Inside the Workshop: Product Development Project

Written by Heide Martin on .

Our Nine-month Comprehensive class recently wrapped up the Product Development portion of the course, where they spend five weeks intensively designing and developing small furnishings and housewares. While most portions of the Nine-month curriculum focus heavily on technique and design, Product Development also emphasizes real-world concerns such as speed, efficiency, and marketing. The students’ creativity is challenged in creating multiple pieces within a set price point, and this year’s variety included lighting, instruments, plant holders, and even coffins!


With such a strong emphasis on design, students spend at least two weeks on this phase of the project. Sketches, maquettes, individual critiques, material studies, scale models and group presentations are all part of this process.

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Lead instructor Aled Lewis was joined this year by Heidi Earnshaw from Toronto, where she owns and operates Heidi Earnshaw Design. Heidi has decades of experience in furniture design and construction, and has recently expanded her portfolio to sell designs for mass production.

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Guest critic Jan Leth, of Periscope Shop in Rockland, Maine, also contributed to the class with a day of design critique. His background as a creative director in advertising and the owner of a modern furniture and housewares shop, Jan brought a valuable perspective to classroom.

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productdevelopmentblog6Photos by Patrick Coughlin

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Students continued to refine their designs throughout the build process, and a visit to the workshop revealed constant material experimentation and ever-growing stacks of products.





productdevelopmentblog15Photo by Patrick Coughlin

productdevelopmentblog16Photos by Patrick Coughlin


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Aled and Heidi worked closely with students to develop their products and processes.


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The gallery show, Current Student Work, opened shortly after the conclusion of the Product Development segment, and several pieces are on display in the Messler Gallery through May 30, 2018.

Below, Nexus Stool by Luke Batten (far left) and Vessel Hold and Held by Blake Gover (far right).


Tea Tray, by Helen Helfand.


Scoop Drums by Matt McLaughlin and detail of Nexus Stool by Luke Batten.


Shoji Lamp by Eric Dunder.

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Spell Bound by Jeffery Mazur.


Cairn Containers by Sam Friedlander.


Be sure to check out Current Student Work in the Messler Gallery before May 30, 2018! The gallery is open Monday through Friday from 9 am to 5 pm, and from 10 am to 4 pm on Saturdays.