Jodie Paffrath Lights Up the World

DSC_0420 Senior Jodie Paffrath was raised around the family art business, so it was only natural that her background would come into play when deciding upon a Senior Project. However, she was less interested in the business side of things and more curious about creative process. She spent the summer researching Greek sculpture and visiting museums with her father as she laid the foundation for a sculpture project, but in the back of her mind lingered a particular piece of furniture she had seen three years prior: a wooden table with glow-in-the-dark elements. Raised in the German countryside, Jodie finds fascination in gazing at the sky for hours, losing herself in the vast complexity of the universe. So, for her Senior Project, Jodie decided to design and construct a wooden coffee table of her own with a personal, illuminated twist.

Jodie saw her Senior Project as an opportunity to create naturalistic art infused with her own personality. Her mentor, Ned Smyth, helped Jodie design a table that would personify the interplay between the natural world and its contemporary components. After finalizing the design, the next step was to choose a piece of wood. Jodie and her mother traveled all the way to a backwoods warehouse in New Jersey, hauling a marvelous piece of redwood back to East Hampton. Redwood was chosen for what Jodie calls its “transformative power.” Jodie recalls, “I immediately fell in love with the structure of the wood and the little waves that give depth to the structure itself.” Having little experience in woodwork, Jodie then turned to Jon Mulhern for help with the construction of her table. However, Jodie says the greatest challenge came not in the design or carving but in the table’s less obvious details—the miniscule carvings, the drilling of her design, and finally the tedious labor of filling in the holes with layers of paint.

At Senior Project Exhibition Night, Jodie’s table was a showstopper! With the lights off, the details of the table’s intricate design shone. Teachers and parents began coveting the piece right away. Art history teacher Therese Lichtenstein suggested that the table should go to a museum. But Jodie always knew just where her special table would live–in her family home, right in front of the couch, a place where everyone can gather to enjoy the table’s beauty.

Jodie plans to take a gap year to explore the world after her graduation from Ross. She will spend time away from cities and immersed in the countryside, where she can lose herself in the feeling of watching the night sky for hours. Following some time abroad, Jodie intends to pursue a combination of art history and fine arts at a European university. Once shipped to its permanent home in Germany, Jodie’s Earth table will serve as her reminder of how unique and complex the world in which we live is and how important it is to live in a sustainable manner.