CREATVE HEROES: Alicia Searcy

22 05 2017

Alicia Searcy is a fashion and style blogger. I met her at a blogging conference in her hometown of Nashville a few years ago. Her spirit and purple hair made her stand out in the crowd. Her creative voice and passion inspire me. I am thrilled to add her story to Creative Heroes.

Alicia

Wabi-sabi is a Japanese concept that embraces transience and imperfection. When creating art and an imperfection appears, the idea is to use it to make the art more distinctive. Alicia Searcy’s life embodies that concept. As we strive to live a creative life, we all face obstacles. Instead of being defeated by the obstacles in her life, Alicia has embraced her authenticity and is transforming the world.

Alicia was born with choreoathetotic cerebral palsy, which gives her mobility issues. Additionally she had to fight her way out of an isolated childhood. She overcame an eating disorder and is a suicide survivor.

Alicia survived the isolation by having a vivid, imaginative, rich, interior life. Alicia embraced her creative side, got a degree in Journalism, found love and married. She believes everyone is creative; that you just have to envision what you want and then have the drive to make it happen.

Alicia makes it happen. In her wheelchair, she has rolled over the obstacles life had put in her path. She owns the woman she is and the disability she has. Her CP means her movements are jerky. Because of CP, it takes her longer to do things. She is determined to do the things she wants to do and her CP makes her do it differently. It takes creativity to figure out how to do it. Her restless, creative spirit also means once she masters something, she moves on to the next project. She’s been an artist, a writer, and is now a fashion and style blogger with an impressive following.

She was frustrated that she was often invisible to people who assumed that she had mental disabilities because she was physically handicapped. She observed that when she paid attention to her appearance, people’s reaction to her changed. She is no longer invisible.

She and her hometown of Nashville were hit with a devastating flood in 2010 and she lost all the contents of her home. Again, she turned an obstacle into a creative turning point. When she rebuilt her fashion wardrobe, she bought new clothes with intension.

She started a blog with a tongue-in-cheek name, Spashionisita. She loved the colors, the textures, the design, and the creative vision of fashion designers. “Our clothes tell the world who we are that day.” There were no models that looked like her. Despite this, she loved fashion, even though her movements were awkward and she was in a wheelchair. She realized that other disabled people often paid little attention to their clothes and became an advocate for the disabled and those with different body types. She knew that when people are proud of their appearance, they start to feel differently about themselves. And that pride makes the once invisible, finally and truly seen.

Alicia Searcy wheelchair

With her creative wheels turning, Alicia created Nashville’s Fashion Week’s first Fashion is for Every Body fashion show this past year. The show included models of different ages, different shapes, sizes and abilities. The models were wearing designs by the area’s hottest designers and vintage boutiques. The concept was such a success that Alicia turned it into the Fashion is for Every Body non-profit whose mission is to eliminate the stigma surrounding people with non-sample size bodies in the Nashville fashion industry by serving as a platform for body-positivity, inclusion, and self-esteem while demonstrating their strong ties to fashion and design.

Alicia knows, “no matter what your circumstances, being creative nurtures your soul.” Childhood isolation taught her deep empathy and a passion to help those that society doesn’t see. A literal flood washed away all her possessions and made her start over. She rebuilt her life with conscious intent. The invisibility of being a disabled, middle-aged woman gave her a unique point of view that no one else in the image-driven fashion industry had. Her cerebral palsy makes her take a creative approach to living her life.

Alicia’s creative spirit saved and transformed her. It allowed her to roll over huge obstacles in her life. Her creative spirit is a shining beacon that illuminates not only those around her, but illuminates her entire community. She is the spirit of wabi-sabi. She took transience and imperfection, and turned her life into a work of art. She is a Creative Hero.

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CREATIVE HEROES: Raymond Strother

24 03 2016

Ray and my sweetie’s friendship goes back decades. While he was down from his Montana mountains and in Louisiana, I grabbed him for a conversation for my Creative Heroes series. A creative hero is someone who lives a fully creative life and Ray teaches us all how to do that. Ray believes that creativity is about seeing the world differently and breaking the rules to create something unique.

ray art

Ray has lived a big life. He’s gotten the powerful elected. He’s a renowned author. He’s piloted planes. He’s taught at Harvard and is an esteemed professor at the small Louisiana university that kicked him out when he was a student for his political views. He is still married to his high school sweetheart and together they have traveled the world. Their home houses a stunning, eclectic art collection from their life together. His musical tastes go from opera to rap. He is a master woodcrafter and can bake a damn good loaf of bread. He is a true renaissance man.

It took breaking the rules for Ray to break out of the life he was born in the blue collar, oil refinery town of Port Arthur, Texas where neither parent graduated from high school. As a young adult he learned to embrace a new direction when faced with a roadblock. After it was “suggested” by the small town university president that he transfer to the more “liberal” LSU in Baton Rouge, Ray packed up his new bride and moved. Having lost his track scholarship in the process, he knew he could write and became a Journalism major. The seeds of his professional life had been planted.

His life proves that all things one learns are useful. A student job of sorting the printing letterforms gave him an understanding of typography, which evolved into an understanding of design. A teacher taught him the basics of photography and he created a studio in the unused attic of LSU’s journalism building. These learned skills would eventually lead him into writing and directing commercials when he entered the political advertising world.

His understanding of living a working class life drove his life mission of trying to make the world a better place. From Ray’s Wikipedia page, “My father taught me that you had to stand on the picket line … and you had to get involved in politics — because people like us had no other choice. So I became a political consultant. It was a calling like the ministry.”

Knowing himself well enough to know that his personality was not suited to being a politician, he used his creative skill set to help people he believed in get elected. It was Ray’s fearlessness, insatiable curiosity and hard work ethic that propelled him on his own creative journey that eventually led him to being a top political consultant based in Washington DC, the most powerful city in the world.

Creativity is the spark of God
Ray does not believe creativity ever grows out of a committee decision. His creativity grows out of solitude. He isolated himself to write his novels. He fell in love with the rugged majesty of Montana while working on a political campaign there. The locals thought he was crazy when he bought the vertical slope of a mountain. Thinking differently allowed him to create a mountain retreat built on that impossibly steep slope, which he named Heroes Ranch.

Hero's

Hero’s Ranch, the Strother’s Montana mountain retreat

Wise Chair

His decades of experience have turned him into a sought after professor. The university that once kicked him out now has an honored chair for him. It’s called the Wise Chair. Ray believes creativity grows most intensely when youth and passion are combined.

“Creativity is the spark of God,” Ray said. What a blessing that a few teachers saw that spark in Ray’s early life. Today he see’s that spark in his students. He is still helping change the world by turning those sparks into creative fire. He is a creative hero.

Click here to watch an extended video conversation with Ray.

Ray video

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CREATIVE HEROES: My Advertising Friends

28 02 2016

My sweetie, Steve Davison won a lifetime achievement award at the Annual Advertising (ADDY) Awards.* And BAM…it hit me afterwards. I’ve now started my new series on Creative Heroes, which is about someone living a fully creative life and not only was my sweetie a creative hero, but as I watched the intro video of past winners, I realized they were all creative heroes of mine. As I watched the show and saw brilliant, beautiful, touching and funny work, I realized I was in a room full of creative heroes. That award show and that evening was a love fest. My advertising peeps have somehow married design, writing, marketing, business and have turned it into a career. We actually get paid for this! It is an industry that I am proud to be a part of. It is the filter though which I see the world.

The night of the ADDY Awards was about honoring creativity. It was about those in the business that show up with their A game. As a friend said in the introductory video, “good is the enemy of great”. That’s really a hard thing to do. We get bogged down with life, people who don’t understand, and all the other excuses we come up with, when we settle for good enough.

Maybe because it’s hard to continually push yourself that the advertising people I know live by the philosophy, “work hard and play hard.” I’m invigorated when I’m with my tribe. It’s a multigenerational tribe; with friends who go back to the Mad Men era to 20-somethings who are fearless in their brand new careers. As my sweetie said in his acceptance speech, “the business may change technically, but it doesn’t change creatively. It’s not the tools that matter, it’s the people.”

The lifetime achievement award Steve received was a surprise to him, but I knew about it. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening was that I kept the secret. Our table was filled with family and industry friends. These are friends that he gets together to watch football with, and they are also past AAF-BR club presidents and lifetime achievement winners. Our table was jokingly called the Mt. Rushmore table because of its collective age. But that table was also filled with a lot of creative wisdom. As I progress through this new series, I’m realizing a hallmark of living a creative life is surrounding yourself with creative friends.

I’ve written about my sweetie before. We met 30 years ago when he was the hot, tv commercial director in town. He knows every aspect of film/video production. He is an artist with the camera and I’ve heard him say, “it’s like painting with light.” One of the things that drew us together as a couple is the history we shared in the advertising world in our southern city. One of the things the South does really well is storytelling. And that’s really what advertising is, telling a story.

Living a Creative Life
Steve’s creativity is not left at work. He is a talented furniture maker. Our home is filled with pieces he’s built. He’s renovated our master bathroom and built a new deck in our garden. He is also a remarkable cook. I’ve got the extra pounds to show for it from our six years together. His dishes are not only delicious, the presentation is also carefully considered. A perfect evening for us is sitting outside on that deck with friends laughing and storytelling, and eating a great meal that Chef Steve has prepared and paired with the perfect bottle of wine.

I am so thrilled that Steve was honored by his peers. I’m also honored to be reminded by how much I love my creative tribe. We are all creative heroes.

Connections: Steve pointed out in his acceptance speech that he came back from Viet Nam and started his career in 1970. That was the same year that his father won this same lifetime achievement award. A few years later Steve was a volunteer producer for the ADDY Awards at the long-gone Aubin Lane Dinner Theater. I realized that I was also in attendance at that show. My father produced his own commercials and I was thrilled as a young teen to go with my Dad to my first ADDY Awards show. There is just one degree of separation in Baton Rouge.

* It’s called the E. A. “Pete” Goldsby Silver Medal Award and it was awarded by his peers in the American Advertising Federation–Baton Rouge (AAF-BR).

•creative art
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CREATIVE HEROES: Marie Constantin

11 02 2016

Marie Constantin, photographer, home renovator, fiddler, lives a creative life. She lives in the present moment, sees the holy in the world around her, and infuses her life with joy. She has a loud laugh and her friends hear it often. We also hear righteous indignation when she sees injustice. Her creative soul radiates her humble joy. I immediately thought of Marie when I thought of starting a series on Creative Heroes.

marie title

Mother Teresa
As I start to write this, Marie’s photo of Mother Teresa is on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. The journey of how it got there is about her living a creative life. Marie makes a living as a photographer. I met her when I hired her for a photo shoot, when she was fresh back from a trip to India where she went to volunteer for Mother Teresa.

She learned early in her photographic career that she needed to spend her volunteer hours doing something other than photography. Marie would often volunteer at the soup kitchen run by Mother Teresa’s order, the Missionaries of Charity. Her helping out at the soup kitchen led to friendships with the nuns. They invited Marie to go to the Mother House in Calcutta. She went as a volunteer to do whatever was needed. What later evolved was whenever Mother Teresa was in this country, Marie was asked to photograph Mother Teresa attending to the business of the order. She got to know this remarkable woman up close and personal.

Not long after Mother Teresa died, Marie got a message from someone with a thick Spanish accent, which she promptly ignored. Fortunately the caller was persistent and they eventually connected. It was the Vatican and they wanted to use a photo she had taken for Mother Teresa’s Beatification. CBS Sunday Morning told the story of Mother Teresa through Marie’s eyes. I watched Marie on this national news program the morning of the Beatification. She was in St. Peter’s Square being interviewed with the huge billboard size photo she took, behind her hanging from the Basilica. Now that Mother Teresa is being fast tracked to sainthood, it’s still Marie’s photo that is the official Vatican image.

Marie's photo at Mother Teresa's Beatification

Marie’s photo at Mother Teresa’s Beatification

What makes Marie’s Mother Teresa story so powerful as a creative journey, is that it started a recharge from her day job as a photographer. That down time from work enhanced her professional life in a huge and unexpected way.

Living a Creative Life
The same creative energy she brings to her professional life fills her whole life. She bought a run down craftsman home in Baton Rouge’s oldest neighborhood that she saw potential in. Today she sees her home as living in a work of art and it’s on the Historic Registry. She’s bartered her photography skills for things like a stained glass door and she used color experts, designers and craftsmen to help actualize her vision. One of my favorite spots in town is sitting on the big swing on her wraparound porch, having a glass of wine, watching the world go by, while we solve the problems of the world. She has built a community of creative people who inspire her and who are inspired by her.

She also loves the rich culture of south Louisiana. She turned a fishing camp outside of town on the mighty Atchafalaya River into a Zen oasis and named it the Flying Alligator. It’s complete with a swinging bed and an outside shower. It took her a year, with her chain saw and lawn mower, to cut a trail through the woods. It’s a magical place where one can find solitude and meditation within nature.

Marie on stump

Marie Laughing

Marie at the Flying Alligator

It’s also a place where friends and family gather for eating, drinking and music. She decided to learn the fiddle a few years back. She went deep into Cajun country to find authentic teachers. She’s now friends with Grammy-award winning musicians and it’s common for a bunch of musicians to jam together on her camp’s big screened in porch.

The pier in front of her camp is named Flyin' Alligator waterfront lounge

The pier in front of her camp is named Flyin’ Alligator waterfront lounge

Marie can be seen in a traditional Mardi Gras costume made by her Cajun friends at the pink-flamingo-filled Spanish Town Mardi Gras parade that rolls by her craftsman home. Or she can be seen taking a photographic portrait of Louisiana’s new Governor. She brings the same joy and passion to both.

Mother Teresa said, “Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.” Marie’s life is a joyful, creative net. She is a creative hero.

Click here to watch an extended conversation with Marie on creativity.

CH opening still

CREATIVE HEROES
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The Birth of an Idea

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CREATIVE HEROES: The Birth of an Idea

31 01 2016

•creative art

I’m filled with creative energy as I start the New Year. I’m in the process of giving birth to a new idea. It’s about living a creative life. Since this idea is in the birthing process, I’m not sure what this idea will grow up to be.

This baby idea is about how small details full of creative energy can grow into a full life experience. Those experiences make a richer and joyful life. Sometimes the seed of that experience grows out of a difficult time.

Our lives make sense in hindsight. This baby idea has been 10 years in the making and has grown from a time when my professional life was going to shit.

Ten years ago, I had a new, young, smart boss who didn’t like my design style—I’m an art director in an in-house corporate setting—she felt I was an old dinosaur. She told me I would not make another round of budget cuts and should consider a job in sales. Eventually all she allowed me to create were flyers that went on the inside of bathroom stalls (really the shits).

I then believed I was no longer hirable and I began to seriously ponder on what did I want to do in this upcoming new chapter. I was freshly divorced and responsible for my aging mother and my teen daughter, so I didn’t feel free to walk away from a job with great benefits, where I had invested a dozen years. This is what propelled me through the next decade of living a fully creative life.

Whereas my boss saw me as a dinosaur, my professional organization saw me as someone with experience and asked me to be on their Board of Directors. I used this experience to grow my life in new directions. I started to face my fears and pushed myself into doing things that made me uncomfortable, like public speaking.

I eventually became the President of my club and that young boss followed her own ambitious rise up the corporate ladder and left the company. As I regained confidence, I wanted to share my life experience with others and created workshops on creativity. I knew firsthand how fragile it could be and that the creative spirit needs to be nurtured and encouraged to thrive.

While my day job improved, I still needed a place for my creative voice to be heard unedited. So I created this blog, My Creative Journey and a side business with my sweetie, which we named Greenview Designs. I’m about to audition for a performance play called Listen to Your Mother, where I’ll read a story I’ve written that grew out of this blog. That’s something I couldn’t have imagined doing a decade ago.

Today I’m a designer, a writer, a marketer, a speaker, a teacher and in a loving relationship. This all grew out of embracing fear. It has been a creative journey of many small steps that has me living a full, creative, joyful life.

My baby idea is to record others who are living creative lives, people who inspire me. This blog is going to hold their stories and Greenview Designs is going to create videos. I’m calling this series Creative Heroes.

So welcome to my baby idea. I hope you’ll enjoy watching it grow. Let’s see where this journey takes us.

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