CreativeMornings Austin: A Magical Initiation
It’s 7.30am and I’m peddling through South Austin’s winding roads, greeted by the glorious pink light of sunrise. The cool, fresh air envelops me; a welcome change after the past 6 months, more accustomed to the feeling of wearing a vest of hot coals. With 2 different lollipop ladies (mind my British, I mean ‘crossing guards’) waving me by with a “Good morning!” and “Have a good day!”, the journey feels positively stimulating, ‘magical’ in fact, which ties in perfectly with my destination’s theme. I’m off to see what all the fuss is about at CreativeMornings, a worldwide monthly breakfast lecture that is free (why, thank you) and offers a short talk to inspire creative appetites. As someone making a new home in Austin after a London departure and seeking like-minded souls, it was more than enough reason to drag myself from the comfort of slumber.
Operating in 152 countries, this month’s global theme is ‘Magic’ and looking back over the past themes such as Revolution, Humility and Chance, they provide a lot of ground for a diverse mix of topic. I can’t vouch for the other locations, but my Austin experience is off to a great start with Tacodeli delights where I meet my future favorite taco (‘The Otto’, in case you’re wondering). Choose a couple to wolf down, or stick to the one if occupying skinny jeans. The gorgeous event venue of Vuka is a suitably breakfasty setting too, ‘Vuka’ meaning ‘Waking Up’ in Zulu (which I’m to learn later on). After oiling the internal mechanics with Cuvée coffee, I find my vantage point and settle in for the events to unfold.
Ben Thoma was our warm host for CreativeMornings Austin, introducing their concept as well as their manifesto which began with ‘Everyone is creative’, concluding that ‘Everyone is welcome’. I would concur. The audience were then entertained by a lively motivator in the form of Skye Strickler, an emerging solo pop artist from Austin. With 3 songs intended to snap you out of doziness, you could either dance in the aisle (as one lady did) or use the time to post such moments on social media (I admit I’m more the latter). Strickler’s exuberance was clearly infectious, with attendees clapping along as he monkey-barred the air with roller-coaster vocals. The internal Brit could not help but wince at this unusual wake-up call, but who am I to judge? Especially after he told me it was a good day and I was a good person (well, maybe collectively but you get my point). Then came the introductions from local businesses including ‘Austin Learnshop’, a great educational facility that encourages the community to teach or learn creative subjects.
With the morning well under way, the scene was set for the main speaker, Austin artist James Talbot, who bounced on stage defying his introduction with, “I am not Talbot! I am zee GREAT TALBONIOS and fate has brought us together!”. Good humored and charming, it was easy to be swept up in his mystical reality, especially when he opened with a rather alternative icebreaker. “Close your eyes, go back to earlier days and look for a time that you thought was magical. I have a joint, with pixie dust and I want you to take a deep hit. Hold it… and when you start to let go, go down the bunny hole! AHHhhhhhh!!!”. Talbot hails from this own wonderland, Casa Neverlandia, the home he also offers up for ticketed personal tours as well as being part of the ‘Weird Homes Tour’. A continually morphing project, he resides without a television, instead preferring to fire-gaze which seems conducive to bringing more of his intent to consciousness. Talbot went on to share 24 characteristics of what he believes tend to encompass magical spaces:
1–5. Nature; Archetypal Images; Richness — abundance; multiplicity; open-endedness; Shape and Line Quality.
6–10. Sensuality — for all the senses; Brilliance — sparkle; Layering, sequencing and multiple views; Change of Scale — the gargantuan, the miniature; suggestions of other beings.
11–15. Novelty — the unusual; The Unknown — mystery, spirituality, the non-rational; Evidence of Caring; The Suggestion of Danger — dark forces, the clandestine; Juxtaposition of Opposite.
16–20. Something for Nothing; Sense of Placeness; Is-ness; Arrested Time — time-release, timelessness; Humor.
21–24. Twilight — mist, fog, low colored light; Surprise — the unexpected; Containment — enclosure, ritual space; Compactness — density, richness.
Talbot applies his whimsical creativity to enviable projects such as baffling playscapes for children, intricate murals and ornate sculptures (remember ‘Your Essential Magnificence’ on South Congress?). He also combines a plethora of various materials; tires with glitter, beadwork with stone and rose oil with cement (to name a few), solidifying imagination that we can consume physically and visually. Graduating in 1971 with a BA in Architecture and a minor in Fine Arts from Rice University, Houston, his non-conformist nature led his first paid project to settle law fees for a marijuana bust. Regrettable, I’m sure, however make no assumptions that he was advocating drug use in any part of his talk. Instead, I found it lent a more human quality to a person with such erudite capabilities. As he concluded with some Q&A, an audience member asked what prevents adults from retaining magic in their lives, to which his retort was “Intention. As adults, we can make the decision to have more magic in our lives. We may have to give up some things but then you get more back in. It’s our imagination that puts us in the driver’s seat. Like ‘Love’ or ‘God’, you get to decide whatever that is.”
Such inspiring statements are privileged insights into genius and after all, the purpose of such events is to provide oneself with catalysts for more creativity. So whatever propels your passion today, or even tomorrow, heed the advice from Talbot’s fairytale existence and make the decision to get more magic in your life; the more imagination, the better.