Meet the IYRS 2017-2018 Student Ambassador Team on the IYRS Blog
I grew up on a farm in South Dakota, only a few hundred miles east of the farthest point from any ocean in North America. They call this point the “Pole of Inaccessibility.” Every continent has one, and while I didn’t grow up right on it, my hometown was inaccessible enough by my youthful estimation. At eighteen I moved to Missoula, Montana, where I attended the University of Montana and graduated with a BA in English. After graduation I worked construction in Texas for a while before returning home to work on the farm and take graduate classes in literature and writing at the University of South Dakota. At the end of the year I packed up and moved west again, this time to Portland, Oregon, where I earned an MFA in fiction writing and an MA in English Literature at Portland State University.
From Portland I moved to Santiago, Chile, where I taught English at a private bilingual school for three years. From there I moved to Madrid, Spain, where I again taught English, this time in a public school in a small mountain town outside of the capital. When I started college I was planning to be one of the few English majors who didn’t go right into teaching after graduation, but I taught or tutored off and on throughout my undergraduate program and decided that maybe teaching was ok. I became further enamored of the profession when I realized that it could be a ticket to live and work and travel all over the world. So I embraced it fully while in graduate school and hit the road. Still, toward the end of my second year in Chile, when I stumbled upon IYRS, I knew that I had found a new objective.
I didn’t grow up around boats (despite the fact that my father retired from the US Navy after a 25-year career). Until a couple years ago, I had no idea what a transom was, and even today I still sometimes (often) say “keel” when I mean “stem.” But from the time I was twenty or so I had it in my head that, whatever else I might do, I would like also to work with wood—that I would like to build furniture or cabinetry or something else that might get used someday. Then, after two years teaching high school in Chile and untold hours spent in classrooms in other places as a teacher, tutor, or student, my sister sent me a text message with a link to the IYRS blog—this very blog that I’m writing my first post for today. I don’t know that she knew at the time that she was providing me with the new direction of my life, but it triggered something for me and I spent the next two years or so scheming and planning and figuring out a way to come here. It wasn’t a simple change—I was three degrees and eleven years deep into a wildly different career and lived on the wrong coast of the wrong continent at the time. In between finding out about this school in early 2015 and the start of classes this year, I moved from Chile to Spain and back to the US, left three jobs and accepted two more, and in a roundabout way circled closer and closer to this new goal: coming to IYRS and spending two years in the Boatbuilding and Restoration program.
I’m not sure where I’ll be two years from now, but by then I will have launched two boats (or more, if my plans for personal projects hold any water*) and learned as much as possible about this new craft and the industry that surrounds it. In this blog I’ll be chronicling that learning process and looking at it through as many different lenses as I can find. There will be tangents and digressions aplenty, I’m sure, but I hope that by the end of two years these posts will form something like a cohesive narrative of my thought process as I enter this new field and carry parts of the old one along with me.
*Pun intended. Buckle in.
My name is Benjamin Clifford, and I am a Designer and Maker in training. I grew up in New Jersey, and graduated from Kutztown University in Pennsylvania with a BFA in Communications (Graphic) Design in 2012. I chose IYRS to continue my education and training because I still wanted to be a designer, but to expand my skills outside of the Graphic Design field. I have long believed that vocational and tech schools like IYRS are vital to the future of our country, and I realized that I could become part of that future by enrolling in one myself.
I have a deep love for illustration and storytelling, particularly combined in comics. I enjoy problem solving and building things with my hands, as well as drawing and exploring strange ideas and concepts. I have been working as a freelance Illustrator for the past 2 years, as well as drawing my own concepts for comics and creating my first Cosplay costume (Ghost Rider).
In my future blogs, I will be covering the design and fabrication of my capstone project for the IYRS Digital Modeling & Fabrication program: a full suit of Doctor Doom armor. I will be modeling the entire suit, and prototyping sections of it using 3D printing. I will investigate and apply professional prop making techniques to finish the pieces and create realistic looking rendered sections of the armor.
How much will I be able to complete by the end of the program? There’s only one way to find out. Join me on my journey through the first ever DM&F program at IYRS and the epic build of the DOCTOR DOOM cosplay project.
I grew up in the mountains of West Virginia, in the highest valley east of the Mississippi. I’m a small-town girl (Newport being the biggest “city” I’ve ever lived in. Yes, you can laugh). Growing up, my closest interaction with boats were kayaks and water was the frozen variety when I was skiing, depending on the season of course. I like to say I grew up outside, not watching tv or with my nose stuck in a book. My outdoorsy path stayed the same for several years as I went away to boarding school and while continuing to study at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire.
In college I had the opportunity to study abroad in Australia for a semester. This is where my love for boats (canoes at the time, sailboats came later) and larger bodies of water truly started to flourish. After I returned from Australia, I finished my senior year at Plymouth, graduating in 2012 with a B.S. in Adventure Education. (It’s a real thing, I promise). I then went directly into my field of work. I was teaching science education, stream studies, orienteering, backpacking skills, etc. all while on an extended trip in the Appalachians. I jumped over to Colorado for a summer job leading young girls up 14ners (youngest being 8 years old and she crushed it!). I was convinced that this was what I was meant to do. Unfortunately, over the next few years a feeling of being stagnant arose in me, made me feel very unsettled (which I know sounds a little backwards), but I was doing the same thing, repeatedly and kept coming back to the realization that there had to be more than this version of repetition in my small town.
So, with that realization, I booked a ticket, packed everything I owned into a backpack and moved back to Australia. I spent the next year traveling around the land down under working a range of jobs from chasing cattle via horseback to becoming a barista. Towards the end of that year, I settled in a small coastal town in New South Wales where I spent every day in the water. I learned to surf, sailed every chance I got, I was living the dream. Sadly, immigration visa’s don’t last forever, I had to leave what I will always consider paradise. I went back to the farm life upon arriving in Europe. This move made it VERY clear where I was supposed to be…next to the ocean. Since my days of travel, the ocean has been a focal point for me. I have tried to find a way into the nautical world, so I could not only work there but enjoy my work.
“But woodworking?” you ask. Well, I’m an experiential learner, I love working with my hands, having a product to show for my effort. What better than to spend my days building boats. I’ve always kept one thought in mind when I make decisions, “follow my curiosities, even if I discover it’s not for me.” My woodworking experience is limited, but here I am, working hard and excited to be learning new skills. I’ve tried my hand at small wooden projects (like building an African Ashiko Drum) but tinkering has been more my style. It’s also fair to say working with wood hasn’t been a lifelong dream, but who is to say it can’t be a part of my future. So, follow me on the path down curiosity lane, as I learn to not only be even more self-sufficient, but a craftsman (or craftswoman). Check back over the coming 20 months, I’ll be filling you in on all the adventures, struggles, and sweet moments that come with building Beetle Cats. Fingers crossed, I can sail away at graduation in something I’ve built!
A recently retired helicopter instructor pilot from the Massachusetts Army National Guard Thad completed the Boatbuilding and Restoration program at IYRS. Originally from Brockton Massachusetts, his love for boating was developed as a child on a small pond in Lakeville rowing around in a wooden dingy built by his grandfather. After 26 years of soldiering in many forms around the world, Thad wanted to transition into a profession that encompassed the enjoyment he feels when working with wood and the joy of being in, on, and around boats and the sea. He found IYRS many years ago while on vacation in Newport, randomly wandering into Restoration Hall and being amazed at the energy and intensity of the students on the shop floor amongst the skeletal remains of what were once Beetle Cats. As years passed and more, less random visits ensued, a plan slowly emerged to make the seemingly impossible leap from observer to participant. With the support of his wife and their loyal canine companion, who is only mildly annoyed at the small reduction in daily walks, Thad is diving headlong into the program, carrying on a family tradition of making.
Having graduated from the Boatbuilding and Restoration Program at IYRS, Thad has returned to the school to continue his education with the Marine Systems Program. Originally from Brockton Massachusetts, his love for boating was developed as a child on a small pond in Lakeville rowing around in a wooden dingy built by his grandfather. After 26 years in the Army, Thad retired in 2015 and began a long anticipated transition to a new career that included the enjoyment he feels being in, on, and around boats and the sea. After completing the BBR Program in June it was apparent that having the skills and certifications afforded by attending Marine Systems would be a great advantage when working in the industry. With the support of his wife and their loyal canine companion, who is only mildly annoyed at the small reduction in daily walks, Thad is diving headlong into the program, excited about his future.
A little about myself before we dive into the wide world of composites…
I came to IYRS from Concord New Hampshire. Before becoming a student in the composites program I spent my last 4 years working as a paraprofessional in my local high school. Then one day I decided I wanted to get back to my roots. Growing up I was always building, one of my favorite things to build was boxes and rails for skiing and snowboarding. It was always a fun process getting together with friends and having a common goal and working with what you have to create these things to feed our addiction to snow sports. In the summer months I would always be kayaking. Then one year I decided to take the full plunge into kayaking and work at a local kayak retail and rental shop as a summer job in between school years, there I really learned about the range of kayaks and canoes or as we called them boats. I also spent a lot of time staring at boats in the shop on rainy days, during those rainy days I really gained interest in the higher end boats to be specific the composite boats.
I ended up researching composites more and I realized they tied into skiing as well. Both industries I loved and never thought I could really get a job in when I was coming out of high school in 2011, because it wasn’t a very traditional path. Then one day when I was surfing the web and came across IYRS; I knew someone who had gone through boatbuilding and restoration program. So I looked around the site and saw they had a composites program, it was like a dream come true. A place where I could learn the skills to get involved in industries that have brought me so much joy like kayaking and skiing.
That’s what has brought to the composites program, someday down the road I want to be working at company making composite kayaks. In the hopes that the boats I make brings the same happiness to people that it brought me, and still brings me when I’m out on the water.
September 5th was a cool, calm, somewhat blissful morning down at the docks of IYRS. Eager, excitement, even a bit of nervousness was a common look among most of us new students arriving early for the first day. Immediately i realized this place was special. People from all walks of the earth all in one room with a common interest. It did not take long for chatter between classmates to fill the quietness that was there when we arrived. People from 18 years old to 60, people from France, England, Asia, and America providing a very diverse yet similar crowd. Nobody was a stranger that day, you could walk up to any table and spark a conversation of common interests. This in of itself makes IYRS very unique.
Why you may ask? For the sole purpose of a bunch of hard working, determined team players all in one place, the possibilities become endless. We are all team players and focused individuals making a learning environment of success.
The second day we all went to our respective programs and began bonding with our specific class. Right from the start i could see how similar all of us were no matter gender or ethnicity. Jokes being shot off left and right as well as people sharing their amazing stories of life. For someone young like me I found from the start one of the things I enjoyed the most was hearing older peoples testimonies and learning from their mistakes or success. Gaining valuable “intel” on life hacks. My grandfather always told me “knowledge is key as well as power,” and man is he right. The more I learn the more i can better myself in my career or myself as a whole.
Before we knew it the first week was over and history. We all knew each other now, maybe not by name just yet, but as a person. Good instructors make for fun interesting days sometimes making you wanting to stay an extra hour just because it’s interesting. We all got assigned a bench partner and paired up in teams of 2. But that mattered none because any one of us wouldn’t hesitate for a second to help out our neighbors.
Its funny how a simple act such as a loud speaker playing music can bring people together even more. Identifying the class clowns wasn’t hard for they make laughter and smiles fill the room for the duration of the day. It just really makes things fun to learn about and do when you have a bunch of really cool people surrounding you and actually physically enjoying what we are doing. The more time we spent together the more we bonded as a group, feeding off one another and each individuals knowledge learning new things everyday and how we could do a task better.
Before I knew it the first month was over and in the books. Everything I hoped IYRS would be met and even exceeded my expectations proving to be a good choice for coming here. Myself and my classmates are now a tight knit group hanging out on the weekends, to tossing the pigskin during lunch break.
If you surround yourself with people who push you to better yourself you have no where to go but up and forward.