Learn about creativity: Listen as Jenn, Daryl and Lori share the benefits of being creative, including experiencing happiness and flow, slowing down and being more mindful, being more open-minded, creating something you are proud of, and travel! Learn about creativity and how creativity is a catalyst to grow and to experience life.

Printable shownotes: https://talkabouttalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/SHOWNOTES-12-EXPRESSING-YOUR-CREATIVITY-with-Daryl-Aitken-Jenn-Purkis-Lori-Ryerson.pdf

SHOWNOTES – LEARN ABOUT CREATIVITY

References & Links

Jenn Purkis

Daryl Aitken

Lori Ryerson

Other Links & References

Talk About Talk


Transcript & Commentary

Welcome to Talk About Talk.  I’m Dr. Andrea Wojnicki, you can call me Andrea.  Today we talk and learn about creativity. If you have listened to previous episodes, you know that I typically first share some research on a communication-related topic, then I interview an expert so we can all learn even more.

The objective of this episode is a little different.  Yes, we will learn about creativity.  But my main objective of this episode is to INSPIRE  you to be more creative every day.  I hope to do so by providing evidence that being creative may have benefits that you hadn’t considered.  This evidence is  provided by our three talented guest experts, all with different creative careers. You will hear from Lori Ryerson, a professional photographer at Focalocity, Daryl Aitken, the owner of a quilting store called Fabric Spark, and Jenn Purkis, a decorator at X&In Design. YES, these are the same three guests who shared their amazing expertise on the topic of COLOUR in a recent Talk About Talk episode.  If you haven’t heard that podcast yet, I hope you will.

Let’s learn about CREATIVITY. I usually start with definitions, right?  But defining CREATIVITY is not easy.  Listen to our guest Lori Ryerson, a professional photographer, answer the question: WHAT IS CREATIVITY? 

I don’t have the faintest idea what creativity is in this universe where David Milne can draw on an iPad, where Banksy can shred something that sells for millions of dollars just because it got shredded. Is that creativity? What is art, when one person’s creativity is another person’s recycling bin? I have no idea what that is.

Fair enough. I looked it up. According to the Oxford dictionary:

Creativity is the use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness.”

Creativity could be what we think of as purely artistic.  The “something” that is created can be a painting or a photograph or a dance of a piece of music.  It can be less obviously creative, like figuring out where to put your furniture in your house or preparing a meal.  And creativity can even be solving a problem or being strategic. Of course there are many many benefits of being creative, or inventive.

Let me now introduce my three guest experts.  I asked each of them what creative work they are most proud of.  First, Lori Ryerson, a professional photographer at Focalocity.com:

I do have one favorite child. I know you’re not supposed to. But I do have one favorite child of a photograph…. I love to shoot our industrial scenes, a la Ed Burtynsky. I’m fascinated by the duality of industrial form and function versus destroy the world and that kind of thing. And Hamilton is just such a prime place for that kind of thing… gorgeous. If you look  at some of the silos and you see the steel mills and if you get there at night and you see the flame, it’s coming up in the nighttime… So I knew somebody. One of my association members. He lived in Hamilton, I called him. He knew the owner of a submarine building firm. They said we could come out and shoot from their dock . But we had to sign off on paperwork. Because apparently the Canadian government does not like people walking around nuclear submarine building facilities with cameras. So as we were on our way there to do all of this shooting, I get a call from our contact at this company. And  she’s like, “Gosh, I don’t know that you’re going to want to come out today because this fog has just come down all over.”   Well, okay. Photographers, and fog that’s like a match made in heaven. I’m like, Oh, that’s okay. Don’t, don’t be worried about it. Well, you know, by the time I get there, it’ll probably have burned off. We’ll just keep going. And we’ll see where we get to, it’s become one of my most favourite photographs. It’s a cross between Burtynsky and Alex Colville . And there’s fog everywhere… It sold very nicely for me as a photograph. It’s one of the earliest pieces I shot. I still love it so many years later. 

Here is a link to Lori’s photograph.  It is definitely worth taking a look at Lori’s favourite photo.

Now I introduce Daryl Aitken, the owner of a quilting store called Fabric Spark:

I think Fabric Spark is my favourite creative project. I actually think it’s Fabric Spark. I think it is my best creative work. I really did it by myself. I hired one of the best designers in the world. He’s awesome. He lives in the UK. He’s a very very good friend. He really helped me focus my thinking and that was very helpful. But from there I did everything else myself. It’s been an evolving thing.  It’s very hard because I’m a real owner-operator. I wear every hat. That’s why I’m most proud of that. I think that’s it. I think that is my most proud thing. So, it was a real creative endeavor for me. It didn’t really exist– the way I do it. It didn’t really exist before. So I feel like I did create something, and it’s very true to me. It’s very true to my motivations around the space and I do get enjoyment from that. And every week I write a newsletter and –it’s this little moment where I sit down… I go right back to why I was doing this in the first place. I get to talk about fabric!

Here is a link to Daryl’s blog. Now I introduce Jenn Purkis, an interior decorator at X&In Design.

I am most proud of an entire main floor I did that started with the kitchen and just grew. I actually say I acquired this thing that crawled all over the house. It just kept moving. My contractor who had slotted three months was there for over a year. That is the sign of a happy client and obviously a client that had the means to continue. But the reason I’m most proud of it is because it was the biggest transformation. There’s lots of different styles I like, so it’s not that. It’s not that it’s the style, it’s not that it’s the color palette, it’s not that. It’s that it was the largest scope and all of the I dealt with that came up — with either the client or the contractor. I pushed. That’s why I’m most proud of it.

Ok – so Lori, Daryl & Jenn are all unquestionably successful in their creative pursuits, and furthermore  they have created things that they are proud of. Let’s back up in time.  I asked each of them whether they were always creative. First, Lori. Were you always creative when you were a child? Did you know from the start you would pursue a creative career?….

No. (laugh) not per se.  When I was a child, we didn’t use words like creative.  You didn’t think of it that way  … my background was, that I was going to be famous. I was going to be an actor….  I was  going to be famous.  I was going to give Barbra Streisand a run for her money. So creative wasn’t really what we thought of. There was:  you had a career, or you did either things. And ART was never a discussion. It may have been a means to an end. I didn’t realize until I was probably in my 30s that my father who was a manufacturer, his degree was in Fine Arts. I honestly never made the connection to him being up at night designing machinery. He was always he had his book beside the bed, his invention book, and it never occurred to me that all of that went back to a fine arts degree. So was I always going to be creative…I never thought I was creative.

Here’s Daryl on growing up in a creative household of what she calls “makers”:

I grew up in a household with an artist. My sister is a fine artist. You know what? She has done lots of things over the course of her life, including writing books but she’s largely a watercolor painter. She has a fine arts education … And what the rest of us do, my family, all of us are makers. My father was a total DIY guy who I would now call a maker. I do think everyone is creative, but we all find our own path for that… I believe that there’s the potential for creativity in absolutely everything. And we might just be more or less predisposed to it or conditioned around it.

And Jenn, who has visceral memories of growing up and knowing she was a creative type:

When I was a child, I always knew I was creative. Probably before I could articulate in my mind that I’m creative. I was never thinking about a career because I was a child. But I decorated my room constantly. And I don’t mean just interior decoration. I decorated for every season. And I don’t even mean every holiday. I used to decorate for each season. So if it was spring, I would have a little fence on my floor, and I would put spring things in it. And then I would change it for summer, and I would change it for fall. And I look back now when I visit my parents who still live in our family home. And when I actually look at the size of my room. I always stop in my tracks because I think of the stuff that I created in that room and can’t believe how small it is. I just decorated it constantly. And then as I got older and bolder is when I started to request my parents to help me with like actual interior decorating. I think it’s when I was 15. I wanted to paint my ceiling black and one wall black and three walls white. My dad lived in a home of only women and he just gave up, so it was really just convincing my mom and she hummed and hawwed. This is a woman that’s loves antiques and bone china and very traditional items. It took a while, but I had a I had a pretty good history and track record on wearing my parents down. So after the yes finally came, I painted my three beautiful antique dressers black. Did I always know I’d have a creative career? Not until I was older. And I would say probably grade nine grade 10. When you actually start thinking about careers. I realized then, I better think of something that’s creative. Because my dad was — they were already starting their “university push.” This was big. I would call it a push in the house and my dad wanted me to be a lawyer only because he said, no one argues better than me. He’s right.

Jenn is also very funny, as you can hear. So she might have been a comedian.  Or a lawyer, as her Dad wished.  She’s got the brains too. But she has loves being a decorator. She gets to be creative and she gets to use her hands:

Yes. And I would say that anything that you create with your hands or your body (let’s say you’re a dancer) has its benefits. And I just think for me, I can only speak for me, but I get a real sense of completion.  It’s almost a high. I’ve spoken to you personally… But this high, when it comes to things like organizing and purging ,when something is created just by you, I can’t explain that feeling that I get with anything else. Except maybe creating a child. You’re still creating a home. There is something about making something yourself. There’s a high like no other. But like I say, I can only speak for myself. I’m sure there are business people that would say the exact same thing when they have just created a deal and closed a deal and maybe completed a merger . They get that same high. But there is something about working with your hands that I can’t imagine anyone else feels.

Notice how Jenn mentions that she feels, as she says, “it’s almost a high,” when she creates. She is not the only one.  Listen to Lori describe this feeling:

Being in the zone is when I’m actually out in the field with my camera. And there have been times where people have been talking to me couldn’t begin to tell you what even if the sound there’s when it’s happening when you’re finally shooting something. And I guess the most consistent experience in that has been the few times that I’ve caught an aurora borealis you’re out it’s about two o’clock in the morning because that’s about the time when they seem to be most visible. You’re in a strange location. So there’s nothing that ties you to home. There’s nothing that’s familiar around you. And there is this light in the sky and it’s phenomenal. It’s like nothing you can describe and in your head.

Here is Daryl’s take on being “in the zone”:

I would say I’ve experienced “flow” when sewing. I definitely think I’ve experienced flow. I think when I was building my website. When I’m buying fabric. Like when I’m … there as the buyer for Fabric Spark. Hours can go by, and I have no sense of time. I’m totally in my happy place. And it’s silly because I’m just BUYING fabric, but I really love that. I love the possibilities.

Sounds like a good place to be, right? Well, trust me, it is.  It’s called FLOW.  You may have heard of flow before.  You may have even experienced it first-hand. I have experienced it several times as an adult when I have been painting.  It’s when there are no distractions and I like what is happening on the canvas.  I’ve also experienced it recently when I am doing research for Talk About Talk, by the way.  Yes, I do love doing this. 

FLOW.  This term was coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in 1975.  Not coincidentally, his research also focused on learn about Creativity and… HAPPINESS. Being in a flow state is described as being in the zone or in the groove.  It’s when you lose sense of time and space, it’s when you feel the most happiness.  If that isn’t a good reason to learn about  creativity, I don’t know what is!

Speaking of Happiness, I have listened to a few podcasts from Gretchen Rubin  She has written several books, including one called “The Happiness Project”. Gretchen challenges people, herself included, to find ways of experiencing more satisfaction and happiness in their lives. In one podcast episode, she highlighted that, when you go on vacation, when you’re traveling, you notice things.  You look at everything more intensely, because it is all new, and maybe you won’t get to see it again. And you notice the way people dress, that the street signs are in a different font than they are in your city or town. You notice everything, the foliage, the architecture, everything is different. Anyway, she said, do that today. When you’re walking or driving home from work, notice things. Open your eyes. When I heard that, I thought, well, since I started painting, I’ve been doing that more than I ever have before.  I’m more mindful of my surroundings, at least visually. Listen to Lori the photographer tell about when she was more mindful of her surroundings:

I was I was at a show downtown in summertime and I was in somebody’s booth talking to one of the other artists and I happened to sort of move my eyes away for a second to think about something and they got caught on the ceiling of his booth because there were leaves pushing on the tent fabric from the tree. He was right under a tree and the way the pattern of the leaves and I just, I didn’t even know what he said at that point, because my hand just went from my phone. That was the only camera that was accessible, and I just grabbed it and started shooting this thing and he’s like, Lor, Lor. Hello, Bueller.  I’m gone. I’m gone…  I always say, don’t ever follow a photographer in your car because you’ll end up rear ending them. You know, something can just happen.

So when you’re pursuing something creative, you notice things.  You may also be more OPEN MINDED and also more CONSCIOUS OF YOUR EMOTIONS.  Here’s Lori again:

For me, I don’t go out with a preconceived idea of this is what I’m going to make today. I go out and I start I put my, my artist eyes on and I’m like, I’m just absorbing. Where’s the light hitting? Am I going to even shoot today? Sometimes I don’t even I go out and nothing really got my fancy. And so the camera is still parked on my shoulder. I haven’t actually done anything with it. But then there are other days where I go out and millions of stories have presented themselves to me that I am now interpreting with my camera. There was a gentleman back in the 60s named Minor White. He founded a magazine called Aperture. Minor White was a big proponent of not so much photographing what you see but conveying what you felt.

And Daryl on being open-minded and open to exploring new ideas:

…especially now. I do think we’re really at risk of losing the noodling. And I think that’s what I mean by creativity. I don’t think it’s just producing something that is considered art. I think it’s really freeing yourself up to not be encumbered the accepted way of doing something or the traditional way of doing something, or the historical way of doing something. Just being free to, you know, make things in your own way.

Back to what Gretchen Rubin advocates in terms of increasing your life happiness by acting as if you are traveling, on vacation, every day, looking at things as if you haven’t seen them before.  Well, it turns out that creative pursuits can also benefit us by encouraging us or acting as a catalyst for TRAVEL.  Physically. I mean traveling geographically.  Here’s Daryl:

I’m going twice a year. There’s a big trade show for fabric stores. The fall show is in Houston. This thing moves around and … I really don’t need to go. We have reps and I can buy online. I really don’t need to be there. But I go twice a year, because it’s my favorite perk of having Fabric Spark, apart from the fact that I get first dibs on all the best fabric! I love –even fabric I don’t really like– I love going in and seeing what the designer did with that and calling to my peeps, and seeing what new thing is there from Japan…

And Lori:

It occurred to me that I really love to travel and so now the photography allows me to travel because a lot of what I shoot is landscape and nature and travel photography. I go to places that other people don’t go to, or I try to find places that other people aren’t going to and then I take pictures of them.

So creative pursuits may provide you with a great excuse to TRAVEL. Many creative types would say they have to travel as part of their project.  But this travel is actually a great side benefit.

Being creative can ALSO benefit you in terms of external validation. Of course the extent to which this matters varies by person. And it shows up in different ways.  Here’s Jenn, describing her awe of other creative people, then her response to a compliment on her own work:

I have always been completely in awe of people that write music because they hear something in their head, and they can actually put down notes on paper and it renders me speechless when I see that sort of process. And you could say the same thing about someone like me that looks at a room and sees how it should be laid out ,or how it should be, before something is even bought or purchased for it. And there’s something about compliments that speak to us, to when whatever you have done has reached someone else. There’s something about that fulfilling your connection. And I guess admiration. This idea that sometimes loving something enough for yourself is good enough– until you realize someone else has come in and they’re equally as moved by what you’ve done.

It could be a compliment.  Or someone buying some of your creative output.  Or it could be an official award.  Here is Lori telling the story of a photograph of hers that won awards.

So about a year ago, you couldn’t see out the window. But the ice was reflecting off the underside of the blackout blind, back onto the window.  I took one look at this thing went racing for my camera. I came back upstairs. I don’t even know — talk about flow! Okay. It was like, I saw this, ran to get the camera, came back. Took a shot. I didn’t set up. I had no tripod. I have nothing. I saw this. I shot it. I processed it. It has won me several awards!

Here are links to Jenn’s beautiful work and Lori’s photograph of the window.

Talk about external validation.  Here is Daryl on getting fan mail!

And I get letters from people. It’s just It’s amazing. I got one yesterday. Celebrity fan letter. Well, let’s just call it what it is. She wrote me this really long note… So it, you know, it’s very meaningful.

We have heard that being creative can provide us with an opportunity to experience flow, to create something we are proud of, and it can provide us with external validation.  WHAT ELSE?  Well, being creative, sewing, taught Daryl the value of slowing down and focusing:

A day spent sewing is the best day I get. It’s the best day. I’ve learned something about myself, which is: I do everything too fast.  And I always underestimate how long everything’s going to take. So I’m always in a rush. You’d think at this point, in my very advanced years, I would have solved for this. But NO. I have not. And I think this one of the things I like best about sewing, is … if you rush it, and then you end up sitting there taking stuff out. And that’s not a good feeling, although it happens to all of us. But a day spent sewing is almost, by definition, a day spent slowing down and being present. And you cannot multitask while you’re sewing. You can’t get other things that require any concentration, done.

Lori shares how taking photographs provides an opportunity for her to express her individuality, her uniqueness, and her emotions:

Other photographers can stand in exactly the same place that I stood, but the photograph will never be exactly the same, because his experience cannot copy my experience. My experience was an emotional experience and so that’s going to come through in different ways. Every one of my pieces comes with a story. It’s not just, this is what I saw it was this is the story around my piece because when you sell your art, you’re putting a little bit of your DNA into every piece when you’re trying to get someone to purchase your art. When you talk with collectors or art lovers or art buyers, however you want to call that they don’t talk about the photograph. Look at this new piece of art. They talk about their relationship with the artist.

So expressing creativity is sharing a piece of yourself.  Of your DNA.  Of your emotions. 

We have quite a list going here now of the benefits of being creative:

  • We heard that being creative is an excuse to go out and try new things. A catalyst to experience life, if you will.
  • We heard that with creative pursuits, you can experience happiness and flow
  • We also heard that being creative encourages us to be more mindful of our surroundings and to notice some amazing things
  • It can also encourage is to be more open-minded and more conscious of our emotions
  • Furthermore, to pursue and learn about creativity can even act as a catalyst for travel
  • And it can provide various forms of external validation (ranging from compliments to sales revenue to formal awards)
  • And yes…. being mindful.

Of course, some of us never needed convincing  that we should pursue and learn about creativity.  Listen to Jenn:

I’ll only leave you with this. I really thank God for creativity. I think about it all the time. I look at it and I realize number one: I thank God I knew by grade 10 that I needed a career that was creative. It helped me refocus my entire high school career. And I thank God because I realized that as soon as I could articulate in my mind that creativity (in whatever form) was so important to me… I worry. I look at my kids and I’m like, “do you really know what makes you happy? surely, surely, Fortnight doesn’t make you happy.” It scratches an itch right? You know? Surely watching YouTube videos does nothing more than scratch an itch. I knew creativity, that it helped it helped steer me into almost every pursuit that I ever took in life. And so that is without being very specific that is how important creativity is to me.  It gives me direction and in a direction that I knew would really make me happy.

Listen to Lori’s closing advice about being creative and trying new things:

I encourage people to learn. I encourage people to do things that are out of their norm. If you’re someone who works in an office, which I did for 30 something years, then I encourage you to get out of that office and go learn something new. Or go  see some experimental theater or go jump in puddles or learn to do hip hop or take something that really is not something that you have the faintest idea and learn more about it. So why not? Why not? Why not learn to either consume or produce art?  Jay Maisel, a very brilliant photographer, has a quote that many people refer to in my business: if you want to make more interesting pictures, become a more interesting person.

Inspiring  I love it.  And I think that quote is relevant for other contexts, beyond taking photographs. Here is Daryl’s answer to my closing question: “should we actively encourage people to be creative?

Oh, God, yes. Well, you know, if you imagine the absence of creativity, how horrible. That’s just unimaginable. You know, nothing would ever change. Nothing would be tested. Nothing would be modified on a societal level. We would forego innovation and evolution. I think that an individual level psychologically, emotionally, I do. I actually say my website that I believe we should all do something creative every day. I think it’s easier to sleep if you’ve done something creative that day. And it doesn’t have to be in a traditional sense of creativity, you know, sitting down at a sewing machine. It doesn’t have to. No, not in any way. I think we can we can apply novel ways of doing things to almost anything we take on. But I but I have a pretty broad definition for creativity. I do think it’s important that you exercise that muscle. Because it makes you sleep better. I think it also stimulates other things in your life.

Nicely put. So I will leave it at that. Thank you so much to my three guest experts,

Lori Ryerson the professional photographer at Focalocity, Daryl Aitken the owner of Fabric Spark quilting store, and Jenn Purkis, the decorator at X & IN design.  You can see all of their beautiful work if you click on the links to them and their work. And if you enjoyed this episode on Creativity, you might also like to hear another Talk About Talk episode with the same guest experts talking about COLOUR.  

Now, I hope you feel inspired to go and be creative.  Do something.  Pick up a brush and some paints. Use your camera. Cook a feast. Move your furniture around.  Take a class.  Just do something creative.

THANK YOU for listening!  And READING! 

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