My Bud Vase: Vintage Meets Visionary

My Bud Vase: Vintage Meets Visionary

Doreen Sullivan’s tagline for her company - My Bud Vase - is “vintage meets visionary”. In business, vision is often defined as the ability to see more than what’s in front of you. It’s what separates a mom & pop grocery store from Whole Foods. Before My Bud Vase was founded, her vision of the company began to take shape while she was antiquing and came upon a beautiful vintage vase. She thought “ why not a pipe?”

Creating A Bud Vase

As the name implies, My Bud Vase converts attractive flower vases into water pipes (that can still act as vases). This is Sullivan’s process: while perusing antique stores, flea markets, thrift shops and estate sales, she searches out pieces that speak to her and have a unique personality. She looks for unique colors, shapes and patterns when deciding which vases are worth being turned pipes. Luckily for her, the culturally vibrant town of Charleston, South Carolina - her company’s home base- is the perfect place for finding distinct vases. Once she finds a vase that speaks to her, Sullivan has a friend cut a hole into it and adds a rubber grommet and slide bowl to complete the pipe. Voila; a bud vase! Besides picking the vase, Sullivan’s favorite part of creating a bud vase is giving each one a unique name. Unlike most pipe companies, these names aren’t meant to suggest technical attributes (13” Honeycomb Perc Straight Tube, for example). Instead, each name reflects the “personality” Doreen sees in each piece. One of her favorite pipes was a small yellow vase with a scalloped top which she dubbed “Buttercup”. Another pipe - a large round white vase - she named Georgette.  Sullivan treats each one of her creations as a person, naming them after people the pipe reminds her of. She wants people to have a personal reaction to at least one of her bud vases.

A Changing Culture

The reason Sullivan cares so much about the public’s reactions to her pipes is because she feels that My Bud Vase reflects a growing change in the smoking community. In an interview with the Charleston City Paper, she said that “there’s a need for a paradigm shift”. The smoking community is still primarily associated with college students, hippies and unambitious youth. Sullivan - who’s also the owner and president of Post No Bills, Inc - is none of those things. And she’s not the only one who doesn’t associate with the stereotypical smoker; Doreen based her business model on the fashion brand Annabis, which crafts leather purses that double as stash bags for wealthy women. The founders of Annabis - Jeanine Moss and Ann Shuch - realized that it would great to have a classy stash bag as opposed to unglamourous baggies. Both My Bud Vase and Annabis are built around “creating a lifestyle that’s more representative of the people that actually smoke”, according to Sullivan.

For The Ladies

One of the demographics Sullivan wishes to call attention to are professional female smokers, who are often ignored by the mainstream community. As a woman who smokes, runs two companies, is married, and has several hobbies, she wants to appeal to “rockstar women” (as she names her female customers in an interview with who don’t have to feel as if there’s a separation between their love of smoking, femininity, and success. Appropriately, Sullivan works with her daughter, who shares her passion for My Bud Vase’ cultural goals. Aside from the Sullivan women, My Bud Vase has also reached another influential woman: singer Miley Cyrus. In January 2017, rapper Snoop Dogg sent his friend Miley Cyrus a floral-printed pitcher vase that My Bud Vase converted into a water pipe, which she posted on Instagram. Cyrus received the water pipe during a smoke party with her sister and Flaming Lips singer Wayne Coyne. Given that Cyrus is known for her legendary parties, this will more than likely translate into a boost for the family-owned company.

The Future

Sullivan alludes to other celebrities who own bud vases - female and male - who swore her to secrecy due to the smoking stigma. Rather than being discouraged, this drives Sullivan to further work in removing the negative associations people have with smokers. Her next goal is to bring smoking products to the home goods market. She feels that “in ten years...any stigma associated with smoking [will be] gone, and the industry will be a successful outlet for entrepreneurs, artists, and intellectuals to collaborate”. With her past success, there’s no reason to doubt Sullivan’s vision.