Sustainability. Design. Innovation. 

Nicole McLaughlin’s workshops are a significant focus of her work. These globally held exercises help people realize the possibilities of pre-existing items and allow McLaughlin to connect with people and support her community. 

With the most recent internal CamelBak workshop, Ambassador Nicole McLaughlin speaks to the why behind her workshops and her process.  



As children, we're encouraged to have fun, get messy, and make creations with our hands. Given free rein, we explore the world around us and find what makes us happy. But the older we get, the more we're told to move away from this process of creation and imagination. The sheltered space we once had is no longer that. Now it's safety, security, and the idea of stability that helps us sleep at night.  


That's kind of where my journey began. 

Several months before the pandemic, I left my corporate job to pursue other opportunities. My parents were somewhat concerned—more about my potential lack of insurance benefits—but they were supportive, nonetheless. Leaving my first job was a big risk. But if I were going to take a chance on anything, it would be on me.  

In my previous role, I took inspiration from archives and the heritage/ craft of things. When I started experimenting with making, I was constantly working with my hands, taking things apart and putting them back together. 

Even as a graphic designer, most of my designs started with handmade pieces that I later digitized. Subconsciously, I had always been handy, excuse the pun, but making things on my own helped me realize how significant a role it played in the creative process.  


Why are workshops important? 

Sometimes people attend my workshops because they're looking for answers they can't find. Others could be seeking creative validation. They may be looking to connect with like-minded individuals. Or perhaps it's curiosity. Whatever the reason, everyone is welcome. But personally, it’s about finding a way to reconnect with yourself through failing. I know this sounds very existential but bear with me.  

My nostalgia helps inform how I "see," but my work only exists because I'm hands-on. I had to learn a lot about what failure looked like and what it meant. I also learned how to move past it. For me, it's a stage in my learning process and a necessity. Is it frustrating? Absolutely! You cannot get away from how it makes you feel. But you can choose how to approach it and how long its effects linger. 

Sometimes projects come together like a dream. Others remain in the background until I'm ready. This isn't a failure. It's giving me the space I need to grow as a designer and tackle it in the best way possible. I learned all of this through trial and error.  

Within the safe environment of a workshop, you try and fail without fear of repercussion. You can ignore rules and teaching and opt to go with intuition. Sometimes finding that missing piece is as easy as making that first cut. Other times it takes a bit longer. But once you get there, you throw caution to the wind and dive right in. 

I love seeing all this unfold. It's one of the greatest joys in my career, seeing others reconnecting into that much-needed childlike sense of wonder we've had to leave behind.

April 06, 2023 — YUYU HUANG