caitlin rose sweet: queering the pipe

The ideal situation for smoking from a Caitlin Rose Sweet piece must be at the birthday brunch she throws for herself every year. When I ask her about it in our interview, she tells me the event is called Blunts and Babes and that may be all you need to get an idea of its vibe. There are copious babes in femme finery, cannabis cupcakes and cannabis cakes, Sweet’s intrepid Chihuahua duo yapping at people who pass down the hallway outside her apartment, and a general sense of women and queer people caring for themselves, a moment of stoned joy in honor of having survived one more year on earth. “Just super extra,” Caitlin calls it. “Weed provides the temporal shift from the drag of patriarchy.”

Her ceramic pipes fit with this portrayal of the legendary brunch; they make it hard not to celebrate life. She has made frilly vulvar one-hitters and bulbous little breasts whose nipples form a perfect carb or mouthpiece. In Sweet’s catalogue is a cunning “BFF” partner pipe, a U-shaped rack that allows for the somatic sensation of smoking cheek-to-cheek with a beloved. “I used to be a massage therapist and I was helping people feel at ease with and in their bodies,” says Sweet. “I am still doing that, but now I am making objects that people use to help them feel better.”

Sweet’s Ohioan, back-to-the-earth hippie father was a glassblower, and she earned her MFA from a Bauhaus-inspired art school-craft school joint program in Portland, Oregon that taught students to erase traditional conceptual barriers of creativity. She had long been interested in ceramics, but shied away from their pottery wheel and teapot spout-centered degree programs. “I don’t make pottery,” Sweet says. “I make complicated, conceptual, thoughtful ceramic sculptures that live in boxes.” Then one day, she made herself a pipe shaped like a finger.

Sweet considers marijuana to be a “huge” part of her life. She is the founder of High Femmes, a thriving Facebook group where femmes of all genders post sensual selfies of themselves toking. Having long lived with IBS, chronic pain, and insomnia, she finds the medicinal aspect of weed to be a point of fact. With the birth of the finger pipe, she had made a comforting, body-positive device that delivered her medicine. Something clicked.

Contrast the pipes’ compact, postal service-friendly heft with the other end of Sweet’s practice; consuming installations that recreate the feminine energies of Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights.” These are tableaus of ceramic, crooked fingers thrust through the hoops of jewelry and anemone orifices cast into a sea of soft, braided textile. From pipes to fabric cradles, her work is full of assuring, feminist creations. But Sweet’s smoking devices, incense, and copal holders have become her mainstays, occupying every nook and cranny of her living space as they await shipment to a far-flung customer base. Years after the creation of that first finger, the artist considers her pipes the accessible end of her practice’s continuum. They are her “conceptual crafts.”

For a long time, the people who purchased Sweet’s works were friends, friends of friends, her extended queer family. But now her network, along with the larger marijuana industry despite rumors of looming federal intervention, is growing by leaps and bounds. Orders come from the unknown, wider world as state-by-state legalization expands the pool of people willing to invest in their weed vessels. Sweet says she is excited to be a part of an industry that includes many woman-, people-of-color-, and queer-centric projects—the designers of the Stonedware Company, LA’s Zen and Kush event series, Seattle’s Women Weed Wifi, Oakland’s Hood Incubator, and ikebana editorialists Broccoli Magazine, to name a few of those that she shouts out.

Of course, greater visibility on the internet comes with its challenges, opportunities to have one’s message heard in an erroneous, fractured way. “My person is about amplifying the voices of women and queers and disrupting the patriarchy and heteronormativity,” clarifies Sweet. In her interviews, she makes a point of emphasizing that the yonic nature of her best-sellers are not meant to imply a trans-exclusionary feminism.

Surely, it is too much to wish for a comprehensive feminist ideology from your smoking device. Sweet would be the first to tell you that her works are simply accessories to a life of joyful resistance.

 

Caitlin Donohue is a Bay Area-raised culture writer with the luck to live in Mexico City. She writes about weed, reggaeton and other cross-border methods of dismantling power structures. She’s on Twitter and Instagram