Jessica Gardner Explores the Meaning of Making

Woodbury alumni Jessica Gardner received her Bachelors of Architecture before joining Studiomake, an interdisciplinary design studio of architects, designers, and fabricators in Bangkok, Thailand. Studiomake works in the realm of architecture, interior, furniture, and object design, inspired by tradition, technology, and constant questioning. We recently caught up with Jessica to ask her about her experience at Woodbury and how it prepared her for her next chapter in Thailand.

Interview with Jessica Gardner

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishments either personally and professionally?

Finishing architecture school! So many of my other accomplishments stem from this single milestone.

What advice would you give to younger alumni or current students who aspire to follow a similar career path?

If you are in any way compelled to participate in this discipline, there’s a passion you have to be willing to unfold. There were many, many times along my personal journey where I was tempted to just shut my computer off and go home, get some sleep. But architecture, its spell, keeps you there, locks you in, and anyone who has been through it can probably testify to this or has experienced something similar. You just have to run with it. Cliche as it sounds, find what you love. Your education in architecture is only the beginning!

What would you say to a prospective student who is considering Woodbury University?

Just do it. Just go. It will always be this creative, malleable environment full of potentials for change and growth. If you go, and in the event you happen to find something you’re unhappy with (which will probably be unlikely), you actually have the power to make change in an atmosphere so receptive of it.

What is your lasting impression of studying architecture at Woodbury?

Time and again I’m reminded of how lucky I am to have come from this tightly knit community. All the opportunities I’ve had are because of WU, and the professors I’ve been fortunate to work with and learn with have had a lasting impact on who I’ve become as a designer. Their areas of interest are so vast, I feel in the end I’ve become more well-rounded because of their influences. Of course, there are always interests I gravitate more toward than others, but what I’ll always appreciate about WU was the opportunity to scratch and dig at the surface on a variety of realms within our discipline. It’s a real ideological melting pot! Not to mention, I’ve also created lasting relationships with some of the most colorful, creative, and incredible people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing and connecting with. Inevitably, WU was the catalyst that brought us all together.

What do you like best about your current position?

Oh, too many to list! I feel so blessed to be here. Right now, I’m interning at Studiomake in Bangkok, Thailand, an interdisciplinary firm playing in the realms of architecture, interiors, objects, and furniture. Every day is a new surprise, and I’ve been fortunate enough to dip my fingers into bits and pieces of their active projects. I love how the design moves from inside the studio to the Chang (the contractors/builders) outside, and we get to see the entirety of the process from beginning to materializing all in one place. One day we’ll be playing in their (super fantastic) workshop, surrounded by trees and bugs and geese, assisting in forging steel for door knobs; the next we’ll be collaborating late night on really stylistic furniture pieces for an interior project in downtown BKK. Everyday offers something different, and being here to absorb as much as I can before going back to LA (if I go back…sorry mum) has been a real treat. And for me, I’m still quite unsure as to where my path will lead me, but I’m fortunate to be in a place that branches out to all these different mediums, as it becomes a testing ground for me to figure myself out. It goes without saying, but it’s also been great stepping (far) out of my comfort zone to come here, I can feel myself stretching and growing in ways I hadn’t imagined in this downright beautiful part of the world. Not to mention I’ve become part of this family of makers, and I couldn’t be more happy to begin my archi-journey with them.

What projects have you worked on that you’re most proud of?

In terms of my own work, I was always proud when I’ve reached the end of the semester and looked back at all the progress I’ve made (regardless of whether or not they were finished, which in most cases was usually never haha). There’s comfort in the process, of being aware that many of these things are continuing points of departure, and I feel I’m always thinking of my previous projects, how they could be better, what I could do to change them, etc. In that way, they’re ongoing. There are two moments I feel very lucky to have experienced: First, catching a swarm of bees in a hive I built for my senior thesis, “(R)entomology.” This feeling of calling out to nature and it actually answering was truly profound. And it may seem like nothing, and the pride could be born from my love (okay, obsession) of honeybees, but to bridge spacemaking with bees at a time when their species was in trouble, and actually succeeding, was really something beyond special for me. It was one important piece to what was a much larger urban design strategy, and that little triumph had a major impact in the energy to follow. Second, it would have to be seeing our digital ceramics project, “Recombinant Moulds” materialize right outside our studio. My partners Jenny Lara, Erik Danryd and I happily slaved over this project (with the helping hands of many others along the way), and walking by it everyday after its completion felt unreal for a very long time. We are like proud parents. I was always grateful to see it still standing after a strong windy night, always annoyed to see all the things we could have done better (that bottom pipe my goodness!). But technically it’s our first built project, and I’ll always take pride in that.

What have been the biggest challenges in your career? Did your experiences at Woodbury help you to overcome any obstacles?

My biggest challenge, like so many others who have just finished architecture school, has just been trusting myself, trusting what I’ve learned in and outside of school, being okay with making mistakes, asking questions. Before Woodbury, I was very much in my own head when it came to creating and designing. Then you get to WU, and like any architecture school, you’re forced to put your work up (as personal as it might be sometimes), articulate it clearly, and face the music, whatever the outcome is. WU definitely made this easier for me. There’s a comfort in knowing I really did come from a good school, and regardless of my own insecurities, I learned a great deal and these tools are ready to be utilized in the real world. It’s all an ongoing, life-long learning process, and that’s what I’m always trying to remind myself.

Describe Woodbury University in 3 words.

Bold. Humble. Haven.

Featured Image Courtesy of Jessica Gardner


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