College-level senior projects typically focus on the future career objective of the student who is about to graduate and enter the adult workforce. But for Kent State University senior and Garrettsville native Aaron Cain (JAG Class of 2011), his senior project took him way outside his box and taught him unexpected life lessons.
“It was a lesson on how you can convert something into something extremely different from its original use if you’re resourceful. I think that’s an important skill in life, to be able to use what you have to create what you want by just using what’s available to you.”
An accounting major with a minor in computer information systems, Cain is also part of the honors college at Kent State, and his senior project was for his Intro to Film honors class. He had to write a research paper, make clothing, act out scenes, or do something else related to one of the movies he had watched in class. Looking for something unique that he could create which could be easily identified with a particular movie, Cain thought of the clawfoot bathtub couch in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, featuring Audrey Hepburn.
“This tub is an iconic piece of furniture, and anytime you see a clawfoot couch, you’re going to think of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” because nowhere else would you ever seen one of these,” Cain said.
But he had no background or experience to prepare him for re-creating such a prop from the movie set. “This project is in no way related to my major or minor. I immediately thought, I’m an accounting major and don’t know how to do any of that!”
Cain will be interning at KPMG this summer, which provides audit, tax and advisory services to various organizations seeking financial statement audits and industry insight and perspective on salient business issues. Then he’ll graduate with a bachelor’s degree next December.
After buying a rusty 1925-era cast iron tub on eBay from a man in Canfield for $140, Cain had to call upon family members for assistance. “It was really a collaboration of my grandma Cain, Dad, and I. It would not have been possible with one of us missing. My dad was the guiding light in this project, and we followed a DIY article I found online, but he had me do each step to ensure that it I was doing the work, that it was my project, and that I learned how to do it myself. My dad taught me about the restoration/construction part of it and I had to pay close attention to all the details to make sure it was turning out the way I wanted and similar to the couch in the movie. And my grandma handmade the pillow cases and cushion case with the materials I picked out. I learned about the process of restoring an antique, how to refinish a bathtub, how to sandblast, and how to cut the side of a cast iron tub off.”
“The pillow cases and cushion case were all handmade by my grandma with the materials I picked out (painstakingly, I might add). I never thought shopping for fabric would be so difficult, trying to match colors and textures to the fabric in the movie. I probably spent six or seven hours just shopping for fabric. I also had to make the cushion for this couch from scratch, slowly forming it so that it fit to the bottom of the tub.”
Cain’s professor, Ron Russo, told him this was the best honors project he had ever received. “The idea that I’m an accounting major and not involved in arts or fashion, it was unusual for someone with a background like that to create something like this. Many of the students incorporate their major into the project in some way and do what they know, whereas I did something completely different than what I know or am used to, which made it more of a challenge.”
Cain’s clawfoot couch is on display in the KSU honors college on the lower level until May 8. Cain says these replicas sell online for as low as $800-$900 and up to $2,700. He is considering selling it, “but I may give it to my sister so that I can keep it in the family and maybe pass it down through generations,” he said. “It was a fun project that everyone in my family got excited about, and it makes a great conversation piece so I hate to sell it, but I haven’t decided yet.”
For Cain, “The project was a great example of how someone can recycle materials, an old tub in this case, into something new. Sometimes things just need a little polishing and can be restored to be something useful. If there is one life lesson I have learned, it would be to stay open to opportunities, because you never know where you might be or what you might be doing. I never thought I would be converting a bathtub into a couch my senior year at Kent, but it’s been a great experience.”