My Creative Mornings Talk: The Stories We Tell Ourselves About Failure

I had such an amazing time delivering the Creative Mornings Vancouver talk for August last Friday. The global theme for the talks this month is failure, and I used the opportunity to think about and flesh out some ideas that had started circling at the back of my mind. I wrote more about it on my blog. Please let me know what you think! Are there stories you tell yourself about failure?

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World Oceans Day: Inspiring Ugly

At last night’s workshop at Plush, one of the participants made a fish – a pretty gnarly looking fish she named Mightia Uglianus. She was inspired by World Oceans Day, which is a UN-designated oceans conservation day held on June 8th every year. Her message is, well, grim:


She’s not the first participant to channel her anxiety about the state of our natural world into her creature. Here’s Pam’s video from the workshop last month:


Have you channeled your fears, feelings or anxieties into things you create?

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Stories from the May 10th Workshop

Mighty Ugly Crafts NightLast week, a dozen people filled the workroom at Plush on Main for our first workshop. How I fell in love with that space! And with each and every one of the participants and their creatures (ok, yes, I was already in love with the ones I’m related to – my partner and his mom were there, too).

Folks had some pretty interesting things to say about their motivations and their experience, and I’m pretty sure the level of laughter in the room indicated everyone had a good time. Imaginations were on overdrive, as you’ll see from the stories, below: there’s mention of nuclear disaster, a bender in Vegas, technology as the antithesis of art, anxiety about the health of our oceans, gender identity confusion, the gangster crafting underworld, a little bit of murder, fear of crafting, thoughts on colour…

Here’s the playlist of videos from the evening. To navigate between videos, simply move your mouse over the video, and thumbnails and arrows will appear; you can also click the rectangular button next to the “play” button to make the navigation appear. If you’d prefer to watch and comment on the videos individually, you can do so on our YouTube channel (and don’t be shy – we’d love to be your YouTube friend!). Photos from the evening are in the Flickr group.

Jen, creator of the bender-in-Vegas creature named Battina, wrote about her experience on her blog.

The next workshop at Plush is on Monday, 7th June. *nudge nudge*


(If you attended the workshop and you’d like to add to your story, let me know! Also let me know if I spelled your name wrong and I’ll correct it right away.)

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Ugly Creature: FU Mrs. O, by Miranda Lievers

You may have seen a snippet from Miranda Liever‘s creature video in the CBC news clip last week. She’s the one whose Grade 1 teacher used her diorama as an example of how not to use glue. Poor Miranda. I’m really glad she had a chance to work out her lingering anger about that last week during the Mighty Ugly crafts experiment.

Mighty Ugly Creature: FU Mrs. O!

Here’s what Miranda had to say about her experience making her creature:

  • I think my brain is warped because I loved many of the dolls created. I couldn’t believe no one wanted to keep theirs! I loved yours [Kim’s], I loved the giant snake, I loved the cheerleader… so many. I secretly want to keep them all, but they’ll be going to a  good cause in Kimli’s Northern Voice talk.**
  • I really, really had fun with the fact that my plans and ideas could change so fluidly and evolve as I went. There was no “but that’s not the plan” little voice… and the end product was so much better because I just went with it as I was creating. Normally once you make decisions you are more committed because you’ve already sewn that part or whatever and you can’t easily retrofit, but in the case of an ugly doll I could just sew a leg on top if I needed to without worrying about more traditional construction methods. This was freeing.
  • I liked that we were making dolls with cloth and similar materials available, because they are plush and have a certain cuddly factor even when they are filled with glass, like mine. As a kid I played a lot with paper and other materials and those items just become recycling, where I think a doll is in many ways more permanent. I felt like I was creating something more substantial and valuable than if I just glued a bunch of things to a sheet of paper.
  • I think my favourite part – like many have likely said – was that it was a social activity. I personally would be interested in doing this on my own, but the reality is that I would have a hard time making the time with everything else I have happening. Conversely, I will make time for social activities, and this was a great one.
  • I would be interested in hearing how non-creatives felt about the activity. As crafters we already knew how to work with the materials at hand – how to sew, how a glue gun works and behaves, the concept of sewing an item then turning it inside out and completing with stuffing to create a traditional stuffed item. These skills are fairly basic but something I think everyone at the table was familiar with, but I think there are people who would find the actual mechanics of working with the materials (stuffed or otherwise) to be stressful. Even if someone was gluing an item together rather than sewing, not everyone knows that white glue will take forever to dry vs. a glue gun which will actually dry quite quickly. I wonder if there may be value – and I’m sure doing a workshop with non-crafty types would tell you – in doing like a 5-minute intro on the basic tools that they have in front of them? Print out a poster showing the most basic of stitches? Have a stapler for those who want to do that? I’m not sure. Just thoughts.

I love Miranda’s reactions and suggestions, and will certainly be keeping them in mind as I begin to lead Mighty Ugly workshops***.

And here’s Miranda telling her creature’s story:


** Northern Voice is a blogging conference that will be held here in Vancouver next month. Kimli Welsh will be presenting a talk on overcoming social anxiety and she’ll be using the creatures created during the MU experiment in… a surprising way.

*** That’s right, it’s official! Mighty Ugly workshops!

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Mighty Ugly Social Experiment

When the idea for Mighty Ugly pounced on me while I was riding the bus a couple of weeks ago, I knew I wanted to explore it both online and in person. So I invited a dozen crafty friends over for an experiment last night, and I didn’t tell them what was up.

And I learned a lot over the course of the evening. I was surprised by how uncomfortable some people felt about the goal of making something ugly. I’d anticipated people would dive into the hilarity, and that there would be lots of laughter and silliness. There certainly was a good bit of laughter, but the overall tone of the evening was more serious than I’d thought it would be. Which is not a complaint! That’s why I wanted to do the experiment.

Almost everyone who came sells their crafts at fairs and online, which might be why the discomfort level was so high. When people focus much of their time and energy on making beautiful things that others will buy, it’s very foreign to flout every instinct they have.

I’d certainly like to do another experiment sometime soon, with people who don’t craft for a living.

I’ll share more photos and videos from the evening as I’m able to process them, and I hope some of the participants will share their own thoughts about the experiment. For now I’m most comfortable throwing up a video of myself with no editing. So here I am, talking about Wilbur:


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