“I am who I am because of everything that has happened. Own your life, don’t be scared even if it goes wrong. I want to try everything because I can – which goes back to my curiosity/creativity argument. You have the life you are willing to accept. There is no right answer, what might be right now might not be right in five years…”Read More
At the end of last month I attended the Creative Mornings Summit Camp in upstate New York. It was a pretty transformative trip where I learned a hell of a lot about myself and made some new lifelong friends. One of those friends is Johannes; the host of Creative Mornings/Helsinki and a fellow photographer. Johannes agreed to be interviewed for my Creative Conversations series and we did something a little different in that I recorded our conversation. So you can either listen to the audio below or read the transcription. A little disclaimer that if you listen to the audio is it completely unedited, with a couple of things happening in the background, but I thought it was best this way! Enjoy!
J: What do you want to talk about?
E: I would love to hear your thoughts on creativity! What does it mean to you?
J: Creativity; I struggle with the meaning of the word and with the creative industries. Creativity is like a human fuel of action, it’s everywhere, for me it’s about looking at things from different angels and not taking things for granted. That’s funny, I haven’t ever articulated it, but that’s what I think creativity is for me
E: I like that. I do like the Creative Industries but find the difficulties I have with them is that I feel they create a lot of segregation . You either are ‘creative’ or you’re not, either your ‘a creative’ or you don’t have creativity
J: Exactly. Which is bullshit.
E: And for this project that’s one of the silos that I’m trying to break down, because I believe that everyone is creative. Yet so many people I speak to, generally more non-creative identifying people, say that they’re not creative. And I want to know why? I think scientists are creative…
J: And researchers are highly creative. Maybe that’s something you could differentiate, that it shows up more in some people’s lives than others, but it’s nonsense to say that someone isn’t creative or that somebody would have a complete lack of creativity. As long as you are able to form sentences…it’s a basic human act; creation; a strong part of being human in this world.
E: I agree! Do you feel that creativity is part of your identity? Do you use creativity in your everyday life?
J: It'‘s like I don’t think about the air I’m breathing, I’m not conscious of it. It surprises me when someone comments on my actions; if someone is facing a problem and I come at it quickly or if at first there seems to be no solutions, and I come up with a surprising solution, they’ll say ‘that’s so creative’. But it’s just a matter of challenging your mind to un-see things.
E: Unlearning, unseeing…
J: If you say there are no solutions you could just end it there, but why? Is that it? I think it’s also connected to curiosity
E: Yes! I totally agree
J: And of course it’s something you can train. But what you see and hear often is where people in early childhood are told that they are no good at simple acts of say drawing, that it should be better or something more. It’s a problem. Let’s call it the ‘form’ of creativity. It’s an absurd thought that creative thinking has a certain form.
E: I completely agree!
E: I meant to ask you at the beginning, but could you introduce yourself?
J: My name is Johannes Romppenan and I am a father of three children, a husband, I’m a cis-male and I live in Finland, in Espoo…Are you interested in my profession?
E: Yeah! Tell me about your profession!
J: Currently I work as a photographer. As a children I loved to draw and my goal was to become an animator at the Disney Studios!
E: Yes! That’s an amazing goal!
J: Yes! But then at some point I realised that my drawing skills weren’t good enough, at quite an early age I guess, so then I found Graphic Design. I was like 15/16 when I decided I would become a Graphic Designer and I remember the summer before starting High School I contracted like 80 Ad Agencies. Always after school, at about 2pm so I have 2 hours to call around; I was super determined! But I had no idea that people who already had Masters degrees had difficulty finding jobs. So I called these agencies and they were like ‘okay, send us your CV’ and I was like ‘What’s a CV?’
E: That’s amazing!
J: I had done a two-week internship in the 9th grade and I got this idea that I had to do this for summer. I was on a call with an agency, and we were ending the call and I said ‘This is so hard, I’ve called like 80 places;. And the guy said ‘What did you just say? You called 80 place?! I think I want to meet you. I really like your determination and I’ll offer you a job for summer. It won’t break my budget whatever happens, so I’ll give you a chance’. So I worked there for the summer, for a month or so and apparently did a good job because he was asking me to continue. It was retain marketing, so i was doing brochures and logo design because I was only 16. I started High School at an art school so I was trying to develop my craft there and try different things. I was really determined to be a Graphic Designer, but at some point I noticed that I always had super high expectations of myself. So I ended up feeling like I wasn’t good enough, and that’s when I found photography. I’ve been on that road now for the last 14 years. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not so interested in further developing my photography skills, but I’m more interested in developing my interpersonal skills. I’ve noticed that what I’m interested in, within an art context, is the art that happens when people meet. That’s also why I started Creative Mornings because it’s trying to learn the art of hosting and creating space for people to meet and create possibilities.
I really like starting things. I like seeing gaps and then filling them. I have some issues with allowing myself to explore other genres, because I feel like I’m doing this photo thing so I shouldn’t do anything else. It’s been a process of unlearning, and accepting, and giving myself permission to jump on whatever train feels interesting.
E: And I think that in itself is the essence of creativity. It’s really good.
J: Yeah. I try to keep the curiosity alive, I hope I’ll stay curious until the end of my life. I think maybe part of that comes from the people I honour in the creative field, they are people who you really see the childlike qualities in and they’ll be 70/80/90 years old.
E: Yeah, I really like that
J: I have this idea that my life will never be full, it will end. That idea also gave me a lot of freedom because I was always putting pressure on myself for things to be perfect and believing that everything should be perfect before shipping it out, so I would end up not shipping things. So to practice that, and understand that everything is always in progress, even though it’s finished. There are always some things that you could do and change. Seeing that with a bigger perspective that this is the whole story of life; that it’s just a long journey.
E: I like that a lot
Happy Friday! Welcome to another instalment of Creative Conversations!
If there was anything I could tell you about me, other than my love for photography, it's that I love coffee. And I love the actual ritual of going to a coffee shop. I can sit in them for hours, and usually do, editing or journaling or simply watching the world go by. So when it was time to meet my next interviewee naturally we gravitated to a coffee shop and I chose LOVE CRUMBS. We sat in the sunny window, drank our coffee and chatted all things creativity.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself and what you do?
I am a freelance writer, digital marketer, and blogger, and I am passionate about ethical and sustainable fashion. I'm also studying for a degree in Fashion Communication, and in my spare time I obsess over true crime podcasts and documentaries, devour any kind of sweet food and hoard charity shop clothes. I live in Edinburgh and work from home, but travel around for meetings and social stuff as much as I can.
What is creativity to you? Do you consider yourself to be creative?
Creativity comes in many different forms; I don't consider myself to be creative in the traditional sense, as I don't draw or paint or sew or make physical things, but I love to write, and I love putting images together, and overall I devour the creativity of others. I also think you can approach non-creative pursuits with the creative side of your brain, so I might be doing copywriting for a corporate client or general admin for a business, but I can look outside the box for creative solutions.
Would you say you had a creative job? A creative life?
I definitely do have a creative job, because I primarily write about and work with fashion and the arts. I have a creative life in that I like to consume arts and culture as much as possible, but if I had more time I would like to create more and indulge more in things like cooking and maybe even sketching and designing too.
What, or who, inspires you to be creative?
I honestly don't know, I guess its something that you are maybe born with, it drives who you are without you even having to try, its just part of your personality! But I am inspired by the incredible creative women around me, from a tech CEO to a textiles designer to a stylist to an influencer; I think Scotland is full of the most amazing female entrepreneurs and everyone supports each other in their creative pursuits. Its about community over competition and I love that.
My new favourite series is back! A couple of weeks ago I started a new series called 'Documenting the Process' where I visit some of my favourite creators, makers and curators and spend some time photographing them behind the scenes. I am fascinated with how people work, and what I've come to find is that there are some people who are really good at sharing the beginning and the end of their work/processes/ideas but nothing in the middle. The journey is my favourite part, and that's what I want to share with you.
My second interview is with Carrie who is an interior designer based in Edinburgh...
Describe yourself in five words... Able, independent, gutsy, attentive and creative
Tell us a bit more about you and your background... I'm originally from St. Louis, Missouri. I studied fine art at Columbia College in Chicago and graduated in 1997. I have majored in photography & painting. I moved to Edinburgh in 2003, having spent six years travelling - which sounds a bit grand, but the majority of that was spent teaching English in Taiwan. I set up as a freelancer when I arrived in Edinburgh and mostly worked on photoshoots, but in 2005 I landed a volunteer position at Stills and from that emerged a six year long career working for the organisation in various managerial roles. Towards the end of my time at Stills I took an interest in sewing, galvanised in a small community of like-minded people and launched a series of pop-up weekend or hacker-spaces called The Stitch Lounge. Although these proved popular and a huge amount of fun, my idea to open a permanent sewing cafe slowly faded. In 2011, I left Stills, having decided to dip my toes in the corporate sector, and emerged with a senior role in a digital marketing agency. My four years with the agency was indeed eye opening and financially rewarding, but by the beginning of 2015 I knew another career change beckoned.
How did you get into interior design? It's absolutely linked to buying my first home. In 2008, I bought a one bedroom flat in Leith and the day after getting the keys I found myself on route back from B&Q laden with a crow bar and a ladder. The feeling that I owned this property, that I could do anything to it, I could make it exactly as i wanted it, was pure joy. It took me a fair few years to get it right, but this creative process was instrumental in strengthening my interior design skills, as well as honing a hands on understanding of trades. Tiling is not as easy as it looks, trust me! In 2014, I moved in with my partner and began listing my flat on Airbnb. In 2015, I enrolled in a one year full time Interior Design course. Both my hosting experience and my course training gave me the next level confidence I needed to quit the day job and launch Carrie Susan Interiors in early 2016.
Can you explain your process when working... Plenty of consultation with the client for starters. It's a very collaborative process throughout and really important that there's chemistry. The home is such an emotional space and the process can be very personal. In many cases, it's a first home or a much needed extension for a growing family. We usually explore a huge range of ideas and possibilities at the start. Managing expectations and ensuring transparency are key. The next bit is when decisions start to take shape, a vision emerges and a large list of tasks arise. Staying very organised is so important. Once work begins; tradesmen onsite, products arriving, room styling, you really feel the energy and excitement. I look at a room or space the way I've always looked through the lens of a camera to compose a photograph. For me it's all about composition; everything has a place, every corner is considered and every detail exudes character.
What is your dream project? We'd love to build our own home; to purchase a few acres in the Scottish Borders or up and around the Highlands. That's the dream project. But, first things first, a camper van conversion so we have something to live in on the empty plot of land while we build.
What is important to you when you are creating/working? It's important to me to be tactile. It can be challenging with interiors, as most designers render everything on a computer, but I prefer pencils, pens, markers, paper and rulers. I love model making and I learned technical drawing by hand, so it's important for me to retain this ability to sketch and create my interior designs on paper and on boards. It feels so much more authentic, and I think clients engage with hand drawings on a much more emotional level.
What do you need most in life? Nature.
Read my first interview for Documenting the Process with Illustrator David Mahoney
To see more of my documentary and behind the scenes photography click here