While the smoke was still thick in the air of her hometown, after working in her home studio for days, Santa Rosa-based illustrator Mikayla Butchart finally had it — a visual representation of the community support she witnessed in the wake of the Oct. 8 fire.
Butchart's design is simple: two hands gripping each other to form a single red rose, as a thorny stem extending below. She put it up for sale as an inch-tall accessory called the “Rose-ilience” pin; the link instantly circulated on social media throughout Santa Rosa, getting hundreds of shares. They sold like hot cakes: Butchart estimates she’s raised about $20,000 in North Bay fire relief funds, all through the sale of enamel pins.
When the Tubbs Fire forced thousands of Santa Rosans to evacuate their houses, not knowing when or to what they would return, Butchart’s downtown home became a de facto gathering spot. She was the only one in her immediate family outside of the evacuation zone. Her house was filled with unpacked boxes -- she’d just moved back to Santa Rosa after a stint in graduate school and New York City -- and suddenly, relatives.
Trapped indoors by the smoke and the desire to stay close to her parents and siblings, she felt useless, chained to her computer, constantly seeking out updates and more information.
“What I was really noticing was how much emotional support people were seeking and offering on Facebook,” she says. “That was what really inspired me, beyond the desire to contribute financially. I wanted to capture that sense of community outreach.”
Over the course of four days, Butchart photographed her houseguests’ hands clasped in different poses, refining her design. It felt good to do something, however small, to stay busy and feel productive.
“I’m not really a logo designer or a graphic designer per se, but I knew I wanted to be focused on the rose as a symbol of tenacity, regrowth and beauty,” she says.
The city of Santa Rosa’s official logo is an abstract swirl of a rose, with three perky leaves beneath the flower. Butchart’s rose is darker, thornier. The hands grip each other sturdily, in a gesture of friendship, without formality.
“I didn’t want it to look too much like praying or a business deal,” Butchart says, “and all of a sudden it was ready.”
Butchart posted the design on Facebook with a link to her Etsy store, writing, “My heart is breaking for my hometown but I’ve been so proud of and anchored by the community outreach and collective support I’ve witnessed... Together we’ll bloom again.”
For Butchart, the positive response has been both heartwarming and overwhelming. “I really only expected to sell like 50 to my mother,” she admits. In total, she’s sold approximately 1,000 pins at $15 a piece; in response to requests, she also has T-shirts, decals and tote bags for sale, all bearing the “Rose-ilience” design. All profits from the sales will be split between Redwood Credit Union’s North Bay Fire Relief Fund, and the Tubbs Fire Victims Fund (managed by the city of Santa Rosa) and the Redwood Empire Food Bank.
Some Santa Rosans opted for a more permanent version. On Oct. 13, Faith Tattoo in Santa Rosa donated their entire day’s earnings to fire relief -- with Butchart’s rose available as flash art. They raised just under $11,000 in one day. Also in Santa Rosa, Glass Beetle Tattoo is inking people with the rose on an ongoing basis and donating those net proceeds as well.
Jared Powell, a tattoo artist at Glass Beetle, estimates that he's already tattooed Butchart's design on 10 people, with more appointments booked. While he's offered other options as part of the fundraiser, 80 percent of clients ask for the rose.
“It's a really solid image that captures the idea of helping everybody out,” says Powell, adding that it works as a refreshing alternative to “convoluted, stupid slogans” popular on social media like “Sonoma Strong.”
“That rose -- it's a little bit of that you're-in-the-secret-club kind of thing,” Powell says. “It's recognizable from across the room, it's strong, and if you know what it is, you're gonna connect with it and identify with it.”
In addition to funds, Butchart’s been flooded with personal messages from strangers -- over 2,000 so far. “I got a lot of really touching messages from people who felt like it was what they needed, some sense of hope and empowerment and solidarity. They put it better than I could put it myself, they articulated back to me what it was doing.”
Significantly, there’s no text attached to Butchart’s design. “Tons of suggestions came from the community to add a hashtag,” she says, “but those don’t serve a tangible purpose in the real world... If I have to explain it, it’s not doing its job."
Based on the rose's popularity, it's been doing that job with flying colors. Beyond the thousands it's raised, it signifies not just recovery efforts in the wake of the fires, but the spirit of the people who built Santa Rosa once — and ideally, those who will build it again.
Find Butchart's Rose-ilience design for sale here.