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Meet Anh Phan

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For our monthly segment giving you a bit more insight into the Creative Mornings Denver community, we sat down with Anh Phan, who owns and runs SFERE out of the Converge creative space, and got her take on all things Denver, collaboration, and the wild way that life unfolds. Over coffee at Huckleberry Roasters on Larimer, Anh weaved together all the random and unexpected turns that have led her to her creative ways of today, and to Denver. These events involve an ironically fortuitous encounter with a moving Suburban, a bold shift in career paths from the engineering world to one of design, a Barnes & Noble revelation of her most inherent passions from her days designing layouts for her high school yearbook, and orchestrating the entire event experience for the Paper Fashion Show.

When I asked her to pick what she enjoyed more between conceiving ideas in her head, or bringing ideas to life with her hands, she noted, “I can’t! That’s the best part…! I get to do it all”

CM/D - You’ve come to run your own shop called SFERE. How would you describe your unique or distinct craft?

AP - It’s interesting and challenging to describe exactly what I do in a concise way. It also has changed quite a bit over the past few years. People like cut and dry labels a lot, so in that sense I’m a Display Artist and an Event Designer. But it’s much more than that. I love working with people who may just have a seed of an idea; they appreciate my aesthetic, they want my vision, and they need something actually built. And this thing has to exist or live for a certain period of time. Ultimately, I create experiences in the physical world that offer unique human interactions, and perspectives. I approach everything with a graphic design mentality, but ultimately I physically design moods and atmospheres into tangible 3D space. Everything we do is custom to the client, the actual site we are working with and the audience we are engaging. No project is like another.

CM/D - How long have you lived in Denver and how’d you find yourself in this place?

AP - I’ve been here for 11 years. There was a moment about 12 years ago in a Barnes & Noble in Michigan where I was re-inspired by the art and creativity of the layouts and design in a photography book. These things had a major influence on me historically, when I was a part of the team designing for my high school yearbook. It was in that moment I realized I could make a career out of “this” kind of thing, even if I didn’t know exactly what that looked like. My father was creative and inspired by jewelry and photography, so there are some family ties to my creativity too. I have really explored and discovered my creative interests over the years and I’ve tried to listen to what my passions, talents and interests truly are. Very quickly after the Barnes & NobleI revelation, I left Michigan (and the beginning of a career in engineering), and attended the Art Institute here in Denver for Graphic Design.

CM/D - What’s the most exciting adventure you’ve been on in the last 12 months, locally or globally?

AP - It was in New Orleans, in February, at a gallery on Royal Street. Pinterest has introduced me to inspiring art, projects and people and I had seen some work by Heather Hansen in the past years. I turned the corner in the gallery and there was this 9’ by 9’ piece that I just stumbled on that I had never seen before but knew it was her work. It was fun to discover something unexpected in a random place that you somehow are already familiar with.

CM/D - How has creativity evolved for you?

AP - A handful of years back, I was working for a shop called Moxie Sozo and had a bad encounter with a Suburban that landed me in the ICU and involved a two-year recovery time. That accident literally and figuratively stopped me in my tracks. It’s ironic how that time in my life forced me to step back, slow down for a bit and really consider what and how I thought of creativity. I had waded into my creative career and there was no turning back for me, but the exact way I wanted to exercise my talents and passions was still uncertain and I noticed it was changing and expanding quite a bit. In fact I think it will always change. Creativity for me is something that is constantly evolving.

CM/D - Can you share some of your creative passions and outlets?

AP - I have been involved in the Paper Fashion Show quite a bit over the years. It’s a beautiful combination of my appeal for engineering, fashion, graphic design, and style and layouts. As the Visual Creative Director for this year's Paper Fashion Show, SFERE was in charge of creating the event experience for the attendees at Bindery on Blake. We concepted several different art installations, including custom light fixtures, a photo booth backdrop and the runway design. We collaborated with an artist who built these amazing string installations for the event as well. We also couldn't have built and set up everything without our team of 20 volunteers that day! They were really the ones that made it happen.

CM/D - The Denver creative community seems to be on a tear! What have you noticed and what do you admire most about what’s happening around town?

AP - A lot of people have decided to go out on their own, and to work for themselves! There are so many small businesses within the local creative community. I’m really proud of the Denver community for being so creative and courageous, building something from scratch. People have these great talents and they are noticing all these different needs that exist. They are building their careers around their passions and those needs. The “Support Local” movement is largely related to the product based businesses, but I see this expanding in to creative services quite a bit! Denver is a great place to run a passionate creative business!

CM/D - What is your draw to Creative Mornings? What do you enjoy most about it, and what do you get out of it?

AP - I have a range of creative interests and they are all fed by Creative Mornings and the variety of speaker and topics. Creative Mornings is also great opportunity to catch up with colleagues that I don’t get to see consistently.

CM/D - How many CM Denvers have you attended?

AP - I’ve been to at least 12 at this point!

CM/DThis month’s global Creative Mornings theme is “Collaborate”! Can you share your perspective collaboration in your world? How have you experienced collaboration?

AP - Listening to your gut is very important when collaborating, which can be challenging because there are lots of guts involved! I think it’s important to understand our roles when we are collaborating and it’s important that expectations are laid out in the beginning. Unbridled collaboration can yield amazing things, but sometimes by design you need to have a certain structure to afford the best collaboration. Collaboration is essential when you have constraints and parameters around a project, and you need to maximize possibilities in the most efficient way.

CM/D - Thanks for sharing your story Anh! How do people say hello to you?

AP - anh@SFERE.co

Our CreativeMornings/Denver community is filled with creative and inspiring people. As part of our mission to gather and celebrate that community, we’d like to use this space on our blog as another way to tell your stories and hear your thoughts on our monthly themes. We hope to reach out to a few folks every month - please drop us a line at denver@creativemornings.com if you’re interested in sharing your story with the community!

With a start in graphic design and advertising, Juan Sanchez is now the Creative Director of Tack Mobile, a Denver-based company that designs and builds software for mobile and connected devices.

After working in a few different industries, in a couple of different cities, Megan Moore is now the owner and principal of Swiss Milk Studio - a Denver based Interior Architecture & Design firm. Megan has spent the last eight plus years designing commercial and residential interiors in the Denver area, as well as domestically and internationally.

Meet Heidi McGuire

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Our CreativeMornings/Denver community is filled with creative and inspiring people. As part of our mission to gather and celebrate that community, we’d like to use this space on our blog as another way to tell your stories and hear your thoughts on our monthly themes. We hope to reach out to a few folks every month - please drop us a line at denver@creativemornings.com if you’re interested in sharing your story with the community!

To kick things off, we recently sat down with Heidi McGuire and learned about her and her career in creativity, on the back patio at Crema Coffee House. Heidi proudly calls herself a storyteller, and owns 321 Media Productions where she works with businesses and organizations to tell their stories through online video.

CM/D - How would you describe the unique take on your work?

HM - I’m a one-woman-show. I produce, shoot, and edit. I turned stories for ten years daily in to TV news, as a solo-journalist. Today I use those same skills to work with my clients on telling their story online through video. I think it really makes a difference when you understand the whole picture and can execute. I also know my limitations, and have no problem calling on someone who’s a total badass in writing, editing, or shooting.

CM/D - How long have you lived in Denver?

HM - I moved here nine years ago, and spent a year and half in Mexico up until about a year ago.  After leaving the news biz I went on a little detour down to Mexico. I followed a fella down there who was chasing a job opportunity and I was up for a new adventure. About a month in, the magic of this dusty little Baja beach town started to wear off, and I’ll honestly say the next year and a half was the most challenging of my adult life. It’s amazing how loud the quiet can be. I learned that I rely a lot on my friends and community for inspiration and motivation. I learned that people make a place. And, I learned the single most important thing I can do to feel alive is to be connected with other human beings. I’m grateful for the opportunity and the experience and I recognize just how lucky I am to call Colorado home.

CM/D - What’s the most exciting adventure you’ve been on in the last 12 months, locally or globally?

HM - One year ago I was on a 48-foot catamaran for two weeks with the awesome team over at Icelantic Skis. They teamed up with The Moorings, a sailing company, and explored the Grenadine Islands. I produced the videos that were used as co-promotional marketing for both companies. It didn’t pay a dime, and I spent two months of my summer editing, but it was the trip of a lifetime.

CM/D - What is creativity to you?  

HM - In its purest form, creativity is self-expression! In the beginning of my career (I studied and worked in traditional journalism in the beginning), it was about connection for me. Journalism afforded that, and video was the mechanism and reason to put myself in places that I wanted to be.  There’s a component to creativity tied to being alive, and tied in to making something.  It’s an expression of our life and where we are in that moment.

CM/D - What are your creative passions and outlets?

HM - When it comes to good stories, I think I’m a yes person.  I enjoy variety and I love to learn. I am pretty focused on videography these days, but having your own passion projects is valuable. Creating something for myself and for me only, is important.

CM/D - What have you noticed and what do you admire about the Denver creative community?

HM - It’s so collaborative and supportive. There’s nowhere else I’d rather do what I’m doing. There is lots of sharing! Sharing ideas, projects, you name it.

CM/D - What is your draw to Creative Mornings? What do you enjoy most about it, and what do you get out of it?

HM - Connection! I mostly work alone, and it can get really lonely. Especially on days when I spend 10-12 hours on my computer editing. It’s nice to know I’m gonna see some familiar faces, and you literally never know who you’re going to meet. The second time I attended, I met Thaddeus Anderson who created the amazing Breathless video. He’s the nicest guy and has such an amazing story. I literally left that day feeling cooler having met him!

CM/D - How many CM Denvers have you attended?

HM - Two so far!  I attended the Ink Panel and the most recent talk by Take One Creative.

CM/D - What is the most inspiring thing that you’ve taken away from your Creative Mornings?  

HM - That conversation I had with Thaddeus came around to the question, “What are you passionate about?” You know, in our busy lives we just don’t talk to each other like that and his thoughtfulness and genuine interest in what gets me fired up, really left me inspired to connect with people on a deeper level.

CM/D – This month’s global Creative Mornings theme is “Revolution”! Can you share your perspective on revolution and creativity? How are you revolutionary in your creative life and career?

HM - The ability to tell our story is like never before. People and brands are be able to tell their story more uniquely, widely and affordably than one could imagine just a few years ago. That’s allowed me to look at things in a different way for myself and my clients.  As someone who thinks with a journalistic mind, content is just as critical as ever.  But now, with such a variety of platforms to help distribute ideas and story, it’s incredible to see what’s possible!

CM/D - Thanks for sharing your story Heidi!  How do people say hello to you?

HM - 321MediaProductions@gmail.com

CreativeMornings/Denver is back this Friday, June 5th, at The Source with a talk on the the theme of “Revolution” by Evan Weissman, founder of Warm Cookies of the Revolution. The goal is a revolution that starts with cities, and helping ordinary people find ways to exercise their “civic health” and engage with the municipality in surprising and creative ways.Tickets will be available at 9:00 am on Monday through our website as usual - get ‘em before the establishment finds out. 

This revolution won’t be televised, but if you can’t attend in person we will post the video on the internet within a few weeks.


June Partner: Universal Mind
Our partner for June is Universal Mind, a UX and technology agency based right here in Denver. They partner with us to encourage a little healthy revolt through creativity and technology in our city, and run design thinking and software projects for businesses across the country. Learn more at UniversalMind.com.

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The admonition greets visitors as they arrive for MATTER’s eleventh annual print sale and party. High on a wall of the design studio’s cavernous warehouse space on Market Street, the two-color screen-print poster warns in severely modified Helvetica Bold: “You may not steal the font library here, nor may you bring any janky, knock off, free shit up in here. This is a fucking business.”

There’s nothing janky or knock-off about the crowd that’s shown up here — hipsters in skinny jeans, plastic-rimmed glasses and thrift-store dresses. As for any of them stealing MATTER’s font library? Not if that library comprises the eight-foot-tall plywood letters that stand like sentinels around the studio, each decorated with various prints for sale for $100 and up.

"The burden of knowledge is action," reads one four-color print tacked to a giant letter "S." Nearby, an uppercase "D" holds a poster that’s been printed with historic letterpress plates advertising bygone circus attractions. On some posters, comic-book-style word bubbles frame bold statements; on others, words and letters climb around one another like elements of an architectural facade. Nearby, T-shirts for sale pronounce "Shut up and eat your Helvetica," while $15 ladies’ underwear declares, "Do you think this kerns itself?"  Continue reading…http://bit.ly/1z9a5ur

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What if the biggest chance we take is to not take enough creative risks? This month’s speaker, Cynthia Morris, has a theory on why we don’t take creative risks. 

It’s human nature to play it safe (for most people, that is).  We’re great at justifying the status quo, because we know exactly what to expect — even if it’s dissatisfying.  We find reasons not to do what we want to do—and it can all seem perfectly reasonable. The unknown can seem terrifying.  We convince ourselves that we’re being smart and realistic, until we have more time, money or knowledge.  But it’s in that same place – that place of deep uncertainty — where creativity can become fully charged.  

So many times in life, we finally get around to doing something and then wonder, “Why did I wait so long?” If we had known the positive results would far outweigh the discomfort and worry of trying something new, we would have pushed ourselves sooner.  But we never know that in advance. We can only know that our reasons to do something must be greater than our excuses not to.

In Cynthia Morris’s work to keep creatives moving beyond their comfort zones, she’s developed a theory about the excuses we all use to not put our work out there:

Fake Excuse # 1:  Time

  • I’m too busy with my “real job” to do what I love.
  • I don’t have time to work on what I’m passionate about.
  • I’ll get to it—someday.

Fake Excuse # 2:  Money

  • I don’t have the money to get started.
  • I need to continue earning what I earn now.
  • What if I can’t make any money at it?

Fake Excuse # 3:  Knowledge

  • It’s all been done before.
  • Maybe this isn’t such a great idea after all.
  • I don’t know where/how to start.

Fake Excuse # 4:  It’s just a Side Project

  • It’s just passion project – something I do in my spare time.
  • If you’re not gonna go full time – then why do it all?

Would you like to know about how other creatives have wrestled with these excuses – and won?!  Come give a listen to Cynthia at our next Creative Mornings chat on November 7, 2014, and find out!

“The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own. No apologies or excuses… The gift is yours — it is an amazing journey — and you alone are responsible for the quality of it.”                                                                               

                                                                      ~Bob Moawad

by Amy Fisk, Creative Mornings: Denver

After working with start-ups for 16 years Keith Roberts of Zenman knows a little bit about failure.  But not in the way you might be thinking.  Keith has a different relationship with failure, and that is he sees failure as opportunity.   “Failure,” Keith says, “is an opportunity to incrementally improve. Trials and tribulations are part of any growth process.  It’s what we do with the failure – what we do with the lesson” that defines whether we go boldly forward or beat a hasty retreat.

Many of us fear failure.  We can’t help ourselves.  It’s human nature.  Who goes into a new endeavor hoping to fail?  The idea that we could fail leaves us feeling reluctant and underprepared.  Often these feelings are interpreted as a sign that it’s time to question our motives, do more planning, or bail out fast! 

In a recent book “Fail Fast, Fail Often:  How Losing Can Help you Win” by Ryan Babineaux we learn that most significant accomplishments arise out of plenty mistakes and failures.  It can be easy to think that successful enterprises are the result of extraordinary brilliance and come into being perfectly formed.  Howard Schultz’s creation of Starbucks is a great example of how success arises from many failures.

When Schultz first started Starbucks, he modeled his stores after Italian coffee shops, a relatively new idea for Americans.  Though Schultz’s idea was a good starting point, the Starbucks of today bear little resemblance to his first idea. As he would soon discover, many things were wrong with his idea.  Some of you may remember, in the first stores, the baristas wore bow ties, the menus were in Italian, and opera music played in the background. The coffee shops of today evolved through thousands of experiments, adjustments, and revisions along the way.

This example points out an important principle: successful people take action as quickly as possible, even though they may perform badly. They see failure as a sign of being in a space of growth and that is all the more reason to press ahead.  Instead of trying to avoid making mistakes and failing, they actively seek opportunities where they can face the limits of their skills and knowledge so that they can learn quickly.

 “Giving yourself permission to make a mess of things is particularly important if you do any sort of creative work. (We should note that all people are creative—which is to say that they live in the real world, form ideas, come up with solutions to problems, have dreams, and forge their own path; your own life is your ultimate creation.),” says Babineaux. 

Keith notes that businesses that are flexible to learning about their failures tend to have an edge on success.   You don’t always know exactly where you’re going with a new idea, but if you stay open-minded, accept the constructive input you receive during development, and ultimately adapt to what you learn from the consumers of your product/service, something beyond your own imagination will emerge.  

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