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Words about words, brands, names and naming, and the creative process.

#sparkchamber 060319 — Jeff Woodrow

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With pure delight, #sparkchamber welcomes renaissance man Jeff Woodrow. Who is Woodrow? He likes to make things out of wood. He draws people sleeping on the subways, and writes fictional stories about their moments of glory. He dabbles in the ukulele and he knows eight songs. He directs and animates music videos. He paints what’s on his mind. He’s a social entrepreneur, a sustainable designer, and educator — he teaches innovation and design at the United World College of Thailand. He ties his own bowtie, takes care of his shoes, and he occasionally smokes a pipe. He takes portraits of strangers, but always asks their permission first. He learned how to dunk a basketball at the age of 35. He once discussed market trends with Prince Charles. He’s a man of integrity, he’s a man of routines. On Sundays he shaves with a cut-throat razor. He writes and illustrates children’s books. He can do 100 pushups — in a row. He was voted top gentleman in his hockey league. He was born and raised in Ontario Canada, and has an honors fine arts degree from the University of Waterloo, a post-graduate diploma in film from Sheridan College, a degree in Technical Education from Queens University, and a Master of Inclusive Design from the OCAD. The prime minister asked to take a photo together. He meditates. He uses a brief case. He’s a caring husband and a committed father. He is a life-long learner. 

Each week he tries and completes a new project, typically posted on Sunday evenings on both Facebook and Instagram. Stay tuned. There are many great things to come!

1.] Where do ideas come from?

Contrary to popular belief, I believe creativity is not an inherent trait you are born with, rather a skill that can be learned with great practice and dedication. I often hear students say they are not creative but I think in actuality what they mean to say is that they just don’t have a lot of experience with creativity. Ideas are not just floating around waiting for people to grab them, you have to work for them, you have to earn them. Here is a challenge -—grab yourself an egg timer, set it for 15 minutes. Work in the medium of your choice [but be open to experimenting with new mediums] and produce something in those 15 minutes. Stop, reset, repeat. In one hour you will have created 4 pieces and they may all suck, but that is not the point. The aim is mass production. The more you produce, the more practice you get, the more creative you become. Over the course of a week you should have 28 pieces and there is bound to be something in there that is half decent. Imagine doing that for an entire month? It is about volume and being able to let go. Art is never really finished anyways, it is merely abandoned. Most people have a hard time letting go. Let it go. Move on. Keep creating. Repeat.

2.] What is the itch you are scratching?

The older I get the less I know. That’s all I know. I have a book filled with ideas, ideas that I want to bring to life. My challenge is time. I work full time and have three boys aged three and under. My life is insane but creating is a compulsion. It keeps me balanced and I need it in my life, so I make the time to create. It helps that I have a very supportive wife who is an honest critic. In the end, I produce work for myself.

3.] Early bird or night owl? Tortoise or hare?

I leave the house at 6:07am and return at 6:02pm. I come home hang out with my boys, bed bath and a wrestling match takes us to 7:34pm. Dinner followed by a clean-up and a catch-up with my wife takes me to 8:32pm. This leaves me with just over 1 hour a day to produce work. You only really appreciate time once you have it taken away from you. I have learned to become very efficient, and even after an exhausting day, I work hard to stay focused. The evening is not my optimal flow time, but I have learned to adapt. I think that my greatest strengths are self-discipline and my ability to persist, traits which again, I believe can be learned. I have a little studio [see facebook for a 360º view] and that is my space. I eliminate distractions and just put my head down until I eventually hear a little voice from the other room telling me it is time to go to bed.

4.] How do you know when you are done?

You are never finished [as mentioned above]. There are just levels of abandonment. I used to spend hours agonizing over the details, only to eventually realize that those details are hardly ever noticed. Volume, efficiency and quality is the balance I try and strive for in my work. Egg timer!

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