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Category Archives: events

Tips about Contracts and your [successful] Couture Business

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As a business operator, and yes this includes artists, dressmakers, couturiers and tailors, we all use contracts, everyone should be aware of and know what a legally binding contract is.

Very few creative types like to talk about them, and like even less to think about them until something goes wrong. The purpose of designing your own contract for your business is not only to secure work and lay out the terms of getting paid, but also planning what would happen if [or when] something doesn’t go to plan.

So, exactly what is a contract? More specifically what are the elements of a legally binding contract. We kind of make and fulfill contracts everyday without realizing it, like agreeing to meet up with friends for lunch and you promise to pay for desserts ‘if’ you all go the restaurant of your choice this time. This is a contract if your friends mutually agree to it – by phone, email or text message. What?!

If one of your friends couldn’t make it to lunch, not really a problem for you, but likely hugely disappointing if no one turned up but you. But what if everyone turned up but you? I’m guessing hard feelings would be one major downside, but you also did break an agreement or rather you breached a contract. Your friends could take you to task over it (in court), especially if they could prove your offer, that you broke your promise and they were put out of pocket as a result! Say what?!

In all seriousness though, that probably wouldn’t happen, but it could be enforceable in a court of Law. [Very briefly, Contract law covers contracts, etc. as differentiated from Criminal Law: conduct perceived as threatening, harmful, or otherwise endangering to the property, health, safety, and moral welfare of people.  But a breach of contract could certainly overlap with breaking a criminal law]. I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t have all the details, but I do know this from my college business law class.

A legally binding contract has 3 crucial elements (plus 2 provisions).

  1. An offer. You offer your couture service or offer your creation for sale [see point 5] personally, online, by email, however you put it out there.
  2. Acceptance. Someone accepts your offer [see point 4], personally, online, by email, however they let you know.
  3. Consideration. There is an exchange of something of value: cash, services, goods or specifically to withhold an exchange of cash, service, or goods.

Provisions:

  1. You must be of legal age of consent, and/or of sound mind and body or fully competent to participate.
  2. And the object must be legal. If what you are selling or buying is illegal, then the contract is not valid or void. The object is not misrepresented.

Both written and verbal agreements are legal. Verbal agreements are legal contracts even though they were not memorialized in a writing. Assuming the contract is valid, the verbal agreement between two parties is binding although it is very hard to prove if it were in dispute. Beware, even emails and text messaging can constitute a legally binding agreement!

The body of a contract also should include essentials like date(s), the names of the signatories, the details, and the ‘what ifs?’ What if something were to go sideways, or someone didn’t fulfill their end of the agreement, such as non-performance or interference with the other party’s performance. This then would become a ‘breach of contract’ or a broken contract.

It’s prudent to identify what happens if your client doesn’t turn up for an appointed fitting, or doesn’t have the money to pay you on time. Or what if your client is unhappy with your work during the process, how can you prevent that from becoming an unsolvable problem. If everyone knows in advance, what the possible problems and consequences are, commonly known to happen from time to time, then all parties do much better in preventing them from arising in the first place.

Informing all parties involved about what is expected of them and what they can expect from you prevents heartache and hardship. Try to avoid being overly wordy, but be clear. No one wants or expects things to go wrong doing business, but it occasionally happens. No one wants a surprise ending, everyone wants what they expected.

Every transaction can be a learning experience. You’ll soon figure out what works best for you, and especially what doesn’t. The path to success really does look like this:

success-wiggle-lines

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Ecole Holt Couture ‘Dress Code’ fashion event

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Ecole Holt Couture is taking summer break, but gearing up for the Fall already!

Hi there! Ecole Holt Couture is on summer break, but not all of us are on vacation just yet! The classes are over for now but the students still have a couple or three weeks to finish up their projects. And even though we are winding down from the year, we are gearing up for our next fashion event in November.

We start planning the next fashion event just after the last one is over and finished. We’ve booked the venue and we’ve got the date – Sunday November 13th, 2016 at Festival Hall Calgary. There is a lot of planning to do though from that point on, most of which doesn’t go into high gear until August. Right now we are sitting down with the people who are our best supporters and getting their input into the plan.

We maintain our event website throughout the year now at http://www.ehcfashionshow.myevent.com/. There we post things like pics from the last show and a few photo albums from past shows so that our visitors can get an idea of what its all about. It gets updated every now and then with the latest information, so if you’ve stopped in at our event site before feel free to drop-in now and again to see what’s new.

Have a look at the video that Tessa and her dad Terry created from our 2015 Ecole Holt Couture Fashion Event. We’re pretty pleased with the result. Cheers! J

EHC 2015 Event Video

 

 

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Happy New Year 2016!

We posted this one year ago, but still a good story to illustrate a point about the value of couture sewing skills…Happy 2016! I’ll leave this one with you as well: Without Craft, inspiration is a mere weed in the wind.

Once upon a time there was a very rich man and his wife spending some quality time together on their private south pacific island. Even with its remoteness it had every modern convenience. Solar panels for electricity, running water, and even 4G Internet access. Everything you could possibly need was there. A beautiful house, airstrip, dock, boat house, deep-sea fishing boat, and several guest cottages on its beaches.

He arrived following several strenuous business trips with his wife, who had completed a major shopping spree from Paris, Milan, London, to Tokyo. There was nothing that the couple could not buy. His wife had just procured lengths of the most elaborately hand-embroidered French silk, the softest Kashmir wool, the most luxurious Italian silk velvet, and the finest English worsted. The best that could be made, very expensive and all quite unique.

Because this man was also very generous he regularly invited friends and relatives to his island, but he also invited strangers from time to time to share in his good fortune. This time he invited three young, and very promising, fashion designers to the island as a reward for their contribution to one of the many charities he supported.

Each of the three individuals saw this opportunity differently. One was very ambitious and viewed each day as potential for new business and so brought an iPhone, laptop, latest look-book, and a few new design ideas to present, just in case. The other viewed this as a good time to get on with a project or two without distractions, and so managed to pack a compact sewing machine, sewing kit (thread, pins and scissors), and some new patterns but decided to investigate locally made materials on the island to experiment with. The third accepted this, as a time to relax and not worry about anything. To absorb, and enjoy this once in a lifetime experience.

While on the island, which was very tiny indeed, it became apparent just how remote it was from civilization. The owners of the island were very hospitable and made time to visit with each of their guests, making sure that everyone was quite comfortable. One night they invited the three young people to dinner at the big house. Nothing but the finest was offered, the freshest fish caught just hours earlier, the best quality vegetables and most exotic fruit flown in from the nearest islands, and the finest wines.

The conversation turned to each guest to find out what their hopes and aspirations were for the future. One was confident that someday they would become world famous, so that everyone would want to own one of their designs. The other was hopeful, that with experience and some help, they would be able to manufacture highly popular collections selling around the world. The third confessed to wanting to be creative every day, to being content, and wanting to make other people happy. The others all sniggered at the third’s response, and privately thought how impractical and unrealistic that would be.

Curiously, the rich man’s wife asked more questions about why this would be a considered career choice. After all, doesn’t one need a lot of money to be able to have everything one’s heart desires? “For instance, we have everything one could possibly want, a good income, good health, and access to the best of everything. This doesn’t come without hard work and sacrifice of course”. All had to agree, and continued to enjoy a pleasant evening of good food, conversation and exchange of ideas.

Later, the rich man’s wife was delighted to show the three young people her exquisite fabric finds, knowing they would share in her excitement. As expected, all three were indeed thrilled. Also, as an almost instant reaction, they offered to design something for her using these fabrics. “Oh, but, I couldn’t just let anyone touch these precious fabrics, only someone with considerable experience”. They asked who she knew, that had such experience. “Well, I don’t really. I’m a bit hesitant about asking anyone!”

The first young designer offered to create the most fashion-forward designs, and would start on it straight away. The second, began to research the latest trends to present. Meanwhile, the third asked questions about what the rich man’s wife dreamed for herself, what were her requirements for the coming year, and what type of things she loves to wear. “This is all wonderful, but it still leaves the dilemma of who will make these amazing designs for me?”

Not to worry the first designer said, “I have some really good people behind me who will get it done right”, the second designer remarked, “I will make it myself, it won’t take long. I can usually run things up in a few hours, a couple of days at most!” The third’s reply was “I would love to make it for you, it will take some time. I want to make sure everything fits just right, and makes you look marvelous. Your fabrics will deserve the utmost attention, for the most part they will be hand-sewn”.

That night a tropical storm knocked out the 4G Internet access, the docks were damaged, and the airstrip was littered with debris from broken branches. Fuel supplies were so low that the generators couldn’t be run for more than just the bare essentials – such as pumping fresh water. Repairs would take some time.

The first designer conceded, “Well that pretty much finishes my plans, without the internet I can’t communicate with my team, my laptop battery is low and in need of recharging, but I can’t do it without electricity”. The second designer complained that without power the sewing machine was useless, and it was too late to order patterns on-line. The third said, “No problem. Let’s get started”.

In wonderment, the rich man’s wife asked how this is possible without any equipment! “I have my hands, I never travel without my emergency sewing kit, and if you have a ball of string somewhere, that’s all I need.” And so proceeded to take her measurements with the ball of string, sketched some ideas on paper for her approval, and drafted the patterns on old bed sheets. After assembling the mock-up designs, they were fitted exactly to her figure. Then used as the pattern to cut her prized fabrics.

During the following days, the rich man’s wife witnessed how the garments were being created piece by piece, all with the greatest care and attention to detail. Every pattern was skillfully matched at each seam. The garments were fitted a few times making sure they were comfortable and flattering to her figure. Then – one day the clothes were complete! “Oh my, I have never in my life seen such craftsmanship, such beauty, but mostly I have not felt so comfortable in my clothes, and felt so good about the way they make me look! I could see your joy while you worked, and why you love creating such wonderful things! How can I thank you enough for what you have done for me?” The young Couturier replied, “The opportunity you’ve given me has been priceless! Here is a detailed invoice of what you have received in exchange for my expertise.” The rich man’s wife never again wanted what everyone else could buy! Do you?

(Not The End) Just The Beginning – Cheers J

Ecole Holt Couture 2015 Fashion Event opening welcome

Ecole Holt Couture 2015 Fashion Event opening welcome

 

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Many Thanks and Plan B │ Organizing Fashion Events 13 Tips for Success

Event planning is a piece of cake – if you’re referring to ‘mille-feuille’, French for ‘a thousand leaves’. What we’ve learned over the past five years is just how extraordinarily fortunate we’ve been to enlist competent supportive individuals, and develop solid partnerships. Professionalism, artisanship, reliability, availability, generosity, and willingness all matter.

EHC’s fashion event fundraisers are held on Sunday afternoons and therefore reflect a more relaxed, but no less sophisticated event. As a small private vocational school, our reliance on volunteers is quite significant. The love of doing it, donated time and expertise, or taking an opportunity to gain experience and exposure, are all motivators.

Here are 13 things that we’ve experienced.

1. We’re extremely fortunate to have a culture of volunteerism in our city. Organizers need to take good care of their volunteers, a large portion of them are made up of skilled and willing individuals. Everyone generally functions better when they know what to expect and what is expected of them, so providing volunteers with an itinerary full of relevant details a few days before the event is effort well invested.

2. Choosing the right venue, space for staging and seating are obviously essential. Often technicians and other behind the scenes people struggle with tight spaces, no place to sit down, few to zero refreshments, poor lighting and insufficient electrical sources, not to mention accessibility issues and parking near the venue is overlooked – don’t forget them in your plan.

3. Start planning early, as far as a year ahead of time. Set the date first, decide on the theme, book the venue and secure it with a refundable deposit. Get the photo shoot done for the graphic work and marketing. Book the photographer/videographer, musicians, staging people and caterers (some might require deposits at time of booking). Compile your own sponsorship package to initiate the sponsorship drive.

4. Choose and book your preferred hairstylists and makeup artists early. They are probably in high demand and appreciate advance requests whether they are working full-time or are free-lance operators. Free-lance doesn’t imply free time any time; it means they have chosen to work according to a schedule outside the norm.

5. Interestingly, the fun part of the organizing a fashion show comes late in the process. Choosing the looks, the garments, the models, the music and the menus can be done a couple of months to a few weeks before the event. Printing up final guest lists and programs is usually done only hours before the event.

6. In your show day schedule, allow 1 to 1 1/2 hours preparation for hair and makeup for each model. Provide healthy option, small portion nosh, and plenty of drinking water for the stylist and models as they are usually at the venue for very long hours. Strictly avoid sticky foods and foods that are prone to staining fabrics. You’d be appalled at how often simply providing refreshments for models and stylists, (and volunteers) is overlooked at fashion events.

7. Provide private space for hair stylists, makeup artists and models. Some natural light, plenty of electrical outlets, layout space for equipment for each stylist to work on a seated model, are musts.

8. Don’t forget racks for garments to be spaced and hung properly. Forget the iron, and go for a steamer if you must. Not all dressers are familiar with fabric characteristics and can inadvertently cause disaster trying to help. Garments should be properly pressed prior to the show and transported with care in zipped garment bags long enough for the entire piece to hang freely at the hemline. Shoes should be transported in clear plastic shoe boxes to identify them quickly and protect them from potential damage. Insert all accessories in labelled zip lock bags, one for each model per look for the dresser to handle and track.

9. Have one dresser per model, and if possible have one assistant per dresser to re-hang garments and replace accessories after each look is shown. A lot of damage caused to garments, lost earning backs, and misplaced items, happens during the frenzy of undressing, rather than the dressing. Pack an emergency sewing kit with thread, needles, thimble, scissors, safety pins, clear nail polish, and band-aids.

10. Set up a storyboard (runway lineup) that is clearly posted with a photo in order of appearance each of model name and accessories per look where the models, dressers, and stage manager can all reference it. A personable and firm stage manager is invaluable!

11. Another insider tip to working these events is that they are all ‘hurry up and wait’ affairs. The venue is set up quickly, with various experts assembling in sequence. Be sensitive, helping hands are extremely useful when needed and a bit of a nuisance when surplus to immediate requirement.

12. Everyone needs a break and people do go missing during long wait breaks, but they should enlist a temporary replacement during their absence, or at least be tethered to a mobile phone switched ‘on’ as common courtesy. There is nothing more frustrating to a team leader than a member who goes AWOL. Unfortunately the reputation of those individuals is not easily forgotten.

13. One of the finer points is to say thank you, be thankful and let your team and supporters know that they are appreciated. If you are genuine, it is perceived as such.

The other side of fundraising events is the marketing, contacting sponsors, obtaining donations, gathering gift certificates, procuring door prizes, hosting raffles and silent auctions, and a complete mystery to me best handled by our event partner. Having a great partner is like having a right hand; for maximum efficiency, you need both a right and a left. I’m a believer, so I’m saying we’ve been ‘Blessed’ with a great partner. Nonetheless – for best results managing efficient and effective communication is crucial to success.

One final note is to have a Plan B. It isn’t mandatory to have a completed Plan B, but making notes and keeping options in the back of your head is. At each event something will go wrong at some stage. One year our photographer couldn’t make it, once our key speaker cancelled at the eleventh hour, one year extreme cold with a huge snowstorm slowed everything down, another year our modular display wall got lost in transit never to arrive, and people do become ill at the last minute. So, keep your contacts updated and your relationships healthy.

No matter how well it all turns out, someone will lose their car keys during the cleanup. Cheers! J

P1100030

 

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Ecole Holt Couture 2014 Presents – Youtube video trailer

Watch Video

Watch Video

At EHC we are very fortunate to have talented students with varied skills. ‘You’re Invited’ was created by one such student, Amy Zia, as a light-hearted look at what we do as couturiers! But, don’t be fooled, what we do is highly professional whether for special occasions or to create a functional and personal business wardrobe.

This fashion event is created to help raise awareness and funds for Making Changes Association, who provides hundreds and hundreds of women with functional and appropriate work wardrobes each year. Their clients are all making the effort to re-enter the workforce, and perhaps have few resources to do so.

Making Changes programs include guidance on writing resumes, and networking to gain employment, to those who perhaps may never have had to provide these qualifications before.

The wardrobes that are provided are all donated, recycled, reused, and up-cycled from high quality garments that are either brand new or gently used, giving the garments a new life as well.

So although, EHC teaches the skills to create brand new custom couture made garments, we support, believe in what and how Making Changes not only uses perfectly good clothing as their main program resource, but

More importantly, we support and share their values in how they treat women and teens struggling to improve their life situations, by treating them like family. Almost all of the day to day operations are handled by wonderful volunteers who have time and expertise to share.

You are invited, to attend this event! Just click on ‘buy tickets‘, and join us in supporting this wonderful organization.
Ecole Holt Couture School will also have a booth at the event if you would like to know more about us, and become part of this wonderful highly skilled, hand-made and crafted market!

If you can’t start the video, please copy and paste the URL into your preferred browser! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phgn-NzI-Ls
Enjoy and see you at the event on Sunday November 16th! – cheers J.

To get ahead you need to get started.

To get ahead you need to get started.

 

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Me a model figure? Get real!

Kate Moss

Kate Moss – Super model wearing strapless summer beach frock

Ecole Holt Couture challenges the notion that couture made or tailor made garments should be presented by professional models on its runway.

Each year we hear a few strong opinions following EHC’s annual fashion event on this subject. And they make a valid point. If you want to attract your market sector, sell your designs or collections, you need to appeal to your audience’s strong desire to be this ‘beautiful’, ‘in’, ‘thin’, and ‘fashionable’ etc. so they will buy into your conceptualized vision.

Through all types of media, this is how style and fashion is essentially sold. Sample sized garments for each new collection are created specifically for professional models to display in incredulous theatrical settings.  You only need to open a style magazine or watch a fashion video to understand what I mean.

An advantage to using professional models is that they are well practiced walking the runway with supreme confidence implying that every woman should or will look this way when they wear this garment. Models are a predictable size, usually 5’8” – 6’0” (175 cm) tall, a size 0 – 6, age thirteen to twenty-two, right?

I love theater, and it is most entertaining!  But, as couturiers and tailors we take particular issue with the popular belief that most of us and you:  look all wrong, have the wrong hair, walk all wrong, are the wrong shapes, or are the wrong age, unless you aspire to or do look like the model image. Yes, glamor is still a tantalizing fantasy, but not the reality of most people’s lives.

Please tell me if you really walk the aisles at your office, sit at your computer, take the bus or drive to work, take your children to school, attend a business meeting, arrive at the restaurant or your friend’s wedding ‘strutting your stuff’ like professional models do on the runway? I thought not.

Couture and tailor made (fashion) both exquisite and practical is essentially different. It is the voice and vision of authenticity. Authenticity of your style, shape and personality.  Because, couture is created specifically for you, your vision, your lifestyle needs, and your shape and curves, the best model of course, will be you.

Here is some juicy insider knowledge. Collections shown on the runway or through look-books must ultimately sell themselves in shops. They must have superior ‘hanger appeal’, meaning they must grab your attention whilst hanging on the rail or over the mannequin, and the most effective way to achieve this is to produce styles that have little extra shape or size, and no complications in them.

How is this different from true Couture or tailored garments? It is well known, and most obviously seen when on the hanger, that couture made or tailor made garments truly have the worst hanger appeal! Why so? Garments fitting your shape and around your curves, and sometimes complex in construction, absolutely need to be filled-out by your body to show at their best.

At Ecole Holt Couture’s fashion event each year the students model garments they’ve made purposely for themselves or for their client model, to fit their own unique shape and not a typical model ‘size’.

The deliberate aim of using non-professional models is to affirm that couture made and tailor made is intended as exclusively for ‘you’. No matter what your unique shape, age, and lifestyle, you always look your best when the fashion you wear fits you well, suiting your personal style and makes you feel comfortable within your own skin. This in turn produces genuine self-confidence, helps you stand apart from the crowd reflecting your wonderful and beautiful true self – a concept everyone can relate to.

Although the projects shown on EHC’s runway are firmly part of the learning program in the curriculum, each student’s creations are completely unique in their presentation. The garments reflect students own personal style. We encourage you to follow the students’ progress through EHC training, pay attention to their developing skills and creativity. They will one day be the ‘designer makers’ helping you to create your own unique look. True couture and bespoke tailoring is not just for the rich and famous, it is for you!

Kelsey in Dress Code

Dress Code – Kelsey showing one first year robe project: brief – must be quality 100% cotton flannel, capped seaming, perfectly pattern matched, gladiator style shoulders, custom quilted shawl collar and cuffs, patch pockets, self twisted thread detailing, etc.

Ecole Holt Couture 'Dress Code' fashion event

Ecole Holt Couture ‘Dress Code’ fashion event

 

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Creativity everywhere! within everyone!

Creativity everywhere! within everyone!

Over the next few days, EHC will be doing its post mortum of Dress Code – this year’s title for our annual Fashion Event Fundraiser for Making Changes Association Calgary, which also raises awareness of the School and features work of the current students and where they are at in terms of progress and the curriculum.

Looking back over the day, it was a whirl of excitement, joy, expectation and successes. The space was packed. Latino flavoured music of ‘Los Morenos’ engaged guests, all the seats were taken – through the tremendous support of our partners and sponsors, all of which does not happen without the +or- 60 volunteers giving time and lending talents to the event.

The VIP Event one hour before the runway show, was a new feature this year at which the VIP ticket holders had the rare opportunity to go behind the scenes get up close with all the couture garments and the students, see how we prepare for a runway show, have some quiet time with the sponsors, have a good look at all the great prize baskets to be won, drink champagne and enjoy chocolate covered strawberries, shake hands with and meet the 2013 Calgary Stampede Queen and Princesses Calgary’s Royalty and Ambassadors to the world, and listen to our guest speaker Sarah Vann (Singer. Therapist. Writer. Music Therapist. Performer) talk about Creativity – perfect fit with EHC and really, what you (can) do everyday.

Sarah delivered a moving talk about how creativity lives within us and how it lives with her daily not only through her music but through hundreds of children. It was worth sharing with you….click on the pic below and go directly to Sarah’s own blog accompanied by her music, or read below….

Sarah Vann – Creativity in Our Daily Lives

The first time I met Jutta was at a volunteer appreciation dinner at the Lougheed House Historic Site 2 years ago. Before leaving for that particular night, a girlfriend of mine had introduced me to the concept that she had begun to adopt, where she would head out to an social event where she knew she’d be meeting a lot of people and intentionally avoid the question “what do you do?”. This is a safe question. It’s something many of us ask someone we’ve never met before as a fallback to asking anything more intimate. It’s a non-threatening subject and the answer either carries the conversation forward or leaves it writhing in the dust.

I decided that night that I would employ this technique. It would force me to ask questions of people that would surprise and, hopefully, engage us beyond our definition as workers in the world.

Jutta sat down beside me a red dress – which you always notice, no matter the woman, no matter the cut-sometimes because of the woman, sometimes because of the cut- “What a beautiful dress” I commented. “Where did you buy it?” “I made it”, she said. “What do you do?” I asked.

So. I failed. At an experiment. And gained great success with an important personal and professional relationship. She told me about EHC which she ran with her mother and sister. She told me where it was and how it worked, that they were in their first years of the school and hoping to grow it into a crucial and important part of Calgary fashion.

Meeting Jutta coincided with my reading of “The War of Art”, a wildly inspiring book written by Stephen Pressfield that talked about a force that exists within us called Resistance, how we can combat it and what lies beyond that point for us. To quote:

The Unlived Life
Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.
Have you ever brought home a treadmill and let it gather dust in the attic? Ever resolved on a diet, a course of yoga, a meditation practice? Have you ever felt a call to embark upon a spiritual practice, dedicate yourself to a humanitarian calling, commit your life to the service of others? Have you ever wanted to be a mother, a doctor, an advocate for the weak and helpless; to run for office, crusade for the planet, campaign for world peace or to preserve the environment? Late at night have you experienced a vision of the person you might become, the work you could accomplish, the realized being you were meant to be? Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is.

Maybe there are some of you can relate or even see yourselves in some of the analogies and comparisons. Maybe not. If not, congratulations. You are doing 1000 things right.

Whatever creativity we can put in our lives makes us better because of its ability to open us to inspiration and our defuse our judgment and cynicism.

My calling as a music therapist at the Children’s Hospital here in Calgary requires me to write music on the spot, 4 days a week for every age, demographic, nationality and personality you can imagine. The skills I have developed in my lifetime allow me to walk into a room and read each person to figure out what the mood at that moment is, whether the child has any interest in anything I might be holding in my arms (guitar/ukelele/rainstick), if the English language is useless in this environment, whether mom/dad/grandma/grandpa could use a break from the prison cell that a hospital room can become.

We might play instruments without any direction. We might look up YouTube videos on the iPad. We might sing endless versions of twinkle twinkle or you are my sunshine or down by the bay or baby beluga. I might hold a round of chimes over an infant’s head for 15 minutes while they incessantly bat at it with their hands. There are an infinite number of musical possibilities available in those moments, only limited by my tools and imagination.

I have spent time with a child whose creative cup got filled by recording an Eagles song from the original recording through the microphone on my computer. So the same song put through a microphone.

I met a child whose favorite sound was that of an air raid siren in 100 different forms.

I have a client currently who constantly educates me on the prevalence of anime in the eastern world.

I have a colleague whose favorite sound is that of a drumstick screaming along the top of a ride cymbal.

I have recordings of my nephew making up songs about airplanes and pies in the skies.

I have a photographer friend who believes that your image becomes public property as soon as you hit the sidewalk. (This was news to me.)

This past week alone, I spent some time with a 3 year old who has been on isolation in his room for over a month. We played instruments and sang a few songs, played a few finger games. His play area has recently expanded into their bathroom, where the shower is wheelchair accessible, (so no tub). His mom (young, stoic, unfailingly patient) had taken a bed sheet and hooked it around the shower head, tied one corner to the handrail on the wall and brought in the medical waste receptacle to tuck another corner behind. She had created a credible and perfect fort.

After he gestured me in (I became very conscious of the heels I had chosen to wear that day) and crawled in behind me(and reclined onto the couch cushions laid on the floor), we sat and I chatted. “this is your fort?” “yep” “it’s pretty great” “yeah” “Did your mom build it?” “yeah”. His arms were flopped out open on either side of him and he stared up at the rooftop of the sheet. Completely relaxed in his own private refuge.

When relaying this story to a friend of mine, she said “isn’t it incredible, the creativity of the human spirit?” I asked her what she meant. “that that mother would find the willpower and ability in an unbelievably dire situation to look at a shower space and say ‘that would make a perfect fort’”.

My work requires me to be creative, to reach further, to find ways to distract my patients from the wretchedness that being in a hospital encompasses. I have learned and found my strength and patience and poise and peace in the mothers and the fathers of my patients.

I am in a place 4 days a week that puts on the rack my creative capacity, my belief in the human spirit and the fabric of my soul. And I know how important it is that I carry on doing this. Not even for the families I work with, but for my own sense of self and doing what it is that I was placed on this earth to do.

Placing yourself in a creative place can feel scary and uncomfortable. It’s risky. We say things to ourselves that we would never let another say to us. The demons come out to play. The ones who say “what’s the point? Who will love it besides you? There’s nothing to pursue there” “why?”

And none of it’s true. You are the only one who decides what role creativity will play in your life.

I have listened to young women talk about how playing music has saved them from a bottomless pit of self-hatred that only an eating disorder can create. I have met a father who, after losing his son to cancer (and having no prior music experience), couldn’t stop writing songs.

I meet artists that create on sketchpads, iPads, in craft lounges and garages. I have met entrepreneurs who spend hours in front of their sewing machines in their desire to create what pristine image exists in their head. I have been witness to live art, bad art, musical wretchedness and inspired musicianship. I have tasted failed baking experiments (some my own) and been to quilting exhibits in foreign countries. I have seen more bad tattoos than you could shake a stick at. I have also seen some that render me speechless.

Nothing makes me happier than when I find out someone is creating. That someone is trying. That someone is taking a risk.

How I create in my work has leaked endlessly into my daily life. Everyone here has fallen down some version of an internet wormhole. You find yourself at 3:00 in the morning drooling over a Victorian trumeau mirror that someone created using an ikea full length and 8 different kinds of mouldings from home depot.

Recently I saw a project that I liked through a link on apartment therapy of a pallet that had been ripped apart and nailed back together as a sign that read “Believe there is good in the world”. The letters had been painted in different colors so that “Be the good” stood out just slightly.

I found a project where someone had taken a beat up coffee table, lain a piece of lace over it and spray painted over it, leaving a beautiful pattern.

Technology has offered us an infinite number of ways to be creative and it seems there is a higher demand for that ability than ever before. In 2 years the number of instagram users grew a 1000x over from 100,000 to 100,000,000.

People are constantly blogging and vlogging about their creative lives. Pinterest gained 30 million users in a year. You can find the DIY instructions online for everything from building a perfect Lego replica of the Starship Enterprise to the construction of lady Gaga’s meat dress. 50,000 blogs are started every day.

Obviously there is a hunger out there not only to create but also to share the creative experience. To show our accomplishments, however small, to a community that we have sought out.

There are 2 reasons that I love making music with children.

Firstly, they are fearless. And that makes ME fearless. They have not yet had someone communicate to them “that is not good enough. You shouldn’t do that.”

Secondly, music carries only the element of fun. There is no pressure to learn or be bettered by this experience. There’s no concept of skill or ability or what you should or shouldn’t try. There is only music. There is only creativity.

If only such simplicity could be put back inside of us. If only we had the unburdened and shiny outlook that only children seem to possess.

I’m willing to bet that we do.

And it’s not a matter of time or space or availability or inspiration. It’s just a matter of will.

©Sarah Vann 2012

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