CreativeMornings/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 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

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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 www.kimwerker.com.

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

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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.

May 29

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May 15

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May 03

June Speaker Profile: Heather Dawn Jones

Heather has a visual art practice that emphasizes the transformation of ordinary and discarded objects into immersive works of art. She began to develop her unique style in her final year of the B.F.A. program at Emily Carr University, working with ephemera and salvaged wood to build architectural cabinets.

From these small beginnings she quickly began to work big, building large scale architectural sets for The Dusty Flowerpot Cabaret including The Village Project — a village built from pallets and inhabited by artists — the immersive 1930s-esque set for Hard Times Hit Parade. She has since created work for numerous local theatre companies, as well as community events such as Illuminaries and Parade of Lost Souls.

Her most recent work includes a life size tessellated horse built out of punched tin cans and cold-forged recycled copper for the Chinese Cultural Centre of Vancouver. This project exemplifies her sense of creative reuse that remakes the familiar into the vibrantly unexpected.

Her work encompasses a strong sense of community, as expressed through the teaching of skills in workshops, working with other artists in collective creation, and designing art that facilitates intersection and connection. She is currently working as the lead visual artist for Vancouver International Children’s Festival—creating interactive art installations that engage children and youth in the making of art.

As of late, Heather has been dedicating her time to the development of a 50-acre international artist residency and performing arts centre, “The Lookout Arts Quarry” located in Bellingham, WA. As it’s name suggests, it was previously an industrial rock quarry site.

She lives in a hand built patchwork house on wheels, drives backhoes, builds large scale engineered artist facilities, builds wooden art installations including her favourite little lean-to church atop the hill, creates graphic design promotions, produces festivals, and organizes artist residencies.

She spends her free time expanding her skills as an artist into the realm of performance, shadow puppetry, dance, and experimental sound. In all, from visual art to performing art, graphic design to construction, her work is quintessentially quirky, engaging, playful, and larger than life.

How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?
The english language contains only 26 characters, yet through reconfiguration entire novels containing thousands of concepts are built. Creativity is the reconfiguration of simple materials, movements, sounds, ideas into unique, less encountered forms.

It is the exploration of configuration. The more one practices this act, and it can be as simple as trying out a different way to walk from one side of the room to the other, the wider one’s range of mobility / ability grows, the further away from “normal” one’s range becomes.

The applied practice of creative exploration is a lens I direct towards all aspects of my life: ways of walking, singing, whistling, dressing, sewing, cooking, making… It is in the Visual Arts, however, that I have invested the most time—hence my visual art work has traveled the greatest distance in exploration from the “norm”. Similarly, my materials—tin cans to paper trash ephemera—express this creative exploration of what an art material can be and how art can be made.

Where do you find your best creative inspiration?
In the discovery of the everyday. I take note of what I find great quantities of (dumpsters full of a certain material), or what I am attracted to (gold foil from a chocolate bar), and I have a conversation with these materials. I pick objects up and turn them around, test their strength, weight, admire their colours and qualities, maintaining an open mind to observe what responses my imagination conjures.

What’s the one creative advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person?
Rather, I might wish for less creative advice. Kids are naturally creative. It has taken years of practice to strip away the definitions of art and structures of art-making that have limited my ability to confidently create new work. The expectation is that art is made from materials bought from an art store, art is painting, art is drawing—In fact, there are so many more possibilities.

Who would you like to hear speak at CreativeMornings?
David MacMurray Smith. fantasticspace.com. Teacher of spiritually transformative performance art. His course work is one of the best kept secrets in Vancouver… it certainly changed my life!

How would you describe what you do in a single sentence to a stranger?
I simply state “I make art”. I then point to different objects around me—pop bottle caps, a broken straw, a brick, a rock, a lamp post, whereupon I proceed to enact how I make art: standing atop a tall object, jumping down, running between the lamp post and a bench. Lifting my arms in the air I weave an imaginary creation around the person so that the lines I have drawn with my eyes, hands, and vocal exclamations surround them, they feel it and become a part of it.

Where was the last place you travelled?
New Orleans, in December. The great craw daddy toe tappin snap of a town. I lived and created out of two red houses that had been united by the falling of their centre walls, red light lit plexiglass placed between their divide to create a single large room. Many rambling staircases and attic spaces were seemingly strung all around, hanging from nails and pieces of salvaged wood.

Out back of it, recycled metal was welded together to create a tree house palace one could swing and jump about on with only some trepidation of its fear-inspiring heights. I collaborated with 10 other artists for 10 sleepless days and nights to create an immersive shadow puppet theatre piece for the Fringe Festival.

Momo (my artistic collaborator) and I became shadow puppets ourselves, our dancing shadows on the ground, the silhouettes of trees, the treehouse palace lit up like a stage, it all served to inspire the immersive, interactive shadow work we were creating at the time.

Apr 07

May Speaker Profile: Aaron Smith

Growing up on a fruit farm in Canada’s Niagara Peninsula, Aaron Smith was taught an early appreciation for what it means to work in harmony with the land. Little did he know then that this would plant the seed of inspiration to launch GoVoluntouring many years later.

After finishing three years at George Brown, he and journeyed 4500 kilometres west to the mountains of British Columbia where he spent his first years in a hospitality management capacity, running bars and small restaurants at Silver Star Mountain, a popular ski hill in the Okanagan Valley. Looking to settle down, Smith attended British Columbia’s Institute of Technology’s Marketing Management program in Vancouver, and held down a full-time junior marketing position for a local company. After graduation, he accepted the role of Western Canada Marketing Manager with Flight Centre North America before he was promoted to VP Marketing for Flight Centre North America.

Following his position at Flight Centre, Smith went on to work for a collection of remote resorts in British Columbia as Director of Marketing and Operations. Concurrently, Smith enrolled in and completed the Commerce program at Royal Roads University where he graduated with distinction.

Today, Smith blends twelve years of senior tourism management experience with a passion for community service. He has travelled extensively throughout North and Central America, Europe, Australia and East Africa. He is a multi-award winning marketer who adds a humanistic approach to his work, and a deep network to the experiential travel industry.

A husband, father to two young daughters, and a proud East Vancouverite, Smith is excited by his latest venture that marries his training and education with his principles.

“I have been very fortunate to see many things throughout my travels. There is no denying that the exposure that has been blessed upon me has shaped much of my values,” says Aaron Smith, founder of GoVoluntouring.com. “At the same time, and as any father would, I want the best possible opportunities for my children. In weaving both of these influences together, I am left believing that if we do not take action in supporting our social and biological environments, that there will not be much of a future, economically or otherwise, for the next generations, with my two daughters included. I built this business, because I know we can enact positive change, perhaps not in every situation, but certainly in a great many.”

Flight Centre acquired GoVoluntouring in February 2012. The collaboration takes advantage of Flight Centre’s bricks and mortar retail selling strength and air expertise combined with GoVoluntouring’s existing platform of world recognized volunteer and humanitarian organizations. For Flight Centre, the investment into GoVoluntouring reinforces the company’s industry leading commitment to social and environmental stewardship, and was a logical next step. Together, the two companies have begun developing an integrated site that will improve the user interface while embedding greater tools of connectivity, as well as steps towards increasing accessibility, and transparency. Smith remains at the helm of GoVoluntouring as it continues to grow and develop.

In 2013 Smith was awarded Business In Vancouver’s Top 40 Under 40 Award, and was also one of BC Business magazine’s Top Innovators for 2013. Smith is contributor for both the Huffington Post and the Vancouver Sun, as an expert in the purposeful travel space. He has recently launched Holidays for Humanity, an innovative attempt to emulate the organic grocer experience for the tourism community.

How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?
I define creativity as the ability to solve a problem with personal influence. For my career its been used as a tool to frame travel differently, to help transform the sector into one that is personalized, and delivered more as an experience, and less as a commodity. It’s also a tool that has allowed me the opportunity to weave my personal values into core business objectives.

Where do you find your best creative inspiration?
Simple. I find the greatest creative inspiration when I’m around other mentors, or creative super-hero’s that have their own distinct take on life. I don’t find inspiration from a place. It’s inspiration through interaction. It’s from learning.

What’s the one creative advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person?
Think big. Work backwards. The road ahead can be daunting if you look at all the steps ahead, but if you can project yourself to the finish line, then try to visualize the step right before the finish line, and then the step before that, you will find that it’s a far more positive look at things. It’s not what we have been taught. We are taught to build up, not to tear down and take notes.

Who would you like to hear speak at CreativeMornings?
Tonio Creanza of Messors.com, Perhaps the most interesting, inspiring, and down to earth person I’ve ever met. He’s the Italian version of the Dos Equis man, and we’re lucky to have his influence in Vancouver, even if it’s just for half the year.

What fact about you would surprise people?
OK, this is on the heavy side, and I don’t talk about it much because I am hyper-aware that it makes most people feel uncomfortable. Regardless, I’m a sexual abuse survivor that has battled depression most of my life. For me, every day starts with an internal pep talk on how I can live in the moment and begrateful for the friends and family around me. Some days are better than others, but every day is a gift and chance to make a small amount of change.

What has been one of your biggest Aha! moments in life?
That I am constantly making myself, and that I can create a difference in the world, even if it’s just a small one. As cheesy as this sounds, casting one stone really does create countless ripples.