Not many know, I’ve been in this hand-made hustle for over a decade, maybe longer if you count my hand-beaded lizard hustle in 3rd grade. I sold these at recess for $3 each until it became so successful that parents complained their kids were wasting lunch money and the practice of selling shit at recess became outlawed.
Cut to now: I may still look 19, but look closely at my face and you will see hard earned wrinkles from all the hustles that have risen and fallen over the years, i.e. when I tried to make/sell honey and goat milk bars of soap that would dry people's hands out real bad. See image below of young CATAPHANT modeling one of my knit headbands in the dead of summer. 2008 was a bad year for Christmas gifts from me.
But over time, I've learned a thing or two about the handmade hustle. When I was a wee young lass in art school and broke as hell surviving off of $700 a month in Chicago (how I somehow managed that is for a future post), I’d scrounge up whatever materials I could find and make beaded hoop earrings to sell on the side for extra income. The only people that purchased these pieces were friends who felt sorry for me, but shout out to the day 1’s, you helped pay my very low phone bills when I could only afford to send/receive 10 text messages per day and only make phone calls after 9pm.
I slowly improved the designs of these pieces and managed to sell enough in one year to travel Europe (still on the most painfully tight budget ever). My final 2 years of art school, I took a soft metals class and learned how to make MUCH nicer pieces out of brass and copper. Still pretty broke and very unaware of proper pricing, I sold these pieces for under $20 (I could have sold them for $80 but we will just crumple up that regret and toss it the garbage) and funded yet another trip to Europe (yes travel!!).
Post-art school, I moved towards using book binding board (essentially v v fancy cardboard) to create, what I called then, “ear paintings.” It was in response to the tiny tiny studs that were going in style then, my LEAST FAVORITE kind of earring. I couldn’t justify purchasing anything that couldn’t be seen through my thick curly hair. Realizing there was a market amongst fellow women who also loathed small jewelry, I made a few big & beautiful “ear paintings,” then watched them sell, very fast. I wish I could say that I once again travelled with the extra money I made. But, well out of art school and firmly lodged into the world of adulting, the extra $$ went towards Sallie Mae. For a couple of years, I pressed on with my high-quality cardboard earrings, continuously working my butt off with a full time job + several side hustles, dumping my extra cash into the jar full of tears that is student loan payments.
Eventually, I moved to Cali and decided to just MAKE THINGS full time. A little older, a little wiser, I had the ganas to adjust my product until it was hella ready to sell. I switched from cardboard to wood (major move) and made a couple batches.
They organically started to be referred to as "CATAPHANT's" since that was/is the IG handle I'd sell them on. When these versions of CATAPHANT's started to fly, I realized that If I consistently made the necessary tweaks, I could combine all the BEST qualities of jewelry to make something truly unique- something that would make me say “HELL YEAH I want to wear that” and not “wait, is this big attractive and colorful earring made of cardboard?”
The all time best qualities of earrings:
-MAKES YOU FEEL BADASS
Finally, I learned how to pour small amounts of resin on wood without poisoning myself to death (safety first! Wear a mask and open five windows). This was by far, the biggest learning curve. Resin is not an easy material, and it's made harder by how careful you have to be with it. It took a couple months to get it right, but boy, IT WAS WORTH IT!
...So, let’s take a look at the current CATAPHANTS:
CATAPHANT’s as we know them now are made of wood, hand painted, collaged, sometimes gold leafed, and coated in eco-friendly resin for durability. The designs are created using elements that feel strong and confident- hard lines, pleasing shapes, crisp edges. I stick to only the most eye-catching color combinations, implementing my background in color theory. It may not be as obvious to some, but there’s certain emotions that are promoted when you combine certain shapes and colors. Using everything I've ever googled about human psychology, I've creating an earring that is guaranteed to make every single wearer feel absolutely and totally badass in every way. Trust me, it's science.
So, where does this leave us? I'm no longer the 19 year old trying to convince people to buy my handmade wool headscarves in the middle of July. And you are now someone who knows all about my handmade hustle history. Go forth with this information, and... get yourself some CATAPHANT's. For those who read through this entire post, the first person to DM me on IG with the word "POTATO" gets a free pair of purple and gold leaf mini-studs =D.