When it comes to the concept of being a “creative,” for me that has always come down to rebellious curiosity.
I was a bit defiant in my early years. Often perceived as a bad seed, I didn’t much care for being told what to do or how to do it. Now, I’m not about to say that’s okay, or that I was just expressing myself, or that grown-ups are the worst. Because sometimes I really was just being a rebellious little punk. But I will say that my prove-them-wrong attitude empowered me to move beyond out-of-the-box solutions, beyond “the norm” and to instead embrace true creativity. And it even led to the creation of the first automatic pool stick chalker.
I’ve never been satisfied with the way things work. I didn’t think my remote-control cars were fast enough – so I took them apart. I couldn’t successfully put them back together, but it did give me spare parts to work with and taught me a lot about mechanics. At 14, I decided that chalking a pool stick was too messy, so I took my mom’s automatic pencil sharpener (not broken) apart and figured out how to attach the chalk. Just press the stick to the chalk and presto, perfect chalk without the mess. After my mom got over the destruction of her sharpener, she took me and the new pool stick chalker to a place in Chicago that helps people with their inventions. They seemed to dig it, but there was a pretty hefty prototype investment on our part so it never got built. All good though. I still felt like the Steve Jobs of pool chalk (I’m seeking investors, if anyone is interested).
From there, I started taking apart more expensive things like go-carts and dirt bikes. I even tore my first car apart in my parent’s barn without any real knowledge of how to put it back together. In my mind, there were too many things I wanted to change – it required starting over. My mom wasn’t thrilled about the pieces of a car in her barn, but in the end, the car turned out pretty dope for a 16-year-old boy. To this day, I haven’t been able to buy a car without modifying it.
As I transitioned into adulthood, I quickly realized there was no way I could afford a house I was content with. Modifying my home became my new obsession. My stepfather was in construction for his entire life and helped me remodel my first house. I don’t like asking for help, so it became an apprenticeship on my part. I had to be able to do things on my own and I needed the ability to explore other ways of doing things without hearing words like “typically” or “usually.” So, I learned multiple trades. I can’t tell you how often I hear, “I would’ve never thought to do it that way.” Just because things are “usually” done a certain way and people “typically” live within the confines of what’s considered the norm, doesn’t mean much to me. It just makes me ask, “Why?”
Like everything else, the remodel projects became more elaborate and so did my need for perfect furnishings. I have a handful of stores I frequent for furniture, but everyone has been faced with that weird nook they can’t seem to fill. Why not build some furniture? My next obsession. I’m not making anything groundbreaking, but luckily my style is clean and simple. There’s something about tailoring something to exact specs that will put a smile on any designer’s face.
A Rebellious Career
My career path came pretty naturally. I went to design school with zero consideration for other career options. After bouncing around print and web design for a while, I ultimately fell into advertising. Hard. It’s the perfect mix of storytelling and design. It’s unforgiving, relentless and rebellious curiosity personified. I found my place professionally, but I still needed something on the side.
At the time, graphic tees were cheesy, over-designed and plastered with massive logos. But these hard times were over when I bought a 4-color t-shirt press with hopes and dreams of creating the next big, national brand from my basement. Though I never really figured out the business side of it, I had my own clothing line (and by “my own” I mean I was the only one who ever wore it). It was a great experience, though.
So, what is a creative? It’s hard to put a label on it. But for me, it’s the person who looks at the way things have always been done and with rebellious curiosity asks, “Why?”