While in New Mexico last week I had the opportunity to visit Parachute Factory, a studio/makerspace I was introduced to through a series of emails with one of its founders, Mariano Ulibarri. Mariano reached out to me after seeing a Skill Exchange poster, photographed by a friend visiting the bay area. We exchanged emails about our work, which eventually lead to an invitation to speak at NMHU, where Mariano is a graduate student in the Media Arts department. The aim of Parachute Factory is to foster collaboration between designers, tinkerers, ranchers, and educators in rural Las Vegas. The minds behind Parachute Factory are up to a lot of playful and tech-based projects these days, including hacker scout workshops for kids and adult workshops.
After visiting Parachute Factory, I am excited to see what continues to grow there in the coming months. Mariano and I have even discussed the possibility of a Skill Exchange + Parachute Factory collaboration here in the Bay Area sometime later this year (!!!) If you are curious about this innovative makerspace, you should visit parachutefactory.org and follow Mariano on twitter @marianoulibarri.
A few months ago I was invited to visit to New Mexico, to meet with students at NMHU to talk about my work as a graphic designer, and as the founder of Skill Exchange. I gave a talk about my work to a class of grads and undergrads, and met with students to advise and participate in a few informal critiques. I’ve spoken a handful of times over the last year with different student groups in the bay area about my work, but this was the first time I’ve taken Skill Exchange out of state. After flying in last week, I split my time between Santa Fe and Las Vegas, where NMHU is located.
I’ve never visited this part of the country before, and while I was prepared for the colder weather and possible snow (it snowed), I was not prepared for the high altitude, or the dramatic change in scenery. I didn’t know what to expect of New Mexico, and although I saw just a fraction of the state, I really enjoyed the stark geographic differences– and the horizon! I have not seen so much horizon in one place in a very long time. I saw a few very dramatic sunsets, and I soon learned that Las Vegas, NM is “Where the rocky mountains meet the great plains”. Mountains in one direction, flat horizon in the other.
A few highlights: Wandering around Las Vegas, staying in the historic hotel where scenes from “No Country for Old Men” were filmed, visiting The Parachute Factory (more on that later), exploring parts of Santa Fe and checking out the Palace of the Governors, and brunch at Pasquals. I now realize my education has a gaping hole where the history of all of the Southwest should be. In elementary-high school school we learned about the early English settlements, a very vague and inaccurate history of Christopher Columbus, and absolutely nothing about the Spanish history of the Southwest. I have a feeling a history binge is in my near future.
I’m off on official Skill Exchange business this week, Flying to New Mexico for the week for a few lectures, meetings, and a whole lot of interesting conversation and connection. I won’t be blogging much this week, except to share the newest Skill Exchange video later this week!
After spending a few days with Intern’s family, we spent the rest of our trip home to Washington with my family on the eastside. Christmas is not a religious holiday at my house, but for us tends to be a time to get together to connect, play games (bananagrams of course) and try to force each other to stop working and spend time relaxing, together. We cook for my grandparents, we eat elaborate brunches in our pajamas, and anyone, at any point is allowed to sneak off for a little nap with a cat, or read a book by the fire. That is the goal every year, anyway.
My mom and I carry the same frenzy-productive-project gene, where neither of us can seem to slow down to relax during the holidays (or ever). Coming home to my mom’s house and seeing her rushing around refreshing drinks, baking strudel, or finding slippers for every cold pair of feet in the house makes me reflect on how alike we are. And Intern loves to point out this fact, and laugh at how alike we are with our busy frenzy of ideas!plans!goals! Slow down mom! (I know you’re reading) We can each remind the other to take a break, but can’t seem to break the habit ourselves. I feel like we did a pretty good job this year of simplifying and relaxing, so we’ll be in good shape for the next holiday.
Christmas Eve was spent at my Grandparent’s house, where for the last several years Intern and I have been in charge of the meal. Things tend to be a little fancier (fussier) at Grandma’s, but also a little boozier and a little loopier as the day wears on. My Grandparents are nothing if not particular about everything, but they seem to enjoy a houseful of people doing things for them (and sometimes at their bidding).
We spent Christmas day at my mom’s house with a good fire going in the fireplace, sharing some gifts for each other (many weirdly, with a polka-dot theme). Sparkling cocktails over brunch blended into a relaxing afternoon, before a crab feast in the evening. As per tradition, we finish every Christmas by the fire, with popcorn and bananagrams.
This year we split our December trip to Washington between our two families. The first half of our trip was spent in the wild suburbs north of Seattle with Intern’s family, before we crossed the floating bridge to spend the last several days with my family on the wilder, more rural-y eastside. Our families get along well, and even like each other a whole lot- but blending two families takes time and energy. With some language barriers, cultural gaps and eager mom-nervousness on both sides, we’re helping our families get to know one another. Everyone is eager to connect with eager smiles, recipe sharing that general nervousness that comes with bringing two families together. Slowly but surely, our family is growing with the help of some jokes, some shared meals, and time together.
Our days spent with Intern’s family were punctuated by many many cups of chai, lots of cooking (and cooking lessons), roti-making and pajama-clad afternoons. Intern’s genius Ph.D-seeking sister Sahar was home visiting from Oxford, so we were happy to catch up and hear her stories: fieldwork in India, dissertation writing in Oxford, and seemingly Harry-Potter style school life at Oxford.