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Laurie OlinLaurie Olin| Call the Midwife| Byer's Choice


Laurie Olin| Call the Midwife| Byer's Choice



Without the art of landscape architecture, a lot of landmarks and areas we know and love would not exist the same way. Suzanne sits down with Laurie Olin, a renowned landscape architect, to discuss the finer elements of his art form.

Landscape architecture is, essentially, the rearranging and designing of outdoor spaces to bring forth their natural beauty. The designs, Laurie says, often begin with a client’s need to draw attention to a particular space, or to create a particular atmosphere. Then his team at OLIN goes through the process of creating the space, from the drawing board to the finished product. Some of Laurie’s best landmark projects include Bryant Park and Columbus Circle in New York, the Getty center in Los Angeles, and several Philadelphia landmarks.

One such Philadelphia landmark that Laurie helped to create is the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Sculpture Garden. Originally, the museum was looking for a way to unobtrusively design an additional parking garage, and Laurie’s idea was to have the entrance of the garage hidden by beautiful sculptures, and the rest of the garage hidden beneath the grounds of the garden. Another landmark Laurie worked on is the restoration of Logan Square. Laurie’s team at OLIN was tasked with redesigning the space so as to block off as much traffic as possible and refocus pedestrian attention on the fountain in the center of the square. The most recent of Laurie’s projects is the Barnes museum, which is designed to create an experience that spans several different atmospheres in one place.

To Laurie Olin, the best part of being a landscape architect is seeing people enjoying his work by simply absorbing the experience he creates in his public spaces.

In today’s advanced medical world, many people do not recognize that midwives still play a major role in childbirth around the world. Ruth Wilf, a certified nurse and midwife at The Birthing Center, sits down with Suzanne to discuss the job of a midwife and how the concept and practice of midwifery has changed over the years.

A midwife is a person who is consulted by a pregnant woman and her family to take on the responsibilities of prenatal care and the process of giving birth. Women can become certified as midwives at several colleges, according to Ruth, including fine establishments like the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, and Yale. Ruth explains that midwifery training begins with being a nurse, then moves into maternity nursing to build up maternity experience, and ends with a master’s program and finally, a National Board Examination from the American College of Nurse Midwives. The process is vigorous for a job that many people in America take for granted. Midwives are not to be confused with obstetricians-gynecologists, or OB-GYNs. Ruth shares that collaboration between midwives and OB-GYNs is necessary, but that the two do very different jobs. OB-GYNs, she says, specialize in the labor and birth itself, and of surgical aspects of pregnant women’s health, while midwives are concerned with the prenatal and postpartum care of the woman and her child as well as the labor. 

Most midwives today work in hospitals, but Ruth says that some will still work with pregnant women in their homes to help deliver their babies. In European countries like Britain and Holland, she says, this process is very common. Ruth emphasizes that in the United States, there is some resistance toward midwives at hospitals. By encouraging cooperation between midwives and medical specialists, these barriers can be broken down and midwives can become as integral a part of the birthing process in the U.S. as they are in other countries all around the world. 

The care provided by midwives at The Birthing Center is very special. Ruth tells Suzanne that women travel from some distances to get access to midwifery. Midwives can provide a very personal touch to maternity care. Ruth says that explaining the purpose of midwives and the work that they do could change the system of maternity care to one that centers on midwifery, and that doing so could greatly improve the way pregnant women are taken care of in the United States.


For many people, Christmas isn’t marked just by the calendar - it’s also marked by the appearance of those well-known caroler dolls that adorn their households. Joyce Byers, the creator of the caroler dolls, talks to Suzanne about the origins and future of her business. 

Byers Choice began as a simple hobby. Joyce used everyday items to craft the original dolls, including wire hangers, newspaper, fabric scraps, and even some dog hair. Today, they use old fur coats or synthetic hair for doll’s hair, but the other pieces remain largely the same despite the success of Byers Choice. Joyce’s children, Bob and Jeff, continue to work for Byers Choice, even after working there for over twenty years. Byers Choice dolls are sold around the world. More than 20% of the annual profits for the dolls go to charity; Joyce and her family are strongly committed to giving back. 

The Byers Choice factory is a tourist destination today, with several rooms dedicated to different doll themes and windows above the factory floor so people can watch the dolls being made. First, the wire is shaped, then they are wrapped in tissue paper to form the body. Clay is used to make the faces, and artists paint the faces. Each artist uses a slightly different style. Then the figures are dressed, and hair is attached with fabric glue. Suzanne goes through the process of dressing a doll and giving it a winter outfit.

The employees at Byers Choice describe their workplace as a big family, and with Joyce at the head of the company, it’s not hard to see why. 

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