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February’s theme is Curiosity

Curiosity is many things—a trait, a mindset, and a skill. To wonder about the things you don’t know and to actively fill those gaps with knowledge is to consciously enrich your life.

It’s also the secret sauce for creativity. Curiosity silences ego and encourages us to ask why. By constantly asking why we keep the channel open, allowing inspiration, perspectives, and ideas to mold our work and ourselves.

The more you practice being curious the more opportunities abound. Sometimes all it takes is tilting your head up and just marveling at this thing called life.

This month’s global exploration of Curiosity was chosen by our Malmö chapter and illustrated by Oelwein.

February Event



Our Q&A with February speaker, Traca Savadogo, who will be talking on the topic of Curiosity.

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

Traca is a catalyst whose mission is to amplify ideas and bringing people together. Described as the Seattle Freeze Buster, Traca has an innate ability to be able to talk to anyone about anything. What helps her do that? Authentic curiosity, care, and compassion. She has a proven track record of making sh*t happen. Here are just some of her ideas successfully executed: She founded a Master Class Series for documentary filmmakers, helped launched the Dinner with Your Muslim Neighbor series, and created a Women & Negotiation series in partnership with the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington. Traca also works closely with Startup Grind, featuring fireside chats with leading entrepreneurs.

She is the author of an interview series called Curiosity Conversations and in 2017, was the official interviewer for TEDx Seattle.

As a writer, photographer, and world traveler, Traca’s dove with sharks, sailed with a jaguar hunter, crossed the DMZ with the Thai military, dated a secret service agent, and met a nuclear particle physicist working on the world’s largest experiment (CERN) at a hostel.

From the ordinary to the extraordinary, life’s most profound moments are sparked by curiosity.

[CreativeMornings (CM)] How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?
[Traca Savadogo (TS)] For me, creativity is often a synthesis of ideas from diverse fields. Something that’s common in one field can be truly novel in another, so I’m constantly gathering ideas, linking them together over and over again.

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

[TS] In mundane, quiet moments–like the shower, driving in my car, or early morning when I journal. For me, the less stimulus the better. It creates room for new ideas to flourish. (Earplugs are my favorite accessory.) 

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

[TS] That it’s okay to be a work in progress. You don’t have to know where you’re going before you begin. Detach yourself from the outcome. Be open to detours, curves in the road, and pivots. My friend, Crescent Dragonwagon, is an award-winning writer who has written over 50 books. When you call, her voicemail quotes E.L. Doctorow, “‘Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’ I confess, I’ve called her many times, hoping to get her voicemail. 

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

[TS] Miguel Edwards is a photographer and a sculptor. He’s fearless about trying new things, and putting himself in situations that force his own growth. Once, he accepted a commission on a large-scale steel and glass public sculpture. He’d never done anything of that scale before and by his own admission, the math on it almost killed him. But he perservered. And now, there’s a 3 ½ story sculpture in Greenwood (on 85th across from Fred Meyer) that will outlive him.  

[CM] What books made a difference in your life and why?

[TS] Listening is an Act of Love - from the StoryCorps podcast
In these brief conversations, people ask deep, and truly meaningful questions like: How would you like to be remembered? and What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in life? There’s a whole list of questions on their website. Rooted in the questions are the type of answers people look for after someone has died. They try to piece together significant moments of someone’s life after they’ve gone. What’s beautiful about StoryCorps, is it provides a framework for having those kind of conversations now. It had a profound impact on me first, because they provided the framework, but most importantly, because of StoryCorps, I gave myself permission to have the kind of conversations I always longed for. 

Letters to a Young Artist: Straight-Up Advice on Making a Life in the Arts - by Anna Deavere Smith
This book is incredible–especially on audio. The format is based on a series of letters from a working artist (Smith) to a student in the arts, trying to find her way. Smith addresses issues around self-esteem, confidence, procrastination, and The Man. "The Man has the power to make or break your career. You need to know who The Man is.” She’s a gifted storyteller and weaves her own experiences with no-nonsense advice that often takes years to learn on your own. 

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

[TS] Preston Jackson is a prolific artist, and growing up, he lived in my neighborhood. I had a paper route, and his house was the last on my route. Often he’d have the garage door open, listening to jazz, or working on his latest sculpture. He’d call out my name in a lyrical way, like I was the most incredible person on earth. He was a black belt in karate, and taught free classes to the kids in the neighborhood. Recently, I looked him up. He’s still producing work, and is highly acclaimed in the Midwest. Preston is African American and I vividly recall my dad thinking the neighborhood was going to go downhill when he moved in. That never made sense to me, because Preston was the most educated and accomplished person I’d ever met. I’d love to talk with him about his experience, and his work. He’s had a profound and long-lasting influence on me.

Imagine for a second that you have to write an email that goes out to 200,000 people. You spend all week on it, making sure there are no typos or broken links. You schedule the email.You walk into the office and the first thing you hear is, “The most important link is broken.” It’s too late, the email is registered by the servers; it’s now a beam of light carrying information through fiber glass under our oceans.Imagine that feeling of failure—sweaty palms, concerned looks by colleagues, heart rate thumping.Or better yet, what if you stopped imagining?Anxiety is a story that we tell ourselves; it’s a magnification of possible failures paired with self-talk that undermines our chances of success. Anxiety is created from within, not outside. Self-sabotage may always be part of the creative process and the sooner we can accept that the clearer we can be in the decision we need to make to move forward. This month’s global exploration of Anxiety was chosen by our Bucharest chapter and illustrated by Evelin Bundur. Thank you to our global partners — MailChimp, Adobe, and WordPress.com — for their generous support. Find an upcoming CreativeMornings event near you!

Our Q&A with January speaker, Jennifer Ament, who will be talking on the topic of Anxiety.

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

Jennifer Ament is a printmaker and painter. Her work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions in New York at The National Arts Club, and on the West Coast in Out of Sight, the Frye Art Museum, the Gage Academy of Art, and The Vera Project.

Her commercial clients include Starbucks, The Derschang Group, Frankie & Jos, JuiceBox, and The Runaway. She has been commissioned for large-scale public murals by Urban Artworks and Starbucks.

Her work has been featured in numerous art and style publications, including Architectural Digest, Huffington Post, Elle Décor, The Jealous Curator, Sunset Magazine, House Beautiful, Seattle Met Magazine, Seattle Magazine, GRAY Magazine, Seattle Homes & Lifestyles Magazine, and Luxe Magazine.

She received a BFA from the San Francisco Academy of Art in 1995, and has since studied at the Gage Academy of Arts and the Pratt Fine Arts Center. She is the founder of Artists For Progress. She lives and works in Seattle, WA.

Jennifer Ament: www.jenniferament.com.

[CreativeMornings (CM)] How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?
[Jennifer Ament (JA)] An ability to think outside the box and push the boundaries of normalcy can be one form of creativity, or getting unstuck from thinking one way about yourself and your pursuits. The creatives I admire have humor in their work and push through their fear. It is constant evolution, to push through stagnancy, beyond how you have limited yourself in your mind.  

[CM] Where do you find your best creative inspiration?  
[JA] My reactions…to everything. Mainly societal movements, cosmic energies, and the natural world. My process isn’t always linear. The encaustics are an exploration in feeling.

[CM] What’s the one creative advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person?
[JAI wish that I had believed that I was good enough to make the leap to create earlier in my life. I would start something, and not feel good at it right away, and so I would stop doing it. We tell ourselves we need to feel good at something right away to keep doing it, and the reality is most of us suck at most things until we do them over and over again. 

[CM] Who would you like to hear speak at CreativeMornings?
[JA] Louise Bourgeois, Kim Gordon, Winston Churchill, Maxine Watters, Henry Rollins

[CM] What myths about creativity would you like to set straight?
[JA] For some reason we have been taught that there are only a few paths to creativity, and that you have to be born an artist or born creative. That you have to get a BFA or go to a certain school, or even been traumatized to be creative. But it is your work ethic and how often you do the work that keeps propelling you forward in your creativity. You can suck for years but there is no way your work can’t evolve and get better if you remain committed to trying. If you trick yourself into believing you are not good enough, you will lose hope. The “I Have No Creative Bone in my Body” excuse is all bullshit. If it feels creative to you, it is fucking creative. If you envision a career based on milestones and money, that is different. Career path and creativity are two separate things. Success is being happy with doing what you love. It was a year into my creative process, after having committed the time and space to create my work, that lead me to feel capable after many years of not feeling capable. It took a while. It is not automatic. Making the time forces you to be better. 

[CM] What’s the most recent thing you learned (big or small)?
[JA] Restraint. Restraint with imagery. Restraint with words. Restraint with my own thoughts. The failure in my lack of restraint has taught me restraint.

Imagine your typical morning coffee or tea, how it tastes and the way it makes you feel. Now imagine being on a remote island, sun rising, with your drink in hand. That sip is unlike anything you’ve ever tasted—that’s context.When we feel something is out of context, it’s because there’s a mismatch in the intention, behavior, and environment. Looking at the Mona Lisa in a dark basement versus The Louvre surrounded by people taking photos creates two different memories.This month’s global exploration of Context was chosen by our Minneapolis chapter and illustrated by David Schwen. Thank you to our global partners — Adobe, MailChimp, WordPress.com, and Shutterstock — for their support.Find your upcoming December event ➜ bit.ly/cmcontext

Our global theme for November is #CMdeath. Death has inspired humanity since time immemorial, influencing ideologies and storytelling to our understanding of life and how we live it.

To our ancient ancestors, the fear of death was a palpable and daily motivator. Although our world is infinitely safer than it was centuries ago, we are still driven by the fear of death and we expertly attribute it to even the smallest events: traffic, deadlines, a mistake, public speaking, your boss’s name on your caller ID on a Saturday.

What we have done well as a species is leverage the fear of death to inspire achievements that seemed impossible, to create work that needed to be made, and to discover insights that help us live well.

This month’s global exploration of Death was chosen by our Miami chapter and illustrated by 2016 Adobe Creative Resident Syd Weiler. Thank you to our global partners — Adobe, MailChimp, WordPress.com, and Shutterstock — for their support.

An Interview with Katrina Spade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Q&A with October speaker, Cynthia Brothers, who will be talking on the theme of Pioneer.

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

Cynthia started Vanishing Seattle in 2016 to document the displaced and disappearing homes, small businesses, and communities of Seattle – often due to redevelopment and gentrification. She’s a member of the anti-displacement CID Coalition, has contributed to The Seattle Globalist, and worked as a nonprofit consultant in immigrant rights, online organizing, and arts & culture. Being from Seattle, she’ll readily admit to local clichés like playing in bands and once making espresso for a living – and is proud she went to high school where Bruce Lee first demonstrated his “one-inch punch.” You can find Cynthia on Instagram and Facebook @vanishingseattle and at www.vanishingseattle.org.


[CreativeMornings (CM)] How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?
[Cynthis Brothers (CB)] I see creativity as the ability to interpret and share something in a new, fresh, or provocative way. Much of what I do with Vanishing Seattle is just documentation – collecting and reflecting back what I’m witnessing in the city – but it elicits pretty strong reactions. Some of my work is also about interrupting and challenging dominant narratives and assumptions we may hold about notions of “progress” and change.

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

[CB] From the people, history, and spaces of this city. There’s so much rich culture here – past and present. Every place has a story – I don’t have to go far to find curiosity and inspiration – whether it’s from the visual cityscape or the vibe and characters haunting an old Seattle watering hole.

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

[CB] Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

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

[CB] Tarik Abdullah and the Black & Tan Hall team. Julie-C and the Artist Coalition for Equitable Development (ACED). Dozer/Crick Lont and Beacon Arts:  Artists, creatives, and culture workers who are visioning and implementing alternative, inclusive, and equitable community spaces, business, and development models.

[CM] What are you reading these days?

[CB] How to Kill a City: Gentrification, Inequality, and the Fight for the Neighborhood by Peter Moskowitz. Can’t recommend this highly enough – demystifies the process of gentrification as a very planned and intentional set of policies and practices enacted by local governments, big banks, corporations, and real estate investors in the interest of profit-making. Bonus: it’s not written in Academic-Speak!

You Don’t Have to Say to Love Me by Sherman Alexie. Sherman Alexie is my favorite author – after the passing of his mother, he wrote this memoir about his complicated family and childhood on the Spokane Indian Reservation, and how he’s navigating both grief and love.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter & Sweet by Jamie Ford. A love story set against the backdrop of WWII and Japanese American incarceration. Taking place in Seattle in the 1940s and 1980s – there’s lots of beautiful historical detail in this book that centers Nihonmachi, Chinatown International District, and the local jazz scene. And it’s going to be made into a film – executive produced by George Takei!

Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America. The “Pope of Trash” - and one my favorite filmmakers - hitchhikes the 70-W from Baltimore to San Francisco at the age of 71.

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

[CB] I share pictures and stories of disappearing and displaced spaces, communities, and cultures of Seattle.

Our Q&A with September speaker, Hanson Hosein, who will be talking on the topic of Compassion.

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

Hanson Hosein earned law and journalism degrees in Montreal, Paris and New York City, and then produced stories for NBC News in regions of conflict, winning Emmy and Overseas Press Club awards. He pioneered “backpack” journalism for both NBC and CBC News in the Middle East as a solo TV war correspondent. Hanson created HRH Media Group with his wife Heather Hughes, directing two award-winning “Independent America” feature documentaries. He now shares the story-centric methodology of this unique journey as Director of the Communication Leadership graduate program at the University of Washington.

[CreativeMornings (CM)] How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?
[Hanson Hosein (HH)] How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?Whatever can be considered my “career” (and I refused to call it as such in my TEDx “Why I drop the mic” talk), is an exercise in creativity itself. What’s the idea that the universe drops into my head that I just can’t set aside? And how do I pursue it into that undiscovered country until the territory is fully settled and suburbanized and it’s time to move on again? Ideally, the thing I leave behind is available to others to help make small sense of our world – and at that point, it belongs to them.

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

[HH] Far away from screens and deep within the printed page, a bike commute to work or messing around with my guitar by the shore. And sometimes when I’m going one-on-one in an on-stage or on-camera interview with someone who is willing to duel. It’s true tightrope-without-a-net stuff, the ideal “creative constraint” being “do or die.”

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

[HH] Bringing something truly creative and lasting into the world is not supposed to be easy. You may be enamored with that initial flash of brilliance. But that’s just the beginning – a tiny point of entry meant to encourage you to dive deeper into the abyss. For it to truly be meaningful, you must push all the way through to the other side. And you’ll probably get scratched and scarred along the way. That’s ok. If you want to give birth to something new, the world will inevitably resist, push back, make you scream. Until it realizes that the new thing you’ve created deserves to live. Otherwise, it’s just a one-in-a-trillion status update that dissolves into nothingness.

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

[HH] My friend Robert Schenkkan, former Seattle native. Pulitzer and Tony-award winner, creator of “All The Way” (Broadway play and HBO show about Lyndon Johnson), writer of “Hacksaw Ridge” and a number of “The Pacific” episodes.

[CM] What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

[HH] Unknowingly walked through a minefield in Bosnia to interview two sisters who had each lost their leg in that same minefield (and had met Princess Diana four weeks before she died – which was why I was doing the story in the first place). The end result was nominated for an Emmy though!

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

[HH] That for any creative, the ratio of failure to success is disproportionally high. For good reason: the world doesn’t need more stuff. So don’t expect to succeed unless you’re willing to do absolutely everything and anything to make it happen. You need to push yourself to the extreme. I tell my students this is the equivalent to David Bowie’s “Berlin” period (minus the drugs) – when your back is against the wall and you have nothing to lose, suddenly it begins to flow. That’s how I conceived and produced my first documentary film. Through loss, pain and eventual clarity.

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

[HH] Listening to 1970’s progressive rock music while I work – notably King Crimson – played loud on a surround sound system (my hearing is already slightly impaired!)

[CM] What are you reading these days?

[HH] “The Vegetarian: A Novel” by Han Kang 

[CM] What fact about you would surprise people?

[HH] I never finished my undergraduate degree. (I got in “early” to law school and accepted, partly because it was in Montreal, which remains one of my favorite 

Our Q&A with August speaker, Tim Allen, who will be talking on the topic of Genius.

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

Tim Allen was named one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business for 2017. He brings his roots in product, service design, and strategy to his current role leading teams of designers across Microsoft’s new Fluent Design System and Inclusive Design group envisioning the next shift in computing. His focus on fueling human potential is key to building products and cultures that inspire people to do their best work.

 Prior to Microsoft, Tim combined design, storytelling, and technology to innovate on behalf of global brands such as Google, Hyatt, and GE as President, Wolff Olins North America. At Amazon, he helped lead experience design for Amazon Echo, Fire TV, and Kindle products as Executive Creative Director. Tim also shaped the vision for one of the largest Experience Design teams in the United States at R/GA, whose Nike+ work established the future of connected experiences for brands. Through innovative work with Adobe, Red Hat, and IBM, Tim holds seven patents related to software design, ranging from chat interface modeling to mobile device synchronization.

 As an additional outlet for his passion around design strategy and practice, Tim instructs at schools and events around the world.

[CreativeMornings (CM)] How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?
[Tim Allen (TA)] Similar to the notion from an athletic apparel company that if you have a body, you’re an athlete, if you have a mind, you are creative. Creativity is innate to humans. It allows us to adapt to physical, cognitive and social challenges as a survival skill. Things start to get interesting when that gift for survival is used for something beyond the preservation of our existence. Creativity can also make our lives and the lives of others more meaningful, more delightful, and sometimes more magical. I think pursuing that level of creativity is a privilege. Whether it is your vocation, hobby or passing interest. I’m passionate about the intersection of logical problem solving and imaginative personal expression. Playing/Creating in the space between observed insights that are universally human and forms of expression and adaptation that are uniquely individual is a fascinating pursuit. In my experience, that is where the rare occurrence of genius lies. 

[CM] Where do you find your best creative inspiration?  
[TA] For me, it’s when and not where. It’s the 60min transition between sleeping and waking. For some reason, my mind is able to process all of the various inputs (articles, books, podcasts, conversations, observations, etc) from the previous days/weeks and organize them in unexpected, creative ways. It’s when my imagination is at its peak so I just try to write down or draw as much as possible during that time without trying to rationalize, doubt or analyze the connections. The moment I start thinking about anything mundane for the upcoming day is the exact moment when the flood of creativity stops. 

[CM] What’s the one creative advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person?
[TA] I was advised by a mentor that “People will not truly care how much you know until they know how much you care." 

It’s advice that speaks to being aware and considerate about your relationship to an audience and any related subject matter. The audience, in this case, could be anyone or any group - a manager, a customer, a teacher, a spouse, etc. There is no shortage of people that crave being seen as the smartest person in the room, in the meeting, in the relationship, or on the team. But it’s been proven many times in my experience that communicating subject matter expertise isn’t nearly as effective as being vulnerable/humble enough to convey how much a subject matter means to you and why. I’ve found that success can lie more in establishing a common purpose than in establishing your individual credentials. 

[CM] Who would you like to hear speak at CreativeMornings?
[TA] It would be a toss up between Eddie Opara (Pentagram) and Steve Johnson (Netflix). Actually, I’d love to hear them both speak at CreativeMornings. Their stories are amazing, they’re masterful at their craft and they are both hilarious. Moreover, they are also people of color that have reached a rare level of executive seniority in the design industry. I would love to hear more stories from people like them. 

[CM] What did you learn from your most memorable creative failure?
[TA] For me, it was freshman year in design school. My first crit was an abomination. I didn’t know if I was cut out for all of this design business - the other students didn’t act like me, they certainly didn’t look like me, and I had the nagging thought of "What was I doing in this studio with all of these ‘real designers’?”

That’s when I received one of the greatest pieces of advice I’ve ever had when my professor spoke to me after class and said, “…you know the anxiety that you’re experiencing is natural. Fear and uncertainty can ruin you or be your best ally. Embrace your fear. Seek out ways to step into the unknown. It is the single best way to grow as a designer.”

After that, the thought that what I felt was not only natural but HEALTHY was pivotal for me. I soon learned to befriend and channel fear and uncertainty and it led to huge leaps in my evolution as a designer.


[CM] When you get stuck creatively, what is the first thing you do to get unstuck?
[TA] I take a run whenever the creative juices aren’t flowing. It never fails to help me make new connections and spark new ideas. It’s a great burst of energy and the since of accomplishment gives me some needed confidence when I’m feeling like a creative challenge is getting the best of me. I also try to run in a beautiful setting as well, preferably near water. It just feels good! :)