An Interview with Katrina Spade

Our Q&A with November speaker, Katrina Spade, who will be talking on the theme of Death.

Katrina Spade has been a designer and entrepreneur since 2002, with a focus on human-centered, ecological design. While earning her Architecture degree, she invented a system called “recomposition” which transforms the dead into soil.

In 2014, Katrina founded the non-profit Urban Death Project to bring attention to the problem of a toxic funeral industry and lay the research groundwork for this new form of disposition. Most recently, she founded Recompose, a benefit corporation working to bring recomposition to the public sphere.

Katrina has a BA in Anthropology from Haverford College, and a Masters of Architecture from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her work has been featured in the Guardian, NPR, Wired, Fast Company, and the NYTimes. She is an Echoing Green Fellow.

[CreativeMornings (CM)] How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?
[Katrina Spade (SK)] Creativity is problem-solving. A few years ago, I found out about the problem of a toxic funeral industry and asked myself how I could create a solution. This question has become my career…death care is my life’s work! 

[CM] Where do you find your best creative inspiration?
[KS] Working in small groups with 2-5 smart, diverse people for a couple of intensive design days is my favorite way to get the creative juices flowing. On my own, I can make the overall project flow, but when it comes to design and creativity, I need collaboration. 

[CM] What’s the one creative advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person?
[KS] Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Admit what you don’t know…shout it from the rooftops. That feeling is where the good stuff comes from.

[CM] Who would you like to hear speak at CreativeMornings?
[KS] Alan Maskin, of Olson Kundig (OK), an architecture firm in Seattle

[CM] What fact about you would surprise people?
[KS] I LOVE (and am pretty good at) badminton.

[CM] How do your life and career compare to what you envisioned for your future when you were a sixth grader?
[KS] When I was a kid, I envisioned being a doctor or a midwife…I didn’t know many designers and it didn’t occur to me that I could do that sort of work. Likewise, I didn’t have many entrepreneurs in my network…now here I am doing both.

[CM] What’s the most recent thing you learned (big or small)?
[KS] These days, thanks to the wonderful baby boomer generation, 10,000 Americans are turning 65 each day.

[CM] What myths about creativity would you like to set straight?
[KS] Some people think that only certain people can be creative or design - that’s not true. Every day we actively design our lives - from the clothes we wear to the people we hang out with. Everyone is a designer. It’s true!

[CM] When you get stuck creatively, what is the first thing you do to get unstuck?
[KS] I go running, or I call my friend Garth. Sometimes, slowly, I do both at once.