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It’s no secret that our modern-day world is full of distractions: Glowing screens. Notifications. 24-hour news cycles. At times, it can feel exhausting to try and get things done with all the bells and whistles competing for your attention. In his book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, psychologist and researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi theorizes that people are happiest when they are in a state of flow. Flow is the experience of completely immersing yourself in a singular pursuit and effectively applying your skills to it. When you’re in flow, your awareness of time momentarily dissolves. You’re in a temporary, but energizing state that helps you make progress with the task in front of you. So, how can you rise above the noise and get into flow? First, quiet your mind and take a deep breath. Then, pick one task (yes, just one) and set clear goals for it. Move or put away any distractions around you. Lastly, take your first action. Whether it’s writing your first sentence, drawing your first stroke, or playing your first note — dive in. Activate your flow and let it carry you where you need to go. Our Mexico City chapter chose this month’s exploration of and David Espinosaillustrated the theme. 

Join our event, October 25th at Yelp with Bridget Watson Payne.

Community Spotlight
We do our best to give you great talks, inspiring spaces, and tasty coffee every month, but the best part of CreativeMornings is the people. So we’re showcasing a few of the faces of CMSF, and you could be next!



What do you love about San Francisco?

I moved here from New York City over forty-years ago. I loved the city then for the dramatic hills, the romantic fog, the fantastic restaurant choices…

and I still do for the very same things.

What do you enjoy most about CreativeMornings?

The young creative energy, the friendly folks who attend, the interesting meeting locations, and, of course, the wonderful complimentary food.

What are a few of your favorite themes/talks/speakers we’ve had here in SF?

One of my recent favorites has been artist Leah Rosenberg. Her talk and images about color and cakes were both refreshing and thought-provoking.

I also liked another speaker, Erin Gilmore, who spoke at the Conservatory of Flowers. She was very different than most other speakers, in that she spoke of her pain and recovery. She was very real and very moving.

What’s one thing you’ve been inspired by lately?

Live theater always inspires me. I recently saw a new musical, Paradise Square, performed at Berkeley Rep. The show was an inspiration of staging, dancing and music. Movies can create special effects which can be magical, but when magic happens by sheer talent it’s awe-inspiring.

What is one piece of advice that is overrated?

When people tell you that something can’t be done. Nothing is impossible if you have the passion and determination to do it. Before I wrote my first book, I was told I would not be able to find a publisher for my writing. They were wrong… big time. My 27th book, Embracing Life After Loss, and 28th book, Positive Thoughts for Troubling Times, will be published this year.

Where can people find out more about you?

Website:         www.allenklein.com

TEDx talk:      http://tinyurl.com/z4hfsx5

Twitter:           @allenklein

Facebook:      facebook.com/allen.klein

LinkedIn:        linkedin.com/in/allenklein/

Instagram:     allenklein22

Throwback Thursday: Food Styling Field Trip

Back in February, BiteUnite hosted a field trip on Food Styling 101 and the global theme of SYMMETRY. Here’s what you missed:


BiteUnite was founded by Patta Arkaresvimun as a co-working, commercial kitchen and cafe. As a native of Thailand living in big cities like Hong Kong and San Francisco, Patta realized the need for authentic Thai food like she grew up with, and started teaching classes as an amateur chef. Three years later, BiteUnite is a space built to offer the basic necessities chefs need to kick off their own business, including a fully equipped, licensed commercial kitchen, business support, and a neighborhood cafe to engage with the community.


Patta is entirely self taught both in cooking and photography, but her tips and tricks to food styling and foodstagram photos are universal. She emphasized the importance of balance in photography, both a physical symmetrical balance in the composition, and a balance between active and passive subjects (for example, a hand with chopsticks reaching into the frame).


She then invited the class to put her tips into action by playing with and photographing food in creative ways, before ultimately enjoying breakfast together. Rule #1 of foodstagram: camera eats first.


Huge thanks to Patta and the BiteUnite team for hosting, teaching, and (most importantly) feeding this workshop. You can learn more about their space and cooking classes at 600 S Van Ness. Photos taken by Ben Conde. See more on Flickr.

Whether you’re a mathematician tinkering with complex equations or a musician pairing discordant notes together, searching for inspiration can often send you in circles. The longer you sit and wait for an epiphany to strike, the harder it gets to make progress. What if you could get unstuck by turning to your muse? Your muse comes from the deepest parts of your imagination and guides you to new ideas. It invites you to bring your dreams to life using the raw materials found in your daily life. Artist and director Oroma Elewa once said, “I am my own muse. I am the subject I know best. The subject I want to know better.” * The next time you want to draw out your muse, stimulate your imagination in a different context. Leave your desk, take a walk outside, read something different, observe the ordinary, or try your hand at a new recipe. Chances are your muse will come out to play. Our Dubai chapter chose this month’s exploration of and Shahul Hameed illustrated the theme. Presented around the world by our Global Partner, Mailchimp


* Correction: We originally misattributed this quote to Frida Kahlo. Our community has since brought to our attention that these words belong to the artist Oroma Elewa. The quote has been widely misattributed as Frida’s and we want to do our part to correct the narrative and redistribute their accreditation to Oroma.

Artist Spotlight: Ally Schmaling


Ally (they/them) is a lover of kind humans, vivid colors, Motown music, cold beer and dancing like a goddamn fool. They’re a classically trained opera singer and a hair dye aficionado. When they’re not capturing moments and souls, you can find them petting every dang dog they see. Clients and publications include: Institute of Contemporary Art Boston, Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum, Vogue Italia, Afropunk, Bumble, Improper Bostonian, Boston Magazine, Apartment Therapy, Isenberg Projects, OpenView Venture Partners, and TrueMotion.


Most recently, Ally taught our August field trip on Evocative Portraiture. Check out more of their field trip portraits here.


Stay tuned for a recap of what Ally taught us during the workshop.


Thanks to Ally Schmaling for teaching an incredible workshop. To book their photography services, check out their website www.allyschmaling.com. Thanks also to Chiara Headrick and the Archery for hosting us in their incredible space, located at 498 Alabama Street in the Mission. To book the space for your next event or photoshoot, check out their website www.thearcherysf.com. Photos by Ally Schmaling and Sana Maq.


Justice can be a path to healing in fractured times. 

When we envision moments related to justice, we often think of suits, a gavel hitting the surface of a desk, or people marching in the streets. Change happens when enough people raise their hand to work together. Author Omid Safi wrote, “Justice is love, embodied. We cannot speak of love without linking it to justice, nor of justice unless it is permeated by love.” Justice is restorative when empathetic and innovative solutions are brought to the forefront. Through generous listening, we all hold the ability to form moments where people can feel safe, strong, and at ease. Our Bratislava chapter chose this month’s exploration of and Simona Cechova illustrated the theme.Join our event August 16th at Thumbtack - grab your ticket now!

Back in December, our friends over at SF School of Needlework and Design hosted a CM Field Trip on Crafting Traditions: Contemporary Embroidery Revival. Here’s what you missed:


In Union Square, among bustling shops, cable cars, and a vibrantly lit holiday scene, a quiet little office space full of needles, yarn, and string is perched above the square. The San Francisco School of Needlework and Design is a nonprofit hand embroidery school whose mission is to preserve and advance the art of hand embroidery.


Lead Instructor Lucy kicked us off with a lovely history of embroidery traditions and purposes from different parts of the world. We got to see examples of both amateur and professional pieces featured all around the room, on the walls, and even on some outfits…


Check out Field Trips host Amanda’s intricately embroidered jacket from Japan. Following the end of WWII, American GIs started getting traditional Japanese designs hand-stitched into the backs of their jackets to bring home as literal souvenirs after the post-war occupation of Japan. Popular designs included dragons, cherry blossoms, and trees. Amanda’s original Japanese Souvenir Jacket was found in a vintage shop, and we can help but be inspired by the beautiful artwork.


For the hands-on portion of the workshop, Lucy and the rest of the team taught traditional stitches and fundamental techniques, such as the whipped back (above), the chain stitch, and french knots. Using water soluble markers, stitchers could trace their designs onto cloth to embroider their own custom napkins and tea towels.


We hope everyone enjoyed this field trip on December’s theme: TRADITION. What a great way to DIY the perfect handmade gift for the holiday season.

A big thank you to SFSNAD for hosting and teaching this workshop. You can find them in Union Square at 360 Post Street, Suite 604. All photos taken by Thomas Phan. Check out more photos from the event on Flickr.


Sr. Interaction Designer on the Material Design team at Google, working on patterns and guidelines to help people create beautiful, usable applications. Kunal studied architecture at Carnegie Mellon University and began his career in that field, before a love of making Flash websites led him to Parsons to get his MFA in Design and Technology.

In 2018 he started Letters of San Francisco, an ongoing collection of his favorite found typography in the city, digitally recreated one letter at a time. It began as a simple drawing exercise to practice hand lettering, but has turned into his primary lens for seeing and understanding San Francisco. By isolating the letters from their surroundings and presenting stories about the places they belong to. He hopes to share that view with others and help them appreciate the city in new ways.Find out more at: @lettersofsanfrancisco

Q&A with Kunal

  1. What does Wonder mean to you?

    To me, wonder is about curiosity. When something surprises or amazes me enough that I want to spend more time with it, or learn more about it in order to increase my appreciation.

    How is this concept reflected on your creative work?

    Letters of San Francisco is powered by a sense of wonder for our everyday environment and curiosity for the stories and people behind it. When I moved here 3.5 years ago, I was struck by the city’s bold colors and neon signs and began taking photos of my favorite found typography on long walks around the city. I wasn’t really sure what to do with them, but I continued to scratch that creative itch as the project evolved from reference material for hand lettering to the ongoing digital collection of recreated letters and stories it is today.

    Would you share a bit more about the CM/SF collaboration and how you came about developing it?

    When the CM/SF team and I discussed potential themes for collaboration, “Wonder” was instantly such a perfect fit. There is no Letters of San Francisco without a sense of wonder for the city’s typography and the stories behind them.
    For the collaboration, I picked letters from around the city that are in the word “wonder” and designed printed cards for each one. Every creative decision was made to inspire people to visit these locations themselves and spark their own sense of wonder for their everyday environment. I only picked letters that are still available to visit, put a single letter on each card to keep the goal simple, used a postcard size so they’re easy to carry, and ended each location’s story with a prompt to go visit.

    What have you been inspired by lately?
    A friend recently shared the transcript version of Jenny Odell’s talk at Eyeo 2017 about “How to do Nothing”. Her framing of the power and importance of observation and reflection, and examples of her own work in re-contextualizing found material (“making nothing” new) was both inspiring and helpful as a way to think about my own work and the fulfillment I’ve gained from it.
    Randall Ann-Homan and Al Barna, who started San Francisco Neon and host neon walking tours of the city, were early supporters whose work I greatly admire. Their journey from artists with a niche interest, to publishing a book, advising on local sign restorations, to national neon preservationists is quite inspiring.Any advice for someone in our community who is looking to tap in more traditional techniques or creative pathways?
    Rely on existing habits: Don’t feel like you have to adopt a whole new way of working just because the subject matter may be different. If you have preferences or routines for your profession, or activities like fitness,, try to apply the same structure here so that everything isn’t new. This wasn’t something I thought about explicitly as I began working, but as someone who creates a lot of structure to manage other parts of my life, it wasn’t a surprise that wound up being the case here.
    Start really small: Set an initial goal for yourself, then cut that one in half. A week later, feel free to cut it in half again. This project started out of an interest in hand lettering, but I didn’t know anything about it. Rather than start with a goal of a sign, or even a word, I limited myself to single, uppercase letters to keep things simple.
    Identify meaningful constraints: Letters of San Francisco really took off for me when I committed to publishing a new letter every day last year. Suddenly, everything clicked into place: I needed to regularly explore new parts of the city, keep track of my backlog, and set aside dedicated time to work on this. The daily deadline also meant I was learning from repetition and would dwell less on a particular day’s outcome.
    Find a support system: One thing that kept me going last year during the daily project grind was live encouragement from friends and digital support from strangers who found my work on Instagram. It was motivating to know even a few people were following along, sending me signs to go visit, and sharing how their own perspective had changed. I’ve been too afraid in the past to share personal work for feeling it wouldn’t be “good enough”, but it’s been so important to my continued interest in pushing it forward.Thanks to Kunal for collaborating with us and sharing his own unique vision of San Francisco.

    CM/SF’s Creative Spotlight looks to highlight local creatives by collaborating on a fun project centered around the monthly theme. There are tons of local artists, makers, and creators in our city who are doing rad things – we want to spread the world and spark our community with their creativity!Know someone doing rad things? Drop us a line or two over email at sf@creativemornings.com.

  2. June’s theme is Wonder 

    Our sense of wonder is the code for tapping into our most creative selves. It enables us to expand our horizons and encounter parallel universes that haven’t been explored yet. This month’s theme was chosen by Copenhagen chapter.

    This month’s CM/SF Creative Spotlight is Kunal D. Patel  designer and typography aficionado. He created his own version of this theme Illustration (see above) and shared with us what Wonder means to him:

    “To me, wonder is about curiosity. When something surprises or amazes me enough that I want to spend more time with it, or learn more about it in order to increase my appreciation.”

    - Kunal Patel.

    If you’d like to learn more about Kunal and this month’s speaker Lea Rosberg, join us at our next event on June 28th at General Assembly. 

    Our Community Spotlights are back! 
    We do our best to give you great talks, inspiring spaces, and tasty coffee every month, but the best part of CreativeMornings is the people. So we’re showcasing a few of the faces of CMSF, and you could be next!


    What do you love about San Francisco?

    The farmers’ markets. I’m obsessed with produce and the farmers’ markets in this city make me swoon. Every week I aim to visit 2 different markets… it may seem excessive, but the ritual is very meditative. 

    What do you enjoy most about CreativeMornings?

    The people! It’s an incredible self-selected group of people who are engaged in the speaker or activity. I love that they listen attentively and no one seems to be on their phone… it’s refreshing. Also, the CM community is extremely well-dressed, so the style inspiration is a bonus. What are a few of your favorite themes/talks/speakers we’ve had here in SF?

    Erin Gilmore: The power and healing in owning your mess.
    Also, the January theme of Anxiety is one I could talk about endlessly. 

    What’s one thing you’ve been inspired by lately?

    People watching in The Marina. Never ceases to amaze and entertain. 

    What is one piece of advice that is overrated?

    Break-ups need closure; in my experience, the closure comes from time and space.

    Where can people find out more about you (Twitter, Instagram, or website)?

    Instagram (@thecompostcook), where you can find me creating some 5 am doodles, with frequent running breaking, or spotlights on my dog, Moses Waffles. Photo by: Ben Conde @kidconde