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I met Ken while hunting down the perfect birthday present and wandered into his shop, The Aviary. After realizing I wanted to touch everything in his store, we got to chatting about his background and the building of his store and realized this guy gets it. Every object, from pen sets to cameras, was a playful tool to invest in—and in some cases, rediscover—one’s creativity. It’s so easy to lose our sense of wonder as grownups and he is determined to rebuild play into our culture. Ken was the obvious fit for this month’s talk and we hope you’ll join us! You can grab your tickets for “Paradox of Play and the Creative Process” here.

CM: How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?
KM: I agree with what  Steve Jobs said about it: Creativity is about connecting things. There is so much depth to this simple definition. It implies a wealth of experience in a variety of fields and interests are necessary for creative expression. Toward that end, I find myself digging deep into topics that I have little personal expertise; physics, history, religion, psychology, art. It also has meant working in a variety of roles and industries. It means be willing to be an “amateur” over and over again.

CM: Where do you find your best creative inspiration?
KM: It has always been people that inspire me, people that provide me insight into a new way to experience the world. It is easy for me to fall into a routine. When I see someone else’s creative expression it causes me to stretch myself. But in a more practical sense, I find most of my inspiration through simple observation of the world around me.

CM: What’s the one creative advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person?
KM: Try everything that interests you, especially the things that you told yourself (or were told by others) you can’t because you don’t have the talent.

CM: Who would you like to hear speak at CreativeMornings?
KM: Nicole Miller, owner of Blackbird. She has been at the forefront of so many Seattle retail trends, I wonder what she thinks about how creativity can be applied to specialty retail so that it can survive and thrive in today’s internet-centric, mass-market culture.

CM: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
KM: I am doing it right now. I had a good job and when most people my age are working toward retirement, I leapt into the unknown waters of a new retail concept with nothing more than a belief that the retail experience and personal creativity mattered, and that through the process I would find a new path.

CM: What keeps you awake at night?
KM: Irrational Fears- I often wonder why it is that fear, basically an instinctual response to a perceived threat, can be so powerful and night, while hope, a uniquely human quality is not.

Ken Mitchell is the owner of The Aviary, a creativity shop in the Ballard neighborhood that features a variety of unique products to and encourage and enable personal creative expression. In previous lives, he ran product development and marketing organizations for a variety of companies in the toy and baby products industries.

Again, join us for Ken’s talk,”Paradox of Play and the Creative Process” on Oct 11 at 8:30am at the EMP! Tickets here.

Be sure to grab your tickets for the September 13th event right here! We’ll also be having a postcard exchange in conjunction with Charles’ talk on letter writing!


An Interview with Charles Morrison

Charles Morrison has been writing letters daily for the last 10 years. We don’t want to spoil the amazing story of how this act has become an important part of his life, but trust us, this is definitely a talk not to be missed. When not writing letters, Charles teaches a myriad of topics at Antioch University-Seattle, Devry University, and Cornish College of the Arts, including world history and philosophy, Buddhism and foundations of meditation, critical thinking, and leadership. Grab tickets for his talk on September 13 right here

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

CM: When I was five years old, I decided to ride a bike.  I lived on a small hill farm in northern Missouri, and the only bikes around were two 26” bikes in the garage my brothers left behind when they went to the Navy in WWII.  They had flat tires and spider webs growing in the spokes, but that did not deter me.  The problem was ‘how’ to ride a bike when my head only reached the top of the seat.  At the time my father worked at a munitions factory and was allowed to bring home used wooden ammunition boxes.  We used them for firewood in our stove.  So I started carrying some of those boxes to the top of the gravel driveway and built a ‘platform’.  Then I leaned one of the bikes against the platform, climbed onto the platform, threw my leg over the seat (my feet were nowhere near the peddles), and pushed off.

So now I’m coasting at a rousing four mph down a pasture and having the greatest time ever.  About two-thirds of the way down, I realize that there’s a barbed wire fence coming up and I have no way to stop the bike.  About two seconds later I came up with a plan, leaped off the bike, fell onto the grass and rolled a few feet as my bike crashed into the fence.  I immediately pushed the bike up the hill and had another adventure:


  1. I was passionate about doing something.
  2. I went beyond what seemed possible.
  3. I used my imagination to create a ‘platform’ upon which to make the impossible possible. 
  4. I took an enormous risk without knowing what the outcome would be.
  5. I made quick and decisive decisions to avert disaster.
  6. I experienced an enormous burst of excitement and birthed a personal confidence in one blow.

As a teacher, writer, husband, father, and friend—that first bike ride provides a model for creative living.


CMS: Where do you find your best creative inspiration?

CM: For the past 40 years or so I have constantly exposed myself to some of the greatest creative geniuses that have ever lived, both from the West and East: writers, philosophers, artists, dancers, leaders, composers, architects, mothers, fathers, children, and more.  When I hang out every day with genius—it rubs off.  Also, I spend a lot of time outside and am constantly nourished by the elements.  The simplest blade of grass, looked at carefully, abounds in wisdom.

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

CM: Find ways to simply be ‘present’ in your life, moment by moment.  Seek always for the way to ‘see things as they are’.


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

Richard White, Chairman of the Theatre Department, Cornish College

CMS: What fact about you would surprise people?

CM: For the past 40 years, I have only taken cold showers, summer and winter—totally cold.


CMS: What are you proudest of in your life?

CM: A 35-year marriage to the same woman, a marriage that continually inspires me, nourishes my passions and my creativity, lets me know when I’m being a total fool, and has been willing to put up with a crazy man who “always does things by extremes.”

Christian Marc Schmidt is Principal and Founder of Schema, a Seattle design studio focusing on the intersection of interaction design and data visualization. In this talk, Christian will discuss his interest in cities and mapping through the lens of several projects, both professional and independent, from dynamic visualizations of social data in a city context, to visualizations of transit data and the insights that can be derived from them.

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

CMS: Much of the time creativity involves combining and reinterpreting existing materials. This may be in response to a specific problem or opportunity, and more generally in pursuit of knowledge or insight. Mostly creativity comes through making, through giving form to ideas.

CMSEA: Where do you find your best creative inspiration?

CMS: There is no single place, although I draw much of my thinking from culture and the arts, and from using existing products or spaces. For me, many ideas come through conversation with others—and, as is often the case, through the process of working with materials.

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

CMS: The importance of craft. Ideas are cheap, and the visual or material qualities of an artifact are ultimately what cause it to resonate.

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

CMS: There are honestly too many people to list, but at risk of singling out one studio, I would especially like to hear Masamichi Udagawa and Sigi Möslinger of Antenna Design, as I am interested in their process and how they balance experimental and professional projects.

CMSEA: What did you learn from your creative failures?

CMS: Personal projects I consider failures were mostly the result of being overly self-conscious and predictive about the outcome. Counterintuitively, I find it often works best to just let something (an idea or form) take shape.

CMSEA: What is the one question we haven’t asked that you want to answer?

CMS: Instead of giving an answer I will ask the question: Why, as people engaged in a “creative” practice, do we do what we do? I think it is a question everyone should ask themselves, not because there is a right or wrong answer, but because the process of thinking about it will help guide the decisions you make.

CMSEA: Thanks, Christian! We look forward to your talk on Friday!

This is a super rad video our August “Urbanism” speaker, Christian Marc Schmidt worked on at Schema. Grab your tickets to join us and hear more!

CreativeMornings Seattle Presents Justin Allan with “Quasars and Black Holes: How the Mysteries of Space Help Kids Write Better"

Justin has worked as a designer for over a decade and has 15 years experience in the niche retail industry. He is the design and store manager at 826 Seattle (a.k.a. Greenwood Space Travel Supply) and co-owner of the design and print studio, Cellar Door Mercantile. He has been a science fiction fan ever since his dad let him watch Riddly Scott’s Alien, at the age of seven.

Justin Allen — Profile and Q&A

Justin has worked as a designer for over a decade and has 15 years experience in the niche retail industry. He is the design and store manager at 826 Seattle (a.k.a. Greenwood Space Travel Supply) and co-owner of the design and print studio, Cellar Door Mercantile. He has been a science fiction fan ever since his dad let him watch Riddly Scott’s Alien, at the age of seven.

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

JA: I define creativity as seeking out and implementing innovative solutions to problems. These can be material problems, such as solving the challenges of habitation (architecture, city planning) and solving the riddle of existence (physics, theoretical science) - or ephemeral, such telling your story and connecting with others (art, literature).

Problems are solved and challenges are met every day, but not always creatively. For me, creativity has a spark of ingenuity and newness. 

In my work, I have some pretty straight-forward design challenges; create an invite for an event, design a book. It would be easy to just follow established design protocols and create boring event materials or an unexciting book. I like to stretch things further and create something unexpected. A fundraising event invite that is also a board game? Why not? 

CMS: Where do you find your best creative inspiration?

JA: I find most of my inspiration from mid-20th century design. This period in American history was tumultuous; the entire society was turned on its head. Design and creative endeavors reacted with a wild and fearless innovation that continues to influence designers. 

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

JA: The people who are successful at design and art are not successful because they know some secret piece of wisdom; they are successful because they work hard, try new things fearlessly, share and borrow constantly, and understand that there is always room for improvement. 

School is great for learning techniques, processes, and the fundamentals of how the tools of the trade work, but these are things you can also find in books, through your own research, and through trial and error. School is not great for teaching creativity, but it does provide an opportunity to receive and give feedback that will help you grow.

If you don’t have the drive to put in the hard work, you’d be better suited in a different career

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

JA: Aaron Rose, founder of Alleged Gallery in NYC. 

CMS: Where was the last place you traveled?

JA: This is a funny question because it points to many of my current obsessions and influences; in 2010, I traveled to Iceland for a very brief three-day trip. But it was a very eye-opening trip. Iceland is socially progressive and artistically innovative - in literature, music, and visual arts - but this innovation is rooted in a fierce pride of the country’s traditions. Since returning to the States, I have taken up studying the Icelandic language (the oldest unchanged modern language), traditional Icelandic literature (the Viking-era sagas), Icelandic-style knitting, and the growing wave of Icelandic musical artists (Bjork, Sigur Ros, Of Monsters and Men).

CMS: What is the one movie or book every creative must see/read?

JA: I would recommend the book “Lipstick Traces," by Griel Marcus. Superficially, it is about the history of the punk band the Sex Pistols. But it goes much deeper and examines disparate and unrelated art movements — including the French Situationist International, the dadists, and the medieval Brethren of the Free Spirit. Marcus discusses how these groups are tied together by their acts of social commentary and how their daring and ground-breaking methods have influenced many types of creative endeavors. It is a holistic examination of the creative experience on a global, timeless scale.