Do you fit in yet? Cat Squires does.
Graphic Designer Extraordinaire, Expressive Artist, Gender Fluid Person, Borderline Personality Disorder Manager, Non-Profit Supporter, Loving Daughter, Proud Mother, Devoted Wife. Depending on which direction you approach Cat, you could try to label them a hundred different ways. They are all of these things – but cannot be fully described by any single one. And they fit in right here at NBCCD.
Having left a previous career as a Child and Youth Care Worker, which had left them drained emotionally, Cat found at NBCCD a new way to thrive. Having a history of using art as self-therapy, Cat was able to use their portfolio to apply for and receive direct-entry into the Diploma in Graphic Design. And they flourished.
Cat says, “I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder a few years ago; also known as Emotional Intensity Disorder, which I like better. It’s an instability in moods, behavior, self-actualization, self-image, and an instability in relationships. The best way I can describe it is that there’s a tiger chasing after me all day long.” However, that diagnosis has not been a detriment to their creativity. In fact, it is those very struggles that give Cat the inspiration and impetus to create.
“You don’t have to wait until you’re ‘all better’ to start at the College. You can’t let the illness stop you, and doing the work can be a valuable part of your recovery process.”
Through past experience working in the field of Child and Youth Care, Cat saw firsthand how non-profits are often unable, either through lack of funding or manpower, to focus on things like quality branding and marketing. Graphic Design skills, to Cat, are an opportunity to assist vital community organizations in doing what they do. As a student Cat has already worked with advocacy organization Reproductive Justice NB on their new logo and recently completed themed illustrations for STU Pride (an extension of the Queer & Allied People Society at St Thomas University). These areas of service are what Cat continues to expand on – offering their graphic design services on a sliding scale based on what a particular non-profit organization can afford. This same “pay what you can” model is what made it possible for Cat to receive some of the therapy they needed for recovery at Family Enrichment & Counselling Service here in Fredericton so to them it’s a way of giving back.
In many ways Cat found a solid foundation here at the College, but in life there will always be unexpected challenges. During their final year in the Graphic Design Program, Cat suffered the devastating death of their mother. Despite that, and with what Cat describes as the unwavering support of the instructors and students of NBCCD, they went on to graduate from NBCCD with honors.
During their mother’s decline Cat continued to turn to art as therapy. One day, while visiting their mother’s home, they found a tiny plastic elephant and the tiny toy launched them into a flurry of creation; spending two full days, morning to night, creating watercolour prints. What began as a Graphic Design assignment would become their first children’s book. So often read to as a child, creating “Theodore the Tiny Elephant” helped them come to terms with the impending loss.
Keith Bowering, former guidance counsellor at NBCCD, provided support to Cat in many situations; advocating on their behalf for extended deadlines, helping them identify areas to work on or simply being a supportive listener. One-on-one counselling, as well as accessibility services, are offered free to all NBCCD students who need it. Individuals who are considering application to the College can even meet with the new counsellor, Brianne Shea, who can advise them on how to excel within their particular set of challenges. Within the studios, Instructors are devoted to helping all students succeed, no matter their makeup.
“I think the instructors that we have in Graphic Design are amazing and accommodating,” says Cat. “In my first year, I was Perfection Patsy. They eventually just got me to relax. Validation is huge, and our instructors are really good at that – at validating what you are capable of and that you are good at what you do.”
Cat attributes being themself as a key part to their success so far; sharing their story, and mental health challenges with friends and even potential employers so that there are no surprises. By not hiding their true face, they draw the opportunities toward then for which they are best suited. “I don’t feel nervous to say out loud who I am now,” says Cat.
Cat is currently working toward a Bachelor of Applied Arts, a degree granted through two years of study at NBCCD paired with two years at UNB. They continue to build their business, ROCKHILL Design Company, here in Fredericton, a community they feel a great connection to:
“The thing is, because this is such a small place, the art is more personal and condensed; creativity is part of NB culture, and art is a living thing here. There’s always something to do, and as an artist I’ve always had opportunities to change it up and express different, and sometimes difficult, perspectives. That’s the nature of creative process and people here understand that.”
Words by Allison Green, Designs by Cat Squires, Cover Photo by Bang-On Photography
- Graphic Designer
- Web/Interface Contractor
- Web Designer
- Art Director
- Freelance Designer and Consultant
- Creative Designers for film and movie
- Marketing Coordinator