Less than a decade ago, you’d be hard pressed to find anything remotely reflective of your personality that was worthy of accessorizing your cannabis lifestyle. Tacky blacklight posters, Grateful Dead dancing bears, and pot leaf memorabilia routinely stocked inside Spencer’s stores at the mall were the norm.
But for a punk-feminist-art school-weirdo like myself, it took about 10 years before I found a glass pipe that didn’t make me feel like a reject at a String Cheese Incident concert. Most of my college days were spent dreaming up a world in which I could have a bong elegant enough to sit on my coffee table.
Flash forward to the Brave New World of cannabis culture today—women are driving the market so that collectors now have access to a range of high-end crystal pipes, repurposed antique vases, luxe rolling papers, ashtrays, and glass filters.
Coupled with the explosive new wave of feminism in mainstream culture, it’s created the much-needed space for Brooklyn-based queer ceramic artist, Caitlin Rose Sweet, to develop one-of-a-kind smokable statement pieces with the unabashed feminist in mind.
Feminism, Kushy Bowls, and Cannabis
“When I meet people, they’re like, ‘You’re the pussy pipe person!’” she says. “A lot of people really felt weird about saying the word, ‘pussy.’ They’re like va-gi-na. But they’re pussy pipes. That’s what they’re called. When you order it, you gotta click the pussy.”
Caitlin Rose Sweet, Ceramics Artist
Over the past two years, Sweet has built a small cult following for her smokable lady parts, women symbol pipes, and kitschy handmade items like bootleg Simpsons characters and hot dogs. Diverting from the classic hitters, bongs, and hidden compartment vessels, each handcrafted piece works as functional art that’s designed not only to look like body parts, but to work with it. Her Boobie Bowl, for example, requires wrapping your mouth around a nipple to take in smoke; to smoke the Kushy Bowl is essentially to perform cunnilingus.
“The interesting thing about making stuff out of clay is that I can technically make anything. It’s this engineering of how would you make that? How do you make it functional? How does it relate to the person’s hand? How is someone going to use it? It’s a little problem solving,” she says.
“It’s funny when people ask me about the boobs, and it’s like, well, I’m a stoner. I’m queer. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could smoke weed out of a boob? How much easier would my life be if nipples produced marijuana smoke? It would be convenient.”
Sweet’s Journey to Artistry and Setting Up Shop in Brooklyn
Raised by a family of “back to the land hippies” in rural southeastern Ohio, the self-proclaimed “queer feminist cartoon-obsessed weird girl” says her smokable ceramic business is the most logical outcome of her merged interests.
After spending 15 years on the west coast working as a massage therapist before getting her MFA in Applied Craft and Design, she fell in love (conveniently with someone who had a rent-stabilized pre-war apartment) and made the move to Brooklyn. Though she’s worked with ceramics on and off over the past 20 years, the smokeable objects came about three years ago simply out of personal necessity.
Fidgeting around with clay, Sweet would make faces and decorative objects that were initially picked up by queer feminist boutique, Otherwild. It didn’t turn into a functioning business, however, until about two-and-a-half years ago after making her first custom pussy pipe for a friend’s birthday present. It’s hard not to take notice of a fully splayed labia topping a hitter, after all.
“I think my work and my sculptural practice have always been about bodies; how I feel about having a body, and the bodies around me. So, it made sense for me to make a pussy pipe,” she says. “I just didn’t see it coming where I’m going to be in Brooklyn, managing a small ceramics studio, making feminist pipes.”
How to Craft a Feminist-Forward Pipe: Embrace Imperfections
Working almost entirely without molds, each piece is attentively crafted by hand, from working the figure to repeat glazing, sanding, and cleaning. Because of their one-of-a-kind nature, the ceramics are often prone to imperfections, which is something Sweet embraces and cherishes about her work.
Caitlin Rose Sweet
“I’m not making things that are perfect globes because our boobs are not perfectly round and perfectly symmetrical. They have bumps and dimples and uneven spots. And I am very intentional about leaving that,” she says. “Our bodies are imperfect. And what’s interesting about ceramics is they’re also imperfect. You make these things, glaze them to over 2,000 degrees, and there are so many variables that you’re sometimes like, ‘I don’t know why this brown spot showed up on that white glaze, but it’s there!’”
It’s not all boobs and bowls at the Sweet studio (albeit, just mostly these days). Beyond the pussy pipes, she routinely puts out one-off accessories like alien babe hands that double as incense holders, witchy finger ring cones, smokable swans, and hot dogs, and most recently: her line of bootleg stoner Simpsons gear (my personal favorite).
A child of the ‘90s, Sweet and her two brothers grew up with the Simpsons. And like most people interested in stocking up on female character memorabilia, was utterly disappointed with the lack of swag. Sometimes you’ve got to be the change you want to see, and voila: the bootlegs were born.
“It’s so fucking annoying you can’t get any Lisa or Marge stuff. It’s all Bart or all Homer,” she says. “So, I was like, ‘Fuck it.’ That’s the thing about being a maker. I have the ability to produce things I think the world is lacking. And, being a lady, we need more Marge and we need more Lisa. I’m sorry, but Marge really deserves to get high.”