Browsed by
Tag: Projects

Design Thinking

Design Thinking


At this time last year, I was relishing in my yearly three-week stretch of being a professional soccer player. That is, from the time my team gathered in late August to the first day of classes the second or third week of September, I devoted all of my time and energy to soccer. Preseason was always highly anticipated for so many reasons, and as a senior, I found myself relishing in my final opportunity.

And yet, with plenty of time to relax beyond the daily training sessions, I cherished the chance to reflect on the summer and mentally prepare for the school year. For my final year at Middlebury, I wanted to have clear goals in the back of my head that would remind me to take advantage of it all.

Peak autumn nearly a year ago in Middlebury

I did not know it at the time, but I was beginning to design my senior year. Goals, bucket lists, mindfulness, and clear intentions all contributed to the road map that I was laying out in front of me.

On the first day of classes, I stepped into my only course not required for my major and minor: Design Thinking. I expected it to be an easy class that I would prioritize last, but as I learned to understand the concept of design thinking and subsequently realize that I was already a design thinker, I found the coursework growing into something much larger than a series of assignments for the purpose of earning a grade – (this blog was a a product of that class, and here I am a year later, still pouring time and thought into it).

As I internalized the design thinking process, I found myself applying it to countless ideas and challenges. It factored into everything from my thesis projects to my job search to my woodworking, and especially here in this space. “I Would Be True” is a product of that Design Thinking course and the ideas we tossed around that classroom. The question: “What would you do with your own domain on the web?” I went through many iterations of designing this site and choosing what kinds of material I wanted to display, and even now, I am still tweaking it to suit my goals – always looking forward while continuously circling back to the original question.

Pawling, August 2017

I occupy a different space (physically and mentally) than I did when I conceived of this blog. This site has served its purpose for me, and though I am not putting the lid on it quite yet, I am thinking beyond this space. My job has provided me plenty to keep me busy, and New York offers endless possibilities for fun and adventure. But I also have new windows of time on my hands – during evenings and on the weekends. I have found myself considering new seeds of ideas, and as I begin to pursue other endeavors, I know that the design thinking process will help them grown. New York is a great place to start anew, and as I enter my first September that will not be dedicated to kicking off a soccer season and heading back to school, I want to keep my ideas flowing so that I remain enthusiastic and creative.

Design thinking, for me, is both a label that I can place on my desire to create and a process intended to steer my ideas into actions. I like knowing that I have it in my back pocket any time I get bored or stuck with something that is problematic. And I appreciate that every idea requires many iterations; I will not always get things right the first time, but I can find joy in the process of revision.

Photography, As It Sits With Me Now

Photography, As It Sits With Me Now

When I launched this blogging project, I imagined that I would be able to create a digital space to stash anything and everything that I was passionate about. Writing has always been my favorite and best talent, so that was obvious, but I left everything else up to the passing moments of inspiration I experienced. I have kept the blog in the back of my mind at all times, and because of this, I know it has affected the way I see the world.

What I could not have predicted as a result of this project was the amount of time I have spent thinking critically about photography. I have flip-flopped with my views towards photography over the past few years, ranging from my seventeen-year-old self who strove to capture as many images as possible in my travels to my twenty-year-old self who rejected many forms of social media and rarely pulled out my phone to take a quick snap. When I was first stepping out into the world on my own, my camera was a way to notice, remember, and quantify my experiences spatially and visually. Later, I became fixated upon a speech by Jonathan Safran Foer, in which he explained to the Middlebury Class of 2013 the dangers of being satisfied with “static memory” – a quick snap when receiving a diploma, for instance – as opposed to “living memory” – which requires an emotional engagement with real life and a knowledge of the possibility of forgetting that memory or having it change over the years. Foer distinguishes between these two types of people, or styles, Both phases were learning experiences for me, and now I think, like anything else, that there needs to be balance and mindfulness in my commitment to photography.

One quote from Foer stands out to me about quality photography: “Clearly some photographs can have tremendous value: those that have the ability to draw us into the experience. These I believe are usually taken by photographers who manage to use the camera to heighten their own presence in the situation. On the other hand, a cell phone photo of someone crossing the stage is a meaningful symbol of the graduate’s achievement and the photographer’s pride and support, but it cannot capture the experience of the day, and more, it detracts from the experience of the day… The more our cameras can do, the less possible being present becomes.”

I believe it is essential for me, and all of us, to continue to ask ourselves why we do what we do. It is easier than ever to snap an iPhone picture, to remove ourselves from the present moment by checking Instagram, or to recuse ourselves from the emotional commitment necessary to achieve “living memories.” But I also see value in mindful photography – not necessarily good photography, but a step above a mindless cell phone snap. My photography has certainly improved due to this blog, and I have enjoyed attempting to heighten my own presence in the various situations and adventures about which I have written through the images I choose to share.

Abbensen, July 2017

Here is the link to my Captures page,
where I have archived my favorite photos dating over the past year.

Endnote: I also learned a lot about photography at Abbensen from my co-leader Luke, who is an aspiring photojournalist and has a wonderful knack to be in the right place at the right time, camera ready. I watched him make photography so much fun, not only for himself but the people involved. He inspires me to keep exploring the art, adventure, and human connections wrapped up in the practice. He also gets photo credits for the cover image of this post. To Luke, thank you.

With Luke at Camp Abbensen
A Coffee Table, A Personal Manifesto

A Coffee Table, A Personal Manifesto


I am done with classes at Middlebury College. It came as a sudden halt to the whirlwind of action that has enveloped me over the past week. For the final class, my wood sculpture course, I was tasked to prepare an object that physically supports my weight and metaphorically supports a personal manifesto.

I am including images of the coffee table that I build, as well as the text of the manifesto that I delivered. The project involved acquiring the pine slabs in Hardwick, VT, storing them in Westport, NY, hand planing, sanding, and staining, learning to weld, and putting it all together. It is an object that I am proud of, and I am sure that it will remain with me for many years. But I will let the table and the manifest speak for themselves.

“Space, as told through pine, steel, fire, and coffee”

Growing up a child in Western Massachusetts and a product of summers in the Adirondacks, Middlebury seemed an obvious choice. Leaving home to go off to college is a leap for anyone to make, but rooting myself in a place so similar to my hometown did little to take me out of my comfort zone. As I settled into life in Vermont, I found it easy to seek out spaces of my own—an early morning run on the TAM, a quiet window seat in Axinn, a weekend overnight in the Adirondacks when I needed to escape. When life was challenging, I could always step into the warmth and comfort of my favorite spaces and take a deep breath.

Now I face a different leap—one that is more daunting and perhaps a bigger risk than anything I have previously chosen. This summer, I will begin a job in New York City and move into an apartment that is three times smaller than the dorm I live in now. It will be the first time in my life that I will be unable to look out my window and see mountains.

In New York, I fear the cold anonymity of being an outsider and the searing heat of living in perpetually overcrowded spaces. I fear slipping into a routine dictated by straight lines and a life where I spend the breaks at my job scrolling endlessly through my phone.

This coffee table is an effort to bring Vermont to New York City; the pine tabletop was given to me by a family friend who lives in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, and the steel is representative of the manmade construction that is New York. The table is my reminder to myself that the intersection between these two places can be a thing of beauty and ingenuity. Though I will not be able to sit in my back yard and build a fire, I can carry with me the creative spark and fuel for adventure that the natural world has given me all my life. I can also utilize my practice of mindfulness and intentionality as I make my space in New York my own. Though it may be small, I can always invite over a friend to sit around this table. We will put down our phones, share a cup of coffee, and make the space grow with every story we share.

More Questions than Answers

More Questions than Answers

Vermont has transitioned from Winter to Spring since I last wrote, and with it, I feel the end accelerating towards me. I am on track, continuing to garner compliments on my thesis progress from both of my advisors and to make time for fun activities on a daily basis, and yet I find myself teetering more frequently than I would like.

Events have passed by in a blur, and I hope to capture the most meaningful snippets in this post. Below are two photos from “Winter” – the first, from my final visit to Craftsbury over Spring Break (I think that brings my total Craftsbury days to five –not bad considering the distance from Middlebury); the second, from the April Fools’ Day snowstorm that dumped eight inches of wet powder on Westport.

Two days later, I was out on my road bike for the first time, and now that it has reached 75 degrees two days in a row, it is officially Spring. When I delineate in this manner, it all sounds so easy. But the first week-and-a-half of the second half of my final semester has been anything but straightforward. My thoughts exist in multiple planes and temporalities, seemingly at all times. Between two theses and their upcoming deadlines, woodworking projects, and the temptation of springtime activities, I have enough to crowd my vision – but that is just the present and nearest future. I am also considering my bucket list items and all of my commitments before graduation, the logistics of my post-graduation plans before I leave for Germany, and finally the reality of moving to New York and beginning my job there. It is not stress that I feel, but rather a desire to not let anyone down, especially myself. Every day that is unproductive or strays from the plan that I outline feels like a blow to this goal.

But I am moving forward, even if I allow myself to relish in long lunches on the Atwater patio, spend extra hours in the wood shop, or drink a beer on a weeknight. And I am allowing three facets of my life to spur me onwards. First, my fingers continue to write. The lulls in motivation to do so are there, but every day I am able to write something, and when I sustain focus, the results are impressive, even to me. Second, I have a new pair of running shoes – The Freedom ISO from Saucony (pictured below). They are the best running shoes I have ever owned, and they will be put to the test in races this spring, beginning with two that I have signed up for at the end of April and first weekend of May. With a spring in my step, I am getting fitter and faster. Third, and most notably, Maddie and I have signed a lease for an apartment in New York. We will be on the first floor of a newly renovated building on 58th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues, and though the space is significantly smaller than our setup in the Townhouses on campus, it will be the first time we can call a space our own. We are particularly jazzed about the location (both of us can walk to work), the tiny-house concept applied in the design to maximize the utility of the space, and the small patio out back for sitting in the sun or grilling on the weekends. There will be many details to come about the apartment, especially as I begin to build furniture for it, but for now, I am thrilled to know that come September, Maddie and I will be settled into New York life together.

Wood – An Excursion in Observation, Practicality, and Art

Wood – An Excursion in Observation, Practicality, and Art

This spring semester, in addition to my theses projects, I am currently enrolled in a class called “Wood in Art and Design.” It is the first art course I have taken since my freshman year, and it is more fun than I could have possibly imagined.

I liked the idea of developing woodworking skills, or at the very least learning how to operate a wide range of power tools, but this class has inspired my not only to create practical and artistic pieces but also to look at wood in a new way. When I go on trail runs or drive through Vermont’s backroads, I am keenly aware of the trees on either side of me, and I am beginning to notice new details that previously went unappreciated.

The range of uses for wood is astonishing if you really think about it. My first introduction to the material was stacking firewood with my grandfather, and I have spent many warm evenings next to the fireplace at his homes. I also know the power of fire out in the wilderness, having practiced my fire-starting skills during countless Camp Dudley hikes and overnights in the Adirondacks. Now I am expanding my abilities and perspective. I recently created a toolbox and mallet for a chiseling project, gifted Maddie a handcrafted cutting board, and completed home improvement projects – redoing my closet at home in Williamstown, and building a deer-fence around Maddie’s family’s garden in Pawling, NY. I appreciated the challenge and opportunity wood presented in all of these cases.

Most recently, I acquired two eight-foot by two-foot live edge spruce slabs from a family friend in Hardwick, VT. I felt a little silly dragging them through the slushy snow and into Maddie’s truck, but they will certainly get put to use down the road.

In applying long-term thinking, I can see myself investing in woodworking equipment and building furniture and developing the hobby as far as I can. I love knowing that natural beauty is always hiding behind layers of bark. Each piece of wood tells a story in its grain, and crafting a piece that is worthy of that story is a fun, inspiring, and unpredictable.