The Creativity Interviews

I wanted to show that creativity can show up in unexpected places in one’s life. So I interviewed 3 people I know who I think are exceptionally creative. They come from different age levels, occupations, and backgrounds. I could write a bit more but the interviews came out so well I’ll just let them speak for themselves.

Interview 1: Georgia Barberi-my mother, age 46. Spent 10 years as a homemaker, raising me and my sister and keeping a vegetable garden to save money. She practices many handicrafts, including sewing, knitting, beading, felting, drawing, painting, printing, baking, and basically literally anything else you can think of. Her budget was tight, but she found creative ways to squeeze the most out of it, and my sister and I never knew, as we benefitted every year from homemade Christmas presents, school clothing made to our preferences, and lavish theme birthday parties (until, parish the thought, we got old enough to think that was dorky.) Throughout her life, she has also worked at various occupations, including cleaning offices, writing for a women’s newspaper, and as a companion helper for new mothers, before starting her own organic flower farm. She sells jams, preserves, flowers, produce and homemade household items like potholders and aprons at several farm markets.

Georgia’s First Flower Farm

What you define creativity as? What would you define art as?

Art is a branch of creativity. To me creativity is any time you use your own knowledge and inspiration to bring something to be that wasn’t there before.

So where does art branch off?

I think art is non-utilitarian, and should make feelings arise in other people. Whereas creativity can be used to solve everyday problems, make something visually appealing to you, or be an expression of your own that doesn’t have to reach anyone else.

Where do you get to be most creative in your life?

Everywhere. In a larger sense, how I spend my time in the course of a day-everything from how I schedule myself and how much of my time I’m willing to give to someone else scheduling me. But in terms of actually creating something…I guess I feel most classically creative when I’m writing.

Describe any significant effect getting to express yourself and ideas that are unique to you, has had on your life.

I would not be myself if I couldn’t do that. I wouldn’t feel any meaning in life.

Has creativity gotten you through any difficult times in your life? If so, how?

It has, because it’s given me practical things like knitting or canning or something that kept me excited beyond the immediate circumstances…or at least kept my hands busy.  And my brain.

Where/what/who gives you your ideas? In what kind of form do they occur to you?

It depends on which kind of creativity I’m doing. With writing, I guess I’ll see something that piques my interest, and a lot of the time I’ll get a little vision…a what-if situation. Or I’ll suddenly think that two things that don’t seem connected, are connected. So it comes from thin air, I guess. But if I’m feeling uninspired, I go to Barnes and Noble (bookstore) and sit in the craft department and read ALL the books.

 

Interview 2: Margot Douillet-my sister-age 15. A student at Bard Academy, Margot enjoys studying statistics and baseball. She’s combined her two fascinations into a massive baseball statistics project that combines masses of data and historical records in an attempt to find a formula for a winning team. She also draws, writes, sews, cooks, and does embroidery. She has written on an almost daily basis since age ten or eleven, and was working on parts of a fantasy novel by the time she was twelve. At this age, her pride and joy was the flock of chickens she kept in my mother’s backyard.  She now aspires to be the General Manager of the Boston Red Sox.

 

I wanted to interview you because I think your baseball stats project is an unconventional form of creativity. How would you define creativity? Would you agree with me about the project?

I would say that creativity is coming up with your own ideas and thoughts that are new and original. I don’t think that other people would agree that it’s a form of creativity, because a lot of people have analyzed baseball stats, and there’s only a certain amount of analysis you can do. But what it all comes down to is that me and everyone else who’s analyzing baseball stats…we’re all just trying to figure out what the formula is to win more games. But the creative aspect of that is how we form all our different theories about that.

Would you say that creativity is manifested in the game of baseball? If so, in what ways?

I would say that creativity is present in baseball, and I don’t think that it’s as present as it should be. I think that baseball is one of those things where you have to follow conventional wisdom–otherwise you’re seen as foolish. I mean, if you think about it, all the managers have their different things that they do to make their team win, but almost all of those are the same. And I think that also with general managers in the front office, they almost always follow the same pattern. So I think that there’s more room to be creative.

You use statistics as the backbone of your project, and a lot of it is about seeing patterns in numbers. Would you say there is a creative side to math, or that math and creativity can coexist in one project?

Yeah, I definitely think that math can be creative. A lot of it has to do with how you’re applying math, and what you’re trying to figure out by applying the math.

You also practice other art forms like embroidery, writing and drawing. Would you say there is a mathematical component to art?

Yes. I mean, obviously with geometry because there’s shapes and things—I think that math is a form of art. I look at a graph of something and I think it’s beautiful. I don’t think a handwritten graph is different from a painting-they’re both beautiful. With a graph, you’re trying to express an idea, same as [with]any other form of art.

 

Do you have the same kinds of thought processes while working on fantasy baseball/stats as when doing something like a sewing project?

Yes. With both things, part of what it is, is that I’m trying to figure out something that hasn’t been done before, that I’m curious about, and that I want to try.

Interview 3-Dominic Fanelli, 26-totally awesome friend who hooked me up with a great living situation.  Dominic originally went to school to study production management and audio engineering. He designed and built an 9-room recording studio for the school he attended, only to be forced to abandon it over a pay dispute. He also does web design and plays a vast variety of musical instruments, and is a student of various disciplines of Eastern medicine and philosophy. He enjoys composing and playing music, and uses it as an outlet for work stress. “I’ve been playing music for such a long time,” he says, “I don’t want to do simple stuff. Give me some polka-rap-metal-jazz-fusion, that’s the good stuff!” He can also frequently be found staring into the guts of a disemboweled laptop, performing arcane rites by the light of the full moon and/or a desk lamp.

Pursuit of Happiness

 

 

What would you define creativity as? What would you define art as? What is the relationship of art to creativity?

I would say that creativity is a process-a process that can be used for many, many different things. And art is an existential manifestation of creativity. And I don’t think it’s a two-directional relationship; art can’t exist without creativity, creativity can exist without art. An example of that is how someone would need to use creativity to survive a desperate situation. That doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with art. And I think the end definition for me of creativity is any process that leads to creativity. So I feel like artists and builders share the same form of creativity that musicians do.

What role does creativity play in your life? What is the relationship between various applications of creativity in your life?

I feel creativity plays two major roles. One is in the context of it actually helping me overcome dramatically technical obstacles at work. Sometimes I come up against basically impossible situations and I have to use creativity to solve them. The second role is a purely artistic role. That is the way that I balance the various energies, mostly negative, that get built up from my workplace environment. Art and being able to create an existential expression of art is the most perfect means of sublimating the negative energy I have to absorb dealing with everyone else’s problems all the time, on a technical level. Because of the nature of my work, I have to deal with a lot of insane, chaotic situations.

As someone who has done a lot of work on Pursuit of Happiness[a website dedicated to teaching happiness and wellness techniques] would you say creative expression is an essential part of human life? If so, in what way?

Creativity is an essential part of being human actually. I think creativity and its linkage with the vast depths of the unconscious human mind is critical to making us who we are as humans. The dividing line between us and other organisms on this planet is that we have advanced creativity and can literally change the world around us to take on forms we imagine. No other creature has that capability.

Does web design require a different kind of creativity than music composition? Do you ever use inspiration from the same source for different things?

Shockingly, it’s a very similar creativity that gets applied. A lot of the creativity in music is problem solving, with music theory. Those same graceful methods of problem solving creatively are applied to both applications. Maybe that’s just me personally. I don’t know if other people share the same utilization of creativity but I wouldn’t doubt it if most people were tapping into that part of the human imagination to deal with some of the biggest problems the world faces. That’s why some of the best engineers and mechanical thinkers have also been natural artists and musicians, like Da Vinci and Tesla.

 

The Money Thing

Money, so they say/is the root of all evil today.

Cash rules everything around me, C.R.E.A.M. get the money, dollar dollar bill y’all….

 

Yes it’s true, one of the biggest sticking points for many folks who want to start their own tiny house venture or other off-grid endeavour, is a lack of start up cash. According to the Federal Reserve Board, 47% of americans have less than $500 in savings, so this is you, you’re not alone. I was fortunate enough to have supportive parents and a decently paid job, so I saved quite a bit between age 16-19. Still, I ended up spending most of the money I had saved for college on the tiny house project, deciding that having a warm, safe place to sleep no matter where I went was more important than a degree that might end up being useless and loading me with debt in an uncertain world.

In light of this, it’s incredibly important to figure out how to get the most bang for your limited buck. So I’m going to lay out a few strategies I used to complete my project on a limited budget.

THE TRAILER:

A brand-new cargo trailer from Wells Cargo, the top-of-the-line trailer maker, costs approximately $3600 for a basic 6×12. After shopping around, this seemed to be the going rate with other companies, including smaller local trailer sellers. However, I’ve seen listings on Craigslist for used Wells Cargo trailers of the same size for $1400-$2000; mine was $2000. That’s a savings of $1500 right out of the gate. When buying a used trailer, make sure to check for a valid VIN number (stamped into the frame), working brake lights and turn signals; avoid trailers with frame rust of other frame damage. If you have more time, ambition, and carpentry skills, you can buy a flat bed utility trailer like this for around $1100; however, you will have to frame out the structure of the house, and this will require more time and more costly materials-not to mention more skill. But it will give you more options as to insulation and the shape and structure of the house. Weigh your options and priorities and choose accordingly.

THE TOOLS

Yes, we know your neighbor is a total tool, but you can’t use him to build a house with, as much as you’d like to use his face to pound in nails. You’re going to need a decent set of hand tools, if you don’t have those already, and a couple power tools. Here’s a list of what I ended up using in my pretty basic tiny house build:

Adjustable wrench, 16-oz claw hammer, cordless drill (this is the same one I had-never did me wrong through the whole project), screwdriver set with a couple different sizes of both flat-tipped and Phillip’s head screwdrivers, small and large flat bar, small handheld disc sander, several sizes of paintbrush (from 1″ to 3″), paint roller and tray, 7″ circular saw (also called a Skil saw, although when I use it, we call it an Unskilled Saw), chalk line, 25′ measuring tape, small Japanese hand saw (really helpful for smaller stuff), hacksaw (for cutting bolts), 1/2″ and 1″ chisels, table saw (with the right jigs, clamps, and work surface, you can forgo this and just use a circular saw), adjustable dado cutter (pretty sure it can be used with a circular saw-for several joint types used in furniture making), 1/2″ and 1″ spade bits, assorted drill bits (lots and lots. If you don’t want to blow half your budget on drill bits, make sure you get ones designed to use with metal if you have to drill holes in metal.), small cross cut saw, assorted rasps and files, assorted sand paper (60 to 100 grit, and discs for the sander), utility knife and extra blades, nail set

I’m probably forgetting quite a few, and there’s a couple things I wish I’d had, like a miter box for cutting perfect 45 degree angles. But this gives you a good idea of what you’ll need to start out. Tools can be pretty expensive, but there’s a few ways around this. If you’re buying hand tools, Harbor Freight has a wide selection for low prices. Although they don’t have the best reputation for quality, they do have a tool replacement policy on hand tools-if a tool you bought there breaks, they’ll replace it for free, according to my friend James (and hey, if you can’t trust a guy who keeps a giant snake as a pet, who can you trust?) Also, look into finding a tool library in your area, for anything large, expensive, or difficult to find. Your local Habitat for Humanity store will often carry gently used tools as well as building materials, appliances, and furniture; also, check out yard sales. If you know anyone in a trade who is retiring, ask if they are interested in selling any of their tools. Or if you have an older family member who has lots of tools but doesn’t use them anymore, offer to clean and organize their garage, workshop or attic in return for taking some tools home.

MATERIALS

I spent about $1500 on materials. Some of this cost definitely could be reduced by better planning and knowledge; I did end up with a few things I didn’t need, especially parts for the solar shower. Proper planning and measuring are the first line of defense when saving costs on materials. Figure out exactly how much square footage/length/whatever of something (plywood, flooring planks, paint, etc) you will need and purchase accordingly. Accurate measurements are VERY important here! If you have the exact measurements for each piece of a project, you can even figure out in the store how you will be able to cut the pieces from the material with the least amount of waste. Or, figure out the standard sizes for the materials you will use, then plan accordingly, using graph paper to plan out the layout of the cut pieces. For example, a standard piece of plywood is 4’x 8′. For other resources on low-cost building materials, see my post on scrap and reclaimed building materials.

TOW VEHICLE

What you use as a tow vehicle will depend on how much, what distance, an over what terrain you plan to tow the tiny house. For starters, get a good idea of the total weight of the trailer so you can choose a vehicle with a proper towing capacity. Some junk yards may have a truck scale that you can drive your trailer onto and have it weighed; this will have the most accurate results, so it doesn’t hurt to ask around. Then, think about where you’ll be towing the trailer. Will you be towing it short distances, over back roads, or very level terrain? If so, you can go fairly close to your vehicle’s max tow capacity. But if you want to tow long distances, on busy highways, or over hilly terrain, you want to make sure your vehicle has enough power to accelerate fast enough to merge and climb hills. In this situation, also consider getting a truck or SUV with a special towing package (this includes features like towing mirrors, electrical connector, tow hitch, and transmission cooler.) Research the tow capacity of various vehicles, and choose one that fits your needs. If you’re towing your trailer a short distance only, don’t go overboard. For example, a four-cylinder Toyota Tacoma has a tow capacity of 3500 lbs, more than enough for a small house trailer. Choosing a smaller vehicle will ultimately save you money both on purchase and fuel costs. Keep in mind, however, that a truck or truck-based SUV can tow more than a car with equivalent engine displacement due to features like a heavier-duty frame. If you have your vehicle choice narrowed down to a few models, you can often find vehicle-specific discussion forums where people share their experiences with towing and answer questions. As for getting a tow hitch installed, shop around and compare quotes; Uhaul locations are nearly everywhere and offer affordable tow hitch installations. Mine ran to a little under $300 for the hitch receiver, hitch, ball mount, pin, and wiring harness. I would not trust a used tow hitch-don’t take a risk on your house and belongings just to save a buck.

Anyway, good luck, thanks for reading, and, uh, happy budgeting.