Sometimes being a creative means being brave. Brave enough to know that you can go from using your mother’s clothespins as Lego blocks to being the Creative Director at one of the top local menswear brands to one day possibly working at Vogue.
We had an interesting conversation with the effervescent Cournelius Hector - Creative Director, Fashion Designer, Television Producer, about how courage, discipline and determination help define his creative path.
Cover photo by: Nikeisha.
How do you define creativity and what does it mean to you?
Creativity is to make the complicated simple in elegant fashion. In my personal opinion, being creative means solving a problem in a new way. It means changing one’s perspective.
Being creative means taking risks, ignoring doubt and facing fears. It means breaking with routine and doing something different for the sake of doing something different. It involves mapping out a thousand different routes to reach one destination. It means challenging yourself every day.
Being creative means searching for inspiration in even the most mundane places. It means you’re asking stupid questions. It means creating without critiquing. Being creative means, you know how to find the similarities and differences between two completely random ideas (which I enjoy as a creative).
Being creative means, you’re thinking.
How much of your creative ability do you think is innate? Or is your creativity a skill that you have developed?
Both. Everyone is born with some amount of creativity.
Many people question whether creativity can be taught and learned. They believe that creative abilities are fixed, like ‘dey eye colour’, and can’t be changed. They think that if they aren’t currently creative, there is no way to increase their ability to come up with innovative ideas. I couldn’t disagree more. There is a particular set of methods and environmental factors that can be used to enhance your imagination, and by optimising these variables, your creativity naturally increases. Unfortunately, these tools are rarely presented in a formalised way. As a result, creativity appears to most people to be something magical rather than the natural consequence of a clear set of processes and conditions.
Creativity can be learned; it is a process that we can repeat, and in that repetition, we find growth. Every one of us possesses the ability to be creative, regardless of the suppression that ability has endured over time. If you practice something with purpose and pattern, you will find that it’s not only getting easier, but you’re becoming pretty good at it. We could master it like a craft, in some small part, perhaps we were born that way.
When did you realise that you wanted to express your creativity? Was it encouraged by others (e.g., parents)?
Oh, lawd oh!!! What a GREAT question – you know what? It’s a question I can’t recall ever being asked. However, I believe my creativity spawned out of necessity.
As a child I wasn’t spoiled with many toys and gifts, as my single parent, Mom was unable to provide them for me. This lack encouraged my imagination to develop in such a way that I would collect my mother’s clothespins and use them as one would use Lego blocks. I would also use dated newspapers to create boats, planes, etc. From there, I found myself drawing and creating stories for my comic books. After that, my interests in creative elements increased into my teens.
What is your standard for evaluating your creative work and the works of other people? Do you think that monetary rewards can be compatible with creativity in general? Are financial rewards relevant to your projects?
Art is subjective. Two people can view the same image or read the same words and take away two very different messages. Evaluating the creative work of yourself and others means being objective with the creative process/outcome. There are a few questions I frequently ask myself and others (even doh people does be realllllllll sensitive):
Is it born out of insight versus a functional set of features and benefits?
Is the work truly differentiating versus is it playing it safe?
Can the product effectively stand on its own in the absence of explanation?
Can the product be ‘socialised’ and shared by intended targets to generate earned reach and frequency?
Does it inspire action or a reaction?
‘Leh we doh play we self’, in this life we all need money. Some creatives are fortunate enough that their creative product/skills produce regular income, but there are others who work for the love of a challenge and the feeling of accomplishment.
Financial rewards are relevant to my projects because they place increased value on what is produced. If someone says, “Treat your creative practice like a business,” chances are, you probably ‘open yuh mouth BIG’ a little. Why? Well, we’re all implicitly taught one specific concept of ‘business’, and it generally refers to jobs in finance, engineering, law institutions, etc. Yuh know, the ones with guys in fancy suits, shaking hands and signing papers.
At its core, a business is a structure where you provide goods and/or services and receive money in exchange. This means your creative practice is a business. Undercharging is one of the easiest traps for creative people to fall into, because you don’t want to be seen as greedy, and you also genuinely don’t believe other people would pay a high price for your work. In reality, a higher rate telegraphs that you know your own value and that you’re business-savvy.
Do you think the views of other people influence your perception and evaluation of your creative endeavours? What role do you believe the culture that you live in plays in your creative efforts?
Once you’re in the practice of exposing your creativity socially, creatives must be honest with themselves and confess that the views of others can definitely affect their artistic expression/product.
We live in a land where ‘peekong’, bacchanal’ and criticism are socially embedded within our culture. Although in my opinion, you shouldn’t take it personally. It’s not about you; it’s about your work. As creatives, we all need to find a safe distance from our creative work not to feel personally attacked when they tell us that, for whatever reason, it just doesn’t work for them. Release it and drink some mauby. Instead of sitting there vex, make an effort to really listen to what they’re saying – sift and take what is necessary to improve your work.
Culture is the general expression of humanity, the expression of its creativity. Culture is linked to meaning, knowledge, talents, industries, civilisation and values. Trinbagonian and Caribbean culture plays a significant role in what inspires us and what we create. Culture-based creativity helps to promote well-being, to create a lifestyle, to enrich the act of consumption, to stimulate confidence in communities and social cohesion.
Does your creative work come easily or do you struggle with your ideas? What obstacles (if any) do you experience when you are creating? If you do face obstacles, how do you get past them?
There are definitely moments when it’s difficult to generate creative thoughts. Yes, it happens to us all. However, when I want to encourage creativity, it helps to know what deters or hampers it from happening. Factors that limit my creative behaviour include:
Lack of Direction
Fear of Ridicule
Fear of Criticism
Lack of Funding
Striving for Constancy
Passive vs Proactive Thinking
Rationalising and Justifying
My solutions: I challenge myself to escape the ‘tyranny of reason’ and explore off-the-wall ideas that are counterintuitive. I challenge assumptions, have a dialogue with consumers and conduct research to verify my assumptions. Also, I try to understand the emotional connection a consumer has with my product or service. And finally, I don’t allow negative judgments or thinking within my space.
Is there something that you do to put yourself into a creative state of mind? If so, what? How do you make the leap from a “Spark” in your head to the action you produce?
Gathering my creative state of mind is simple. I place things in my space that creates curiosity and surprise, such as mantras, quotes, colours, art, photos on a physical and digital inspiration board. Every time I find an image or a thing that sparks inspiration to me, I tack it to this board.
Having an inspirational board definitely streamlines my thoughts and fosters greater conceptualisation, which is critical to designing fashion and other projects.
Was the way you express your creativity now always your ambition? If so, when did you know for sure?
No, fashion and television were always my ambition, but in my early 20’s I succumbed to social and parental pressures of doing things to get ‘ah good work/job’, as creative fields were always riddled with the impression of vagrancy or being poor. By 25, it was clear that I was born to express my creativity and to apply myself in a more meaningful manner.
What has been the most significant sacrifice you have made for your craft?
There’s something everyone needs to know if they want to achieve success. It has nothing to do with what skills you must learn, the education you may need, or the resources you have to tap into. If you want success, you need to know what you’re willing to give up to achieve it.
I have sacrificed traditional career comforts, meaning-seeking a ‘government work’. I have also sacrificed relationships, friendships and crucial moments shared with family. It’s against our nature to give something up. You fight harder to keep from losing something that you struggle to create.
Which creative people do you admire? Why?
Oh gosh, there are many but let me behave... HAHAHAHA.
Locally and regionally, I admire Mr. Reagan Des Vignes (Television Producer/Director), Mr. James Hackett (Illustrator/Graphic Artist/Designer), Ms. Christian Boucaud (Fashion Designer), Mr. Marlon George (Master Tailor), Mr. Theodore Elyett (Fashion Designer), Mr. Ahmad Muhammad (Content Creator/Producer/Visual Artist) and Mr. Dexter Les Pierre-Luke (Educator/Consultant/Author)
Who or what has helped you to persevere and not quit?
My best friend and brother Mr. Reagan Des Vignes and Mr. Dexter Les Pierre-Luke, have been pivotal to my educational and personal growth. They continue to encourage and equip me with the knowledge to succeed.
Do you believe that it is essential to be accepted by others as being creative or is just doing what you love to do enough to justify your work? Explain.
In a perfect world, the answer would be no, you shouldn’t have to. But we don’t live in an ideal world, so the reality is that you will have to educate people on what it means to be a creative person and respect that is needed.
Be proud of your creative activities and have the discipline to work consistently and produce what your soul wants to create.
Have you ever doubted your talent? If so, how did you work through your doubt?
Doubt in your own creative talent gets the best of us all at times. However, I always view particular situations and ask myself, “What’s the worst that can really happen?” Afterwards, I place all doubts aside and get to it.
What piece of work are you most proud? Why?
I am mostly incredibly proud of various digital/televised work I produced for Gayelle Television and TeleSUR English (Latin-American News Network). Creating multiple cultural shows, artistic projects and news features certainly brought about creative satisfaction.
Also, in creating fashion collections for DAWW Creations, I’ve developed pride in seeing conceptual designs come to life on real people.
What is your ultimate creative goal and how attainable do you think it is?
I desire to become internationally known as a Fashion Designer and a Creative Director for other brands and magazines, e.g. VOGUE.
I want to produce/direct cultural story-telling films/features to be seen worldwide, write a book on Caribbean Fashion and develop a Trinbagonian cultural museum. All these creative endeavours are very attainable, as I have youth on my side and while I continue to educate myself in all areas.
What is the best advice you’ve received that helped you move forward on your creative journey?
Believe in what others see in you.
To a young Creative emerging in your field, what advice would you give them?
Purge yourself of all negative influences and discover your authentic self. A personal journey is always met with obstacles and challenges but believe in yourself and your creative talents.
Seek to develop those talents and educate yourself on all factors that can support what you desire to do.
For what would you like to be most remembered?
As a creative, my work must live on. My establishments, designs, films, must be able to be referenced to teach others in the future. I want to be remembered for being focused, talented and in love with living life abundantly.
If you were a crayon, what would be the name of your colour?
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