By Alexia | Essays

My Studio H Experience

Alexia working in Studio H woodshop. Photos courtesy Studio H

In 2010, Emily Pilloton and Matt Miller, founders of the social design initiative Project H, moved to Bertie County, North Carolina, two hours east of Raleigh, to develop Studio H, a design/build workshop for high school juniors that supplies secondary school and college credit as well as a summer wage for participation in community work projects. "We didn't want to just be 'creative consultants,'" Pilloton wrote for the Frog Design publication Design Mind last November. "We wanted to to build something from within and teach the young people of eastern North Carolina that design is first and foremost a sensibility that allows indviduals to solve problems in different ways."

Alexia (Pilloton requested that her last name be withheld), author of the essay that follows, is one of ten students who recently recounted what they learned in the program's first year. All of the essays can be found on the Studio H website. —The Editors
You see and hear the phrase “Design, Build, Transform” around town all the time and wonder what it means. It is the motto for Studio H, a high school program in Bertie County with 10 students and two teachers, Matt Miller and Emily Pilloton. In this program, it’s all about designing and building things. Studio H taught me many things in life, and has made me a more active, creative and careful person.

First, I never knew what a cornhole board was, and had certainly never built one. Cornhole, also known as corn toss, is a game similar to horseshoes. Contestants throw bags at wooden boards until a team reaches 21 points. Not only did cornhole become a big thing for me, but it also became a big thing for my aunt. We introduced her to the game one Saturday at an auction of the boards we all designed. In the beginning, she was losing, but later on she started making shots in the hole, back-to-back. She was jumping around and screaming like a madwoman! On top of it all, she had a broken arm in a sling. Now she has a set of boards all to herself, thanks to Studio H.

Presenting final chicken coop with team.

Studio H has also taught me to not be scared to present my work. There were many times where we had to present our projects in front of important people like architects or other visitors. I remember one week we had to present our final chicken coop designs. Everybody had a big chicken coop model to present, but I only had a model of a small trellis I designed. I was scared to present it at first, but a lot of visiting critics and guests said they actually liked my idea and it really helped my confidence a lot. I want to become a child life specialist, and my communication skills will be more developed for such a job.

Studio H has also changed me as a person when it comes to working with tools. I had never worked with a single tool, but this class taught me to use them. For an example, Matt started off by giving us a demonstration of a torch tool, and when I saw the fire I thought, “Oh now I definitely know I’m not going to use that tool.” After I saw many of the students doing it, I thought to myself, “Maybe it’s not so bad after all,” so I decided to try it. I liked it and I got to cut a piece of metal. I learned that you have to be careful, though, so you won’t catch on fire. This will help me in the future, because now if I take a class where we have to use a torch or other tools, I’m pretty sure I will ace it.

Rockin' the torch.

I have also improved my ability to work with people. When I first started this class, I was a very solo person, but Studio H requires teamwork. So I started working with almost everybody in the class on different projects, and it’s like I know almost everybody now. There is one person in particular who I really thought I couldn’t work with. At first I thought he was a very annoying person, but in the end when I did have to work with him, I realized even though he was a pest at times, he has a lot of energy, which helped us get a lot of work done. This will help me in the future because when I become a child life specialist, I know I’m going to work with different people on different projects.

You may be a shy, quiet and lazy bug, but once you get a chance to design, build and transform, you will get rid of it all. Studio H will leave you with many life changes and memories like it did for me.

Posted in: Architecture, Education , Product Design

Comments [2]

I'm glad there are people like Emily who are willing to "walk the walk" and use design to educate young people (particularly those who might not consider it otherwise). I had the pleasure of interviewing her for a Berkeley alumni magazine article, and her desire to educate, provoke, and effect change was infectious. Glad to see her studio thriving!

Bravo, Alexia! Thanks for sharing your experience and all the best for you in the future.

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