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Plane Piece, Vulnerable Journey

May 31st, 2012

Plane Piece, Vulnerable Journey

by Mary Kathryn Rodrigue

Highly Edited by Nick Rauber

Life is about interaction with people, places, things, and experiences. We often float through our days trying to get to the next step, whether that is with work, relationships, or just the grocery list. Most of our lives are based upon our reaction to a few specific and significant events like our birthdays, wedding day, birth of a child, diagnosis of an illness, and death. We spend a lot of time trying to avoid the latter, yet it is funny how much we do not truly live, because we are afraid of death. But what if we were not afraid? What would you do? What is the next step you would take?

For Kathleen Settoon, that next step was paradise, literally. She was ready for her move to Hawaii with her boyfriend and soul mate. Kathleen was still in the mindset of dealing with a diagnosis of cancer in 2010, along with recovering from a relapse, but she had a choice. She could live cautiously or live freely. She chose to bravely take the next step, living life with her wings spread widely. She received the gift at such a young age, the gift of living vulnerably. Being in her early 20’s, she chose to live optimistically, learning how to purely laugh, openly love, and globally live.

Creating a nonprofit for young adults with cancer was a calling. Several people affected by cancer, including my husband, Drew Rodrigue, who lost his long fight four months after we were married at only 27 years old, closely surrounded me. Shortly after my husband’s passing, my sister-in-law was diagnosed with the same form of cancer Drew had, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Wanting to do something unique, I created a support network for young adults with cancer in the New Orleans area. The idea was simple. After locating four, passionate, like-minded people to compose our board, YATS Against Cancer was born in 2008. We began our grass roots discussions by simply meeting after work and talking about our unpredictable lives for hours. Everything had an unspoken undertone of the opportunity to explore our purpose in life, yet we rarely discussed cancer.

With the realization of something so precious, we were all are humbled by the YATS impact. After our 3rd annual fundraiser, we decided to use the money we raised to give someone a memory that is not obtained through generic assistance programs. We opted for something singular that would personalize a young adult’s individual journey with their cancer experience. We wanted to give someone the opportunity for his or her next step. We decided to buy Kathleen’s airline ticket to Hawaii.

As I stood in line at the Delta Airline counter at the Baton Rouge Regional airport, I thought about all the people calling their families and loved ones before and after their flights. Most people I observed were anxiously excited about their destinations and the opportunities that lie ahead.

Kathleen would use this ticket to board a plane that would bring her to the next step in her journey. She chose paradise and to accept the vulnerability of her plan as it unfolds.

Granting her the plane ticket was the first part. There needed to be a tangible component that would represent all of it, something that represented the journey. At that point, I made the connection to use a well-known local artist, Benjamin Bullins, who I had met through a mutual friend. His business, The Benjamin Collection, has incredible depth in creativity and ingenuity. Ben uses found objects and creates breathtaking artwork that causes emotions every time people see it. I knew instantly that Ben was the perfect fit for an extraordinary gift.

His concept of taking something that someone has no longer deemed beautiful and functional, then repurposing it into something more beautiful and functional is unparalleled. He gives these individual pieces new meaning and purpose filled with importance, resiliency, and hope. Qualities any survivor of cancer or of life in general can relate to and feel empowerment.

His airplane piece for Kathleen spoke volumes just upon first sight. The license plate wings represent the support of machinery that had been to Hawaiian paradise and had traveled back specifically for her. Those plates had scoured the land and journeyed the Hawaiian highways in search of a destination, just as she is going to do. The desk chair leg, which is the body of the plane, could have been from a great thinker that wrote novels about paradise, audited taxes of someone who traveled to paradise, or belonged to a teacher who taught students to believe in themselves. The pressed flowers showed the delicateness of her past. They were beautifully displayed and protected by glass to show the world their elegance and grace. The art piece was summed up by the phrase “Hou Kumu” stenciled on the side, which means “new purpose” in Hawaiian.

In presenting the piece to Kathleen, she studied it intently. She noticed each inch of thought that went into its development. The first words she uttered were how much he “knew her”. The talent of Benjamin Bullins does not just lie in his visible creations, but more in the unexplained emotional element that resides in each piece.

He once told me that he does not like to name his work with anything specific, because he wants the interpretation to be personal for the beholder. However, he is able to make something so intuitive, thoughtful, and graceful without a full analysis of his client. He is a true genius and the pleasure of working with him has been inspiring in itself. I thank him for sharing his art and grace with us. For more information on the work and personal story of Benjamin Bullins, please visit:

Design The Work of Benjamin Bullins

January 16th, 2012

Design The Work of Benjamin Bullins

by Blue on Dec 28, 2011

I’m obsessed with hand made crafts, not only they’re a great achievement for the artist, they’re also a beautiful display element that adds up to the living room or office. Benjamin Bullins from New Orleans is a great crafter and by using old materials, he combines them to create new art and they’re very well designed and very creative.

A lot of his talent comes from the combination of his studies, he studied graphics design, he’s a photographer and also had also worked in construction.

The work itself though not evident, reflects the culture of New Orleans and are mostly portrayed in his music instrumental crafts. I like his work as it is pretty simple, a hat, an instrument, a base, etc. and yet still manages to pull off something that looks very complex, turns out simplicity is complex. Anyway, for more of his work, check his website.

Room of the Day Texas-Inspired Go Big or Go Home Space

January 16th, 2012

Room of the Day Texas-Inspired Go Big or Go Home Space

DiggersList Blog posted on January 5, 2012 Written by Skaie Knox

In a recent trip to New Orleans, I had the honor of meeting designer Benjamin Bullins, a repurposing/upcycling visionary and artist who has shot to the top of DiggersList’s list of favorites. In today’s “Room of the Day”, Ben creates a space that is filled with decor gems and several points of interest, with an “oh-I-hadn’t-noticed-that-before” appeal that’s so big, it rivals the square mileage of the Lone Star state. Speaking of which, the reference to Texas is clear with elegantly hung long horns, a cowhide-covered-Chevy-gate-backed bench on industrial casters and rug, a wire basket with Texas plates side table, and a plethora of found objects from working ranches fortunately no longer in need of such things. Ben’s attention to detail can even be seen by simply looking up: an industrial fan ceiling fan, floor-to-ceiling artwork (an illusional design trick to expand the size of the room), and recycled bottle light fixtures. You might say that when designing this room, Ben used the motto: “Go big or go home.” Yep, that’s exactly what he did.

Whimsical Bicycle Vanity

November 16th, 2011

Whimsical Bicycle Vanity

by Allison on November 15, 2011 in Eclectic Bath

Tossed and found items are repurposed into novel ideas.

Artist Benjamin Bullins gives the old saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” an entirely new meaning. Taking inspiration for a single object, he then uses other materials to build a sculpture that reflects the culture of his hometown of New Orleans. Often his work is functional art, like this French themed bathroom vanity designed around a discarded bicycle. A sleek, contemporary sink rests on a wooden board and is paired with a vintage single-hole faucet – love the porcelain drop handles. The basket is perfect for hand towels. The black and white checked floor tile pattern mimics checkered flags used when the winner of a race crosses the finish line – keeping with the room’s theme, since one origin theory claims the flags were first used in French 19th century bicycle races.

The mirror is another mixed media piece Bullins assembled from a trombone case – one side of the case was fashioned into the top of the mirror, while its handle and latches are at the bottom. A pair of coach lights gives a nod to a predecessor to the bicycle, horse drawn carriages. Don’t miss the semi-mount ceiling fixture peaking into the upper right corner that was made from a snare drum. The original mixed media vanity and mirror were still up for sale at press time. This pair will have us thinking twice before tossing something out with the trash.

Art Work Slide Show 1

January 24th, 2011

Art Prints


October 14th, 2010


The Lifetime Achievement Award for Blues Excellence is presented by the Voodoo Blues Krewe New Orleans Blues Society and is given to a different musician each year. This year's recipient was Little Freddie King, and I was commissioned to design the award. It brings me great joy to receive commissions where I'm given full creative control by the client. I was told to look up Little Freddie King and research his music style and the history of how he became a legendary Blues musician. It didn't take long for Little Freddie Kings music and photos to inspire my design. Right away I noticed that he had a great taste for shoes and everybody knows I love to incorporate shoes into my pieces, so it had to be part of the design. Another important element to the design is the Alternator part at the top of the sculpture which represents a huge part of Little Freddie Kings life. He worked as a bench man at Skeets electronics, working on alternators and starters his whole life. I had to make some reference to that and incorporate it into the piece. The metal armarture that holds all the elements was designed to mimic a railroad box car which Little Freddie King rode to New Orleans, from Mississippi, when he was young. He never left! Of course I was going to add an electric guitar, that was a no brainer. He normally plays a Gibson, so I found a used replica to use. Once I had the main components, I assembled them in a nice composition and finished it off with a few details, like the wood floor and the Fleur de lis. It was a crowd pleaser, and Little Freddie King was all smiles! Can't wait till next year's recipient is annouced.