Seemingly every single day in Toronto, someone is hit by a car. Careless driving is so commonplace it barely makes the news anymore. We are a city divided, by pedestrians and drivers, by roadways and bike lanes. The gutwrenching trauma that unfolds after an ‘accident’ like Julia’s creates a ripple for everyone in its path. But in the years since her accident, Julia Cawse has found her new calling.
The TMU Grad was living life to the fullest, working as a live-in nanny in Toronto, and settling into her life post-grad as an early childhood educator. Relying on her bicycle as her main mode of transportation, as many others living downtown do, Julia was struck by a reckless driver in the early morning hours of October 2018.
Her injuries were catastrophic. Julia was in a coma for nine weeks. Her body was left mangled by the speeding driver. Several internal injuries caused an array of permanent challenges. She suffered many broken bones and was left with no mobility in her legs, and minimal mobility in her arms. Julia remains wheelchair-bound. Through her years of rehabilitation and physiotherapy since she has regained some use of her right arm.
It’s hard to imagine, all that freedom that youth affords us, the independence. Julia’s life changed forever because it’s become acceptable to not care. To speed. To drive unsafe. Now reliant on her parents, friends and support workers, Julia found new inspiration in art.
IN HER OWN WORDS….
“My family has gotten me through this. My parent’s friends have been exceptional. One of my family friends came to visit at this rental place we were living in Toronto at the time. She knew I loved art and was artistic herself. She brought paints, canvasses and plastic apron to protect me. I couldn’t use my arm at the time yet. It was abstract and messy.”
Soon after, Designs by Jules was born. Inspired to create, Julia revels in the process. “If I have an idea in my mind, I just go with it. If it’s crazy, all the better. It’s challenging but fun. I don’t like words for my art. I go to bed and think about ideas, and then I look at images that inspire me,” offers Julia. Using feathers, leaves and everyday objects, as well as traditional brushes and tools to create her art, Julia’s method is joyful. Her colours buzz and pop off the page.
JULIA BRINGS EVERYDAY OBJECTS TO LIFE
Her cards, now available at select shops like The Likely General in Roncy, are charming. Featuring vibrant and cheerful depictions of festive holiday spreads, birthday greetings or nature, Julia’s impressive catalogue continues to grow. She credits her friends for helping her create, and their dedication as her inspiration.
“My friend Rachel specifically, I don’t want to leave anyone out but she rallied all my other friends…there was a time I couldn’t move a single thing on my body. I couldn’t move my head. I was still. They would come every night, my parents would be here all day, and my friends were on shifts, there was someone always with me. There was a time when I was throwing up every night, and I couldn’t move. I was very scared I would throw up and be unable to breathe. My friends got me through that. They had to be there for me. Okay, that got dark…(laughs)….
Rachel, organized a GoFundMe. She did that, but she did so much more than that. I’m very lucky, I’m so fortunate, I have great friends and family.”
Julia credits her longtime boyfriend, and co-author, Jon Sufrin for her next project. Based on a song she wrote when she was a child, I Love The Wind is a beautiful book that invites you to take a breath, look around, and get lost in the scenery, even if only for a moment. It’s a book for children, but really anyone can take this cue. A therapeutic approach weaves through Julia’s pictures and words. There’s a lot of joy in her song.
I Love The Wind is out now- you can purchase a copy through DesignsByJulesCards.ca
Interview may be edited for length/clarity.