Sep 19

October 3 Speaker Profile: Ryan Opina

If you ever have a conversation with Ryan there is a good chance that at some point he will ask you ‘why?’ Growing up, he took apart and put back together many things just to understand how they were built. He has an annoying tendency to research in detail everything he buys to make sure that he isn’t making the wrong choice, and ended up buying a fixer upper Mid Century Modern house because he watched too much HGTV and figured that it couldn’t be that hard to renovate it into a home worthy of a spread in Dwell. He was wrong.

This constant search for understanding the things around him is what led to working in the field of User Experience. A combination of physical and digital product design experience at Nokia and Microsoft Game Studios along with an MBA in Design Strategy from California College of the Arts in San Francisco led Ryan to the role of VP of User Experience at Engine Digital.

It is here that he finds new ways to apply existing and unconventional approaches to interaction, function and content to define and influence the strategy of businesses that are integrating digital in completely new ways.

How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?
Creativity is about finding an unexpected solution to a problem with constraints not directly under your control.

Where do you find your best creative inspiration?
A big part of my work is understanding what people are doing, and more importantly why they are doing it that way. I have been fortunate that my work has taken me to many countries around the world and while this typically involves having interesting conversations with people doing cool stuff, I actually find a lot of inspiration in observing how people perform pretty mundane, everyday things differently from country to country and what they have come up with to make it easier for them to do these things.

What’s the one creative advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person?
Do. Then once you think you’ve got the hang of it, do more. Discovery happens in the midst of action.

Who would you like to hear speak at CreativeMornings?
A computer. Seriously. Like in Her. How cool and creepy would that be? I bet her perspective as to why people do what they do would be fascinating.

What keeps you awake at night?
Getting too comfortable. It’s one thing to feel proficient and confident in what you are doing, but to me, if you start to become satisfied and settle into being comfortable you have become complacent and are not making progress. When I start to feel that way I know it’s time to change things up and try something new.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Soon after getting married, my wife and I went to Mexico. As part of this trip we thought it would be interesting to catch a bull fight, but what ended up happening was me being volunteered to step into the ring to fight a small bull, matador outfit, cape and all. It was probably the longest two minutes of my life, dodging a few hundred pounds of charging bull, but I escaped getting flipped on my head like two of the other three ‘matadors’ and best of all ended up taking the grand prize of a t-shirt and bottle of tequila!

Sep 05

September 19 Speaker Profile: Reece Terris

This is a special event as part of Vancouver Design Week 2014, happening September 15–28. CreativeMornings is committed to celebrating emerging creative talent of all kinds, so we are happy to participate in VDW2014 as an opportunity to cross-pollenate and empower designers and design-thinkers, and help encourage dialogue about creativity and design across all disciplines, catalyzing an even more transformative Vancouver design culture.

Reece Terris is a Vancouver based artist whose work alters the expected experiential qualities of a place or object through an amplification or shift in the primary function of an original design.

Past projects include a six-storey apartment building temporarily installed in the rotunda of the Vancouver Art Gallery, a pedestrian wooden bridge connecting two residential homes, and an architectural false front added to the existing false front of an artist-run centre. 

His practice is manifest through a variety of media, including sculpture, performance, installation, and photography, and quite often, through their hybrid execution, complicates the traditional definitions of each of these.

How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?
I define creativity as a making things happen in the world. When the urge or desire to make something real becomes insistent I typically begin looking for an outlet for the the production of that creative impulse.

Where do you find your best creative inspiration?
My creative inspiration typically comes through an awareness of the space that I am in and imagining a formal response to what the space offers. A kind of sculptural dialogue between what is already there and what I am imagining could be there. (I also let my mind wander when reading).

What’s the one creative advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person?
It took me a long time to get back into post secondary education. Perhaps going back earlier would have been good for me.

Who would you like to hear speak at CreativeMornings?
Alexandra Morton (living). Or Guy Debord, Gordon Matta Clark or James Brown (deceased).

How would you describe what you do in a single sentence to a stranger?
I create architectural installations and interventions which involve a modification or shift within the intention of an original design.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
I snuck off to Hungary to crash my parents backpacking trip with the intention of pretending to be my Hungarian double. It was very difficult to locate them however and I ended up diving into a taxi they were about to get into.

What fact about you would surprise people?
My life is well past it’s halfway point. Whenever I think about it, it surprises me. I suppose it may surprise others as well.

Sep 02

Photography & The Stories We Tell Ourselves About Failure -

Check out this great blog post from photographer Vivienne McMaster who shares her thoughts on our talk last month with Kim Werker.

Aug 31

CreativeMornings/Vancouver is proud to support Vancouver Design Week! Visit & register to stay up to date & get involved. Follow @vandesignwk on Instagram and Twitter. #vdw2014 #vancouverdesignwk #vancity #vancouverisawesome #yvrdesign #vancouver

CreativeMornings/Vancouver is proud to support Vancouver Design Week! Visit & register to stay up to date & get involved. Follow @vandesignwk on Instagram and Twitter. #vdw2014 #vancouverdesignwk #vancity #vancouverisawesome #yvrdesign #vancouver

Aug 03

We Heart Cossette

We recently welcomed Cossette to the CreativeMornings/Vancouver family, and the honeymoon has been splendid.

A leading integrated marketing communications agency in Canada, Cossette is a close-knit community of talented people and innovative creative experts who build powerful brands for their clients. They’re also our newest support partner, and we’re excited to see our complimentary communities mingle.

"As a agency that celebrates all forms of creative expression, the fit with CreativeMornings is a no-brainer," explains Nick Richards, Cossette’s VP Creative Director. "Every day we invite and embrace creative opinion and inspiration from all corners of our own organization. To be a part of CreativeMornings who support the cultivation and sharing of fantastically talented creative thinkers from all corners of our own city seems like a perfect fit."

We would like to extend our gratitude to Cossette for being a local institution that supports and believes in the power of creativity and community engagement.

Learn more about Cossette on their website, or say hello on Facebook or Twitter.

Photo: Some lovely folks from Cossette’s Vancouver office, taking in our August talk with Kim Werker. (Source: Cossette on Twitter.)

Aug 01

September 5 Speaker Profile: Andrea Chlebak

Andrea Chlebak is the Senior Digital Intermediate (DI) Colourist and Director of Creative Services at Central, a boutique post-production facility in Vancouver.

Even as a young child in Winnipeg, Canada, Andrea was inclined to view the world as a series of moving pictures. In fact, her earliest paintings feature the family’s kitchen curtains billowing in the breeze. She fell in love with photography as a teenager, but a continued fascination with movement ultimately led her to film.

A fortuitous encounter with film as an art student first opened Andrea’s eyes to the possibility of a career as a colourist, but several years would pass before she took her seat in the colour suite.

After graduating from the Emily Carr Institute of Art & Design in 2002, Andrea honed her skills in on-set photography, and picture editing before joining Central in 2004. When the company opened the city’s first DI colour grading studio, she seized the opportunity to become a colourist’s assistant.

Within six months, Andrea had earned the main DI colourist credit on her first feature film. Since then, she has cast her keen eye over a rapidly growing library of television series and films, including Hollywood heavy hitters like Elysium and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse and award-winning documentaries like Facing Ali and Saving Luna.

Having studied art and film and spent years behind the lens as a photographer, Andrea brings an artistic sensibility and technical rigour to her projects. Her flexible approach and infectious personality have resulted in rewarding collaborations with respected directors, cinematographers and VFX supervisors.

Outside the colour suite, Andrea finds inspiration all around her, from the chestnut tone of her morning espresso to the rich emerald forests and cool grey waters of the Pacific Northwest.

How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?
I used to think of creativity as being synonymous with productivity, but lately I’ve been thinking about it more simply as the process of making connections. I visualize this as looking through a viewfinder to photograph a scene. The image you produce is simply the result of the connection process. Seeing the scene in real life, looking through multiple lenses and angles, and then choosing a combination of angle, lens, and exposure is the result of you being able to see the same thing in different ways and connect a few ideas.

When I work on a film I learn as much as I can about the director’s main influences and then I collect inspiration from a variety of sources to inspire the colour treatment for that film. Forming the vision is in many ways more creative than the actual production aspect of what I do.

Where do you find your best creative inspiration?
People and places. Most of my collaborators (directors, cinematographers) have fought hard to get to where they are and are extremely passionate about what they do, meaning they all have good stories. Spending time getting to know them, learning about how their experiences and motivation, really inspires me and influences how I work.

I also feel that travel brings necessary insight, so I try to plan in a small break at some point during a big project. I find that getting away from the work, enjoying life and seeing a different part of the world really helps invigorate my process. Most often I return to my work and something has changed in how I see it.

What’s the one creative advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person?
Share your work and ask for criticism, but don’t attend every review of your work. Let people meet about that scene, layout, website navigation etc on their own — force them to summarize their reactions and [attempt to] give coherent notes. Remove yourself from the discussion, especially with a group of producing types.

By doing this you spare yourself irrelevant notes and comments motivated by fear or lack of knowledge (e.g. “Can you make that text bigger?” “Can you centre the photo so people definitely see it?” ” Can you make everything brighter and less interesting because I am worried that the person with the old television, who has the colour settings set to ‘Sport Mode’, won’t see every detail in that shot?”).

If you show up to a review like that you are saying, “Please! please give me all of your notes and then integrate everything you say.” The outcome is rarely positive; either you get stuck defending your work, embarrassed to be on the project, or you become a production artist enabling the “design by committee” process.

Who would you like to hear speak at CreativeMornings?
Terri Tatchell, Pete McCormack, Evan Goldberg

What fact about you would surprise people?
I am a would-be 8th generation baker. My parents actually owned and operated a bakery from when I was about 4, so you could say that I grew up in a bakery. The experience is so much a part of my personal make-up, I can’t help but reference baking as a metaphor for what I do… I also make a mean artisan sourdough.

How does your life and career compare to what you envisioned for your future when you were a sixth grader?
In the sixth grade I was obsessed with Disney (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and The Lion King especially) and I loved to draw. I asked for a framed cell painting from The Lion King one Christmas and I dreamed that I would be an animator when I grew up.

Funny enough, I just finished grading an animated film with Roger Allers, the director of The Lion King. So you could say that I wasn’t far off in my vision. He even drew me an original Simba for my wall since I never got the cell painting.

Jul 13


Jul 04

August Speaker Profile: Kim Werker

Kim Werker is a writer and freelance editor who tries to make something — anything — every day. Many of those things are awful; some are not.

Her favourite passion is Mighty Ugly, through which she facilitates hands-on and discussion-based workshops and lecture-conversations that help people confront creative demons, experiment with new approaches to creative expression, and build confidence in what they make and do.

Her latest book, Make It Mighty Ugly: Exercises & Advice for Getting Creative Even When It Ain’t Pretty, will come out at the end of August.

Say hi and catch up at

How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?
I don’t define creativity; I’m not terribly concerned with an exact definition, so I think of it very generally as having to do with solving problems, and I leave the pondering of more precise definitions to other people.

In my career, I strive to strike a balance between expressing myself and reaching others. As a writer, I try to avoid shouting dramatically into a void. Rather, I try to say what I need to say in a manner that allows/inspires/enables other people to engage with it in some way. That’s the problem I try to solve every day, which is the context in which I consider my work to be creative.

My career is more than trying to be a successful writer, though, and the problem I try to solve in everything I do is the problem of deciding not to create. Whether a person’s creative act might be figuring out how to redesign a spreadsheet at work or how to fill a 3x4-foot canvas for a gallery show, there’s always a struggle involved, beginning with the decision to take on the problem in the first place. I’m starting to ramble here. I will not spiral down into esoteric or erudite philosophizing in my talk.

Where do you find your best creative inspiration?
“Inspiration” is another of those words I find problematic! When I was 21 and went to my first big American National Park, I was appalled to find a spot called Inspiration Point. I felt no inspiration there! Why did the sign-maker and park-planner assume I would? How insulting.

No. As someone who rarely finds “typical” things to be inspiring (the Grand Canyon? Unmoved.), I try not to think about inspiration at all, ever. Sometimes I’m compelled to create, sometimes I’m not. So sometimes I sit for hours writing feverishly and I forget to eat or go pee, and sometimes I watch entire seasons of dark, brooding shows on Netflix without feeling like making anything.

By not concerning myself with trying to find inspiration, I find those dark times down the Netflix rabbit hole happen less frequently than when I spend significant energy trying to remain “inspired”.

What’s the one creative advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person?
That I am, as all people are in some way or another, creative in the first place.

I spent a lot of angst-ridden years as a young person concerned that I was nothing like the talented artsy people I saw all around me. (I’ve also given up being at all concerned with “talent”.) I’d sit my young self down and say, “Kim, quit your fretting about wanting to be creative. You are. There’s no one – or dozen – ways to do it, you just do it. Everyone does it differently, so get over yourself. Stop thinking, start doing.”

Who would you like to hear speak at CreativeMornings?
Omer Arbel. Katrina Pacey. Jessica Glesby.

What are you reading these days?
I’m reading a book called The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking, by Oliver Burkeman. I’ve been reading it for months, because I hate the idea of being done with it. The book is, generally speaking, about how accepting the crap parts of life is a surer root of happiness than forcing the crap out in favour of so-called positive thinking.

I encourage people to make ugly things on purpose, so it’s no surprise that a book with this premise would resonate with me. But it’s also a very well researched and -written book. I’ve learned a lot from reading it so far, and I’ve recommended it pretty much to every human being.

What has been one of your biggest Aha! moments in life?
I only remember the big ones. Here are a few: I had trouble saying the word “world” when I was a kid — too many glide sounds, I think. I remember that I was sitting next to my toy box and playing with a doll when I was around five years old and I pronounced the word properly for the first time. I felt so free and capable! (I suppose I’ve always been a bit obsessed with words.)

I remember when I discovered that Andre the Giant talked funny not because of his gigantism but because he was French and had an accent. That may not be the most politically correct thing to mention, but it was a big eye-opener for me, because it made me very keenly aware of the automatic assumptions I make all the time without thinking. After that realization, I’ve tried hard to notice those assumptions, and question them till they become more conscious or just go away

I had a very subtle aha! moment this year (I suppose its subtlety means it wasn’t actually an aha! moment, but, well, I’m breaking the rules all over the place) when I discovered that I can make very concrete commitments in regards to my personal practice of making stuff, and that I not only derive satisfaction from the commitment, but that it’s also immensely freeing. (Which is, naturally, hardly a unique experience. It is, however, something I’ll be speaking about in my talk.)

Speaker photo by Miranda Lievers, Blue Olive Photography.

Jun 30


Jun 06

July Speaker Profile: Charles Van Sandwyk

Born in Johannesburg in 1966 and raised in Vancouver, Charles van Sandwyk began selling his drawings and watercolours in the early 1980s.

In 1986, he won the Alcan Award for his limited edition book A Selection of Neighbourly Birds. The book, illustrated with etchings printed on an antique intaglio press, was his first venture into the world of handmade books.

Since then, Van Sandwyk has created a number of limited edition books. His charming private press books pair animal characters with whimsical verses.

Van Sandwyk’s style is inspired by the paintings and prints that hung in his family home. He splits his time between Vancouver and Fiji, and his enthusiasm for the natural world is clearly evident in his books.

Collectors have come to love van Sandwyk’s limited edition books for their beauty, simplicity, and vibrance. Some of van Sandwyk’s paintings hang in the National Library of Canada, as well as in several important private collections.

How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?
I believe creativity is something we each possess. Even animals possess creativity. The creative surge often rises when faced with a challenge. Here is an example: the four of us who work together at CVS Fine Arts were not cut out at all for the modern world - but we were cut out for the real world - the world of delight, the world of kindnesses; the world of old -style beauty; the world of poetry and elegance. The only option for us was to make it work. So we made a nest for ourselves to create beauty, hoping we could spread the word if we found people kind enough to lend an ear.

My challenge has always been to exist in spite of, and make my way through all the disgusting nonsense of politics, mindless ownership and societal demands without blowing my brains out. Creativity is never taking no for an answer.

Where do you find your best creative inspiration?
My studio in Fiji is where I find my best creative inspiration - somewhere I can get away from it all. I create best in nature, away from the clamorous inelegance of modern life.

What’s the one creative advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person?
It is hard to say… Some days it seems that I knew more then than I do now. I suppose the fact that ones early work has an innocence which, over time, fades and cannot be repeated, is something I wish I knew all along. Innocence cannot really be replaced by a mature, more practiced technique. Here’s another thought in hind sight: No matter how much you train yourself to emulate the skills of others, if you are after some sense of meaning in your work, then your true character will shine through regardless of how hard you are trying to copy someone else.

Who would you like to hear speak at CreativeMornings?
Does this have to be someone local? If not then I would choose Wes Anderson who directed the movie called THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL. I also think that Neill Blomkamp the director of District Nine would be interesting.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
The craziest thing I ever did was also the most sensible: I lived for ten years in a little grass hut on an island in Fiji, learning to spear fish and grow vegetables. Subsistence living is poetic in its own way - it allows everything else in life to make proper sense of itself.

What fact about you would surprise people?
I think it may surprise people to know I am the world’s laziest workaholic. I go through protracted periods of guilt-ridden indolence, followed by tireless spurts of productivity. I am incapable of a daily 9-5 routine. The indolence is actually a thin disguise for thinking things through - there are no less than ten different stories bubbling away in my brain at any given time and it is just a matter of which one to pursue to it’s conclusion first.