Saturday, May 30, 2009

Carol Bean - Creator

Creativity and Carol can't be separated. Creativity is not a part of Carol's life - it is central to Carol's life. She expresses her creativity through making music - recording, playing live with her two bands, playing solo and with friends and others; through her art works - painting, drawing, assemblages; through her film making - music videos, documentaries, virtual tours, photography and by designing her living space so that it is aesthetically stimulating - and it is!!
I talked with Carol about her creativity. I asked her if there was a point in her life when she recognised she was creative.

Carol: My mother is an artist. I admire her work greatly. At age 88 she has just finished illustrating a children's book that my brother wrote. When I was growing up our house had a good aesthetic - great colours, textures, fabrics, art on the walls and art books. We went to galleries and libraries all the time. One day a babysitter asked who the artist in the family was. My mother said 'I am, but my daughter Carol is very good at art'. I was surprised and took the unsolicited comment on board for the rest of my life. I won prizes in school for art works and creative writing, which verified my ambition to pursue the arts as a career. My first experience in a recording studio was with Alan Muggeridge at Rowan Road Studio. It gave me a lift. I was thrilled at the process and felt sure I could achieve something worthwhile.

Wayne: How would you describe your creative process?
Carol: early morning is a great time for grabbing ideas out of the dream state and then writing things down as the mind clears in the uncluttered air.
As a student I never worked very hard with my art. I dabbled. I was good at a lot of things and 'life' got in the way. But now, as the days go by at an alarming rate, I am settling down a bit better to routine. I go up to my art studio in town every Wednesday, and I attend life drawing class every Tuesday morning. Life drawing is the essential blood for any artist who interprets the world through drawing and painting.
Musically I practice every day. I have a new album underway, so new songs get played in the living room, the kitchen and out in public at gigs. That way I can see if they have a real life outside my own head. We used to rehearse the band every Wednesday night until I decided the band was not giving enough time to learning new material so we have closed that chapter. But there is more to come in different combinations of musicians.
I set goals - I make gig dates - I agree to do film commissions and deadlines and I agree to exhibition dates. That way I have to complete the work.
As many creative people will empathise, I have dozens of half finished projects: two novels on the way, 4 films, research articles, and a thousand small renovations in my environment. They will all get finished because I always do finish - but YEARS later. By then the concept has morphed, usually for the better I think, because of the distance, but others may not see it like that.

Wayne: What tips would you give top others who want to further explore their creativity?
Carol: Make sure that you access inspiration from mentors, artists, works that you can go back to, that are enduring and proven.
Build your launching pad with care. develop good skills and a foundation of knowledge. Don't pretend you can sing / draw / dance / when you really just wish you could. Work hard to gain your basic 'chops' before you move out into the creative phase of sharing your work with the world.
When exploring your creativity make sure you have FUN.
To maximise the experience sort out the technicalities of your space and 'tools' first before launching off into the discovery of creative impulses and ideas. Male sure you are not hampered and pressured by time restraints and other commitments.

Carol and her band Blue Highways - with yours truly playing drums - YeeeHaaaa!!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

I am in two minds

I don't pretend to be a poet but every now and then words come that I like to write down. These ones came in response to reading about the workings of the brain and trying to answer the question - is there an optimal state of mind in which one is more creative and if there is what is it? More on this in future blogs.

I am in two minds.
A day to day mind - practical -
of timetables and necessary things.
My other mind - of possibility and potential -
of thought from somewhere else
without obvious source, often random.
My day to day mind - safe and thorough.
My other mind involves risk
- an unfinished mind.
Alone I spend more time in my other mind
dreaming and scheming
but that's often where it ends.
What if I lived more in my other mind and
enlisted the help of my day to day mind.
How would life be different?
I also started series of art works with the same theme.

Mary Bourke - UNLIMITED

Mary used to be a Mayor. In 2008 she was awarded a Queens Service Order for services to local government.
Now she has established Mary Bourke Unlimited. You can check it out here. She works now as a facilitator, independent chairperson and celebrant - just a few of her roles in her new incarnation.

I talked with her about creativity and her life.

Wayne: What part has creativity played in your life?
Mary: Doing/making/designing things are the activities that give me the most satisfaction - and probably the most frustration as well. Frustration when stuff doesn't come out as you have envisioned it and/or lack of technical skill. Thinking about it and having a go are the satisfying bits. Creative people are great mentors for me because they are the ones who are prepared to push the boundaries and move stuff from being mediocre to inspiring/challenging/ground-breaking.

Wayne: In what ways do you express your creativity?
Mary: On a personal level by the environments I establish around me and the people I choose to spend time with. As an interactor I do it by listening, challenging, questioning, encouraging, dreaming aloud.

Wayne: Was there a point in your life when you recognised that you were creative? How did that come about?
Mary: My greatest moments of astonishment seem to come years after the event when I come upon something I wrote/said/did; and say to myself "Did I really do that?" This is usually followed by a quick (and often unsatisfactory) reflection on what manifestations of creativity I might have exhibited in the far less recent past. The points in my life when I have tried hardest to be creative are usually the times when I have been least creative.

Wayne: How would you describe your creative process, in particular do you have any 'habits' that support your creativity?
Mary: I think one's subconscious cannot be underestimated. Good stuff sneaks up on you when you least expect it. I have found that leaving things until the last minute is a great way of unleashing the odd inspired tidbit.

Wayne: What suggestions would you give to others who want to explore their creativity?
Mary: Have a go. Don't be intimidated by others' superior experience/possible scorn/lack of imagination. Focus on solutions to blocks. Challenge people who say "we tried that ten years ago and it didn't work". Put aside fears that somebody might work out what you're really like... Have a sense of humour.

Innovation is everyone's business

In this economic climate we have an innovation imperative - the old ways of doing things are no longer viable. We need to encourage innovation and its foundation skill - creativity - in all of our organisations.
To do this we need to encourage those people who fill the following roles in our organisations:

  • Creative thinker: produces new ideas

  • Innovator: brings the new ideas to market and/or makes changes to an established product or service

  • Inventor: comes up with new and potentially commercial ideas. Often combines both creative thinker and innovator.

  • Entrepreneur: conceives or receives ideas and turns them into business realities. Often uses other people's brains or other people's money to develop a market opportunity

  • Intrapreneur: takes hands-on responsibility for creating innovation in an organisation.

  • Champion: picks up an idea, not necessarily their own, and runs with up. Shows commitment and tenacity in seeing it developed properly and successfully implemented

  • Sponsor: Gives an idea the backing it deserves - often a senior person who believes in it and influences people to clear the way and help overcome obstacles as it is taken to realisation. [Source: Effcetive Innovation by John Adair]

Who in your organisation plays these roles?

Which of these roles do you play?

Give it a go, bro!

At a recent New Zealand Entrepreneurial Summit one of the top 5 ideas was to launch an attitude programme with the slogan 'Give it a go, bro!' with the aim of creating a sense of national pride and identity.

Anyone who has worked in improvisational theatre would recognise this as one the basic principles of improv - say yes!

"There are people who prefer to say YES, and there are people who prefer to say NO. Those who say YES are rewarded by the adventures they have, and those who say NO are rewarded by the safety they attain. There are far more NO sayers around than YES sayers, but you can train one type to behave like the other." Keith Johnstone

New Zealand needs more YES sayers!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Entrepreneurial Summit - Creativity at Work

Put 100 entrepreneurs in a room for a day under the following conditions:
  • ideas had to be submitted prior to the day

  • any idea must be able to be implemented within 18 months

  • the idea must contribute to national or regional growth, and

  • attract funding from the private sector

This is what happened last week in Auckland, New Zealand.

With more than 170 ideas pre-submitted, these were whittled down to a top 5.

These were:

  • Tourists buy a $10,000 debit card which must be spent in New Zealand and have their airfare to New Zealand free from anywhere in the world.

  • Establish a capital fund to attract investors to help fund the growth phase of small to medium businesses

  • Transfer the funds presently used to poison possums [about $200 million a year] to pay for trappers to collect the skins for processing into high value products

  • Reform the present research and development system to help bring ideas more quickly to market, and

  • Encourage a national positive attitude through a campaign dubbed 'Give it a go, bro!' This would include an advertising campaign and youth education. More about this in a later blog

Lets see which ones fly!!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Making the Invisible Visible

"When we have said so many truths in words that we do not hear the any longer, it can be productive to take a detour through the other languages we have got: Those we call the arts! These totally different modes of expression challenge us to rethink, what we actually mean at all with all our words."
Karsten Auerbach is a Catalyst Artist.
"CATALYST ART is all about turning the artist's creative proces into a template for innovative corporate thinking. Catalyst Art is a living, interactive, visual art concept designed for conferences, seminars, meetings, events or celebrations."

Check this out!!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Fair Trade Fortnight

May 2 - 17 was Fair Trade Fortnight in Australia and New Zealand and the local [New Plymouth - New Zealand] Trade Aid shop celebrated it with free Fair Trade coffee, tea, hot chocolate and other goodies. More about it at

May 9 was also Fair Trade Day around the world - it was also BIG BANG Day - a global day of drumming events from sun up in New Zealand, to sun down in London, through Japan, Taiwan, the U.S ... a day to BEAT Poverty - BEAT Climate Change - BEAT the Financial Crisis ...with fair trade.

The team from Rhythmik Journey and friends did their bit locally.

There's nothing like drumming for a couple of hours to get the mind and body moving!!

Creativity Boot Camp

Take a bunch of insomniacs, give them a film genre, a line of script, a character, a prop and 48 hours and you have the recipe for a creativity boot camp otherswise known as the 48Hours - the Furious Film Making Competition.

From the web site: "

"It's a cinematic bootcamp but instead of drill sergeant screaming obscenities at you, it's the constant tick-tock of the countdown clock drilling into your mushy brain. 48HOURS is a serious challenge for both first time filmmakers through to experienced directors.
Simply put, filmmaking teams have just one weekend to make a short film.

Filmmakers don't know what genre (thriller/romance etc) they will be shooting until the start of the competition. All creativity: writing, shooting, editing and adding a musical soundtrack, must occur within the 48 hour window."

Mix a producer, a director, scriptwriters, a camera person, a sound person, actors , some people who know what they are doing and others that don't and various other roles critical to the success of the movie [food and moral support] - and you have the potential for a local blockbuster. Peter Jackson had to start somewhere!

I have always thought that creativity within boundaries is a way to get the creative juices flowing - this 48 hours across New Zealand was proof enough.

The concept could be applied to a fashion show, a collaborative sculpture, a musical or theatre performance - think I need some sleep first!!

Thanks to Studio 15 - - for their hospitality.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Lost English Positives

My friend Penni turned 50 a little while back.

Now Penni is a very creative person with a bunch of very creative friends. That's Penni in the photo [with the long hair and gumboots]

One of them shot a video of the Tahora Balloon launch - a gift from another friend and launched at Penni's birthday. You can see it on Youtube - Tahora Balloon.

Another friend - Droid - wrote a 'first time I met Penni ' speech using [not using??] Lost English Positives. If you don't know what Lost English Positives are read the story.

If you still don't know - never mind!!

It was a dark and stormy night
And although I’d left in a state of array
By the time I arrived at the promptu party
There were two ways about it:
I was maculate and peccable.
Furling my wieldy umbrella
I stepped chalantly through the door.
One person in particular stood out:
Her hair was kempt, her clothes shovelled
And she moved in a gainly manner.
She was descript, ruly and draggled.
I was plussed -
I’d seen anything like her a told number of times.
Although persona grata and a sung hero
I was something to sneeze at
And you could hold a candle to me,
So it was evitable that we should meet.
“Skin off my nose”, I said to myself.
Then someone petuously offered me a drink
Which I advertantly gurgitated.
It did me some good at all.
After a terminable wait, I was capacitated.
This was new hat to me.
I had givings!
With swerving loyalty
I walked straight up to her.
“I’m Droid, I molish houses”
I said, consolately.
She looked me up and down with bridled passion;
“I’m underwhelmed”, she replied
But offered me another drink.
I was gruntled.

Much better than Found English Negatives I think !!

Becoming Creatively Fit

In a previous blog I profiled Whitney Ferre.

In that blog Whitney mentioned her recently published book with the intriguing title 'The Artist Within - A Guide to Becoming Creatively Fit'.

This is what Whitney says about her book. "This book is going to introduce to your artist within. It is there, waiting. It is a voice inside your head that speaks to your hopes and dreams; it never tells you that you cannot succeed. All you need to do is unlock the voice, and this book is the key to doing just that. This book is going to transform your ideas in your head into reality, just as an artist takes the images in her head and transfers them to canvas. This book simplifies the path to discovering your creativity into achievable steps, nice and easy."

And it does exactly that - and I have a copy to give away to a New Zealand reader [sorry overseas people]. First in first served - an email to - saying why you want it. Don't forget to include your postal address.

Whitney again. "In each chapter of the book you will be exposed to a new way of looking at your life and the world around you. At the end of each chapter there is a simple, creative exercise that will illustrate one of the eight principles of design that are used by artists and creative people in every industry, whether they know it or not."

Remember - first in first served!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Element - the meeting point between natural aptitude and personal passion

Sir Ken Robinson writes as well as he speaks. His latest book - The Element - is about the point at which natural talent meets personal passion. Robinson makes his point with well told stories and good humour and clearly shows the vital need to enhance creativity and innovation. It's a great read.

In The Element he identifies some of the features that make up creativity which he describes as a 'very practical process of trying to make something original'. Whether the expression of creativity be song, a theory, a dress, a short story, a boat or a new sauce for your spaghetti Robinson suggests some common features.

Creativity is a process - "a journey that can have many different phases and unexpected turns; it can draw on different sorts of skills and knowledge and end up somewhere entirely unpredicted at the outset."

Creativity involves several different processes that move through each other. "The first is generating new ideas, imaging different possibilities,considering alternative options". It also involves evaluating the ideas. He suggests that "creative work is a delicate balance between generating ideas and sifting and refining them."

Creativity always involves media of some sort to develop ideas. "People who work creatively usually have something in common: they love the media they work with."

Creative work also often involves tapping in to various talents at your disposal.

Enough from me - get a copy of the book - The Element - published by Penguin.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Yvonne Houwers - Everyday Creativity

Yvonne came along to one of the Creativity Retreats I facilitate. Her creativity is an integral part of her life. I asked her about her ways of being creative.

Yvonne: Creativity plays part in my daily life. Almost everyday I really like to do something creative. It doesn’t have to be big. It can be physically creative or mentally. Being creative makes me feel good and I get “scratchy” if I cant be creative. It’s an urge that needs to be fulfilled on a regular basis. I have been creative for as long as I can remember. As a child I used to make “gardens” in empty shoe boxes and glue pictures from beads. (Mandala like pictures).

Wayne: How do you express your creativity?
Yvonne: Depends on how much time I have. Sometimes my creative outburst is as little as putting some flowers from the garden together in the birdbath…sometimes I do collage and like making jewelry from all sorts of materials but it will be unique and hard to duplicate.. If I want something that I can’t buy I make it and sometimes I just need a creative answer to a problem. I make little books, photo books and the highlight is to collage the cover relating to the subject.

Wayne: Was there a time in your life when you recognised you were creative? How did that come about?

Yvonne: In my thirties I realized that I was creative. When my children wanted something we always made it. I did a lot of collage with them and at some stage started making cards for friends’ birthdays. The comments were great. My in-laws said to me that I was creative as I always made what I couldn't buy and the cards are in a treasure box. So It was other peoples comments and my children that made me realize I was creative. We usually had a solution to our problem. I got a thrill out of making something unique with the kids (eg a puppet theatre out of an empty refrigerator box, by the way, we had the theatre for years!). When I made the link between the “creating” and “the feeling good about it” I started putting creativity in my daily life and it became a priority.

Wayne: How would you describe your creative process, in particular, any habits that you have that support your creativity?

Yvonne: I have to be in the mood to be creative. I have lots of ideas that I scribble down so I don’t forget them. I get my inspiration during swimming lengths or biking long distances. I’m most inspired and creative after meditation and Healing Touch practice. The mind and body are totally relaxed with no inner chatter, just loads of good feelings, inner peace, that’s when it seems to flow. I usually turn on some soft music and create the mood by burning some aromatherapy oils. I also create best if I have plenty of time with no interruptions so I can be fully focused and present in the moment.

Wayne: Any hints for others who want to explore their creativity?

Yvonne: Play as much with (your) children as possible. They have no boundaries and love everything you do.(They and you will have no limiting judgement). That gets the imagination going and the creative thinking process. Pick a medium you like to be creative with, meditate and then play with it. After meditation you are less judgemental and more likely to go with the flow.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Bruce Hammonds - Advocate for Creative Education

I have known Bruce for a large part of my life. He was passionate about education when I first met him and 45 or more years later he is still passionate about education. Having retired from a primary school principal position he is still actively promoting the cause of the creative teacher being at the forefront of creative education. You can check out his education rants and raves at and his web site at

Wayne: What part has creativity / creating played in your life?
Bruce: I believe that we all develop through and by our experiences - each experience relating to the past and building towards the future . Continual re-invention of ones sense of self - developing multiple plots to ones own life. The idea of being alert to creative possibilities makes life interesting - like being a perpetual two year old driven by curiosity and a need to make meaning of life's experiences. The more ways of interpreting and expressing what is experienced the more fulfilled a person is.
I think most of my creativity goes on between my ears and not enough realized in action. And I seem to have limited myself to one major passion - creative teaching - developing a personalized education system that enables all children to develop positive sense of who they are with all their gifts end talents identified and amplified.
I think my creativity has been a mixed blessing as it has always left me dissatisfied with the way things are - I always think there must be a better way. All too often it is frustrating because it is often hard to find an audience.

Wayne: In what ways do you express your creativity?
Bruce: I love working in schools helping teachers create environments conducive to valuing the creativity, voice, and personal identity of their students.This is not always easy because there are so many things impinging on teachers to conform to less creative and more easily measured results. But there always more to do.
I have really enjoy publishing my thoughts over the years. Recently I have become almost obsessed with writing my thoughts out and posting them on my blog. I love the feedback receive and the ongoing conversations with people - many I do not even know. Before the blog I also enjoyed writing regular e-zine for much the same reason - to share creative ideas to try and rock the conservative education boat. I still write e-zines but blogging is easier and is more immediate. One day I would like to gather the best ones to make a book or a series of books.
I also really enjoy presenting to groups particularly short sharp hour and half presentations using PowerPoint in creative way (Is that an oxymoron?). Giving a major presentation is always a creative challenge being a mix of a remembered script and improvisation. Unfortunately it can become a form of edutainment but it is fun.

Wayne: Was there a point in your life when you recognised that you were creative? How did that come about?
Bruce: I was always interested in nature ( through scouting) ) - particularly native trees . As youngster my brothers and I and friends spent most of out time exploring our immediate environment. My other early strength was drawing - in those days mostly being able to copy things well. Both these interests led to my long time career in education firstly as a Nature Study Specialist, a Science Adviser, and briefly as an Art Adviser. My interests also formed the basis of my teaching believing as I do that we all learn through experience and expression of things that catch our curiosity.

Wayne: How would you describe / explain your creative process, in particular do you have any 'habits' that support your creativity?
Bruce: The key is being open to new ideas and getting them down as soon as possible. If I have an idea I go over it my head and start blogging as soon as possible. When writing, ideas unfold and build on each other as part of the process. This is the essence of creativity?
I also gather lots of ideas for painting but somehow I never get past the gathering ideas stage. Maybe I worry that for all my interest in the arts I haven't really got the talent.

Wayne: What suggestions / tips would you give to others who want to explore their creativity?
Bruce: Start early. Believe in yourself. Distrust distant experts. Associate yourself with like minds to share enthusiasm and support. Most of all just do it -advice I can't use myself in art!

Wayne: We will wait with baited breath for the future art works!!

Educating for a Creative Society

An older clip - but still absolutely relevant!!

Graeme Beals - Creative Entrepreneur

I have known Graeme for a long time - our first association being in education. I also sit with Graeme on a trust [TACT - Taranaki Arts Community Trust] that runs a very successful community gallery - you can check it out here
Since his early days in education he and his wife Jane have created a number of very successful business.
I asked him about the role of creativity in his endeavours.

Wayne: What part has creativity / creating played in your life?
Graeme: A great deal.

Wayne: In what ways do you express your creativity?
Graeme: Through forming new businesses, and running them uniquely, coming up with different ideas, seeing new opportunities, looking left when everyone else is looking right – or staring into the headlights, and asking for what I want.

Wayne: Was there a point in your life when you recognised that you were creative? How did that come about?
Graeme: Yep. Probably when I became principal in a country school and realised how boring it could be for kids if they had the same teacher each year – so I kept reinventing.
After leaving teaching and starting a business from scratch on a shoestring, I had to unleash my creativity from the start. I was widely complemented then and externally confirmed in my belief that I was indeed, very creative.

Wayne: How would you describe / explain your creative process, in particular do you have any 'habits' that support your creativity?

Graeme: Boredom or stasis is usually my trigger – a very important emotion to feel, as it is the one that tells you things are not changing enough. When I feel a sense of boredom or humdrum, I start my creativity going and really work at a process that goes something like this:
Why am I feeling like this?
What needs to change.
What would be the impact if I changed it?
Can I live with that?
What do I want?
How will I get it?
The last one is often a process of defining all the parameters, the available resources and reaffirming to myself what things I like and don’t like doing, then consigning it to my super-conscious. I often review it consciously daily, or even more often during that phase, as sometimes ideas come part formed – they have to be grabbed, held up to the light, loved and consigned to the SC for further development.

Wayne: What suggestions / tips would you give to others who want to explore their creativity?
Graeme: Listen to your inner self, and be appreciative of what comes – say what a great idea it is and be appreciative of it, and of the opportunity to have been offered it.

Graeme is the Managing Director of the Zenith Publishing Group and The Healthy Thinking Institute. You can check out some of his entrepreneurial endeavours at:

Ideating - yeah right!

Being imaginative and thinking creatively is not enough.

Action must follow for creativity to be any value!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Sticky Ideas and Systematic Creativity

" Picture in your mind the type of person who's great at coming up with ideas. Have a mental image of the person? A lot of people, when asked to do this, describe a familiar stereotype - the 'creative genius", the kind of person who thinks up slogans in a hot advertising agency. Maybe, like us, [that's Chip and Dan Heath - the authors of the book I'm quoting from] you picture someone with gelled hair and hip clothing, carrying a dog-eared notebook full of ironies and epiphanies, ready to drop everything and launch a four-hour brainstorming session in a room full of caffeine and whiteboards. Or maybe your stereotype isn't quite so elaborate. There's no question that some people are more creative than others. Perhaps they're just born that way. So maybe you'll never be the Michael Jordan of sticky ideas.
But the premise of this book is that creating sticky ideas is something that can be learned."
They - thats Chip and Dan in the photo - give an example of 3 groups of novices brought together to make advertisements - one group was given background information on products and produced ads, the second used brainstorming and the third used six 'creative' templates. Each group got a couple of hours training. You guessed it - the ones that used the templates to produce ads were rated as 50% more creative than the others and produced a 55% more positive attitude towards the products advertised.

Maybe there are systematic ways to produce creative ideas!

They go on to identify the six principles - supported with compelling examples - that can make ideas stick:

  • simple
  • unexpected
  • concrete
  • credible
  • emotional
  • stories

You might also want to check out their web-site - - they have some cool free stuff especially if you want to apply the principles of 'sticky messages' to your next presentation or teaching session.