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CreativeMornings’ Official Partner for Visual Inspiration, the one and only Shutterstock, has created a series of inspirational posters featuring quotes of “rebel wisdom” from prior CM talks. Check them out!


For our REBEL talk (tickets here!), we’ve invited Cal McAllister, Co-Founder, CEO and Creative Director at Wexley School for Girls. Here’s a bit more about him, as told and typed by his 6-year-old niece, Louisa:

Uncle Cow is a man, and he is nice!
He is a joyfle man. He has 2 neeses, and 1 nefuwe. He has soft scruffy hair. He has a nice wife named Amanda who takes showers 100 times a day. He has baby named Paige and a baby named Annie. He has a verey good tast. He is a strong man. He is a writer at Wexley School for girls. His favorite house anamle is a dog.
And he is a verey good prson. He is a nice, and cinde friend. He is a funny man, and is 43 years old. He is a asom prson, he is hansome, and a verey good dresser. He has 2 tatoos. He likes playing soccer. He takes shorter time in the bathroom than his wife. He has a verey smart brain. He is a little strange sometimes! He is a verey good worker. He stays up really late. His favorite song is: Happy Birthday! His favorite person is Amanda. The best thing he has ever done in his whole life was his weding day. His favorite memory of being a kid is playing stik ball in the summer with his brother.

CMSEA: How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?
CM: Creativity comes out when thoughtful people are tired of hearing no. I was a stubborn little prick growing up, but also a rule follower. When I heard no from my poor parents or a teacher or a crossing guard, I’d hunker down and try to figure out a way to do what I wanted that didn’t break the rules. I actually think rules are fantastic. They just define where there is no reward in going. But creativity kicks in, at least for most people I respect as great creative thinkers, when they need to get to a final destination but the path isn’t obviously possible.
I won’t pretend we’re always successful, especially in our careers. At some point, when someone says no and they’re paying, they get to end the game. But if you apply creativity and persistence to almost anything, the world might be impressed with the results.
CMSESA: Where do you find your best creative inspiration?
CM: I’m inspired by anyone who is incredibly successful in what they do. I don’t think success can happen without creativity. So sometimes it’s at a live show, sometimes it is looking at a monument. It’s not always human made. Mother Nature may be the definitive example of someone who is persistent and figures things out creatively. I love watching nature work. Except for yellow jackets. I hate those bastards.
CMSEA: What’s the one creative advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person? What was the best advice you were ever given?
CM: It’s OK to be terrible at something you love. Just keep doing it. Ira Glass has a famous quote I love to share with young people,


Malcolm Gladwell talks about needing to invest 10,000 hours to even know if you’ll be great. When I was a student in ad school, I moped into my advisor’s office and told him I had writer’s block. He advised me, “Cal, I’m going to tell you what you need to hear. You’re not good enough for writer’s block. Not yet. Get back to work.” It taught me to be tireless. And humble.
CMSEA: Who would you like to hear speak at CreativeMornings?
CM: Shawn Wolfe
CMSEA: How would you describe what you do in a single sentence to a stranger?
CM: I try to be the best part of someone’s day, whether it’s an action I do (or don’t) or an experience we give with something we made.


Thanks, Cal! Looking forward to your talk!

We wanted to add a creative to our speaker lineup this month who’s taken the challenge of bridging the divide between the tastes of two pretty specific audiences, and creates special moments of shared experiences between them. Enter Jack Forman, bass player and front man for Recess Monkey, a trio of three Seattle teachers who make music for kids and families. It’s not really new that adults make things that are reflective of their childhood, but finding ways to make it accessible and appealing to both adults and kids is a feat in of itself (Schoolhouse Rock, anyone?). We think you guys will enjoy his upcoming talk, What If… (Surprising Creativity is Hidden in Open-Ended Questions), which you can still grab tickets to right here.

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

JF: To me it starts with the energy and emotion and everything comes into place after that. I love segmenting projects into little incremental steps and challenge myself to do creative problem solving with each one. I’m constantly thinking along the lines of “yeah, but that’s the easy way” when I’m at my creative best—not complicating the product, but adding some constraints to the ideation process so that I really have to push into new territory. Someone asked our band early on how we’d know that it was time to stop making music, and the consensus was, “when we start trying to write songs we’ve already written.” 

CM: Where do you find your best creative inspiration?

JF: There are two answers here:

External: My work primarily centers around children, and I get so much from just riffing with kids. I feel like any conversation I’ve ever had with kids where I entered with an agenda—like “how to do long division”—it always falls flat. It’s the moments where kids are running the conversation that I get most excited creatively and just on a human level. Size is the primary difference between kids and adults—everything else can be largely indistinguishable.

Internal: The shower. When I get truly stuck, this is where I go. When we’re working on new albums, there’s a noticeable increase in our water bill in the next billing cycle.

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

JF: Not any one piece of advice, but probably about a dozen different tips about organization. (A dozen because I probably would have lost eleven of them between the car and the house). A small notebook that I carry around and a clean desk are the two greatest tools I employ and it took a long time to get there. And I didn’t really learn how to write songs until I discovered the audio recorder on my phone- I’d lose the melodies all of the time in the 5 minutes it took to get to a musical instrument. 

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

JF: John Vanderslice. We just made a record with him at his San Francisco recording studio Tiny Telephone and it was one of the most creatively inspiring stretch of days in my life. He’s a funny dude. You should ask him.

CM: What was the best advice you were ever given?

JF: I taught for 13 years at University Child Development School here in Seattle. A fifth grader there once said, in passing, “You know, you kind of make your own luck.” That was such a huge moment for me and I go back to the words all of the time. There are so many takes on what this means practically, so many lessons that I think it embodies. First, it’s a reminder that in order to “luck out,” you have to recognize that you did! That, on every scale, you have to be aware of what’s happening around you, to never tread too long in the same water. Being “opportunistic” in the least selfish way possible. But I think it’s also such a strong affirmation of the value of working hard with huge, murky goals, with the notion that somehow, somewhere, this is all going to pay off. What a vindication to the sophomore in college who dropped all of his classes fall quarter on the precipice of a serious course correction that it would have led to so much luck down the line. This is not to say that I haven’t been truly lucky in a way that has been completely out of my control. Gratitude, wherever it’s directed, is such an important thing. 

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

JF: They probably have already read it (everyone has, right?), but Vonnegut’sSlaughterhouse V is one of my two all-time favorite books. The other is Richard Brautigan’s Trout Fishing in America. I keep going back to both of them again and again; both marry a childlike whimsy with wit, darkness and deep creativity. The novel I wrote when in the creative writing program at UW was sort of a love letter to those two books. They’re gorgeously written but weird!  David Shields, the creative writing professor with whom I spent two years writing, was the first person to say to me that “The written word is the most intimate connection one can ever make with the mind of another human,” and I like to think that these two books, somehow, have opened a little a creative wormhole into their brains. I feel the same way when I look at a Jasper Johns painting or watch the movie-of-a-play Hurly Burly. It’s inspiring stuff to me.

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!