While studying architecture at Virginia Tech, James was introduced to the idea of craft and material culture as a defining element in the design process. He became involved in the school’s design/build program, working within a team of students and professors designing and constructing a house comprised of rammed earth, concrete, steel and wood elements. This hands-on experience led James to a role as a designer working within a multi-disciplinary architectural design and fabrication shop. Moving between the shop and the office, he designed at the computer as well solved problems within the fabrication processes on the shop floor, gaining a better understanding of the limits and capabilities of many different types of materials.
James also focuses much of his free time on printmaking, which he describes as being analogous to the process of constructing a building- constantly having one eye on the final vision and another focused on building the print layer by layer.