Leather is an exciting but difficult material to work with. Combining some printed cotton shirting with lambskin, I created a short-sleeved button-up shirt finished with lined lambskin panels at the top and on the sleeves. As a hidden detail that gave me a lot of joy to make, every inside seam is bound with red or yellow bias tape, giving a clean and interesting finish. As leather is a particularly tough and unforgiving material, certain parts like the collar and buttonholes were a major challenge. Correspondingly, I constructed muslin prototypes to ensure proper fit before risking the expensive leather.
My first major project with leather, shown below, was a lined lambskin t-shirt. I love any project that reinterprets low-brow (such as a t-shirt silhouette) in a high-brow way (by using leather instead of jersey), and this is no exception. The t-shirt is intended to be worn as a vest of sorts over a button-up shirt or by itself and is very comfortable thanks to the cotton/silk lining. Both garments are embossed with my logo using a custom brass stamp.
Over the course of a year, I designed and built a functioning DJ controller from scratch. I had been DJing for almost 6 years already and was dissatisfied with existing controllers that were unable to match the custom software setup I had built for myself. I wanted to make something that reflected my frequency crossfader approach which splits the two tracks being mixed into high, mid, and low frequency bands which can be individually cross-faded for extremely smooth transitions. In addition, I had specific ideas about the ideal form and layout of a controller and the quality of the controls that existing products were falling short on.
I bought two bare-bones MIDI microchips and learned to program them in hexadecimal code to correctly interpret the signals from the control components. After an initial prototype built from messy hand-modified protoboards with innumerable wires, I decided to learn proper circuit design using CadSoft EAGLE. After many months of this and 6 iterations of board layouts, I arrived at the one pictured here, which I still think is one of the most beautiful and perfectly optimized things I’ve ever crated. With this design, I was able to have the bare circuit board manufactured in China. After many more weeks of soldering, milling, and code tweaking, the controller is now fully functional and meets all my expectations.
I’m particularly proud of this project because going into it, I only had a goal but none of the skills necessary to accomplish it. With my teacher’s guidance, I was able to learn enough about hardware design, electronics, soldering, microchip programming, materials, CNC milling, and circuit design to make this a reality. I show this to anyone who wants to make something but is deterred by not having the necessary skills - anything is possible with enough time, guidance, and perseverance.
After winning an excellent knitting kit from Kollabora for a jacket I made, I took to Youtube and started learning how to knit. I had a pair of thick wooden needles and 3 balls of high-quality yarn and started knitting all the time, invoking my inner old lady. This is one of my projects, a short chunky knit scarf. The technique is simple, but the dye job is special - I soaked the entire ball of yarn in diluted black dye before starting to knit, and as the ball absorbed the color unevenly and more towards the outside of the ball than the center, I got a beautiful pixel-like ombré effect transitioning from dark blue to skin tone, the original color of the yarn, all the way at the center of the ball.
I made this jacket - my first - out of a solid black upholstery-grade cotton and some hand-printed African fabric from Ghana for the lining. I used black bias tape for detailing on the bottom of the collar, the asymmetrical chest piece, and the sleeves, which are attached on the exterior. The bias tape encloses the raw edges of the sleeve and creates a slightly separated edge on the shoulder. I also made an apron for my father’s birthday out of the leftovers of the African fabric. He was proud.
At Columbia University, I specialized in the socioeconomic problems and new social categories among the Japanese youth. This is my senior thesis.
Japan’s perpetual economic crisis since the early 1990s has resulted in a drastic change in work behavior among young people. Two new social categories have emerged to classify those that, for varying reasons, do not enter stable employment. Freeters are people aged 18 to 34 who remain only casually involved in the labor market through a series of temporary or part-time jobs, and NEETs are individuals Not in Education, Employment, or Training, who sometimes withdraw from society entirely and rely on support from their parents. Through online interviews on a Japanese dating website, this thesis attempts to understand how these categories are assigned and conceived of by young Japanese men and women. The narrative gathered from these people, aged 18-28, has shown that freeters and NEETs are conceived of very differently by their peers, and entirely different motivations, backgrounds, and normative valences are assigned to both. Most interviewees used “creation myths” to explain and classify their peers, and this understudied form of social categorization, as well as the specific creation myths assigned to freeters and NEETs, reveal unique aspects of Japanese society.
I spent a long time teaching myself lock picking and making the necessary tools, as well as finding new materials and parts that could be fashioned into lock picks and torque wrenches. Some of the materials I used are hacksaw blades, knife blades, hairpins, broken street cleaner bristles, and windshield wipers, which I attacked with hand files and a Dremel. I have a couple of great sets of professional lock picks too, also pictured, but I am most proud of my own design of picks that, to the best of my knowledge, is completely original - the gentle and long curve allows the pick to pivot against the bottom (or top, in Europe) of the keyway to allow for much better tactile feedback. This works best with relatively wide keyways, though I made picks of varying sizes and angles to work with most common locks.
Departureis an attempt to make sense of a drastic and involuntary life change through music. This mixtape is perhaps my most consistent, harmonically coherent, and focused, while still combining a wide range of music.
Subotai is a mixtape combining hopeful and dark, double-time and half-time, major and minor keys in a way that each track provides a very different perspective on the previous one. Upbeat tracks become bittersweet and at times even jarring, and melancholic ones gain an optimistic note with the introduction of new elements. It encompasses a wide range of musical styles including tech house, classical piano, drum and bass, trip-hop, and nostalgic pop, along with my usual favorites of beat-centric, syncopated electronica.
Bird Migration is an hour-long complex tapestry of music from a wide range of genres, combined in unusually long harmonic and rhythmic overlays. It includes a great variety of percussive electronica and even classical music mashed up with each other in a way that creates an unusual harmonic and emotional continuity.
Soundtrack for an uncertain journey is the 35-minute predecessor to Bird Migration and incorporates alternative electronica, early 90s hip-hop, and film music into a continuous soundtrack fit for travel into the unknown.
Damascus is an energetic and uplifting arrangement of liquid drum and bass and drumstep with some nostalgic surprises in the mix. It differs very much from the other mixtapes above in tone and mood but has the same elements of harmonic mixing and live mash-ups.
Follow the embedded links for time-stamped track lists.
Shown here are a number of button-up shirts I made using various methods. Three of them are made of pre-existing shirts that have been combined into one, bleached, or otherwise altered. The other three are made from scratch based on my own patterns using various fabrics including toile upholstery fabric and vintage African fabric.
Over several years, I created dozens of stencils by overlaying images with transparency and cutting out the shadows and/or highlights. I used spray paint to apply them to paper and fabric paint, applied by brush, to decorate clothing with them. I made a handsome profit selling stenciled t-shirts and other clothing.
I love to challenge myself with difficult recipes, particularly from Japanese and fusion cuisines. Pictured are a burger with caramelized onions and herb baked potato chips, an adaptation of the famous ramen burger, tender pork buns, and tonkotsu ramen with pork belly and marinated soft-boiled egg. The ramen’s rich pork broth was my most difficult meal ever, with a cook time of 12 hours.
During my year working in drug therapy for inmates with substance abuse problems in Vienna, Austria, I spent a lot of time working with clay. Four days a week I was supervising a ceramic tile workshop I started, operated by 10 to 15 inmates who would leave prison for the day, work at the facility I was running, and return to their cells in the evening. Every Thursday, I supervised another therapy group in an art workshop, assisting the inmates with their creations. There, I picked up a book on sculpting faces, and started a series of small heads (each is about two inches tall), each with some form of opening in their skulls. It was a hard time for me being surrounded by so much suffering every day, and I suppose this was my outlet. Since I only had a day each week at the art workshop, I had to finish each head within one day. There are quite a few more, but these are my favorites.
I co-founded Spicy Special Crew (named after Columbia’s favorite sandwich) with two DJ friends in order to organize regular dance events for the Columbia community. We were profitable within one month and became the most successful regular event, DJ team, and equipment rental and event logistics company in the area. We established partnerships with local venues and organizations and our events were regularly filled to capacity with 400-800 people. Our promotional video and events were covered by local news.