Jun 13, 2012

Creativity in Childhood with Melanie Biehle

Today I am launching a brand new summer series here where I'm interviewing creative professionals that inspire me. I'm asking them, how they expressed their creativity as a child and what inspires them now. My goal with this series is to learn about what influenced creative people early in life. In doing so, I think we'll all learn how to better cultivate creativity in our own children. 

My first guest is the dynamic Melanie Biehle of the popular blog Inward Facing Girl. I have a "bucket list" affectionately called "Awesome People I Would Like to Meet in Person One Day" and Melanie is at the top of that list. Her photography and design talent are beyond amazing (she'll have you at hello) and her ability to inspire other creatives is what makes her so well loved. To top it off, Melanie does all she does while being a mother to her adorable son. 

Thanks so much Melanie! 

1. What were your childhood experiences that influenced your creativity? 
Can you tell us about them?

I think I was really a child of the media. I was very into TV, books, and Tiger Beat at an early age, and probably spent too much time immersed in these things. I loved Cher. I had a Cher doll. My first concert was Sonny & Cher...I was 2. I was also obsessed with Charlie's Angels. I even carried a cap gun in my purse in case I needed to fight crime...I was 7. See what I mean? So, yeah... I'm still attracted to media and pop culture, then branched out to 
art, design, and photography from there.

2. Can you remember the specifics about something creative you did as a child?

I remember getting my first camera when I was in 5th grade. Thanks, Santa! It was a Polaroid OneStep just like this one. I mostly took photographs of my friends and family. Here's one of my favorite shots of my brother and cousin. 
I don't remember taking photographs all of the time, but I do remember enjoying it. I loved the instant gratification of Polaroids...how I could capture a moment and see it right away. That's probably why I love my digital camera and I'm not really interested in using a film camera and learning about darkrooms.

3. What inspires you creatively today? Are there objects in your home (or places in your area) or are there any books that you find yourself referencing when you need inspiration?

EVERYTHING! I really feel like that sometimes. Mostly, just being out in the world and engaging with it and the people who live in it. Travel, or even exploring new places close to home inspires me. I get inspired by talking to other bloggers, photographers, artists, and designers, especially women. Going to art museums, galleries, or bookstores is also very inspiring. Then there's all of the input that inspires me - blogs, Interest, newsletters I subscribe to, UPPERCASEAnthology, and Kinfolk. It's actually overwhelming most of the time.

4. Now that we know what influenced you as a child and some of the specific creative things you did, can you tell me how you generally expressed your creativity when you were young?

I think I mostly did it through pretend play. I didn't do a lot of art projects or anything like that, but I would constantly make up fun things for my Barbies to do at their New York Penthouse, their yacht, or their ski lodge. Cher had to put on concerts (sometimes with Donny & Marie), Farrah Fawcett had to be fabulous, and Wonder Woman had to fight crime, so naturally they needed awesome places to live. I don't remember really making too many things as a kid. I did like creating things with my Lite Brite and Spirograph though. 

5. If you could be a kid again for one day, what would you love to do? 

This one is easy. Spend the entire day playing with my younger brother. He died in 1994, when he was 21 and I was 24. If I could go back to any time in my life again, it would be sometime when I could hang out with him. If I do learn how to time travel (and believe me, I'd love to), I hope that the day I revisit is not the one where he and my cousin smashed into my Barbie penthouse with my Bionic Woman car. That day sucked. Any Christmas Eve would be great though. We were so excited that Santa was coming, that it was often impossible to sleep. We'd sneak into each other's rooms and whisper and laugh nearly all night long.

6. What advice would you give to a parent who is hoping to encourage a creative child?

Take them out and expose them to the world. Show them different things and encourage their curiosity. Let them stomp in puddles, "help" in the kitchen, and get messy. Read to them. Ask them to tell you stories about what could happen next. Don't be so quick to show them the "right" way to do something - let them try their own approaches first and ask you for help if they need it. Don't be afraid to take them to art museums and galleries. You'll probably have to say, "This art isn't for touching, it's just for us to look at" a lot, but it could be something that your child really enjoys. Have lots of art supplies on hand at home and don't be afraid to drag them out because of how messy it could be. If your child likes to draw or paint, try to help them understand that it's okay if their work doesn't look like everyone else's. As Marisol would say to Ramon in Ish by Peter Reynolds, "It may not look exactly like a vase, but it's vase-ish." Vase-ish can be awesome.

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Susan Anderson said...

What an interesting interview!

My DIL has done so well with allowing her children to express their creativity. As have you, my friend!

And apparently, YOUR friend has done and is doing the same...

Lucky kids with moms who "get it."


Paloma said...

Interesting interview! I am happy she mentioned the camera... I gave a camera to my 3 yr. old and she loves taking pictures... now, wherever we go... she takes pictures of hubby and I ... people look at our little 3 yr. old with surprise as she is very confident taking pictures and even telling us "where to stand" and things like that... how cool! Loved it! Thank you for sharing!

sheri said...

If I had that bucket list, Melanie AND you would be at the tippy top! I love this series idea and you couldn't have picked a better person to launch! Looking forward to seeing more amazing people here!

Caroline said...

Sue, Paloma and Sheri--I was so excited about this because I firmly believe that most creative people had that little seed planted somewhere in the beginning at childhood. I've met so many writers, designers, artists and even people in showbiz who all expressed themselves creatively --in many different ways as children. I also firmly believe that people who are able to embrace their creativity, are able to cope with life's challenges a little better. For some reason, having that skill (which I believe is something ANYONE can acquire) provides an outlet for expression which I feel is vital for us all.

Melanie was the perfect person to launch this new series and I was seriously just so excited she said yes. She's completely awesome.

Unknown said...

What a great idea for a series! I'm excited to read more and thrilled to have Inward Facing Girl to follow now!

Lisa said...

I adore Melanie and her blog, and was so excited to find this interview! I'm already a big fan of this new summer series :) If I had kids, I'd completely agree with Melanie's approach on creativity. Beautiful interview - thank you for sharing!