June 10, 2013

The Maine Co-op

Christina Fenton with Geoffrey Warner

Industrial design major Christina Fenton worked at a handcrafted furniture studio.

Christina Fenton, Industrial Design, 2014

Co-op Employer:  Geoffrey Warner Studio

Co-op Position:  Research Design Intern

Hometown:  Vassalboro, Maine

Christina Fenton recently completed a co-op at handcrafted furniture workshop Geoffrey Warner Studio—a seven-person operation on Deer Island off the coast of Maine. Because the company was small, Fenton had big opportunities to flex her design skills. The studio even blogged about her successes here (http://www.geoffreywarnerstudio.com/owl-furniture/wentworth-intern-assists-with-new-designs)! Below, we invite you to learn more about Christina’s co-op through a Q & A.

Can you tell me more about your co-op?

I was basically the design department. Because of my time at Wentworth, and the skills I acquired there, I was able to help Geoff (Warner) move his ideas forward and help decide which ones were truly feasible. I worked in the shop, on graphics, and on sourcing, as well as on a few accessory and seat designs for the Owl Furniture line. My day-to-day routine varied depending on which projects had approaching deadlines. One day I would be sanding and staining stools, and the next I might be speaking with consultants about the various projects. Before I left, I was also working on a way to make our stools out of a recyclable composite for schools. It was great to work with Geoffrey Warner Studio for those three months, and I believe it was a rewarding experience that helped me to grow as a designer.

How did you decide to study industrial design? Are any family members designers?

There have always been creative influences in my family. My father does a lot of woodworking and my mother is into painting and drawing. I also have aunts that do a lot of jewelry-making and sewing, as well as an uncle who is really into photography. All of those have to do with design in their own way, and, luckily, my sister and I were exposed to this growing up. It truly fueled my interest and curiosity in design. 

What remains your biggest take-away from your co-op?

Seeing what it takes to run a small business in this industry. There are ups and downs, but in the end, if you love and believe in what you are doing, running a business can be very rewarding. I was also able to get more in touch with nature, especially since my co-op was located on an island off the coast of Maine. This caused me to think a lot more about natural materials and the curves and shapes they hold. I am trying to incorporate that into my current designs, especially since I have now discovered how great wood is as a material and the various forms that it can be transformed into.

And advice for other students on choosing a co-op?

Keep your mind open when looking for a co-op.  It is easy to get caught up in only wanting to stay near home or stay in Boston, but I think it is a chance to take risks and see where they bring you. Look for a company that matches your interests and makes you passionate about design. This experience is not just a job; it is a chance for you to learn and make connections that may help you in the future so you should like what you are doing. Also, if you do not get your dream job for your first co-op, don't worry! If you learned anything or see things differently after being there, I would say that the experience was successful. It is what you make of it. 

Can you elaborate on how your Wentworth coursework facilitated a successful co-op experience?

The various drawing courses I took taught me how to convey ideas to others on a visual level, when verbal was not enough. CAD classes and lessons on the Adobe Creative Suite helped me to be technical and precise with important drawings and documents. It was also great to have knowledge on how things could be made and how the manufacturing for a product would be executed. The discussions and critiques we have in studio relate to the experiences you will have in the working world, although you do not realize it until you are out there. You learn how to take constructive criticism and become open minded.  These kinds of things help you to make your designs better and work as a team.

Did your co-op help prepare you to return to Wentworth with greater skills to apply in the classroom?

I think that my co-op allowed me to be very independent with my projects but also required time management. I had to learn to be resourceful and use critical thinking in order to achieve any goal while remaining professional, especially with consulting professionals from other industries. I think that learning to do all of those things efficiently has prepared me for my upcoming semesters at Wentworth and for my final co-op.  

We understand you’re in the industrial design Study Abroad Berlin program. How is that experience going?

I have been here for about a month already and it already has been extremely rewarding. I have seen things that are commonly not available, such as big-name automobile companies and various design showrooms.  My peers and I are constantly excited about the things that we are learning, and we feel we are more creative than ever. We are all very excited to spend our summer together and see all that Berlin has to offer.

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