December 20, 2013

Design Feast Highlights of 2013

Calendars available at CreativeMornings/Chicago #14, the first gathering of 2013

Like its predecessor, 2013 was a year super-charged with creativity. Here are some of the most memorable people, places, and things I cherish this year.


Audience at CreativeMornings/Chicago #17, the fourth gathering of 2013

Since the first time I put together a list of annual highlights in 2010, Everyone—each of you who take what you’re imagining and turn it into something real—will always remain my first acknowledgement. There are many themes that are reinforced, and one of them that’s consistently fascinating is making. Imagination, paired with honesty, consistently motivates and inspires. Keep making, Everyone!

Katie and Joseph Thompson of Joseph Thompson Woodworks

“The Perch” by Joseph Thompson Woodworks at the One of a Kind Show 2013

In February 2013, I had the privilege of interviewing the wife-and-husband duo behind Joseph Thompson Woodworks, Charleston, South Carolina, in a Designer’s Quest(ionnaire). It was the striking form of their chair design, dubbed “The Perch”, that first got my attention. In April, Katie emailed me about Joseph Thompson Woodworks’ appearance at the One of a Kind Show and Sale in Chicago. Fast forward to December 2013—Katie invited me to see them and their exhibit space at this annual event. One takeaway here is the importance of retention. Proactively keeping someone/thing in mind—and doing so until the time is ripe to seize it as an opportunity (in this case, to meet up)—is positively memorable. Katie remembered our email thread, from a few months ago, about finally meeting in person.

Katie’s memory was sharpened by her and Joseph’s complementary passes to see the One of a Kind Show and Sale—my first experience. It was delightful to see them, especially Joseph’s telling of the ideas and approaches that go into realizing his and Katie’s products. This is a huge benefit of meeting craftspeople: To discover thoughts that were the prelude and the platform of their work. Another benefit is personally experiencing craftspeople’s products. Joseph graciously offered me to try The Perch—elegantly comfortable with a mild lilt in its rocking motion.

Cusp Conference

Nathan Sawaya’s LEGO artistry at Cusp Conference 2013

Another first-time experience for me this year was attending the sixth Cusp Conference, which also takes place in Chicago. Being a CreativeMornings enthusiast, it’s immediately noticed the amount of dedicated energy it takes to realize a dynamic gathering fusing topics and presenters, audience and place, plus everyone and everything in between to carry the gathering, especially for one that is launched on a consecutive basis. The team at Multiple put together an eclectic lineup of presenters—from digital comics publishers to an architect of habitats in space (outer space)—at Cusp Conference 2013. To apply the title from the book by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander, Multiple’s yearly conference shines the rays on “The Art of Possibility”.

“STRATA” Open House

Photography by Darlene Delbecq captivating the workspace of 50,000feet 

For the first time too, I was invited to experience an annual event hosted by Chicago-based creative agency 50,000feet. It was a diverse art exhibition curated at their workspace, wonderfully imbued with work by regional and international artists representing photography, painting, fiber, textiles, print, mixed media, and video. Its 2013 iteration was called “STRATA”, bolstered by the visible and subtle layers of artwork on display throughout.

50,000feet’s proactive belief in the rewarding connection between art and work is one to insist.


Linsey Burritt and Crystal Grover of INDO at CreativeMornings/Chicago #25, the last gathering of 2013

The new Website for CreativeMornings speaks to the human determination to make things—and the humanity of doing it, sharing it, talking about it, being vulnerable to it, and persisting it. This is most apparent in CreativeMornings’ video library of Talks by each speaker, in each chapter, since the chapter’s debut in its respective location throughout the world. This growing collection of CreativeMornings Talks makes a collective statement: Create yourself.(1) One definitive experience of this call to action is the Talk, set to the CreativeMornings global November 2013 theme of Bravery, by multidisciplinary artist Vanessa German at the Pittsburgh chapter. Her presentation is a poetry jam, mighty and heartfelt, about the power of love. As Vanessa vigorously revealed, “Anything and everything that I know about bravery, I only know through love.”

As mentioned before, I’m a CreativeMornings enthusiast. CreativeMornings is part celebration of human effort, part affirmation of human lessons—all parts neighborly and executed in a no-frills manner.

Big thanks to Kim Knoll and Kyle Eertmoed of Knoed Creative, and to their Team, for achieving a complete month-to-month year of CreativeMornings in Chicago, where many and I received a monthly serving of a creative lecture blended with creative community—as a result, creative commotion that’s locally grounded and naturally accessible.

Of course, this list is incomplete. What are your creative highlights of 2013?

As you recall your highlights: Thank you for visiting and reading. Have an excellent new year of picking yourself to create yourself!

(1) Essentially gleaned from this quote, attributed to playwright George Bernard Shaw: “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”

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Photos by Nate Burgos: One of a Kind Show, Cusp Conference, STRATA Open HouseCreativeMornings