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August 31, 2016

My Sunset is Your Sunrise/ Chris Cohoon, TLAD MA 2017

by chriscohoon


It was appropriate to watch the sunset from my window seat as I flew out of Japan.  Two months in Okinawa feels like two days.  Until now, my shortest stay on the beautiful island had been just over a year.  To have such a short time to enjoy its bounty felt a little stifling, but I am thankful for every minute I was given!



Cody and Dave apply primer to the foam

Restrictions placed on marines by their command caused attendance dwindled during the summer.  Because of this, their project fell behind and its completion looked bleak.   Over the last two weeks, however, a couple of the marines and an airman were able to spend extra time catching up and completing the board.  Both classes worked hard to finish their projects, and they look fantastic!  It was a joy to work with each group, even amidst the frustration of red tape and language barriers.  A valuable lesson to learn, however, is that every design solution must overcome its own set of unknown problems.  And, what often seems like the death of an idea, is the birth of a better one.



Post-production party!  My co-worker, Kenji, and I are flanked by marines and airmen.  The graphic design for this board is based on the Okinawa flag.  The kanji, “Taco Casa,” is our faux design company name.  In Japanese, it translates as “octopus umbrella.”  The multi-language pun was born out of discussions about empathy in the high school class.  



The board design features a silhouette of Okinawa and represents the fusion of local and foreign island culture.  Okinawans often identify with Hawaiian and Jamaican culture.  At any given festival, you might take in traditional Okinawan dancers, a hula performance, and a reggae band.   

Now that my portion of the fellowship is over, the program is in the hands of my supervisor and of the chaplain who participated in the adult class.  The chaplain is planning to start a surfboard design program on the base where he works, as a way to mentor more young marines.  My supervisor is looking at future design projects with high school students.  He is also training his staff in Design Thinking for creative leadership.  I am now back in the country scouring job boards for gainful employment (I’m open to suggestions).  Meanwhile, I will continue developing the creative leadership curriculum for community development organizations and philanthropic companies.  Design Thinking and creative leadership can be valuable tools to enable communities to design sustainable, indigenous solutions toward a better life.  I am ever grateful to Maharam and RISD for such a rich opportunity to explore an idea and empower others to create!



Miyagi-San invited me back to the studio for a private master class.  I threw 3 somewhat round vessels.  Once they had dried, Aki, his studio assistant shaped them into beautiful bowls.  It’s incredible what the master can do with such poor material!  

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