We had an amazing date with this gorgeous Sista, Keeva Stratton, at the Art Gallery of NSW—a space that inspires her creatively. As a brand strategist, writer and cultural critic, Keeva shared how she taps into creativity to ignite her soul, professionally and in her love of painting, reading and watching films.
What does being creative mean to you?
It’s about feeding my soul. Sounds cliché, I know, but the difference between being creative or being intelligent or resourceful or practical for me, is that through creativity, I feel alive. It’s pure hedonism and very, very freeing. I believe it’s through creativity, you really come to know yourself. If I couldn’t write, or paint, or draw, or even play with an outfit (which really isn’t my forte), I rather think life would be terribly dull.
When I daydream about my retirement, it doesn’t involve beaches (though possibly a Pina Colada or two), but the dream is to really have time to write and paint and read. I’ve loved every moment I’ve ever spent in an art gallery. I don’t believe you are ever entirely the same person after reading a great book, and the magic of the cinema to me is still filled with child-like joy.
I’m very excited about the Creative Sista, because I hope it will give many more women the same permission to value and indulge their creative selves, and hopefully feed their souls with inspiration.
What gets your creative juices flowing?
I’ve always been a really driven and competitive person, so when I read a great writer, watch an amazing film, or envy an outfit, it kind of becomes a personal challenge. It’s like a new bar has been set, and that challenge shakes me out of my comfort zone. I love that feeling, because I know it will push me.
I’m addicted to popular culture. I love the way the human interaction with culture shapes us, entertains and inspires us. I’d be lost without film or fashion or books or reality TV.
Female creativity holds a special place for me, because it’s often born through real resistance. When you hear Maya Angelou’s gently thunderous voice echo on every page of I know why the caged bird sings, you don’t just feel her struggle, you admire her poise. It’s hard to imagine how Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel managed to build a fashion empire at a time when women were excluded from so much—and what a lasting contribution she made to design. Even today, you have to marvel that it’s taken over 70 years for Maria Grazia Chiuri to become the first female head designer of Dior.
These women have set the bar, and we can only (humbly) attempt to aspire to reaching it. That’s what gets my creative juices flowing.
Do you experience creative blocks? How do you overcome them?
Yes, all the time. To me a creative block is a bit like when you’re trying to remember where you left your keys. The more you focus on it, the less chance you have to overcome it. I try to move on to another project, take a walk, do something intense like a spin class, or go somewhere completely different. Once you’ve forgotten about it, suddenly the magic happens.
In moments of self-doubt, how do you pick yourself up?
I used to always wonder ‘why me?’, and then it occurred to me one day that simply by reframing the question to ‘why not me?’, my whole attitude would change. And, it did. Confidence is simply the experience of having done something successfully over and over (I’m pretty sure that’s a Debbie Millman quote, but don’t quote me on it). If you’ve never done it before, it’s hard to have the confidence, and even when you have, there’s always a bit of anxiety over whether you can do it again.
We’ve all got one life, so I kind of think there’s no point spending too much of it worried if we’re not doing it right.
Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere! We live in one of the more visual eras, where aesthetics and design abound everywhere. It’s such a joy and a privilege.
There are traditional sources, like galleries and exhibitions, film festivals and coffee table books, but you can also be inspired by the creativity that’s in the commercial realm. Andy Warhol was proudly commercial as an artist, and yet he created some of the most intricate store displays, beautiful Christmas cards and iconic album covers. Who knows if the next Warhol isn’t hiding in plain sight, dressing the displays at the local Westfield. If I’m short on time and need to be reminded what timeless, iconic branding is, I head to Dior, or Chanel, or Tiffany & Co., because there’s so much inspiration to be had at any one of these.
Describe the space you feel most creative in, and how it effects you.
I’m loving flying at the moment. It seems crazy, but to have a few interruption-free hours, with a view of the clouds and not a single email, text or phone call, my flights have become a time of very focussed creativity (it could also be the champagne at altitude).
Being able to watch films while writing (I like to multitask) is also something I love about flying! It’s a good thing I have a few clients in Perth, because anywhere else in Australia doesn’t really give you enough airtime.
What is one creative gem or piece of advice you can share with our Sistas?
Care less about what others think, and more about who you want to be. That’s what creativity is—it’s about being you through the form that you want to express yourself with. It’s your story, your journey and your soul you’re feeding, so be whoever you want to be in your art, have fun with it, and enjoy it as much as you can.
Keeva heads up Quip Brands, an agency of brand storytellers and strategists. They work with a range of different businesses to help them tell their stories through their brand, or for various creative executions. Quip Brands also help businesses develop a clear and coherent brand strategy, so they are best able to connect and engage with their audience.