A seeker’s journey | Documentary Review for Crafts Magazine

A seeker’s journey

George Nakashima: Woodworker (2020) | Documentary by John Nakashima

Reviewed by Carolyn Herrera-Perez

Beginning with a lingering sequence spanning the furrowed trunk of a single tree in the woods, George Nakashima: Woodworker immediately trains our eyes to appreciate its character as the American designer and architect would have done. Overlaid with the voice of the craftsman himself – who died in 1990 – it sets an intimate tone for a personal, two-hour documentary produced by his nephew, John Nakashima, and daughter, Mira Nakashima-Yarnall. Using archival footage, audio recordings and photographs, it takes us on a journey of discovery across three continents as we follow Nakashima on a quest to find his ‘reason for being’…

EXHIBITION | PETERS VALLEY: PRESENT

Peters Valley: Present, 2020, exhibition catalog, cover design by Jordan Ricks (@_voidandnull), curated by Carolyn E. Herrera-Perez. Available at Peters Valley Craft School.

Peters Valley: Present reacts to the past twenty years of ceramic programming at Peters Valley School of Craft. Inspired by the school’s summer-class catalogs that offer many approaches to the medium, this exhibition appreciates a myriad of ceramic-making methods. 29 artists who have instructed at the craft school in the past two decades are in assembly, presenting a survey of work across claybodies, firing techniques, surface treatments, and concepts.

Artists include Posey Bacopoulos, Mary Barringer, Bennett Bean, Jerry Bennett, Ashwini Bhat, Cory Brown, Bruce Dehnert, John Dix, Sin-ying Ho, James Lawton, David MacDonald, Andrea Marquis, Leigh Taylor Mickelson, Maureen Mills, Malcolm Mobutu Smith, Dan Molyneux, Kristin Muller, Seth Nagelberg, Fred Olsen, Lisa Orr, Shiro Otani, Aysha Peltz, Doug Peltzman, Angelica Pozo, Brenda Quinn, Seth Rainville, Kevin Rohde, Jeff Shapiro, and Paul Andrew Wandless.

Curated by Carolyn E. Herrera-Perez. View the exhibition here.

Peters Valley: Present reacts to the last two decades of ceramic programming designed by Peters Valley Ceramics Head and artist, Bruce Dehnert. Inspired by the school’s summer-course offerings and catalogs that share many approaches to the medium, this exhibition appreciates a myriad of ceramic-making methods. 29 artists who have instructed at the craft school in the past two decades are in assembly, displaying a survey of work across clay bodies, firing techniques, surface treatments, and concepts.

This exhibition was to be held in Richmond, Virginia concurrent with the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts conference, an event where many ceramists convene away from home. To keep all safe during the first approaches of this pandemic, the NCECA conference was cancelled and the exhibition was postponed.

Originally, the choice of the exhibition title, Peters Valley: Present felt clever; what with its association to place, time, one’s response to an attendance rollcall, and even the feeling of being engrossed when in the ceramic studio. Now, the show convenes in a different way- not in a physical space but in a digital one. And, despite the associations that one may glean from working with such a tactile, traditional, or hands-on material, many of us ceramists find ourselves meeting and interacting with each other in new digital modes. Like so, the online adaption of Peters Valley: Present has leant new opportunities and meaning to this exhibition. It has invited more folks to interact with the show- much more than what was possible for the original three-day exhibition.

While we look forward to seeing one another again, in-person and on campus; this time has also offered a feeling that being present is not just about the physical presence. Instead, being socially apart can be a compassionate and communal act, offering us new ways to stay connected until the future.”

-Carolyn E Herrera-Perez

UP 24/7 | Object of the Day for Cooper Hewitt

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Jawbone UP Fitness Tracker Wristband, 2011; Designed by Yves Béhar and fuseproject; Manufactured by Jawbone (USA); tpu rubber, steel, electronic components; Cooper Hewitt, Gift of Yves Béhar and fuseproject; 2016-1-1

With changes in digital technology occurring so rapidly, the discreet design of this  wearable fitness tracker may well be forgotten in the coming years. In production from only 2011 to 2014, the Jawbone UP tracked the wearer’s steps, workouts, and sleep rhythms. An innovative product, it was the first fitness tracker styled to be worn on the wrist 24/7. The simple, rubber-covered coiled form of the slim flexible wristband and its later iterations remained unique: Jawbone’s wristband featured no screen. The tracked health data could only be visualized via a smartphone application. After the company wound down operations in 2017, the device’s online app platforms that were once available on Apple and Android smartphones ceased. Without these online features, this data tracker now has little function other than as a wearable accessory.

Jawbone, previously named Aliph, was founded by Alexander Asseily and Hosain Rahman in 1999. The business had early success designing military-grade audio technology for DARPA, the U.S. Department of Defense’s research agency for emerging military technologies. The team then went on to develop products for the commercial market with designer Yves Béhar and his studio fuseproject, who created the sleek and simple designs of many of their most popular products. Their award-winning smart Bluetooth headsets and speakers were the first of their kind, and prized for their design, function, and originality. In 2011, the company pivoted toward fitness-tracking devices and the UP was launched.

UP was Jawbone’s first fitness tracker and was faster-selling than any of the company’s  previous products [1]. Soon after the launch, stories of product failures arose. Water and perspiration could seep into the devices, shorting out capacitors [1]. UPs were breaking, and the product was pulled and relaunched shortly after. The revised model was followed by new iterations, but financial hardships, a lawsuit, and more product failures plagued the company.[2] The firm disbanded in 2017.

Though this wristband cannot function as it once did, the Jawbone UP marks an important moment in early fitness tracking wearables. It reflects a time when fitness tracking was becoming a lifestyle, prompting a need for designs that were not only functional, but also comfortable and attractive enough to wear 24/7.

Carolyn Herrera-Perez is a curatorial fellow in the Product Design and Decorative Arts Department at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and is a graduate student in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies Masters program offered jointly by Parsons and Cooper Hewitt.

[1] Eric Johnson, “Wearables pioneer Jawbone is back with a new mission: Warning you about health problems you didn’t know you had,” Vox, Sep. 26, 2018, accessed Feb. 6, 2018, https://www.vox.com/2018/9/26/17904022/jawbone-health-hosain-rahman-wearables-healthcare-salesforce-kara-swisher-decode-podcast

[2] Emily Canal, “Jawbone, Once Valued at $3 Billion, Is Going Out of Business. Here’s What Went Wrong,” Inc., Jul. 7, 2017, accessed Feb. 6, 2018, https://www.inc.com/emily-canal/jawbone-going-out-of-business.html