” Yet BICS became something bigger than her art. “The first time I smashed and sanded one down, friends inundated me with compliments. My law friends wanted some. My friend Karen, who is involved in the indie craft world, wanted them, and I realized there was a demand, I realized I could sell them. Remember, I think this is so stupid, a dorky idea.” Yet it was her surrounding network of friends—“women’s responses got me motivated about doing it”—she says, that enforced and reinforced she had come across not only a brilliant way to relieve her stress, but a way to earn money on the side. Her long time friend Jayne thinks, “The whole idea of it is great, a beautiful way for a teacup to live on as something new.”
Caitlin’s first showing of her wares was at Ladyfest, a not-for-profit community-based arts festival for women that takes place globally. With the help of her friends, Caitlin successfully pitched BICS to the volunteer organizers of Ladyfest in Ottawa to obtain a space for her earrings and cufflinks to go on display. Her simple idea of “taking pretty delicate things, breaking them and making them into something useful” drew the attention of a local upscale boutique in downtown Ottawa where she now has a place for her jewellery. With new found confidence and having a fiancé with an MBA working in London, England, Caitlin made the transatlantic move for the summer and set up a booth to participate in Nottingham’s Portobello Market.
With such great successes, and now home in Toronto, Caitlin is completing her Articles at the United Steelworkers Union. Although doing her art at times makes her feel selfish, she would be miserable without it. “It’s in my back pocket. It’s enough of a creative outlet. It’s like a little hug if I get exhausted with this other [lawyer] stuff.”