Hyewon Grigoni created Power Boobies to support her cousin, Mary, during her journey with breast cancer. Now she’s donating a portion of the proceeds to Bright Pink in an effort to educate women across the United States to be proactive about their breast and ovarian health. Check out her Power Boobies enamel pins here and here.
I’ve always made stuff. I think most artists say that. I paint and draw and sew, and sometimes, I get to make stuff for companies and individuals. I know it’s a privilege to be able to live as an artist. The older I get, the less seriously I take myself, the more I love my own work. As a kid I loved Vincent Van Gogh and Marc Chagall. In college I loved Lucian Freud. For the last ten years or so Maira Kalman has been my favorite artist.
My cousin-in-law Mary is amazing. She is super talented, super loving, and also super funny. She is someone I look up to so hard I have to crane my neck. That kind of person. And then, Mary was diagnosed with breast cancer.
I loved her the first time we met. I knew I’d scored in the in-law department. She’s the kind of person who brightens anything she’s a part of. A room, a conversation, a life. She’s genuine, she’s hilarious, you can’t meet this woman and not love her. That’s why it was frustrating not knowing how to support her.
She lives on the other side of the country, but I wanted to do something supportive for her in a tangible way.
I started looking for something to send her in the mail and couldn’t find anything that made sense, so eventually I just started sketching out ideas for the kind of thing I wanted to send her. I wanted to make her something that gave her a sense of empowerment, to encourage her daily; “you’ve got this!” but also something that was a little funny, to give her something light and silly to counter the darkness. It’s going to be a few years before a full recovery is achieved, so I wanted to make something that would last, that she could just have with her at all times, even if it meant just keeping it in her pocket like a secret superhero power kind of thing.
One day I was visiting my mom when I sketched out what would become Power Boobies. My mom is a cancer survivor too, and thought it was a little nutty, but I knew I had made exactly the thing that I wanted to give to Mary.
The process took a while – I’d never designed an enamel pin in my life. I designed it by hand at first, then worked it up on my computer to be able to send the design to a company who could manufacture it. Since I’ve never had someone else actually make something I designed, it was important to me to have it made in the U.S. So I started calling pin shops. But all the companies I called had a minimum order of 75-200. That was a bit unexpected. But I’d set out to make this thing for Mary so I just went ahead and had them made.
I couldn’t wait to send it to Mary. I knew she’d either love it or hate it, and thankfully she loved it. I asked her what she thought if I put some pins on my Etsy site and she said to go for it. I was surprised when people started buying the pins and more so when they opened up to tell me their stories.
It is a huge honor to play even the tiniest part in someone’s life journey in this way.
It wasn’t my intention to make a product to sell when I made Power Boobies. So once they started taking off, I wanted to find an organization with a tangible impact on women’s health. I found that in Bright Pink and wanted to partner with them through Power Boobies.
Women have worn the Power Boobies for themselves as supporters, fighters and survivors. Men and women have bought them for their loved ones who have just recently been given a diagnosis. Last week a woman bought them as party favors for her “Tata Titties” party before a risk-reducing double mastectomy.
I am so grateful to be able to spread a little bit of joy and encouragement to other women in their fight against breast and ovarian cancer.
I know that in many ways, I could have been a better friend and supporter to Mary. But one thing I’ve learned by now is how important it is to be genuine. To show up and show love as genuinely as you can – and as much as they need or don’t need. Don’t be afraid to connect with someone whose situation you might not fully understand. And also offer specific help: something as simple as bringing dinner and a stack of books, cleaning the bathroom, or walking their dog can mean so much. There are infinite ways to show love and encouragement.
Power Boobies started as something small and very personal between my cousin-in-law Mary and I, but it has turned into so much more than that for so many people. I am honored and humbled to be helping women, both by providing comfort and encouragement through the pins, but also by supporting Bright Pink with the proceeds.