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Audience Takes The Stage 2018

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March 23, 8:30am • The Music Hall Loft • part of a series on Courage

On March 23, we are flipping the script and handing the mic over to you! Instead of our usual monthly speaker in March, five speakers from the PKX community will get five minutes exactly on the topic of COURAGE.So be brave, now’s your chance. If you’ve always wanted to speak at CM, have an idea or a story that you think the rest of the community would love to hear, or have just lost a really awesome bet, send us your best speaker proposal.Submit 60-sec video (preferred) or short written pitch that includes: title, how it relates, & broad outline of talk to portsmouth@creativemornings.comSubmission Deadline: FEB 23rdCan’t wait to see all of the creativity flooding our inbox!

Laurie-Beth Robbins

Our interview with January ANXIETY speaker, Laurie-Beth Robbins of Smart Octopus Cookie.

PKX: Tell us about your journey to being the expert on the ANXIETY conversation?

Laurie-Beth: So my story begins in rural Vermont. 

When I was 6 years old I asked my parents for frog legs & octopus salad to eat.

They didn’t know where that came from, and nor did I! Something within me asked. But to their credit, they fostered that interest. They went above and beyond with their humble, middle income to find these ingredients for me and expose me to that. I chose my parents well. 

Fast forward, and I got into competitive public speaking at school. I would barter with my parents to be taken to gourmet restaurants for winning the tournaments. I won, and they took me. So the food and the speaking started early. 

Food and speaking were my haven from brutal bullying at school. Anxiety was an early theme for me. 

If not for my wonderful parents, I probably wouldn’t be here. 

My tormenters made a very confident woman out of me, but not until later in life. 

We do carry our scars for a long time. 

But public speaking was always my zone. When I was in my zone, I couldn’t hear the bullies. I’m 150% in my zone while speaking and it’s my true love. I love that person in the corner of the room - if I can reach that person with my speaking, then it’s all worth it. 

PKX: Talk to us about the topic Anxiety a bit more.


I was taken in Greece as a 28 year old by Balkan thugs and I was to be sold into the sex trade. 

But there was no Liam Neeson to arrive on cue. I saved my own ass and in a very long way I made it home. I was raped by two men. 

I have looked the eyes of Hell in the face, and in that moment I began to realize that we all have the same energy. 

So even though I make videos about smoked lobster and decadence, I do know anxiety all to well. 

I do know the ultimate struggle. 

The difference is I was raised by probably the most upbeat people in the world, and to their credit, they helped me choose the good in life. 

You have to go looking for the good in every single situation. 

We have a choice every day to send it in a certain direction, and most people fail that test and they send it in a really negative direction.

Anxiety is a very powerful energy.  

The same energy and the same power that is in that stress, can give us the same prowess to correct it and have something wonderful. It’s a matter of choice. 

We get in our own way. We have pity parties. We decide we want to be anxious.

We feel scared, and we stay that way. But that same dynamic feeling that is giving you the panic is ENERGY. That’s powerful. If you use it in a positive, good, direction, you can walk out of here feeling better than you ever did. But it’s a choice. 

Not everyone wants to be around strong, upbeat people who are confident. 

Anxiety presents a wonderful choice. We all have it. No one is immune to it. But how we respond to makes the difference. 

Anxiety is just another powerful form of energy, and it can be channeled to do good, or harm. 

I’ve met people who have been through horrors. 

I asked a wonderful man who was a holocaust survivor how he is able to stand with humor and pay it forward. I asked him what would his advice be to people today. He said “You have to look at your life and say is there anything in my life right now, even a tiny sliver that is good, and if there is, you have to focus all your energy on that. And if you believe there is nothing - then you have to go looking for it.” 

That changed me. It really changed me. You’ve got to go looking for the good.

You have a choice with that energy. Poor me, or I’M ALIVE. 

If you walk through hell, and survive, then you have an obligation to give some of that strength that other people who are navigating anxiety. Give them a hug, a smile, some of that life force. 

I’m not heroic. I’m not courageous. But talking about pain is very courageous.

PKX: Anything new and exciting in your field?

I think people are more accepting of “motivation” now. You see so many upbeat memes right now. People are craving motivation. A little upbeat Laurie-Beth Robbins moment! 

People are craving solace on their devices and in their lives. 

A sliver of motivation on your facebook feed, local summits and meet ups - that is exciting to me. 

PKX: If you could open a door to anywhere in the past, present, of future, where would it be and why?


To one of Salvador Dali’s eccentric dinner parties. They would have wild animals strolling around, everyone would wear costumes - they would have this wild lobster tree - that is so my league. I used to host exotic parties. I would love to open a door and peek into one of this parties. 

PKX: Any advice to someone just starting out?


Never use notes. No teleprompter. You are far more powerful without them. No one will know you missed a word. So if you forget what you were going to say, and you will, you will something you didn’t plan which is even better. Learn to be an extemporaneous speaker. That is far more confident. When I taught speaking, I made them be extemporaneous on the first day of class. No notes! That is my advice. A wedding toast, a eulogy, a debate - no notes! It also helps with anxiety! You are stronger than you know!

PKX: If we could invite anyone to be a speaker at PKX, who would it be?


Joan Rivers. I love her. I still love her. Bright. Hilarious. Strong. Someone who struggled. She knows real deal authentic living. I would love to just hug her and get a little bit of that schtick. Thanks Laurie-Beth. We hope everyone decides to think about the choice they have with anxiety after your talk. Photography by Raya Al-Hashmi of Raya on Assignment. Interview by Geneve Hoffman, Host of CreativeMornings PKX - Portsmouth NH. Interview held at Profile Coffee Bar, Portsmouth NH.

Barbara Bates Sedoric

Our interview with November DEATH speaker, Barbara Bates Sedoric - Founder of LastingMatters.

PKX: Tell us about your journey to being the expert on the DEATH conversation?

Barb: My answer is two fold, maybe three fold. 

Many years ago I was a paralegal in a big firm in Boston and I was often sent to widow’s houses after the death of their spouse. I was looking for documents for a court inventory. 

What I found besides documents were…families grieving, families stressed out, decisions that hadn’t been made, arguments between siblings, and essentially chaos at a very emotional time. 

It really stuck with me. 

I was dumbfounded that every time this happened, nobody knew what was going to happen when someone passed away. They had boxes of things and papers, but they were missing almost everything else of importance. 

The second part of the answer is that it’s in my DNA. 

I grew up in three generations of financial advisors and I’m married to Tom, a nationally recognized wealth manager. We always talked about the “what if’s.“ 

The third part is that this happened to me. 

11 years ago my brother called me and said two words that changed my life: “Mom’s dead.” 

I had just talked to her the night before. The adrenaline kicked in, the panic, “who do I call?” - all of the chaos I had seen so many times.

We found ourselves in a place of not knowing the details of what my mother wanted at her funeral. 

I spent a few weeks with my dad cleaning things out. 

So my decision to start LastingMatters happened when I talked to my dad in those weeks after my mom’s funeral. I decided this was not going to happen with my dad. When the time comes, and we really do not know when it will, ever, I wanted to be prepared. 

I also realized I had a solution to a big problem. 

And there was nothing like the LastingMatters Organizer out there that I could find. 

It took me 4 years. I interviewed 100s of people - and it boiled down to one question: What do you wish you had known before someone passed away that would have saved you time, money, stress, and family discourse? 

We wanted to design an approachable organizer about life and death that wasn’t morbid.

People don’t want to feel helpless - this organizer empowers people. 

PKX: Where and how do you find creative inspiration?

Barb: I never thought of this as being creative before I was asked by CreativeMornings. But then I realized - it is!

It’s very thought provoking to start talking out loud to people about your death. 

Even the language around DEATH is provocative. We “lost” Uncle Joe. Well we didn’t “lose” him. People don’t want to use the words even. 

It inspires me to share my work with people, and then have them think about their own individual needs. 

Maybe you don’t want to have a funeral? Maybe you want a cocktail party!

People get creative with death. We plan for everything else - parties, weddings, retirement. But we don’t do a good job planning for the inevitable event. 

People are afraid because they think that if they talk about it, it’s going to happen. 

Well, it IS going to happen. You are going to die. 

And we don’t know when. 

So let’s talk about it.

It’s as simple as “do you want to be an organ donor?” Do you know the answer to that question? 

It takes a year to plan a wedding. The funeral is the same thing - except you have to do it in 3 days. 

Everyone has a story to tell. 

Writing it all down is a gift you can give to your family and loved ones. A gift you can get and receive. 

PKX: How did this months DEATH theme speak to you?

Barb: I recognized my ability to create something that can help people. I found that powerful and meaningful. 

I think that everyone will benefit from having this conversation. 

And the holidays are perfect. Place an organizer on everyone’s table setting and let the conversation fly. 

PKX: Any advice to young legal professionals?

Barb: It’s very targeted area - I don’t know many people who do this. 

If you are really interested in helping other families in a more meaningful way:

You have to be at ease talking about death. It’s not for everyone. 

Even my friends sometimes say to me “is this really what you want to do?” 

My approach to death is practical.  I want people to be able to grieve in comfort. It’s that simple. 

PKX: If you could open a door to anywhere, where would you go?

Barb: I would open a door to the past. 

To my grandparent’s house in Rochester on Christmas morning. 

I would see people who have passed away. 

I would be that carefree child again - not the responsible adult that I pretend to be. 

I would love that.

PKX: If we could invite anyone to speak, who would it be?

Barb: Ian Bremer. Because he is the most intelligent global thinker, and this is a global organization. He’s my first choice. 

I would invite a friend of my husband’s, Gloria Steinem. She is one of the most thoughtful people I know. When you are in her presence, you are the only person that matters. 

I also like Michael Kimmel - author of Angry White Men. Read it if you want to understand the political environment we are in today.

Locally - my husband Tom Sedoric on financial literacy and civics education. 

Thanks Barb. We are looking forward to having this conversation about DEATH with our own families.

Photography by Raya Al-Hashmi of Raya on Assignment. Interview by Geneve Hoffman, Host of CreativeMornings PKX - Portsmouth NH. Interview held at Profile Coffee Bar, Portsmouth NH.

Tod Mott

Our interview with October PIONEER speaker, Tod Mott - Founder and head brewer at Tributary Brewing Company in Kittery, Maine. 

PKX: Tell us about your journey to becoming a master beer brewer.

Tod: In 2003 I was in an interview with Portsmouth Brewing and they asked me to critique all 8 of their beers. I literally tore every single one of the beers apart, except their brainchild called Old Brown Dog. But the other 7 - I said, hey “Sky’s the limit.” They hired me, and we turned what was floundering little brewery into a world class one. We all loved it, but over the course of 8.5 years you just get tired of the same thing. 

My creative process really evolved at Portsmouth Brewery. 

Instead of just having a set of beers set in stone and maybe one or two seasonal beers, we rotated the stouts. That kept things interesting. We tried all kinds of stouts - we had a Black Cat Stout, Le Chat Noir which was a Belgian Stout, we had an Oatmeal Stout, a Milk Stout, a Russian Imperial Stout called Kate the Great. 

Kate the Great got this crazy cult following. 

We went from being little Portsmouth Brewery making good beer, to now all of the sudden we were a destination brewery one day a year - the first Monday in March - we would release Kate the Great. At midnight when we closed on Sunday night, there was a line. People would spend the night, in March, in New Hampshire. The governor gave us a proclamation - Kate The Great day. 

This all happened because of The Beer Advocate. Jason and Tom Alstrom put out this issue once a year for the best beers. in 2007 they called Kate the Great the second best beer on the planet and the best beer in America. 

A Russian imperial stout being called the best beer in America? It was so humbling. 

There are so many great beers in America. 

At Tributary we have taken the recipe from Kate the Great, not the name, just the recipe because that recipe has followed me since I started brewing in 1996 at the Back Bay Brewing company where we were calling it The Boston Strangler Stout. We got a cease and desist on that name from the families of the victims, which we honored, and just called it a Russian Imperial Stout. Every year I would make the stout wherever I was brewing. 

PKX: When did you know you were on to something with beer with your palette?

Tod: Because I drank so many out of balance beers. 

So many craft breweries are putting out these "hops bombs” that are too bitter.

My father was a wine enthusiast. I got the taste for wine as a 14 year old. 

We went to Switzerland and on Sunday afternoons my father implemented a rule that we would have a small glass of wine as was the custom there for teens. So I started tasting and finding nuance - and we would sit and talk about it. Why does this pair well with food? So I was way ahead of the curve and I’ve developed a really great palette. I am a national judge on the World Beer Cup and the Great American Beer Festival. I’m getting pretty burnt out on it. It’s not just hanging out and getting drunk. You have three flights a day of 7 beers, three days in a row. A lot of paperwork and tasting notes. It’s a lot harder than it sounds. It’s a big responsibility and I take it very seriously. 

PKX: So talk about this explosion in craft beer.

Tod: I’ve been waiting for this to happen to since 1996. It’s been outrageous! Took a while to get momentum, but now I’m concerned about the sustainability. The cream will rise to the top. Not everyone is going to make it. 

I think it’s a reaction to the big guys. 

Kids of brewers my age grew up with a refrigerator full of really good beer. 

There was never Budweiser in my refrigerator. 

PKX: Is Budweiser not a good beer?

Tod: It’s an incredibly consistent good beer. It just not very engaging. It doesn’t “rub the wrong the way” like a great beer does - it has no edge to it. But they are consistent. They are the American Society of Brewing Chemists and I have all the respect in the world for them, I just don’t particularly like that beer. 

I drank a lot of it in college because you could get a suitcase of it for nothing. But as I got older and starting brewing beer and my wife got me a home brewing kit I realized it’s all process. And since I had my master’s in ceramics, which is also all about process, it made sense to me. 

Brewing is art and science. It’s about understanding your ingredients, it’s recipe formulation, it’s time and temperature, and it’s chemistry and a little microbiology. 

And it was so easy for me to transition from ceramics to beer. I have this idea to put a kiln in the brewery and have the best mug club ever! I haven’t done that yet… 

PKX: Talk to us more about the craft.

Tod: Here at Tributary we are making Pumpkin Ale right now using pumpkins from a local farm. The pumpkins weren’t ready until two days ago. It’s very seasonal and a lot of work. We shred the pumpkins in a giant Hobart over at Portsmouth Brewery, then we use the enzymes in the barley to break down the pumpkin starch down into a fermentable sugar. It’s actually made out of pumpkins. Most pumpkin beers are just spice - there is not a single piece of food in it. We put actual food in our beer. 

I make traditional beers that were historically made for a reason. 

People made beer out of pumpkins because they had pumpkins laying around. 

Like with the origins of IPA, India Pale Ale. The ale was traveling from Europe to India by ship. It went through 7 climactic changes in the holds of ships in big huge barrels. Over the course of the time it took to get there, 3-6 months, it would go bad. The English figured out that what made it more microbiologically stable, was the hops. Hops are an antimicrobial, they are in the beer for a reason. So they upped the alcohol level, which is also a preservative and they added the hops. So the India Pale Ales, the stronger beers, were given to the officers as a straight beverage. And the enlisted men were given watered down versions. 

So historically, India Pale Ale came about as necessity. 

When the first settlers came to the new world, their beers were running out. They had to use whatever they could find. They had barley - they had stores of it along with hops they brought with them, but they were running short. They were trying to figure out, what could they use to augment the fermentability of the beer, and they started using pumpkins and squashes and apples - anything that had a sugar source for a starch and they would use the enzymes from the barley to start to break it down for the brewing process. 

The early settlers figured it out. History is so cool. 

So Imperial Stout and Kate the Great, now this is probably more along the lines of folklore that history, but the story goes the Czarina Katherine was looking for something to drink with her vodka. Beer just wasn’t doing it for her. So the English made an Imperial Stout that was upwards of 12%. 

Kate would have shots of vodka and a stout chaser. That’s why she was so great.

PKX: If you could open up a door to anywhere in time, where would you go and why?

Tod: I would open up a door to circa 1980, because my father was still alive then, and I would carry all this baggage I have now and go back i time and prove to him that I was so appreciative of what he gave me. My parents gave me my palette. My mom is still alive, she’s 90, and she’s so cool. 

But I would love for him to meet my kids, and drink my beer. 

He actually loved beer. Every once and awhile he would splurge and get some German lager. 

PKX: Why do you think your talk will appeal to our CreativeMornings community?

Tod: Creative community is exactly where we live. 

Brewers are a creative bunch. We are troubleshooters, we  are creative, we are inventive, we are imaginative, we use ingredients that most people won’t. 

I’ve done collaborations with some really interesting people. We did an Oyster Stout. And again - like the settlers - it’s a necessity. During WWII there wasn’t a supply of calcium. But there was an abundance of oysters. The British, so ingenious, used oysters to bring the PH down in the stout, and they used the limestone from the calcium in the shells. I think that is brilliant and creative. 

So brewers are pretty creative and very resourceful. We are all Macgyvers. 

PKX: If we could have any speaker at PKX, who would you like to see?

Tod: I saw Ken Burns at the Music Hall, now that he and Lynn Novick have Vietnam out, I’d love to see either of them. I bet Lynn has a lot to say. 

Thanks Tod. Some pumpkin ale sounds good right about now.

Photography by Raya Al-Hashmi of Raya on Assignment. Interview by Geneve Hoffman, Host of CreativeMornings PKX - Portsmouth NH. Interview held at Profile Coffee Bar, Portsmouth NH.

Judy Ringer

Our interview with September COMPASSION speaker, Judy Ringer - Author, Aikidoist, and Owner of Power & Presence Training in Portsmouth NH.

PKX: So what is Aikido for those that don’t know. And tell us about your journey with it.

Judy: I like to start things. 

I have that start up, creative energy. 

A lot of it. 

So for me to have continued in this work for 24 years, it’s saying something.

I have to re-invent every little while, otherwise it gets repetitive.

First of all Aikido is a martial art. If you go to a studio like Portsmouth Aikido center, you’ll see people attacking. Throwing people around - and having a great time doing it. Most of the time people are smiling, because the difference is that instead of locking and punching back, your goal is to enter the line of attack and re-direct the energy. The goal is to disarm without harming. Major difference.

The first thing you learn in Aikido is how to fall down really graceful and bounce back up again. You fall down and get up about 150 times a session.

You learn how to roll with the punches. 

How I got into it. I used to sell real estate for 13 years in the 70’s & 80’s. And I had conflict, like with any business. I had to learn how to do it by myself. I took a course out in Colorado showing how to use this Aikido metaphor - using Aikido OFF the mat. Blending and re-directing. I got excited about it and it took on a life on it’s own. I stopped selling real estate in 1992, took some time off, and gradually took Aikido myself up so I could understand how this works from the ground up.

I started teaching the principles of Aikido as a path toward conflict resolution:

  • how to get out of the way of the attack
  • how to blend with it
  • how to join the energy
  • how to re-direct it in ways that we can use verbally

For example…

I’m using Aikido technique when someone says “That is a stupid idea” and I say “Wait, what do you mean? Why don’t you like it?” As opposed to just saying “No it’s not!” So that is a simple example of Blending, Acknowledging, Re-directing.

I use it when I’m listening to someone too. 

Instead of judging them, I’m using Aikido when I become curious instead, because that is Inviting Energy.

Now, I’ve painted an interesting picture, but can I show you?

PKX: Yeah, sure!

Judy: So you notice how I’m pushing you, right?

PKX: Yeah.

Judy: So that is the nature of conflict, right?

PKX: I see - yes.

Judy: But if you get out of the way, blend, join, and re-direct you can resolve conflict.

It’s a way to deal with everyday conflict and it’s human nature.

PKX: What do you say when someone asks you what is your profession?

Judy: I do still teach Aikido “on the mat,” the actual martial art, dress up in all the gear and all of that. But mostly what I tell people what I do is that I teach conflict and communications skills using principles of the martial art Aikido. My company is called Power & Presence Training.

In a nutshell, I help people regain power under pressure. 

If you noticed, I didn’t ask you to do anything when we did the attack - I just changed myself. The main principle of Aikido is that you can’t make anybody else change. 

But when we change ourselves everything changes.

So that’s the beauty of it.

Sometimes I say I’m a corporate communication skills trainer. I’m also an author. And in terms of the seacoast and how other people know me - I’m a singer. I give concerts every year. 

I sang the national anthem at Fenway this year on July 31. It was incredible.

PKX: So our slogan is Everyone is Creative. Everyone is welcome. What inspires you as a creative person?

Judy: Connection. Whether I’m singing, practicing Aikido, teaching the principles - it’s about connecting with people. That’s why I liked the idea of doing something at CreativeMornings. 

We have to learn how to be more creative with conflict. 

We keep doing the same thing over and over again. So what inspires me is just to keep putting it out there: “hey, here is a different way.”

And it’s fun! Conflict doesn’t have to be so hard and heavy. 

We can actually enjoy being compassionate and creative with something that seems so hard.

Our patterns are so ingrained around difficulty, around difficult people, that we keep enacting the same things.

PKX: How does the topic of compassion speak to you?

It feels obvious to all of us that compassion is sorely, sorely needed in our world. Anne Lamott says that “we are all in the emergency room together, some of us need more help than others.” 

So it’s up to the ones of us who can see that, to do the helping. 

If you call what I do helping or teaching or connecting - it’s all the same thing - it’s about compassion. 

How to stop our initial reactions to judge, to fight back, to hit, to harm, and go “wait a minute? is this really me?” 

One of key skills I teach in my workshops is a concrete idea of what “centering” means - to be able to center ourselves. Take a breath and decide if what I’m going to do next is going to be helpful, or not. I call that compassion.

We have to learn to be compassionate with ourselves in conflict. 

Sometimes we just have to believe we did our best. And maybe next time we’ll do it different.

PKX: If you could open up a door to any place past, present, or future - where would you go?

Judy: The first person that jumps to my mind is Abraham Lincoln. I’d like to meet him! He was really smart person, and he knew how to use diversity so well. And talk about compassion - he really knew how to use it. I’d like to watch that happen.

PKX: If we could invite anyone to speak - real, imaginary, live, or deceased.

Judy: I would to go Abraham Lincoln again! Please fill me with your wisdom! What were the hard moments, how did you get through them? I would go for the Dalai Lama too.

We would go for the Dalai Lama too Judy! 

Photography by Raya Al-Hashmi of Raya on Assignment. Interview by Kurt Danielson, Founding Organizer & Head of Design of CreativeMornings PKX - Portsmouth NH. Interview held at Profile Coffee Bar, Portsmouth NH.

Graham Alvords #CMGenius photos & video are live! Our first “kids invited” event. We had a living history interactive wall covering Graham’s life from 1916 to 2016 that everyone enjoyed, Great time had by all! All photos by Raya Al-Hashmi of Raya on Assignment. Live video, intro & editing of the talk by Miles Woodworth of Seacoast Flash. Film shorts of Graham Alvord by filmmaker Jim White of Spruce Creek TV. GENIUS presented by

See the photo gallery here.

See the video of the talk here.

We are having a special Kids Invited CreativeMornings PKX on 8/18. We will bringing the past 100 years of history in Portsmouth & Kittery alive with a very special film presentation, interactive timeline artwork, and live and in person 100 year old Graham Alvord! Email us at now and tell us how many kids and what ages and we’ll confirm your seats.

Registration for kids tickets is open now, but ENDS Monday. We have a few seats left for kids - grab one now. This presentation is free, but tickets are required. Our usual registration for creative adult attendees opens as usual on Monday am. It’s going to sell out fast!! See you 8/18! You can find more info about this event on The Music Hall LOFT events page too.

Mary Johanna Brown

Our interview with July EQUALITY speaker, Mary Joanna Brown, Gender Equality Leader, and Founder of Brown & Company Design in Portsmouth NH.

PKX: How did you come to founding/owning a design agency?

Mary Jo: I got a degree in Etching - like Rembrandt! 

UNH has a very traditional Fine Arts program and I helped to start a communications magazine while I was still in school, then went to work for Main Street Magazine. 

I got my first job through that magazine and moved my way up to become an assistant art director before I had even graduated. 

I learned that I love design more than fine art.

However, I wouldn’t admit to my professors that I had a main stream job! Because if you were a “fine” artist, you would be selling out if you had a job in design. 

You were considered a sell out. 

But fine art students who are interested in design get sent to us here at Brown now. 

So I had my degree, and I was already working for a magazine. The first gentleman I ever worked for taught me everything NOT to do. It was fascinating. 

But he went out of business and I travelled all around the West Coast I found my first big/great client through this job - so it kind of worked out.  

PKX: What inspires you as a creative person.

Mary Jo: Living a full life. 

Having diverse life experiences. 

Attending WWF matches for instance. Haha. I have more in my brain to pull from. Travel has been significant for me lately. And having my daughter Haley - children are so creative. 

I always believed in creating an inspiring work environment, but my vintage toy collection just happened. 

I’m drawn to red, to fun, to eclectic, to this explosion of fun and creativity. 

I want to create a space where I want to go every day. We spend a lot of time there - better make it fun. There are layers of learning and fun in the work environment - books, hidden cash, high level Easter Egg hunts. 

PKX: Anything new and exciting in your industry?

Mary Jo: When you have been around for 25 years you see a lot of change…when we first started we used to do more print work, and now we are doing a majority of web & digital work. We have to be committed to evolving technologies. 

What I have noticed is that they have come up with a bunch of catch phrases for what are very simple marketing concepts. Which I find funny.

I think we have to have enough young people too. We have designers that stay for 15-20 years, but we also have to be committed to a diverse skill sets and people. 

PKX: How does this topic of Equality speak to you?

Mary Jo: 

I have dedicated the last 12 years of my life to becoming a champion for gender equality in the state of NH. 

That’s the short version.

The long version is that over that time I helped merge 5 completely divergent organizations into one organization - the NH Women’s Foundation. 

I’m very attracted to things people say I can’t do. 

I was told this merging can’t be done - so that was very attractive to me. The two titles I carry most, other than mom, are Artist & Entrepreneur - two other things I was told don’t go together. Merging a government agency into this new organization required an actual bill. 

But with this merger, I was able to apply my communication knowledge and shepherding resources to this goal of championing women’s and girl’s issues. 

I wanted to re-think the idea of a woman’s movement. 

All at the same time I was thinking of being a single mother by choice and was also asked to be a speaker as a woman owned business - which I naively had never thought was “different.“ But I started researching and found out that NH was way behind the national average on woman’s issues. 

The stats were alarming to me: NH was behind in wage gap, in CEO representation, in women on public boards. There was this conflict - and I was interested in conflict. 

I did not call myself a life long feminist, and so conservatives and republicans people were willing to talk to me. 

The very fact that we figured out how to merge a government agency with this organization, I’m very proud of this work.

PKX: If you could open up a door into another time, what would you do?

Mary Jo: I would just like to be gardening with my grandfather. 

PKX: If we could invite anyone to speak?

Mary Jo: I gotta let go of my “go to” answer, but Gloria Steinham. She has so much to say.  

But I also know that answer as a “feminist” is riddled with judgement. 

Everyone thinks I’m a huge Hillary nut too. Which is totally fucking unfair. You would not believe what people assign to me with this work. 

You would not believe what people have told ME, about ME, because of this work. 

Unlike anything I’ve ever been involved with. 

And it’s worse than “oh, you are an artist, you probably won’t be good at business.”

Incredible. I may address this my talk more. 

PKX: Any advice for people just starting out in your field?

Mary Jo: Don’t work for a jerk. Ha. 

No, but really. 

There is nothing better than practicing your craft. 

It takes time to get better, and better at it. Doing volumes of work, and lots of diverse work is important right out of the gate. 

I’m a big believer in crafting a plan that allows for a lot of experience.

I believe in the internship model and the mentorship model. Offer to do internships at 20 different places. Go to places that have something to offer. Pick places you admire. Surround yourself with great mentors. 

Photography by Raya Al-Hashmi of Raya on Assignment. Interview by Geneve Hoffman, Host of CreativeMornings PKX - Portsmouth NH. Interview held at Profile Coffee Bar, Portsmouth NH.

Kristy Martino

Our interview with June SURVIVAL speaker, Kristy Martino - Advocacy Leader, and Founder of Haigh-Martino.

PKX: How did you get started in the ad agency world?

Kristy: I was a textile designer for awhile and then moved into advertising. I thought: 

Oh, advertising must be “my thing.” I love words, I love images. The right combination of those things can be very powerful. 

My husband and I moved to North Carolina and worked in an agency together, but the moved back here to the seacoast during the recession. We started HAM/Haigh & Martino out the idea of “we can’t find a job, we need money, let’s start a business.” So the theme of SURVIVAL feels really pertinent to me - it has meaning for me. 

A couple of years ago I began feeling really unfilled - and that experience of living paycheck to paycheck during the recession and experiencing poverty as a kid - I needed to do something more important than just a logo for a restaurant. Logos are important, but I needed something more. 

So I got into advocacy. I worked on a campaign and it just blossomed from there. I have a foot in HAM and a foot in the advocacy world now. I don’t want anyone to feel powerless - I really felt that way. 

But I can see another career pivot coming soon though…I need something new and a new challenge constantly. 

Having your own business: people can still fire you. And you can also fire people. 

Which is incredibly powerful. Those are the biggest lessons we have learned. Saying no is sometimes better than saying yes. Everyone is just: “Say yes, say yes to everything!” But all of the sudden you are hemorrhaging money and you hate yourself. So just say no. I am the queen of saying no. 

PKX: What inspires you? How do you start thinking about a project that lands on your desk?

Kristy: I am a big problem solver. I look for problems, then I look for stories. “What is the story?” It boils it down to what you want to say, then how to say it in a way that moves people to do something. 

I love to ask questions and be adversarial - to ask questions people don’t want to ask. Esp in the creative world that people are over responding to. 

My response is to push back on that. Be different so you can see something that is new. 

Everything has been done. It all comes down to stories.

Being a doctor comes down to stories. Been a politician comes down to stories. It’s all about storytelling. 

My story is : NO. Haha. 

It’s funny, my husband Dylan told me to “be you - but tone it a down a bit” for this talk. But there is plenty to be mad about in the world - and that is alright. I’m not a pessimist though - I am just a questioner. 

I don’t just shake my fist at the screen though. I do something about it. 

That is my new rule - if you are gonna post something on Facebook - fine, but then write your senator and follow up. 

PKX: What inspires you production wise?

Kristy: I’m a huge art nerd. Art in general - I’m a huge consumer of all media. I created an entire look one year based on Julie Christie’s “Don’t Look Now” movie. And now I’m doing a textile project for Walmart sheets - and they are based on that mood board of Julie Christie 1974 movie. Haha - I can pitch pretty well, but that was a bit of a stretch for Walmart. 

But, I love that specificity. A single line from a movie or a shot can propel me into a project. If it’s good, it’s good. 

PKX: Is there anything in your industry that you are seeing as new or exciting?

Kristy: I have always been deeply interested in social justice and racism in America. 

Our industry is all white people, all the time. Specifically the ad industry. What I’m seeing is an effort to really name that out loud, and then try to make an effort to diversify. 

There are programs to teach formerly incarcerated people to learn to code. We are trying to change that in our company too. That is the most exciting thing to me. 

Even that Pepsi Ad - it’s an opp to say “how tone deaf can you be?” Which is a conversation starter. 

PKX: If you could open a door and go anywhere - where would you go

Kristy: This is a bummer of an answer - but I would go back to moments in my own life and do them differently. But I would also absolutely go back to the German Expressionism era where Hitler and the Nazi’s tried to erase all these artists.  That art ended up being some of my favorite art in the world. That would be incredible. 

And then…I want to go anywhere, anytime. Cleveland. Rwanda. 

PKX: How does the topic of SURVIVAL speak to you?

Kristy:  I almost get embarrassed when I have a story for everything. So much has happened in my life. I’ve had a lot of adversity and bad situations. I cringe sometimes. I’m in survival mode right now - every single day is just managing mental health issues, past trauma, financial security. But when I step outside myself - when I stop and slow down - life is pretty incredible. 

I hear stories of people just trying to get through to the next day, and suddenly the rhetoric and barriers between people breaks down. 

I have to stop and just say: “No, I’m alright - I’ll get through this.” This is a very intense theme, and I’m an intense person! 

PKX: What advice would you give someone just entering your industry?

Kristy: Know your design education. But not in the way people assume. I didn’t go to school for design. I don’t have a bachelors. My husband doesn’t have a college degree. 

The normative paths to getting a job in an agency: don’t revolve your life around that. 

Get to know someone in the industry, and then go back in time and learn the history.

If you are not a curious person - don’t get into the creative business. 

If you want to show up and punch a clock, and you are not registering what is beautiful and not beautiful in the world - then just don’t do it. So many people are so bored, but there is so much to see and discuss. 

PKX: If we could invite anyone to PKX, who would it be?

Kristy: Any person of color. Any person of color. Any person of color.

Heard after we hit “stop” moments with Kristy…

I might even have enough points to fly to Cleveland right now. 

Photography by Raya Al-Hashmi of Raya on Assignment. Interview by Geneve Hoffman, Host of CreativeMornings PKX - Portsmouth NH. Interview held at Profile Coffee Bar, Portsmouth NH.