In my vocabulary, the words “creative” and “morning” don’t tend to go together.
For every rule there’s an exception, of course. But when I thing of most of the other creative people I know, I think of the emails I get a midnight. The Facebook messages at one AM. And the fact that “breakfast” coffee dates usually don’t start until at least ten thirty.
It’s more than a smidge of irony, then, that the creative community has a breakfast lecture series known as “CreativeMornings.” And given the robust turnout at Milwaukee’s first edition, I’d say even the most night-owl of artists were undeterred by its 8:30 AM start time.
I first heard about CreativeMornings last year and was sad to learn Milwaukee did not have a chapter. Imagine my excitement, then, when my friends Kate Pociask and Paul Oemig told me they were knee-deep in organizing a local edition.
That was a little more complicated, too, than just throwing up a podium and passing out danishes.
At each of the more than eighty CreativeMornings locations around the world, communities meet once per month to hear a speaker of their choice—often someone from within their own creative community—speak on the predetermined monthly topic.
Each location handles the same topic each month. Talks are filmed and posted to the CreativeMornings website, so an attendee in New York City can see how folks in Warsaw, Poland, handled the topic. And creatives in Chicago can see how those in Dubai felt about it, and so on.
As of this month, add Milwaukee to that list.
The inaugural Cream City edition of CreativeMornings was held last Friday at The Box, a beautiful Industrial-era storefront that’s been transformed into a chic event space. I arrived not long after doors opened to find the room already pulsing with a positive vibe. Attendees from all walks of life, some avowedly “creative” and others not, networked over cups of hand-poured Hawthorne Coffee, munching in between on craft donuts and delectable fruits and veggies (from Holey Moley Donuts and Wellspring Organic Farm, respectively).
One of the best thing about events like these is that you never know who you’re going to meet. In my case, before I’d even had a chance to get my pistachio donut and requisite cup of pour-over, I’d met stationer Debbie Pape. We connected over our love for elegant paper products that elevate the old-fashioned art of handwriting. In addition to sharing her work with letterpress and thermography, Debbie also introduced me to another Debi—in this case, Debi Zeinert—a nationally-renowned calligrapher located right here out of Wisconsin.
(I have to admit, when I went to CreativeMornings, I never expected to see pictures of the hot pink high heels Debi inked for Jamie Foxx’s sister’s birthday party. Who knew you could actually write on a pair of ribbed soles?)
Networking aside, things really got rolling when Paul called the group to order and turned the floor over to local artist Reginald Baylor. Amped by the sound design magic of MKE Production Rental, Baylor talked the audience through a series of thought-provoking questions about his relationship to color and how it inspires his work. One look at his work (see gallery further down) and you can probably see why Baylor is an apt choice to talk about this month’s topic.
And speaking of that … here are a few of his most elegant points, inked out in black-and-white by Timothy Reynolds.
I could say a lot about Reginald’s talk, but what struck me the most was actually a question an audience member asked, regarding a recent Kandinsky exhibition at the Milwaukee Art Museum. She wondered aloud if and how Baylor takes inspiration from other visual artists.
With unapologetic courage, Baylor admitted that he really does not. Instead, music, architecture and fashion tend to be his truest sources of inspiration.
“When you’ve been sitting all day in your studio, working on something, you don’t necessarily want to go out and see more of the same,” he said with a chuckle, of why he rarely attends exhibitions of other visual artists.
I found this both startling and liberating. As a writer, I struggle to read the genres I most enjoy writing. In steampunk alone, I’m much more likely to take inspiration from biographies of real Victorians, pulp sci fi, architecture, fashion, and the steampunk lifestyle movement than I am from the likes of Jeter, Powers or Blaylock. It’s a fact I’ve always hidden with embarrassment.
Baylor’s confession made me realize I’m not alone—and that there’s no need to apologize for the idiosyncrasies of one’s own process. Know it and own it.
And whatever you do, do not apologize.
When the Q&A session was over, our CreativeMornings session wrapped up with more robust discussion, networking and general pleasantries. As I ran out the door to get a belated start on a busy Friday at work, I was full of gratitude for the opportunity to be part of the local launch of this global movement.
Because nothing gets a creative’s day off to a better start than the energy of inspiration.
Whether night owls or a morning people, I think we’d all agree: that’s worth getting up early for!