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An Interview with Hollis Wong-Wear

We are so excited to have Grammy-nominated Hollis join us at CreativeMornings! She’ll be speaking on May’s theme of FREEDOM and if her speaker Q&A is any indication, it’s going to amazing. We’re still taking names our wait list for the event, so don’t let that stop you from joining us! More info here.

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

HWW: I define creativity as equal parts imagination and ambition. I think to really explore and apply one’s creativity, it takes that leap of faith to imagine something anew, and a *lot* of work, tenacity and drive to take abstract ideas into real-life. Experimentation, and then dedication. I really try to understand all facets of my career as creative forays - whether I’m shaping and honing my life show as a vocalist and performer with The Flavr Blue, collaborating with someone else on a track, or hustling as a hands-on music video producer. It takes dream and sweat. 

CMSEA: Where do you find your best creative inspiration?

HWW: Growing up, my absolutely favorite thing to do was read. I still love to read novels - they can be so triumphant, creating vivid new realities with simple text and paper. When I delve into novels, I often emerge sparkly and inspired. 

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

HWW: I recently reconnected with journaling - the three-page-a-day Artist’s Way thing - while on a retreat at Hedgebrook on Whidbey Island. I journaled a lot when I was younger and my habit trailed off because I was “too busy,” or probably just avoiding that introspection. I think in the current landscape of social media it’s so tempting to have our personal documentation be spiffed up and broadcasted for the world to see and affirm, but it’s really important to keep that private documentation going, to face the page. I feel the first half of my twenties would have been much improved by doing so. 

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

HWW: Neko Case!

CMSEA: What practices, rituals or habits contribute to your creative work?

HWW: Even in the digital era, I make sure to write all of my lyrics and ideas by hand. I’ve gone down to LA a couple of times to do writing sessions with different producers and artists and it charms them to see I’m still pen-to-paper. For me it’s important to have a kinetic element to my cerebral writing process, and serves as a great point of reference to what I’m thinking and the key phrases and images going on in my mind. I never seem to open up word documents, but can instantly flip through to what I was thinking and writing the day before. 

CMSEA: What was the best surprise you’ve experienced so far in life?

HWW: Not to be too cliche, but being nominated for a Grammy was a huge surprise. Working on The Heist with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis was an immersive and rewarding process in its own right, and to see how such a Seattle-based, organic collective process could achieve recognition in the most mainstream platform of the music industry was a shock - especially because my name was right there! I had no idea it’d be a possibility but it was definitely a rewarding feeling.

Coming This Friday!

AM: There’s still room on the wait list for Hollis Wong Wear’s talk on FREEDOM. Sign up here!

PM: We’re gathering drinks and good conversation at Tommy Gun. We’d love to have you join us. More info on that here.

We’ve invited Sophia Iannicelli, the Festival Director of the Seattle Erotic Art Festival to bring us her talk on April 11, “Erotic Energy as a Creative Force”Sophia has centered her life around the arts as a creator, muse, collaborator, curator and event producer for the last 14 years and is sure to bring us a fresh and unexpected talk to CreativeMornings/Seattle. 

CMSEA: How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?
SI: I put my creativity into two camps: reactive and generative. The Generative Creative is the person who says, “Hey, I have an idea!” A Reactive Creative is the person who hears an idea and says “And then we could to tweak it and turn it into this other completely different thing!” It helps me to be more productive when I can focus on my energies toward one end of the spectrum or the other. As the Director of the Seattle Erotic Art Festival, I have to come up with an overarching feel and theme of the event and then I need to help other people make their ideas a reality. It takes a lot of creativity to take someone’s fantasy and implement the core essence of it in reality.

CMSEA: Where do you find your best creative inspiration?
SI: In order: Interacting with other people. Visual Art. Music.

CMSEA: What’s the one creative advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person?
SI: Making art isn’t magic and it isn’t reserved for the blessed few with innate brilliant skill. Everyone makes bad art and when you are first starting out, more of it is bad than good. Get over it. Learn from it. Make the next thing.

CMSEA: Who would you like to hear speak at CreativeMornings?
SI: Painter Crystal Barbre (NSFW). I heard her speak once on the mechanics of her choosing her topic and the actual painting. I would love to hear more about idea generation and her creative process.

CMSEA: What books made a difference in your life and why?
SI: Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins. The idea that gods and goddesses can only live so long as people believe in them was mind blowing.


Get your tickets for CM/SEA right here.


For this month’s theme of HIDDEN, we’re pleased to bring you Annie Han and Daniel Mihaylo, the partners at Lead Pencil Studios. Specializing in installation art at the architectural scale, they’ve exhibited all over the world. Their work is the kind that immediately strikes you as different—it’s clear they think about things differently, they operate on a different scale. We knew they are a wonderful fit for this month’s theme because their work says as much by what it leaves out as what it includes.

Tickets for their March 14th talk at the EMP is available right here!


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

LP: Having a vision, applying every faculty, stopping for nothing until it is finished and released into the world.  

CMSEA: Where do you find your best creative inspiration?
LP: Between big projects and in the middle of a good book.  

CMSEA: Love it! What books are you reading right now?
LP: We’re currently re-reading some favorites. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami, Black Zodiac by Charles Wright, Species of Spaces by Georges Perec

CMSEA: What’s the one creative advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person?
LP: Get the best education you are capable of,  regardless of cost & location.

CMSEA: Who would you like to hear speak at Creative Mornings?
LP: Tim Keck - Publisher of The Stranger
CMSEA: What was the best advice you were ever given?
LP: “If you’re not doing now what you always wanted to do today, you probably won’t be doing it tomorrow.”

CMSEA: What books made a difference in your life and why?
LP: The Collected Writings by Robert Smithson. A book of short writing that challenges and expands what it means to be creative in this era. Also, Art of Hunger by Paul Auster. A book of essay about life, art and observation that introduced writers, philosophers and artists I didn’t know and reminded me that the most meaningful discoveries and thoughts happen in solitude.

CMSEA: What is the one movie or book every creative must see/read?
LP: Sculpting in Time by Andrie Tarkovsky.

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!