Next Seattle speaker

Jenny Wilkson

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June 9, 8:30am • Facebook (SEA) •

🎟 You can get tickets for her upcoming CreativeMornings talk here. 🎟

Jenny Wilkson founded the letterpress program at the School of Visual Concepts (SVC) in 2001. Originally a book designer, she holds a Master of Arts in Design from UC Berkeley, and is fortunate to be one of the few of her generation to have undergone a traditional letterpress apprenticeship. In 2012, she co-created the wiki website Letterpress Commons. These days she oversees the operations, curriculum and community outreach of SVC’s letterpress shop at the School’s facility in South Lake Union—the epicenter of Seattle’s tech boom. Through SVC, she facilitates creative collaborations with local nonprofits and directs the annual Letterpress Wayzgoose and the mighty Steamroller Smackdown—a friendly competition where design teams print giant posters with a steamroller instead of a printing press.

CreativeMornings [CM]: How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?  

Jenny Wilkson [JW]: Creativity is in the innovative idea, and not whether or not you carry it out with your own two hands. Sometimes I lament having chosen to spend a disproportionate amount of time facilitating instead of making. But recently a letterpress student exclaimed that I have the best job in the world—I get to help others come up with creative ideas.

[CM]: Where do you find your best creative inspiration?

[JW]: I look to my bookshelf or the public library. The material found in printed books is better curated than a deluge of internet search results.

[CM]: What’s the one creative advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person?

[JW]: Finding an appreciative audience for your work isn’t selling out.

[CM]: What are you reading these days?

[JW]:I just finished reading Bit Rot by Douglas Coupland—an entertaining collection of essays and short fiction about technology and humanity. (Thanks to Scott Boms from Facebook Analog Lab for the recommendation!) Now I’m feeling nostalgic for Douglas Coupland’s Generation X, which I haven’t read since high school. I’ll bet it’s going to be as hilarious as watching Singles again, 25 years later.

[CM]: How does your life and career compare to what you envisioned for your future when you were a sixth grader?

[JW]:I remember very clearly as a child telling someone that I wanted to be surrounded by stacks of paper when I grew up. I thought maybe I’d own a stationery store. I was eerily close.

🎟 You can get tickets for his upcoming CreativeMornings talk here. 🎟

CreativeMornings [CM]: How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?  

Surya Vanka [SV]: Creativity is an inborn ability of every single human on this planet. Whether they label themselves “creatives” or not, everyone is creative in all kinds of small ways in their own lives. The average person’s way of being creative is innate but untrained, so it tends to be a stab-in-the-dark process and is limited to their own lives.  As a designer, I have had thousands of hours of study and practice in channeling my own creativity into disciplined, systematic and repeatable way. I can do this so it is available on-demand and in service of others.

[CM]: Where do you find your best creative inspiration?

[SV]: Observation of the lives of others. Curiosity and wonder at another person’s experience of the world. Humility to allowed to be part of the beautiful creative process.

[CM]: What’s the one creative advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person?

[SV]: Don’t postpone doing that project you dream of doing perfectly sometime in some perfect future. That perfect future becomes the busy present and quickly the past. Do your dream project imperfectly right now, or your dream project will remain just that - a dream.

[CM]: Who would you like to hear speak at Creative Mornings?  

[SV]: Sonam Wangchuck

[CM]: How does your life and career compare to what you envisioned for your future when you were a sixth grader?

[SV]: My dream when was a sixth grader in India was to be a designer, but at that age I did not know such a career existed nor did I know that such a career even had a name. Through a series of fortunate accidents, I have now found myself doing exactly what I wanted to do when I was ten years old. How lucky!

[CM]: How would you describe what you do in a single sentence to a stranger?

[SV]: I try to release the creativity of millions of people through the power of design.

Did you get a professional headshot at our April event, by the always wonderful John Cornicello (www.cornicello.com) take a look and download your photo at out Faces of CreativeMornings page.

We want to say Thank You to our global partner, Shutterstock.

Our Photographer
John Cornicello is a Seattle-based photographer specializing in headshots that people notice and portraits people remember. You might recognize John as the event photographer for some of the CreativeMornings presentations or as the “lighting guy” on many CreativeLive educational programs. John and his wife, Kim, have created an intimate, yet comfortable, safe, and fun studio photography setting here in Seattle to offer a great photo experience.


See more of his work Website or Instagram.

🎟 You can get tickets for his upcoming CreativeMornings talk here. 🎟

CreativeMornings [CM]: How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?  

Felix Hiebeck [FH]: I still have a hard time defining creativity. I remember when I was younger, I thought it meant having a lot of great ideas. While there can be beautiful serendipity in creative work, one of the things I learned in my career so far is that only a small portion of what people call creativity is really having these eureka-type moments. Most of it is about doing the footwork of understanding the landscape of the given situation, formulating many solutions, and refining them based on feedback; all while resisting the urge to just go with that one idea you really like.

[CM]: Where do you find your best creative inspiration?

[FH]: I don’t really have that one place that I get inspiration from. However, I will say that a good portion of my project ideas came while using public transportation. There is something about the time on a train or bus where my mind can just wander without real distractions.

[CM]: What’s the one creative advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person?

[FH]: “Better done than perfect”. Especially as a student when working on projects I would get hung up on technical details that did not matter at the end. Since then I found that moving fast, realizing a quick prototype, and then iterating based on your own learnings and user feedback is much more fruitful than obsessing over small details, especially early in the process.

[CM]: Who would you like to hear speak at Creative Mornings?  

[FH]: Chef Chris Young of ChefSteps. I have never met him, but I admire his and ChefSteps’ work. I also just love listening to people talk about cooking, especially in a scientific way.

[CM]: What’s your one guilty creative indulgence?

[FH]: I have a thing for all kinds of buttons and knobs. There is a box in my drawer with an ever-growing collection of things that click and spin. I rarely get to use them in a project, but it makes me happy to fiddle with them from time to time.

[CM]: If you could interview anyone living or dead, but not a celebrity, who would it be and why?

[FH]: Not an interview, but I would love to see a panel with some of the earliest human-computer interaction pioneers. Doug Engelbart, Alan Kay,Muriel Cooper, Ivan Sutherland, Seymour Papert, and Marvin Minsky; these people are the architects of the way we currently interact with computers. Seeing them discuss Twitter, Snapchat, and Candy Crush would be fascinating to me.

🎟  You can get tickets for his upcoming CreativeMornings talk here. 🎟

CreativeMornings [CM]: How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?

S. Surface [SS]: I don’t worry about defining creativity or applying it to how I spend my time. My policy is to do or make what is right for a situation, regardless of whether that calls for anything creative or innovative.    


[CM]: Where do you find your best creative inspiration?

[SS]: Sometimes, issues come up that need to be addressed, so I follow them. I rely more on discernment than inspiration.

[CM]: What’s the one creative advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person?

[SS]: Be interesting. Have good ideas, and take initiative to share them with others. Aggressively claim credit and demand recognition and compensation for what you contribute, and also emphatically and warmly recognize the sources that inform you.  

[CM]: Who would you like to hear speak at CreativeMornings? 

[SS]: Sara Zewde, landscape architect
Davida Ingram, artist and writer
Dr. micha cárdenas, designer, artist
Robert McNeel, software engineer with a highly influential employee-owned company  
Aseem Agarwala, visual research scientist
Ian Curry, industrial designer


[CM]: What fact about you would surprise people?

[SS]: I have a goofy, vulgar and infantile sense of humor that is largely contingent upon alliteration, portmanteaus and puns. Maybe that is unsurprising?  

An Interview with Heather Raikes

🎟 You can get tickets for his upcoming CreativeMornings talk here. Starting at 9AM, Monday, January 30th.🎟

CreativeMornings [CM]: How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?  

Heather Raikes [HR]: For me, creativity is living poetry and an experiential engagement with metaphor. I begin with the concrete starting point of where I stand in the present moment, open up a question or idea or feeling or intention, and reach into the ineffable space of potential in pursuit of a gesture that extends beyond the boundaries of the starting point, and that, in the context of the great history of human creativity, will suffice. I’ve always deeply appreciated Wallace Stevens’ Of Modern Poetry: “The poem of the mind in the act of finding what will suffice.”Applying this take on creativity to my career has produced a trajectory of innovation that has extended for more than two decades so far. It leads me continuously onto frontiers and into pioneering, groundbreaking territory where I’m exploring things that haven’t been done before. 

[CM]: Where do you find your best creative inspiration?

[HR]: I find inspiration in flow. Physical, embodied flow is the most powerful and reliable creative generator for me, but I seek all kinds of immersive, dynamic, wholly engaging experiences.

[CM]: What’s the one creative advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person?

[HR]: On one hand, I wish I’d known that all of the things that support and surround the creative act are as important as the creative act itself - things like sustainable practices, life/work balance, studying great artworks, business development, marketing, PR, networking, etc. But on the other hand I think there is something brilliantly wild, raw, primal and essential about young creative energy throwing itself wholly into the fire, so to speak, as a kind of rite of initiation.

[CM]: Who would you like to hear speak at Creative Mornings?  

[HR]: In no particular order: Ginny Ruffner, Allison Kudla, Ewa Trebacz, Neal Stephenson, Jeff Brice, Genevieve Tremblay, Maja Petric.

[CM]: What practices, rituals or habits contribute to your creative work? What myths about creativity would you like to set straight?

[HR]: I’m meticulously organized and disciplined, which goes against a lot of creative stereotypes. Deep structure is at the core of everything I do, and my best creative work emerges from a highly methodical, even ritualized approach.

[CM]: What are you proudest of in your life?

[HR]: I’m most proud of my daughter, my family, and the fact that creativity remains the vital core of who I am and how I contribute to the world. It is a hard path but worth every challenge. It’s a great and wondrous honor to begin to know maturity as a creative being.

Interview with Yonnas Gethun

🎟 You can get tickets for his upcoming CreativeMornings talk here. 🎟

CreativeMornings [CM]: How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?  

Yonnas Getahun [YG]: The idea of creativity has evolved over time but now the shortest definition I have is a pursuit guided by inspiration and inquiry against limitations and restrictions.  Taking something from conception to realization is the act of creativity for me.  

[CM]: Where do you find your best creative inspiration? 

[YG]: I get creative inspiration from many sources but the best comes from direct discourse with artists, activist and entrepreneurs in the community.  It is incredible what I can learn by buying a cup of coffee or drinks or dinner with those I consciously surround myself with. A conversation can sometimes be 10x or 100x value of reading a book on a single topic.

[CM]: What’s the one creative advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person?

[YG]: That one learns best by doing and moving beyond ‘thinking’ about doing something.   There are a lot of reasons to this but the one I especially laud now is by doing the questions basic or complex become audible.

[CM]: Who would you like to hear speak at Creative Mornings?  

[YG]: I am so glad you asked.  

Silas Blak, Timothy White Eagle, Jennifer Zyll, Vivian Phillips, Courtney Sheehan, Susan Surface, Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker, CEO Spencer Rascoff, Valerie Curtis Newton, Vivian Phillips, Lane Czaplinksi, Jeffrey Hirsch, Pol Rosenthal, Riz Rollins,  Tomo Nakayma, Maged Zaher, Sarah Galvin, Biran McGuigan, Robin Held, Ishmael Butler, Stasia Mehschel, Brett Hamil, Michael Ellsworth, Sharon Arnold, Greg Lundgren, Shaun Scott, Mary Ann Peters, Ijeoma Oluo, John Boylan, Yirim Seck, Alice Gosti, Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie, Raz Simone, Gavin Sullivan, Paul Komada, The Gender Tender Collective, Cherdonna Sinatra, Kira Burge, Julia Greenway, Yeggy Michael, David Harris, Rodrigo Valenzuela, Kshama Sawant

[CM]: What did you learn from your most memorable creative failure?

[YG]: I learned that I need to learn how to develop a concept/project over longer periods of time. I had some small success launching projects under 90 days and I attempted to launch a project to place love poems in Earth’s Orbit titled Cosmic Love.  Although invited to take a longer period of time to develop and launch I rushed it.

[CM]: If you had a magic wand, where would you be in five years?

[YG]: It would be to spend 6-9 months in a small city in Ethiopia called Axum.  It is a college town with a fascinating complex extended history that goes back 2500 – 4000 years ago.  There are lives being lived there now that I want to inhabit or get as close to as possible in order to write a novel or books of poetry.  I am sure if we all slowed down we can really appreciate the worlds we have crossed and the lives we have lived. My recent trip to Ethiopia and to Axum has eased my need to convince others about my adventures. In fact I know have seized to care if I am believed or not or having seen what I have seen to properly classify what is fact or fiction.

Brooks Peck – EMP Curator

🎟 You can get tickets for his upcoming CreativeMornings talk here. 🎟

CreativeMornings: How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?

Brooks Peck: I think creativity is a talent for putting together seemingly disparate elements that together make something new. It’s a process of invention, (and so I see science and engineering as very creative pursuits.) So many of the creative things that I admire—films, stories, designs, games, whatever—can be described as, “They took this, mushed it up with that, and made this new thing.” The farther apart those elements are, the more surprising the combinations, and surprising is good.

In my work I try to find those surprising or hopefully new and unusual combinations. Curating exhibitions goes beyond simply displaying objects and describing what they are. There are overarching themes and ideas that can be expressed through scenic design, sound design, illustration, even type choices. Those are opportunities to bring in unusual combinations that may jar the visitor and give them a new way to think about what’s on display.

CM: Where do you find your best creative inspiration?

BP: About 80% of my work, both as a curator and author, is words/text. I take a lot of inspiration, though, from purely visual sources, especially illustration and graphic design. Pictures and imagery without words bypass the word-focused parts of me and feel more like pure thought. It’s refreshing—those sources literally refresh my ideas. I really love comics without dialogue, such as Shaun Tan’s The Arrival and a lot of Jason’s work.

CM: What’s the one creative advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person?

BP: Just make it up. That’s not a flippant answer—when I’m struggling to solve a creative problem, I sometimes fall into a trap of thinking that there’s a single, “correct” method for what I’m trying to do, be it write a paragraph or design a display in a gallery. This is, of course, poppycock. If no ideas are coming, just put down something. Anything at all. Then look at what you’ve got and make improvements. This keeps me moving forward. The lovely thing is that the audience for whatever the project is, barring critics and pedants, will assume there’s a single way to do what you’ve done, and wow, you found it. I encourage people who say they aren’t creative to practice spitting out whatever comes to mind.

TL;DR: Creativity is a talent, one that can be learned, for making up crap and fixing it later.

CM: Who would you like to hear speak at CreativeMornings?

BP: Joss Whedon, who combines story with imagery and music in fun, startling ways.

Pogo, Australian DJ and composer. He did an entire concept album based on samples from Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. (An overly hipster choice, I know, but his work is so original and fun).

G. Willow Wilson because we both love comics yet come from such different backgrounds.

Then, pick two questions from this wildcard list and answer them:

CM: How does your life and career compare to what you envisioned for your future when you were a sixth grader?

BP: By sixth grade I finally transitioned out of my first career choice, hot dog vendor, and after briefly considering the clergy (“Over my dead body.” – my mother) I settled on becoming a writer. I liked books, and my father was a writer. Only my father wasn’t a writer at all. He was in publishing. The confusion arose when one day he presented me with a book, James Thurber’s autobiography My Life and Hard Times. I asked him what it was, and he said, “This is what I do at work.” So I assumed, I’d like to think understandably, that he wrote the book at work. For weeks I pestered him with questions about events in Thurber’s life that I thought had happened to him.

Anyway, in sixth grade I was positive that by this stage in my life I would be a moon colonist. I did recently travel to Iceland, and that’s probably the closest I’ll ever come to it.

CM: When you get stuck creatively, what is the first thing you do to get unstuck?

BP: Always drink more tea. Next, I’m a big fan of writing down a list of the very worst ideas I can think of about whatever I’m trying to do. I get this from the writer John Vorhaus, and I love it. The key is to think up the stupidest, most inane and inappropriate things possible. Invariably something in there will trigger a tangential thought that leads to something else that’s not so inane after all, and you’re off.

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Amelia Bonow is a writer and activist living in Seattle. She is a founder of #ShoutYourAbortion. Follow her on Twitter at @ameliabonow.

🎟 You can get tickets for upcoming CreativeMornings talk here, starting at 9am, Monday, October 10th. 🎟

How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?
#ShoutYourAbortion works at the intersection of art and activism, creating platforms for people to talk freely and candidly about abortion, whether that’s in real life, digital spaces or across a range of aesthetic mediums. In a culture where abortion is discussed only in the abstract, I look for ways to get people to be open to a different kind of conversation. I have to figure out how to bring people into high-stakes, uncharted emotional territory without alienating them.

More broadly, SYA uses a range of tactics to place new representations of abortion into public space in unexpected ways. One example of this is the <3 ABORTION <3 dress. I designed a shift dress that says <3 ABORTION <3 all over it in large Helvetica type. Martha Plimpton wore it in the Los Angeles Times, Emily Nokes from TacocaT performs in the dress in front of thousands of people and Mel Eslyn, a 2016 nominee for the Stranger Genius Award in film, wore it at the ceremony. About one hundred dresses have been purchased and worn by all sorts of different people in different contexts. Powerful women unapologetically wearing this dress defies expectations, subverts a taboo, and causes people to investigate their own assumptions.

Where do you find your best creative inspiration?
My friends! This makes me sound like a teenager but it’s true. I’m extremely lucky to be surrounded by a bunch of razor-sharp freaks who are consistently coming up with new ways to make their way. I’m in a great position when it comes to ripping other people off.

What’s the one creative advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person?
Don’t worry about whether or not you’re an artist. Self-identifying as a creative person is often more about how one wants to be perceived than it’s actually about creating anything interesting or unique or genuine. It’s an invented category that allows people to frame their work in an exalted light, regardless of value. On a related note, I think a lot of people call themselves artists to get back at their parents.

Who would you like to hear speak at CreativeMornings?
I would like to hear from anyone but myself.

What are you reading these days?
White Boy Shuffle by Paul Beatty

Where is your favorite place to escape?
Bed.

Lucia Neare speaks September 16th at the Seattle Public Library for our global theme, Magic. 

Tickets are available here!

How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?
I consider myself a professional “imaginer.” In what some call my “career,” I have learned to define creativity as a kind of psychological and, even, spiritual freedom; the mental flexibility and spiritual courage to perceive a situation, puzzle, being, place, or idea through a multitude of perspectives – or to imagine something new by combining what may seem to be unlikely ingredients. Creativity is a practice. When I limit myself by being overly attached to certain ideas, dogmas, or outcomes, I radically decrease my own creative potential. Violence, war and even everyday unkindnesses are all crises of creativity. We narrow our imaginative options when mental or spiritual inflexibility keeps us from the love, beauty and grace that might have been.

Where do you find your best creative inspiration?
The bathtub! That’s the short answer. The more complete answer is that I look to my dream life and to my visions. Ever since I was a girl, I’ve seen things – presences, otherworldly places, beings. As I grew older I realized not everyone saw these sorts of things – or at least they didn’t admit to itin oublic –  but because I thought these visions were normal, everyday experiences, and because they also helped make me make sense of what was a very chaotic childhood, I came to trust their ethereal messages, and found I could truly count on these beings for inspiration.

I also take creative solace beside the Pacific Ocean.

What’s the one creative advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person?
Value process over product. What the audience sees is but a tiny dust mite in comparison to the larger work. And the larger work is The Work. So get to it.

Also, be kind to yourself. And others.

Who would you like to hear speak at CreativeMornings?
Vanessa DeWolf, Annette Mateo, Matt Goodrich, Cathy Madden, Dean Paton, Hallie Kuperman

Where was the last place you travelled?
Off the grid, to Polebridge, Montana.

What has been one of your biggest Aha! moments in life?
Back in 2005, when I was contemplating my first spectacle here in Washington State, I was trapped by my fears. Frozen. Though I’d come to understand that I’d developed the set of skills necessary to bring my large-scale visions to life on the civic stage, I was afraid of revealing so much of myself, of my visionary life. I was afraid of being too big, too weird, of taking up too much space. Afraid of being too much. Yes, I had the artistic skills I would need: sculpting, singing classical music, as well as a theatre and contemporary performance practice. Personal and interpersonal skills, too, deepened through decades of therapy and self exploration. Nonetheless I was battling powerful fears.

One afternoon, while singing as I do in my Leschi apartment’s bathtub, I was in deep struggle. I’d been stuck for weeks, and frustrated. Then, in a moment, I saw a reason for moving forward that was larger than my fears: If I successfully brought my big dreams to life and shared them, then maybe it would help others take the risk to share their own big dreams, too. That maybe my example would help people –  girls, women, people who feel like misfits or orphans – make the leap and produce their own creative visions – and then together, through our collective creativity, we would foster a more imaginative, soulful society.

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