Healing Garden

When we first wrote about our time at Oregon State Penitentiary we shared our trepidations of entering a male maximum security prison. In that tale we introduced you to Megan Lowe, a Corporal Corrections Officer at OSP, but she wasn’t the only one we were meeting that day. Once we wrapped our dynamic shoot with Megan in the middle of a locked down cell block we were ready to be securely relocated. We arrived to a space that looked more like a recreation room at a day camp rather than a prison

The large gym like open space was outlined with rooms made of chain link fencing. Each brightly colored vibrant room contained a different club run by the inmates themselves with the help of Patrice Lans.

Patrice is Oregon State Penitentiary’s Activities Director and another addition to our ongoing project, Women’s Work. Before taking on the challenge of working in male prison Patrice spent twenty-four years in the grocery industry and peaked at the corporate office level. Feeling the need to change paths she accepted a temporary position in the kitchen of Coffee Creek Correctional Facility as a food service coordinator. Soon after this, she was asked to interview for a different position and was hired by the activities department in OSP.

I really like the niche that I’m working in. I love to be in the trenches instead of managing other tasks and such. I’d rather be working with the people, making stuff happen.

Patrice Lans

And with her help stuff does happen.  For one, Patrice and the Asian Pacific Family Club of OSP are working towards being the first prison in the western world to have a healing garden within its walls.


It has been proven that nature such as flowing water and plant life can reduce stress. In a study in 2016 done by Arcadia University about gardening programs in prisons has shown to enhance incarcerated individuals’ psychosocial well-being in three different ways:

  1. Increased their self-efficacy and self-worth
  2. Decreased their anxiety and depression symptoms
  3. Reduction in reincarceration rates.

With the healing garden there is hope of improving the overall quality of life for all the inmates.

I feel strongly that I’m making an impact by building and facilitating these programs in the prison, so that the inmates will be better citizens when they get out.

Patrice Lans

Patrice is making a difference is the lives of the inmates she works with and with her help projects like the healing garden become a reality. A reality that benefits everyone.

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.


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.

A cup of Joe

The best part of waking up… Who are we kidding, the only thing getting us up is COFFEE. So many of our morning routines require a cup of java before anything else can be done. The rich scent arouses our senses before the first sip

But how does the delightful brew become the caffeinated fuel running our day to day? It all starts with a tiny seed originally discovered in Ethiopia. There is a lot of skill required to take a simple bean and turn it into a delicious cup of coffee.

We had the chance to work with Leslie Mah, the roaster and head of operations for Sudden Coffee, to represent her field for our project, Women’s Work.  

Leslie Mah

Leslie’s passion for coffee has brewed since she was a child and channeled that interest into a thriving career which is quite a feat in a male-dominated industry. In 2012, “Roast” Magazine conducted a survey that found only 13 percent of professional roasters were female.

“You can’t taste the gender of who roasted the coffee. That always just made me laugh. I don’t taste a cup of coffee and go, ‘Wow. That’s a male perspective’.”

Leslie Mah

Leslie faced many challenges when she first starting her career. However, she quickly began to understand the nuance of being close to the roaster and soon was in sync with the machine.

Soon she became flexible and understood that every coffee has its own personality. A roaster helps the bean express itself through patience and a trained palate. Neither of those traits depends on gender. In 2016 Leslie proved how precise her pallet is with her 2nd place win at the US Cup Tasters Championship.

“I wanna stay in coffee. I wanna be in coffee no matter what. And I want to continue to use my palate and my love of sharing taste with the world. If I could, I would roast forever.”

Leslie Mah

We find that so many times women are denied even the chance to prove their skills. A woman’s inability to lift a 150 lb bag of coffee beans over their head doesn’t prevent them from creating a delightful cup of Joe and Leslie is proving that fact everyday.

Leslie Mah – Women’s Work

Personal Work – A cure for what ails you

By Chris Crisman

Did anyone play the lottery this week? Our team certainly did and a $10 ticket turned out to be less about the chance of winning a gazillion decimal points. It became a time to share the possibilities of a future. Some of us would shut it down and coast, some of us would devise a plan to share the wealth and give back to everyone that could use it, some of us simply dreamt of just taking a break. It’s a tantalizing exercise to contemplate the opportunities you could have, the challenges that would arise, and just how you would find ways to balance it all.

We are approached to work on so many jobs and it is hard to deny the randomness to how each year shakes out for us. We try to move forward on as many opportunities as possible and they need to have the right values to do so. When looking back on a year we seem to strike the right balance of projects. To be able to find creative fulfillment and financial stability with our work. Sometimes we are presented with a special Unicorn project that we dream of working on but no matter how much we fight for the job it still gets away. Even though you think you have dominance of the situation, there will always be a number of variables that are out of your control. Embracing this reality has really kept me from going insane.

Another aspect of our work that helps balance the inevitable presence of impending insanity – personal work. It is as easy as putting a pin on a map. Just you and your camera traveling to beautiful locations can be unpredictable magic waiting to happen. 

 Alternatively, you can dedicate your time and other resources to hone in on exactly what it is you want to express; this is my preferred method. With these projects – or singular images – you can easily give you and your team back the control, vision, taste, and your calendar that often seems out of your hands.

It all sounds simple, but I still struggle. I struggle with the where, the when, and the how. I struggle with whether I am choosing the right concept or idea to focus on. Will the small detail of a coat on the guy actually ruin an otherwise perfect image? Above all else, I struggle with the why. If I make this picture, will anyone care? Will it inspire someone who sees it? Anyone? Beyond all else, is there a chance that this work could possibly change the way people see the world? I think about all of this with every project that I undertake – especially the ones where I am able to have complete control of the end result.

I’ve already mentioned embracing randomness- this idea goes both for things you can and can’t control. Alt-country artist Sturgill Simpson who was right when he said, “Some days you kill it, some days you just choke”. The reality in this sentiment rings clear for me. I won’t always be a winner, but If I keep my head down and focus clear, I will continue to find a balance throughout my career. One last thing, don’t spend more than $10 playing the lottery, even if I’m sayin’ there’s a chance.

Liberating the Lands

Anna Valer Clark

When Anna Valer Clark first arrived at South East Arizona, a place she would call home, her first question was “What do the cows eat, rocks?” The land she stood on was exhausted and the only thing thriving in the unfortunate barren landscape was the tiny rocks scattered across the view. She had left her life as a New York City socialite to become a Permaculturalist. She wanted to stimulate or directly utilize the patterns and features observed in the natural ecosystem to revive the terrain.  She saw the potential of the land and dreamt of restoring it back to its original grandeur. Many years of poor management, over-grazing, and logging in the hills had left the earth unable to hold the rainfall causing monsoons like floods and severe erosion.

Valer believes where there is water there is life and with barely any life remaining on her land the key was to avoid further damage. She realized she could hinder the erosion and capture water in the hills by putting rock dams across the places that been affected in hopes to return this area to its former glory.

 As she suspected the areas where the dams were established prevented further devastation. The soil did not wash away and that gave the native plants an opportunity to grow roots and thrive.

With each year the natural vegetation grew and established itself with vigor. To see the lands today one could not conceive that this was once a place of dust and sun-soaked earth. Anna Valer Clark has brought back balance to her lands and the harmony is magnificent.

My life has been a continuation of applying these same principles of harvesting water, revegetation of the land, and the restoration of water to dry areas. My mission has been to take severely degraded land and restore it. If one can accomplish this under the seemingly impossible conditions, then one can do it anywhere.

Anna Valer Clark