Kodama – Spirit of a Tree

Here in the Northeast spring has sprung. The once barren trees looming over our heads are now sprouting with new life. As the lush green growth floods our landscape we once again marvel at the dramatic rebirth of these gentle giants and reminding us of the great role trees play in our world. From producing much of the oxygen we breath, to shielding us from the harsh summer sun, trees are often overlooked. But, for Mira Nakashima, trees play a large part in her life. As the daughter of the famous woodworker, George Nakashima, her upbringing was molded by the philosophies her father embodied.

Mira Nakashima, Designer and Woodworker

Each tree, each part of the tree, has its own particular destiny. We roam the world to find our relationships with these trees.

George Makashima

With the belief of working with trees deeply ingrained in her at a young age, Mira has continued her father’s tradition of making unique and memorable furniture after his passing in 1990. Surprisingly, she was not formally trained as a woodworker but as an architect.

Mira Nakashima

Architecture was extremely good training for me as it was with my father.  Not only can you visualize shapes and volumes on paper, but engineer the structure and visualize the piece in a given space.

Mira Nakashima

She began her studies in architecture as an undergrad at Harvard and earned her Master’s at Waseda University in Tokyo. After receiving her Master’s, she returned home to New Hope, Pa in 1970. Once there Mira spent the next 20 years as her father’s assistant. In this role she quickly became skillful in woodworking and mastered the techniques that her father was renowned for.

Classic Daybed

When it was time for her to take over the “family business”, she strived to maintain a close connection to her father but over time her designs began to push beyond the boundaries set by her father.

Conciod Coffee Table

I’ve created a few new designs out of necessity, sometimes in collaboration with my design assistants, sometimes in collaboration with the client, and always in cooperation with the wood and the woodworkers

Mira Nakashima

It is through this respect for the wood and the tree it came from, that you will not only find a Nakashima piece sitting in a lucky home but also within the walls of a museum. The ability to see the true potential of a raw material and allow it to be beautiful in its own special way is what makes Nakashima furniture truly one of a kind.

Mira Nakashima

Reaching for the sky

It was when Abingdon Welch was 14 years old that she realized she wanted a career in aviation.

I told my mom, ‘hey mom, I want to be a pilot.’ She said, ‘that’s nice, pass the peas.

Abingdon Welch

Not understanding vocational school, Abingdon’s parents wished her to follow a more traditional path and that is what she did. After high school, she attended four years at the University of California, San Diego which resulted in a degree in psychology and film. During that time she did not forget her dream of one day sitting in the cockpit and flying a plane.

With saving every penny from summer jobs she was ready to jump head first into flight training the moment she finished university. Because of her diligent planning, she was able to attend the American Flyers Flight School without acquiring any more student loans. In 2007 she graduated with her commercial rating and was hired as a professional pilot.

It was also in 2007 that Abingdon launched Abingdon Company. On November 3 her namesake became the first watch company to meet the needs of female pilots, mechanics, and adventure women.  Born out of necessity, the fully functional aviator’s watch is fashionable, versatile, and most importantly, made for women.

I really wanted a pilot’s watch and since they didn’t make anything for women, I established the watch company

Abingdon Welch

It was that simple. Abingdon saw something was amiss and set her mind to make it right. It’s a wonderful way to improve the world. However, her impact doesn’t end at fabulously functional accessories. When looking back on her road towards becoming a pilot, she realized the struggles she had.

I didn’t come from a family that was in aviation. I really didn’t know where to start, so I just kind of found out things as I went along and it took me a long time.

Abingdon Welch

It was those difficulties Abingdon wanted a younger generation to avoid. She wanted a support system for young women and with that desire, the Abingdon Foundation was created.

I started Abingdon Foundation to help women figure out where they want to go, and not necessarily in aviation. If they want to explore scuba diving. If they want to explore maintenance becoming a mechanic and they don’t know what to do or where to go, we can help.

Abingdon Welch

The Abingdon Foundation supports women to find their way through scholarships, community outreach, and networking opportunities. Like the lack of aviation/adventure watches for women, Abingdon created something that women didn’t realize they needed. With these tools, she hopes to make the journey for the next 14-year-old girl a bit easier to reach their dreams.


Mentoring the Future

When Connie Chang was young she didn’t know what she wanted to do. She had three great passions growing up; music, writing, and math. But through her father, who has a traditional chemical engineering background, she was always intrigued by research and science. However, it wasn’t until college where she had an influential mentor who inspired her to study biophysics in graduate school.

So with a new found focus she continued her education at UCLA where she studied soft matter science and the physics of viruses. She then went to Harvard for her postdoctoral studies in the area of experimental soft matter physics. After completing her time at Harvard in 2013 she began her career at Montana State University as an assistant professor in chemical and biological engineering. 

I love my job: teaching students, interacting with diverse colleagues, making scientific discoveries, and engaging with the scientific community and the general public

Connie Chang

Connie realized how lucky she was as a little girl to not just have one but two parents in the sciences. Her mother studied agricultural chemistry.  Like many girls, Connie knew she wanted a job that helped the world and realized that a STEM career could allow her to make a difference. Unfortunately, Connie only makes up a small percentage of women who realize this career path could fulfill them in that way.


STEM which stands for 

  • Science
  • Technology
  • Engineering
  • Math

These fields represent one of the fastest growing industries in the US.  STEM occupations have grown 79% since 1990, from 9.7 million to 17.3 million. However, women are still underrepresented in this industry. According to the National Science Board in 2018, women made up almost half of the overall workforce but are only 28% of Science and Engineering jobs. The question is why are more women not entering the STEM world? In a survey done by Microsoft of girls and young women 91% described themselves as creative but only 37% see Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math as jobs that involve creativity. It has been proven that when young girls are exposed and mentored by women in a STEM field they are more likely to see that path as an option. Connie understands how important it is to go outside of the classroom and interact with the younger generation.

I am passionate about being a role model for younger women in science

Connie Chang

She takes her passion and shares it with the girls of Expanding Your Horizons. EYH network began in 1974 as the Math/Science Network. An informal group of women scientists and educators in the San Francisco Bay area who were concerned about the low female participation in Math courses. The program quickly developed the idea of conference programs in which middle and high-school girls participate in hands-on activities in STEM. Each year EYH has around 24,000 girls attend their events and more than 80 conferences each year taking place in 33 states and three countries. 

With programs like EYH and Girls for a Change, Connie hopes that we can raise greater awareness of recognizing biases and inequality in higher education. By inviting underrepresented speakers to the conferences to share their stories they are proving to young girls that, yes, there are people who look like them in the STEM fields. To improve women’s numbers in these fields we need to show them that they belong and have a place in these industries. 

Connie Chang

Shakespeare in Detroit

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.

William Shakespeare -Julius Caesar

Throughout the years the theatre has been a place of social gathering. As early as 6th century B.C. Ancient Greeks would line the rows of the outdoor amphitheater to be entertained by talented thespians. To this day we still seek amusement through the emotional gauntlet of humanity.  As the lights slowly dim around us we sit in our seat with the anticipation of the pending performance. We wait for an experience that will change us.

There is one man who compiled a series of words to express who we are like no other. His timeless work portrays humanity that still exists today. William Shakespeare, through prose and verse, has been entertaining the masses since the 1590s. His work allows a younger generation to make it their own. That is exactly what Sam White, founder and artistic director of Shakespeare in Detroit, is doing.

All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts.

-William Shakespeare, As You Like It

Detroit is a city that has seen some very hard times. Jobs have moved and with them, the spark of the motor city has been dimmed. With a thick cloud looming over the place Sam White calls home, she and her diverse troupe take to the streets to raise the spirits.

Armed with the eloquent lines of  Shakespeare they perform in unique places all around the city, such as an unheated recycling warehouse, historical homes and public spaces throughout Detroit. There they brought the great and inspiring works of a 16th century poet to a new audience and to inspire a younger generation

It‘s a commitment to my city and using what I have to help grow the city. I’m using what I have, and what I have is Shakespeare.

Sam White, founder and artistic director of Shakespeare in Detroit

Shakespeare in Detroit creates dynamic performances with a diverse cast and audience. They strive to be approachable and accessible. That can be hard to accomplish but with Sam’s vast knowledge she is able to make the classics relatable, new, and exciting.

I live for the days the audience shows up and they see the show we have been working on for months or a year and they laugh or cry or shout or complain or rejoice.

Sam White

Shakespeare in Detroit continues to grow and a new building to house the troupe is in the works. The former Stone Soap Building on the Detroit Riverfront is the location of their new home. The grand opening is planned for 2020. So in the meantime, Sam will be planning, figuring out the right shows and people to bring it to life.  She hopes to create a place that will continue to be inclusive and allow the whole city of Detroit to fall in love with Shakespeare.

The Life of Art

Art is an opportunity to analyze and discover new perspectives of the world. To find a deeper meaning in a spring day or unravel the mystical quiet of a dark city street can seem pointless and almost impossible but to the artist that is where the truth resides.

It is the creative mind that rips open the mundane and explores what is inside. As we continue to expand our Women’s Work project we had the pleasure of interviewing talented artist, Christina Bothwell.

With her craft, Christina has been grappling with the idea of spirituality while digging into the concept of our mortal bodies and the force that some call the soul. As a small child, Christina would ponder the depths of our existence. The cycle of life that is all around us which creates a beginning, middle, end, and then back again.

She currently examines this grand concept through sculpture. Using glass, clay, ash, oil paints, and found objects she has brought captivating pieces to life that stun the audience to stop and think. She forces the viewer to see the world differently while simultaneously poking holes in their existence.

I am drawn to the processes of birth, death, and renewal. What lies below the surface fascinates me and I try to capture the qualities of the ‘unseen’ that express the sense of wonder that I feel in my daily existence.

Christina Bothwell

Typically, Christina’s art is often times inspired by quick fleeting dreams. Like a flash of lightning, the brilliant idea illuminates her creativity but rapidly fades to the darkest corners of her mind. When such influence appears she immediately sketches the thoughts for later reference before the image is lost to the thoughts of the day. What is most intriguing about her work is the ability for others to see their own truth. Each sculpture has a tendency to affect all who view them differently.

I do hope to communicate my ideas directly to the audience, but often people bring their own perspective to my work and see something vastly different from what I intended.

Christina Bothwell

But, isn’t that what art is? Creating a piece that you poured your thoughts, passions, and inspirations into. To then release it into the world to grow through interpretation. Unlike the circle of our life, art lives forever.

Baking with LOVE

They say the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach and if you were armed with Georgetown cupcakes your crushes heart would be in the palm of your hands.

These undisputed delectable treats have tantalized taste buds for over a decade. Sisters and owners, Sophie LaMontagne and Katherine Berman, officially opened their doors over a decade ago in Washington, DC on Valentine’s day in 2008.

Georgetown Cupcake – Washington, DC

Since then they have expanded Georgetown Cupcake to six cities, ship cupcakes nationwide, and have developed a cupcake and frosting mix baking line in partnership with Williams Sonoma. With a menu of over 100 different flavors, they now bake over 25,000 cupcakes a day and have over 300 employees across the country.

Sophie LaMontagne and Katherine Berman

As an addition to our ongoing Women’s Work project we asked the sisters who inspired them to become the cupcake queens they are today. Sophie and Katherine’s love of tiny cakes started early in their lives.

Sophie and Katherine

They spent much of their early childhood with their grandmother, Katherine Ouzas, watching her bake during the holidays and special occasions.

Katherine Ouzas

Not only did they develop their passion for baking from their grandmother but learned the importance of hard work. As a non-english speaking immigrant from Greece, their grandmother created a life in the United States with her husband. She had achieved the American dream and with those skills passed down, Sophie and Katherine had the confidence to follow their dreams.

Love comes in so many forms and places. From their grandmother, Sophie and Katherine learned and experienced the joy that they could bring to others through baking – the notion that something that they made with their own hands could bring happiness to others.  And thatʼs ultimately what their business is about – spreading love, comfort, and joy to others.

How the Gang started 2019

The Crisman team assembled at the Philadelphia International airport only 16 hours after the ball dropped.

The team was off to their first string of shoots for 2019.  Noel, our production coordinator, arranged 7 shoots in 3 cities within 11 days, no big deal.  The team consisted of Chris, Robert, Mike, Noel, and a former team member Jared Castaldi. They were ready to take on the challenge.


This trip to the West Coast was dedicated to our ongoing project, Women’s Work


Their first stop was Las Vegas to meet and photograph four very different women. They had the privilege to meet Desiree Reed-Francois – Athletic Director of University of Nevada – Las Vegas

Abingdon Welch – Pilot
Meena Vohra – Medical Director of Children’s Hospital of Nevada

and Tonya Rhodes – Casino Shift Manager at Mandalay Bay. Each experience was unique and worthy of its own story for another time.


At the end of their time in the city that never sleeps the team partially disbanded. Jared headed back to the East Coast; Mike threw a camera and a fishing pole into his car and hit the road; and Chris, Robert, and Noel drove west kicking dust behind their gear packed Suburban. They were driving to Los Angeles to meet Heidi and Renae Moneymaker – Stuntwomen, 

and Danielle Perez – Standup Comedian.

These two shoots allowed Robert to flex his photo assistant skills. As a producer, he rarely has the opportunity to build a light while on set. Typically he is juggling dozens of tasks and it was nice to be Chris’s photo assistant once again.

“It was like riding a bike.” 

-Robert Luessen

On January 8th Chris and Noel left Robert to fly back to the office. After two full days in LA, they packed their bags once again and were ready to head north to Palo Alto. There they would finally meet up with Mike for the final shoot with the Vice President of Google, Yoky Matsuoka.  They hit the winding roads north of LA and for the first time in days, it didn’t rain. Supposedly it only rains in LA in January… Who knew?

The team’s shoot with Yoky wasn’t scheduled until January 10th. With this bit of downtime, Mike could hunt down more beautiful landscapes. When the team was finally reunited in Palo Alto they were full of stories to share and tales to tell.

Their time at Google was a wonderful opportunity to work with Yoky and see their stunning campus.  Once wrapped the only thing left for them to do was to get on a plane on the 11th at 6:02 AM. This, of course, is a lot easier said than done. Especially when traveling with 7 checked bags filled with gear. They always give themselves enough time for the process. There was the talk of not even sleeping, but in the end, they all caught a couple Z’s. 6:02 AM came quickly and the team was happy to watch the San Francisco skyline drift into the distance as the traveled into the sunrise. They had done it. 7 shoots in 3 cities in 11 days. A great way to start 2019!