Callen Thompson is an artist and textile designer living in Austin, Texas. She studied art at Dartmouth College and Cranbrook Academy of Art.

Callen was born in Melrose, Florida, a sleepy town with 27 lakes and one stoplight. She was raised in the woods, in a house her homesteading parents built by hand. As a sixth-generation Floridian, Callen was taught by her family to always respect the land, especially in a state that cedes often to the interests of development. She honors and protects the land through non-profit work in land conservation, urban organic veggie gardening and a visual practice inspired by the natural patterning of landscapes.

Callen’s work has been featured on Apartment Therapy, Pattern Pulp, Art Hound, and in the West Elm catalogs. She has had solo exhibitions at Gallery Black Lagoon, the West Elm Emeryville flagship and on Buy Some Damn Art. In summer of 2012 Callen joined the Girl’s Guild, a project of AC4D alums Diana Griffin and Cheyenne Weaver. More of her work can be found on: callenthompson.com


Reflections

Recent Tweets

@Calliehelen: RT @kathywcheng: Why the modern bathroom is a wasteful, unhealthy design http://t.co/d13vxZnooo via @guardian

@Calliehelen: "Coquina" upholstery fabric having a day at the beach. Sand underfoot with little coquinas digging down into it... http://t.co/wHnSBHxgOx

@Calliehelen: Garden bounty wildness just from this morning! Yardlong beans, lemon cucumbers, sun golds, sweet 100s… http://t.co/DS7358oghg

@Calliehelen: New "Coquina" upholstery fabric ready to be made into floorcloths. @ Lido Key http://t.co/1YYqDmtQpK

@Calliehelen: Appreciating everything that grows. @ Lido Key http://t.co/7Xr7OFeS62

Recent Blog Posts

 

How designers change their surroundings

For this position diagram, I focused on the following three articles:

Edward de Bono. “Serious Creativity.” Journal for Quality and Participation Sept. 1995: 12-18. Print.

Karl E. Weick and Kathleen M. Sutcliffe. “Organizing and the Process of Sensemaking.” Organization Science July/August 2005: 409-421.

Donald A Schön. “Problems, frames and perspectives on designing.” Design Studies July 1984: 132-136.

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Through the lens of these three articles, I laid out a diagram of the process of designers changing their surroundings. The color overlays indicate important junctures in this process. Each is explained/laid out in quotes below the accompanying detail images of the diagram.

The full project with details and quotes is hosted on my website, a preview is below:

 

And here’s one detail image as a teaser just because it’s my favorite part of the diagram:

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Each moment you are happy is a gift to the world

There is a lot of suffering in human society, and plenty of well-intentioned efforts to alleviate that suffering. But sometimes, a key component goes missing from the problem-solving efforts-  personal well-being and grounded happiness. Social workers are familiar with this concept in the form of “self-care for the caregiver.” Social workers work to maintain their own self-care to ensure they are stable reference points for the often unstable clients they are helping. Like a gravitational field, social workers provide a reference point of stability that guides often wide-orbiting clients back in to a more balanced center.

In a similar way, all of the great social or spiritual leaders (e.g. the Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, Mother Teresa), radiate or radiated a calming and clear presence allowing those around them to feel that everything would be alright, even if it wasn’t at that moment, it would be someday. That calming presence allowed people to face extraordinarily difficult circumstances that otherwise would have stopped them. It gave them the encouragement to keep moving forward, keep trusting their intuition, and keep working past the fear and challenges into better possibilities. This is basic empowerment, but it’s worth reiterating. Without it, the African-American Civil Rights Movement, the Indian Independence Movement, and countless others, would have stalled in discouragement, unrest and in-fighting.

It’s that supportive, “you’re going to be fine,” way of being with others, that many people tackling “wicked problems” forget to employ as the very foundational way in which they approach the world.  As leaders, when we radiate happiness and calm, we allow those around us to face their problems with a dose of that same attitude and then achieve greater success.

Since, ultimately, large-scale social problems are simply the mass collections of individual human challenges, problems can be addressed by shifting the mindsets of individuals into further empowerment. For example, environmental destruction can be seen as individuals’ inability to conceptualize environmental change and alter behavior accordingly, disease epidemics can be seen as many human bodies individually needing greater care, poverty can be seen as many individuals unable to free themselves from institutional power dynamics, and so on.  It is the pieces, happy or unhappy, empowered or victimized, that make the whole. So as designers approaching social change, it is us up to us to generate happiness as a means to allow others the encouragement to face their challenges and keep moving forward, knowing it will get better over time.

You can feel it in your own life- at times of overwhelm or unrest, taking action is more challenging. At times of joy and calm, taking action is satisfying and easy. The more we can surround individual humans, who are part of these wicked problems, with an atmosphere of appreciation, collaboration, and playfulness, the more we are able to find the threads of yarn within us, and within them, that ultimately unravel these dense, challenging problems.

So that’s my goal for the coming weeks- infuse all that I do, and all that I give, with joy. Realize that happiness, especially in abundance, is an improving force on the world. And each moment we are happy is a gift to the rest of the world. Here’s to being kind to each other as we do this work, and to helping as many individual others as possible (who in aggregate form these wicked problems), to achieve that state as well- in whatever forms they prefer.

 

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Genevieve Bell and my dad would be friends…

In our Theory of Interaction Design and Social Entrepreneurship course with Chris Risdon, we read several batches of readings around technology and human experience. Inspired by Jessica Hagy’s ThisIsIndexed, I made several diagrams referencing our Theory readings. Here’s my favorite, an homage to my dad and Genevieve Bell:

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Sometimes technology doesn’t do it for you.

A tongue in cheek visualization of my current musings on technology in my life:

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