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Growing up, Kyle Kesterson and his family hit the lowest of lows moving in and out of homeless shelters and standing in line at food and clothing banks. It led to frequently moving, attending 14 different schools, becoming one of the worst kids in the school district and finally dropping out after being told by teachers that he’ll “most likely end up flipping burgers, in jail, or dead.”

Discovering art and creative expression saved his life and put him on a path towards carving his own path and ultimately creating positive impact around him. You can get tickets hear his upcoming talk on ACTION August 7 at the Olympic Sculpture Park.

How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?
Creativity to me is just seeing something for more than what it’s labeled to be. Approaching an object or challenge with, “it could be this, or it could be this,” and playing with how it comes together, allows for that creative lens to stay flexible and flowing. It gets applied in every facet of my career, from solving problems, to building products and creating content, to managing teams and building culture, and to how we communicate internally and externally.

Where do you find your best creative inspiration?
My best creative inspiration comes right after reaching what I call the ‘butthole pucker factor’. It’s that threshold where comfort and fear meet, and after identifying the fear, I hold my breath and step into it as boldly as I can. It’s in those moments I am truly present, learn the most about what I am capable of, and come back with new ideas and energy. Lately it’s been adventuring through the wilderness with my dog, Bean.

What’s the one creative advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person?
I wish I had learned earlier that purpose is birthed from struggle, and the more intense the struggle, the more of an opportunity for deeper impact. Knowing that would’ve shifted my experience to embracing the challenges and hardships as gifts for developing character and perspective.

Who would you like to hear speak at CreativeMornings?
Richard Tait, Founder of Cranium / Golazo

How would you describe what you do in a single sentence to a stranger?
I make fun of everything.

What’s the most recent thing you learned (big or small)?
When your world is small, your problems are big. When your world is big, your problems are small. Dave Cole, former CEO of Redbox/Coinstar told me that, and has pushed me to make my world very big.

What myths about creativity would you like to set straight?
Creativity is not art, painting, design, sculpting, crafting, building. Those are just technical expressions of creativity. With creativity being just looking at something for more than what it is labeled to be, everyone is creative.

What has been one of your biggest Aha! moments in life?
Recently I’ve noticed that much of my creativity comes from avoiding pain and discomfort. If I happen to work myself into a comfortable situation, where I have little to no stress, I self-sabotage in a way that allows for chaos and challenges to surround me. That tension that builds lights me up and I reach new ways of seeing and thinking, which leads to fresh ideas and solutions.  

What is the one movie or book every creative must see/read?
Orbiting the Giant Hairball, Gordon MacKenzie

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July’s speaker on COLLABORATE is the inimitable Jon Bell. Jon is a senior product designer at Twitter and co-founder of UX Launchpad, a company that teaches fun, hands-on design courses. He’s done all sorts of things, but you probably don’t care about that. You’re wondering if he’s going to deliver an interesting talk, and the answer is … no.

Just kidding. It’s going to be great. People seem to really like this one. And you can get your tickets here on June 29th.

How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?
By creating things. No, wait! Come back! I’ll say more!

By creating things with others. This means being someone people want to work with. It’s not hard to come up with an idea. It’s incredibly hard to turn that idea into something real. And it’s harder still to do graciously and as part of a team.

Where do you find your best creative inspiration?
Oh, I don’t find it. I have to hunt it down and pull it from a tree like a scared kitten.

What’s the one creative advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person?
Everyone starts projects, very few people finish. Get good at finishing and you’ll stand out. My trick for finishing is doing lots of small things and not getting bogged with giant magnum opus projects.

Who would you like to hear speak at CreativeMornings?
Me, while a second me sits in the audience. Imagine how crazy it’d be to somehow be able to see yourself from another vantage point. It could be the worst talk ever and still be a fascinating experience.

What myths about creativity would you like to set straight?
Talent. It’s a cop-out. The only thing that matters is how hard you’re willing to work. I know plenty of people with quote-unquote talent that I’d never let near an important project. Whereas if someone is willing to work hard, truly hard, they won’t just improve, they’ll stand out. Our work isn’t magic or rocket science. It just takes work.

If you could do anything now, what would you do?
Respond to this very email. Seriously. The more you’re comparing what you’re doing to what you really want to be doing, the more it erodes your mood. I am genuinely delighted to be writing silly answers to this email.

What is the one question we haven’t asked that you want to answer?
Jon, what do you think about questions that go unanswered?

We’re so pleased Charles Tonderai Mudede will be joining us as our June speaker on REVOLUTION. You can still hop on our waitlist for tickets right here.

Charles is a Zimbabwean-born cultural critic, filmmaker, and film editor for The Stranger. Mudede collaborated with the director Robinson Devor on two films, Police Beat and Zoo, both of which premiered at Sundance–Zoo was screened at Cannes. Mudede has contributed to the New York Times, LA Weekly, Village Voice, Black Souls Journal, C Theory, Cinema Scope, and is on the editorial board for the Arcade Journal and Black Scholar. Mudede has lived in Seattle since 1989. 

Charles took a few moments to tell us a little more about himself:

How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?
It is finding a space to dream, and usually for me that is at the end of a day and during a walk. Without this dreaming, I can make nothing.

Where do you find your best creative inspiration?
City parks and walking around Beacon Hill, my favorite neighborhood.

What’s the one creative advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person?
Actually, as a young person, I knew exactly what to do and did it. It works like this: Find someone whose way of thinking you like and then emulate that way of thinking. Eventually, you will find disagreements with that way of thinking and begin to develop your own. Creativity is imitation and betrayal.

Who would you like to hear speak at CreativeMornings?
Jonathan Raban, because he has the best mind in Seattle.

What are you reading these days?
A lot of economics, particularly the books by Joan Robinson, a mid-century British economist and post-Keynesian. Economics, I think, might be the most important subject of our times.

How does your life and career compare to what you envisioned for your future when you were a sixth grader?
I wanted to be an astronaut. I’m now a writer and filmmaker and stuck on Earth.

Black Box Festival

Black Box is an international art, film and technology festival that presents contemporary artists who expand the language of cinema.

A multi-platform program of significant scope, the festival is focused on experimental film, video and new media art.

Black Box takes place during the Seattle International Film Festival and is organized independently by Aktionsart - a new art and technology nonprofit based in the Pacific Northwest.

Meld

Make a perfectly cooked meal every time with Meld’s robotic cooking knob. Their Kickstarter campaign ends today! PS. Congrats on your Geekwire award!

Camp Rahh!

Camp RAHH! is an all inclusive camping experience for adults in the PNW. As a camper, you create your days whether that means soaking up the sunrise with a cup of coffee, taking a yoga session on the beach, kayaking around the bay or even just playing board games with new friends. You decide. Special Creative Mornings promo in the image. :)

Hello, creative humans. For May’s talk, we’re bringing you Robert Twomey, an an artist exploring the intersection of machine perception and human desire. His projects have taken the form of an interactive simulation of a grandmother with Alzheimer’s disease, a body of work exploring the fantasy of an imaginary daughter, and a recreation of John Searle’s Chinese Room as a transaction between synthetic child voice and robotic child drawing. Tickets for his talk at the Seattle Art Museum are waitlisted right now, but we’re working on getting some more released soon!

How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?
I identify two kinds of creativity in my work. One has to do with creativity as problem solving or invention. I use this part in all of the mechatronics, computer programming, and fabrication that I do. The other side of creativity for me has to do with expression and the drive to get things out there into the world and communicate. The “problem to be solved” becomes how to take some subject of interest or inkling of a desire and develop it into a concrete form. This is a real challenge. It involves paying attention to yourself, figuring out what you are really trying to do, and why. Both kinds of creativity have been a part of me as long as I can remember. Growing up I was always building inventions, taking things apart, and I loved to draw. I got a lot of positive feedback and encouragement for these activities, which I’m sure went a long way in pushing me towards a creative profession.

Where do you find your best creative inspiration?
I look for inspiration in books, art works, life around me. But really I find the best inspiration in my peers. I’m finishing up a graduate program now (DXARTS at UW) and have had a number of excellent, really inspiring models in the students and faculty here. It is very nourishing to be surrounded by peers doing similar kinds of work but with totally different approaches, skills, history. We learn a ton from each other. This community provides a lot of fuel for my own practice.

What’s the one creative advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person?
I wish I had known there was some kind of art and technology hybrid in my future. I spent a lot of years of my life thinking science/engineering was one thing over here, and art was another thing over there (painting and drawing, usually). This is really a conservative, discipline-bound dichotomy. It has been exciting to watch these pursuits begin to merge in my career, to meet somewhere in the middle. I’m in a place where I get to engage both kinds of thinking on a regular basis in making projects. I wouldn’t have expected that starting out.

Who would you like to hear speak at CreativeMornings?
Living or dead, I’d pick Walt Whitman. In a fish-out-of-water way, I’m curious what he would make of our contemporary scene. He had an interest in labor, industry, productivity as part of the national character in his time. I think that intersects with this month’s topic of robots, technology, and ideas of human/machine production. He is a model for a lot of what I admire—a boundless enthusiasm, a desire to connect with the world around him and chronicle it. He’s very earthy. I love the 1st edition of Leaves of Grass, which he typeset and published himself.

What are you reading these days?
I just finished Roadside Picnic by the Strugatsky brothers. It was a great book, the inspiration for the film Stalker. I think I’m going to read some more books by them. I’m also very very slowly making my way through Kenzaburo Oe’s Somersault. I love some of his other books but am having a hard time with this one. And I am revisiting Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida, in reference to a project I’m doing with Mike McCrea for Black Box 2.0.

What practices, rituals or habits contribute to your creative work?
I get up every morning, head to the basement or studio, and start first thing. This is funny for me. It represents a real shift from a more end-of-day/evening mode of work earlier in my career to very much early morning work now. The most important thing for me is finding a time and place to concentrate, where I won’t be interrupted, and I can really get into things. So early mornings it is! I get a lot done before 10am.

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Tousled

Heading out to a special event? Need to try something new with your beauty routine? Never fear! Tousled will send hair and makeup professionals to you on-demand. Currently looking for folks to try their beta. More info here.

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Wondering Who You Are

In July, Sonya Lea is releasing a book about her experience of her husband’s tragic memory loss. A memoir on loss and self-identity. More info here.

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Startup Weekend B2B 

Interested in helping build better business to business software? Interested in starting your own business? Launch a business idea within 54 hours at Startup Weekend. More info here and tickets here.

We’re so excited to have ZIIBRA founder, Omri Mor as April’s speaker on HUMILITY. Tickets and event information are available here

How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?
OM:
Simply put I believe being creative is being not afraid to 1) express oneself and 2) take risks.

I apply it in my career by pushing myself everyday and putting myself in challenging spots where I truly don’t know what the next step is. This happens far too often for my own good…

Where do you find your best creative inspiration?
OM:
At 4:00am on a late night run.

What’s the one creative advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person?
OM:
To pursue it—to not be afraid of failing while pursuing it

Who would you like to hear speak at CreativeMornings?
OM:
Johnny Ive. I’m 100% serious.

If you could interview anyone living or dead, but not a celebrity, who would it be and why?
OM:
My grandparents. Its weird how they are family but I never got to truly sit down with them and understand their life story - would be awesome to make an HBO like documentary on each one.

When you get stuck creatively, what is the first thing you do to get unstuck?
OM:
Walk away. Seriously—you have to drop everything, walk away and only come back when your gears start working again.

Realizing we all wanted tattoos after watching Mike Folden’s mini-documentary on Bryan Kachel, we knew Bryan would be an amazing speaker for our INK theme. Tickets for Bryan’s talk are available Monday, March 2! Be sure to grab ‘em while they’re hot!

How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?
BK:
In tattooing and Art in general, Creativity is thinking outside the norm. Stepping beyond the expected and finding elegant and original solutions to the myriad of considerations and constraints a client might bring to the process. In tattooing the creative risks are rarely, if ever, done on the skin; it’s in all the behind the scenes time working out compositions that meet (or hopefully exceed) your client’s expectations. The only way to apply creativity is through [doing] the work: putting the time in to make all the technical aspects of your medium second nature, so when inspiration comes, your mind is free of obligation to the mundane and can explore the inspiration as it comes.

Where do you find your best creative inspiration?
BK:
I am the most inspired by people that take their craft seriously. Take the time and energy to do your best. Every time. That’s inspirational! But, artistic inspiration I mostly find in nature. Its unsurpassable.  

What’s the one creative advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person?
BK:
If you look at an acrobat, or ballerina that is preforming well, it looks effortless. It took so much practice and struggles to make that performance effortless. I wish I would have realized that everything worth being good at takes work. I wish I would have know that even in those moments when I felt I wasn’t growing or progressing as fast as I would have liked, to keep trying. The time you put in when its hard, that’s what’s really teaching you something. If it’s not hard, you’re probably not growing.  

Who would you like to hear speak at CreativeMornings?
BK:
Mike Folden! Not only does he have a ton of awesome insights, he’ll make you laugh while he tells them to you!

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

My routine when I get home from work: I put my two amazing kids to bed; talk with my wonderful wife about our days; then, rain or shine, inspiration or not, I draw. I draw till I’m too tired to draw any more and I go to bed.  

I guess what I’m trying to say with that is, have a routine that doesn’t allow for “writers block”. Create! No matter what. Even when your stuck. Do it anyway.  

What has been one of your biggest Aha! moments in life?
BK:
I did a vision quest a number of years ago. There was lots of preparation. One of the things I prepared was to have questions that I wanted answered and expect clarity. I was young and like most people, I longed to know my place. I wanted to know that I was fulfilling my purpose. So one of the questions that I had was “Who am I?” The answer that I received was, “You are whoever you choose to be in this moment.” I try to never forget that. We define ourselves through our actions. Make those actions the acts of the type of person you want to be and you will be the person you’ve always wanted to be.  Right now!

We are so excited to have David Harris join us as our February speaker on CLIMATE. Grab your tickets right here!

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

DH: I define creativity as the ability to reveal and uncover new and useful perspectives. I work for TAF (Technology Access Foundation) where we create connected learning opportunities for non-dominant youth to pursue personal interest in not only their academic learning, but also their communities. My work deals with creating solutions to urgent and complex social inequities, and there are no silver bullets. This requires my colleagues and I to think out of the box, “How might we create high impact opportunities in a resource-constrained environment?”

CMSEA: Where do you find your best creative inspiration?

DH: I find my best creative inspiration from from being present. It is so easy to have what seems like a million thoughts running through my head and many things happening around me. Its not until I stop, breathe, and really listen to what is being said to me at that moment - even when there might not be any words.

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

DH: When I was younger I used to sketch, but somewhere along the way I made it out to be a less valuable skill. One of the first classes I took in my graduate program was User Centered Design, and sketching was one of the activities that we practiced and read about the most. Once I realized that my sketches didn’t need to be masterpiece drawings I was able to see the extreme value and context they provide. Now when I work with students, I encourage them to sketch as well.

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

DH: I’d love to hear Otieno Terry of the group Hitek Lowlives speak at CreativeMornings. He is not only a great vocalist and storyteller, but he has also created this character, Brother Damien, that you just have to experience at a live show.

CMSEA: What’s the most recent thing you learned (big or small)?

DH: My fiancée is Ethiopian, so everyday she teaches me a new word in Amharic - one of the languages spoken in that country. I’m slowly getting better. I think I have the vocabulary of a 3 year old now, and that’s betam tiru (very good, በጣምጥሩ).

CMSEA: What books made a difference in your life and why?

DH: One of the many books that had a great impact on my life was the science fiction novel, Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. It is an afrofuturistic account of what the world could be in the coming decades. What I took away from this book was the importance of empathy and hope in trying times. 

Another book that impacted the way I see the world is Back of the Napkin by Dan Roam. 65% of us are visual learners, and this book taught me to hone my visual thinking skills and communicating skills.

creativemornings:

This month’s theme is UGLY, chosen by our CreativeMornings/ Geneva team and beautifully illustrated by the talented Matt Chase

Learn more: http://creativemornings.com/blog/januarys-theme-is-ugly

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