A heavy load.



Yesterday we had desk crits in class meaning I had to bring my boxes (still in pieces) to class. It was fine except rather heavy considering its wood. I has two big bags that I lugged onto the subway but I made it to and from school with no casualties to the things I carried.



I set up my “table” For the first time outside of my home. I thought it looked bad since I just taped it together but I think once I spend the time to Flickr together this weekend I can spend more time on sanding and finishing the edges. I was very pleased with the way the size of the table worked out. The proportions are right and it feels right.

As for the critiques, there are always things to think about and aspects that can be done better. One critic lamented that the box may have been better with dovetail joints. What he doesn’t know is the trouble and research I went through finding someone to do that and failing. What it comes down to was time. Also looking for someone here in the city was not easy. What is important to me is that this is something I built myself, with the help of others. I had the first hand experience throughout every step of this process. What I need to do a better job of is explaining that struggle and how all these layers if information come together. In the end it becomes quite the heavy load.


“Step away from the thesis…”

There has been a lot going on in the last couple weeks regarding thesis. I think I have been avoiding posting about it, talking about it, and reflecting about it because it has been a troubling and head-aching process. However, I think it’s now time to talk a little bit about it. Let’s start with today:

    • Today, March 11, 2012, we had Desk crits with Melanie Crean. I have talked to Melanie about my project before so she has seen in through the many stages it has gone through. Her main critique was to think about how my guests and participants will participate in this experience. Right now it is about me. (really, my thesis is about me), but how will these participants add value? She also asked why I wouldn’t do this with my siblings or family. The reason for that being that part of this carrying on of the ritual of family dinner needs to be made with friends, my new family, as I physically move away from my actual family back home. I do get her point about finding a way to have others participate though. The people I invite to these meals are not just my “puppets” allowing me to take part in the act of “family dinner” but are also important and should also be able to take away something or contribute to the experience. Already, I plan to curate the dinners around their own foods and traditions they remember from the past, but is that enough? Probably not. There could be other ways for them to add their own self into this experience. More thinking, clearly.
    • Construction: I have been making a few different prototypes of my new table design—inspired by a japanese bento box for the versatility as an object to carry foods, but also be easily transported. I have come up with a few designs, and redesigns over the last week and a half, and finally settled on having some notches in the sides to have a stable structure. However, I recently found out that the lazer cutter at school I planned to make this with is not working, and may not be up and running for another week. I took a trip to the woodshop at school, by suggestion from the laser cutter technicians, to talk about possibly just using hand tools to make my box. The guy there told me that it is totally possible to just make a box, but then the cons would be that I would lose the possibility of etching designs into the sides of the box. Is that what I want? No probably not. I could definietly just create a box, but if I’m going to do that, I’d rather use better materials. Leading to the next dilemma.Thesis_BoxDesign


      New Design of the boxes. Puzzle pieces, notched for stability.






Two complete foam-core prototypes. Actual size. When having dinners they will sit side by side and the tops will become the tabletop surface.

  • Wood you know?: So my original plan was to use birch plywood. Found out in the last few days that the laser cutter doesn’t cut 1/4″ birch plywood, but can still definitely etch. I can cut pieces in the woodshop, etch later, but that’s just more steps. My dream wood is something called Paulownia. This wood, known as Kiri, in Japan is lightweight, but strong and often used to make cabinets or boxes. My search for this wood ended a few weeks ago when I couldn’t find any suppliers in the US and online. Everything just looked a little sketchy. Today, I went back to looking for this wood and actually found that it is also commonly used for surfboards. I found a guy in Hawaii, on O’ahu, that claims to sell the blanks. The only problem with this would be that, a) I am in NY, b) his site hasn’t been updated since late 2011, so maybe he doesn’t sell this anymore, and c) it’s on O’ahu. Even though I plan to go back to Maui in a couple weeks for spring break, it would take some thinking to figure out how I could get the wood to Maui. Probably asking a friend to carry it back in baggage for me. I also blind e-mailed some surfboard shapers on Maui to see if they had any idea who makes/sells wood surfboards on Maui. That way, I could possibly get it there.
  • Building: I am also just wondering, since I will be at home, and maybe this wood is also at home, if I could just do it there over my break. That way I will have the tools I need at home, rather than at school. I would have to carry the pieces back with me, but hey, that’s kinda what this thesis is about. It’s about how I am able to adapt and change and work through these challenges.
  • Etching/Designs: I would be open to giving up the etching using the laser cutter, if it meant I would be able to wood cut the pieces myself. If that sounds crazy, I could also just screen print some designs? That’s a possible too.
    Possible design for the outside of the "bento" boxes

    Possible design for the outside of the “bento” boxes


Through all of these problems, I will take the advice from fellow thesis-er Paweena to “step away from the thesis.” Let it sit and remove myself for a day or so and see what comes from it. I know this will work out, one way or another. What will be will be, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Desk Crits: Feedback from Ted Byfield

Today in class we had desk crits. Like an exhibition style where half the class shows there work and the other half plays.  Katherine also invites one critic from school to come around and talk to everyone about our work. That person today was Ted Byfield. Here is a list of feed back I got from class today:

From classmates:

  • Transcribe the recorded dinner conversations. Have each dinner become a book or piece of printed material that stays with the table. 
  • Low table–representing Japanese culture more. Make the cushions and screen print designs onto the fabrics.
  • Web Presence: Have the survey be online for friends to fill out prior to the dinner. start branding the project.
  • The table is an Identity, there are sections for everything and everything has a purpose.
  • sounds, soundscape of the dinner
  • Handles for the sides/different ways to transport.
  • Make the food? Personal thing for friends, more meaning to the project
  • Make an accordion booklet/sketch book that stays with the project for each dinner. Past (my history, history of project); Present (what they write, the participants); Future (how it went, reflection…)
  • Modules or sections so the table can be either high or low, or be longer for more people?
  • Dovetail tutorial online to put the pieces together.
  • The table is my identity.

Feedback from Ted:

  • The dynamics of the conversation depend on the number of people. How many people do you want to have? 
  • Think big, but how big? how many is too many? how many people do you want to have here at once?
  • Are there more possibilities with more people?
  • Maybe it changes based on the environment?
  • Is this an Urban Intervention? A new style to approach design?
  • How do we define this device? (It is an art piece)
  • Affordance, enables you to do something
  • Is this design with a social orientation? enables groups and becomes open source?

With the feedback from my classmates and also from Ted I have some new things to think about. Mainly how to position my project and talk about it to other people so I explain it as an art piece and the table itself being an intimate object that I share with myself and friends. I also think that I will further the idea of making it made for different numbers of people. Also looking in to lowering the table to bring another level of intimacy and culture into it.

More things to think about…

Meeting with Louisa

Today we had individual meetings for writing class with Louisa, our professor.

Here are some things for me to think about:

  • Is this actually autobiographical? I have been struggling with this idea to move beyond myself, but as Katherine, my thesis teacher suggested yesterday, and Louisa again today, maybe it is about me and my experiences, and that is completely OK. The problem is that I need to accept that it is more about a personal exploration and finding conventions to do this to relate it back out to other people if I want to
  • Ultimately, thesis is something I want to do and if I am not being true to myself it will not be successful.
  • “Reclaiming conversation”  is something that Louisa sees as being central to my ideas.
  • Nostalgia, longing
  • Relationship with my Mom? Louisa pointed out that my Mom always comes up in these conversations that I have and in my presentations. My mom has been a big part of my life and as one of the strongest women I know, has a lot to do with the way I was brought up and the values that I have. Maybe she is right and this is about close we are and why that is?
  • More questions: What are the experiences you want to create for your participant? what feelings do you want to elicit?

Related references:

It Takes a Village, by Hillary Rodham Clinton

No longer Bowling Alone, Henry Jenkins

Precedent Map

Yesterday we did work on our precedent map. At first, I was nervous because I thought I had many random precedents that might be hard to link together. I also wished I had more projects I looked at that were not just from DT. But, I worked with what I got and I was able to create a map that can serve as a basis for some different KEYWORDS for my thesis.

My map started in a very constricted form. I started organizing in rows and columns and that did not work well at all. I discovered that I wanted to find more ways to cross reference certain projects because they were similar in a few ways.

The common denominator was a “cultural-historical” category.  From there, I branched out into autobiographical, historical referenced projects, individual experience projects, and collaborative projects. I sorted my precedents into these groups and then started pulling keywords about each that described why I was fascinated or interested in the project. Soon I discovered some sub-categories that I referenced in yellow above the list of precedents. I also replaced the middle theme of “cultural-historical” with “THESIS” because really, that is what this is all about, right?

Working through the process more and developing key words, I started to find some common words that came up. Find those here:

  • Object-oriented
  • Physical + Digital
  • Cultural experience
  • Autobiographical
  • Community
  • Craft
  • Memory

These are the subcategories pictured in yellow:

  • Digital
  • Individual
  • Solution to problem
  • Cultural history
  • Major Events
  • Memory/Past Experience

So, after all that worrying that my precedents were random, disconnected and lacking in quantity for this type of exercise, I did find some important threads. The most important thing is that this can continue to develop as I look for more precedents and start prototyping.

Weather Forecast: It’s Brain-STORMING!

Today in thesis class we did a brainstorming activity. It started with a pen and  a pack of 100 Post-its. This was a very quick brainstorming session and I ended up writing everything that came to mind related to my current thesis idea. My current ideas relate to home and past experiences around the family dinner table. The rituals, the conversations, the feelings and emotions that are associated with the event. However, after looking at my map, I think I might have reached a hurdle I need to jump over.

I started off with “My Home” and moved into “Family Dinners” and types of dinners we have. Things associated to the events of eating and rituals that all relate to my culture.

I then started looking at the “dinner” itself. The act of eating at the table, rules involved, etc.  How does this dinner interaction make someone feel? From this list I noticed that dinner is about the conversation but it’s still WHAT ABOUT the conversation?

Then I started looking at me now. This new space I live in, this new ritual I have of eating alone, far from home, in a new space. What does this mean?

And then what about the patterns that can be seen in these two spaces? Finally I started thinking about the Design questions I am trying to answer. The design problems and possible solutions.

As we discussed, Katherine said “Maybe we are redefining the “new home” and the way people are taking this experience into new spaces.” I like this idea however, I am starting to feel that this dinner/conversation/family theme is becoming jaded in my mind. I need to find what I can do to take this to the next level. Beyond what I already know and how do I search for something that I want to know? But what is it that I want to know?

As I start to think of how I can solve this, or prototyping I get a little stuck. I might want to go back and look at historical context. This is the hurdle I need to jump over.

With all of this I am still interested in the themes of culture, sharing and learning.

Uhh… clearly. still. thinking.