Poet Cassidy Richison's words are soaked with references to " nature, meditation, consciousness, and life." Here she discusses her creative process, what writing means to her, and what she hopes for future storytellers and changemakers.
Q: How would you describe your style of writing?
Cassidy: I would describe my style of writing as a combination of intuitive expression and prose. "Journey poetry" as written bi-products of my journey through life. The reason why I love writing and why I fell in love with writing is because I feel it's like a journey through my own conscious and subconscious mind; it's a conversation I would have with myself as a means of translating my humanness. I don't care for fancy [writing] or mouths full of convoluted language. I just want to write, to express what I am experiencing that I've had a hard time vocalizing.
As such, I connect the most with free verse and prose poetry. I went to school and absorbed so much information from all these amazing authors, poets, and speakers. Yet I also felt that it was extremely important for me to stay true to my own voice in what I write, instead of bending my message to match those who are seen as success stories. Writing isn’t about being like the authors I studied but documenting my relationship with life itself, as a breathing, connected, electric microcosm of the universe.
Are there any interesting/surprising stories behind some of your pieces?
All of my creations have background stories and moments that inspired them into being. "12:12 New Moon Writings" was written when I was moving after graduating from DePauw University. At that time, I had moved around three different states and landed for a while in Bloomington, Indiana. I remember sitting in Rainbow Bakery, staring at an old Ms. Pac-Man machine, snow on the tiny tree in front of the window. I was considering leaving Bloomington even though I had only been there for a month.
The opening line of "12:12 New Moon Writings" is “There is bound to be a storm soon.” I had fallen into my own cyclical nature and repetition of habits. The storm represented a recurring feeling that would show up in times of transition. Usually, it popped up when I felt eager about what I wanted to experience next, and in that excitement, I forgot to appreciate where I was and savor the beauty of the present moment. I had the tendency to focus on exploring the multidimensionality of life that I forgot to ever “land” where I actually was in reality and feel gratitude for how far I have come. I knew in my heart I needed to practice patience and learn to enjoy the pace of my own process. So, I made a choice to slow down, to finish some projects I started and to breathe through the madness and magic of it all. Those weren’t easy times for me: air mattress, angry dog, and a lot of crying in my car outside of Bloomingfoods. Those were also some of the most beautiful times, too, as I was finding my balance in what seemed to be a teetering world.
What is your creative process like? Where do you get your inspiration?
I get my inspiration from life itself and personal experiences. My truest love is the very fact that I am alive. Connecting with the natural world around me makes me feel alive. Nature has always acted as a mirror for me, showing me greater versions of myself that coexist with the the natural laws of nature. That’s probably why I use a lot of elements from the earth as subjects and anchors for some of my creations. I have always been fond of words and how we choose to use them. I personally feel they carry the power to create worlds when weaved consciously and mindfully; they feel the life behind their sounds and the magic in their shapes. I see and use language in order to bring more life into our world. To bring more color, more exploration, and more truth.
Aside from writing, how else do you express yourself creatively?
I use music, yoga, and dance to express myself creatively. Also, when I really look at it, I use communication [as creativity], as well. I converse with plants, animals, and people; it’s all a matter of paying attention and feeling. We know the language of many species. We just have to remember that some languages have evolved beyond words.
And finally, if you could produce any piece of work with no limitations, what would it be and why?
A new education system and community. I'd want to create an education system that encourages gifted children to shine their unique light in this world. I want an education system that isn’t afraid to explore human consciousness and human potential, one that feels inclusive and inspiring. I want this because I feel like the education system I was a part of wasn't designed to teach me how to be myself. It felt like it was designed to teach me how to be accepted by my society and system, to be just enough to “get by.” By being this way, I could never feel aligned nor fulfilled. It left me in debt and disconnected. I had to take matters into my own hands in order to start living a life more in line with my true talents and my true nature.
I feel that kids who have been gifted with heightened sensitivity and an inclination to heal the planet should also have a place to learn, grow, and create. Kids should be able to really explore their own inner nature and inner workings. I look back and think about what it would have been like to have mentors for the things I was actually interested in, and I know it could have prevented a lot of sorrow if I had a stronger sense of community.
The community would be a place where we truly see each other as co-creators. It would be a place where there is integrity in the food we make, the art we make, the conversations we share, the music we play. I would build an eco-house and building for like-minded souls and spirits to co-exist; this isn't an “I want to be separate from the world” kind of place. It’s just a place where there is peace, truth, joy, love, connection, and vibrancy. I want this place because I can see its potential and possibility. I know from experience that our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and actions create the world we live in. The first step in creating a new world is believing in one. When this places comes into existence, it will impact our planet in a positive way.
Thanks for chatting with us, Cassidy! We feel inspired hearing and learning from you. ◆
You can find more of Cassidy's work on her website.
When multidisciplinary artist Mary Morrison isn't at Disney World setting up a new installation at 3AM, you can catch her either writing or designing in her very little spare time. She took a break from her busy schedule to talk to us about her creative process and what it takes to bring the magic of Disney to life.
Q: How would you describe your creative process?
Mary: My creative process varies wildly from project to project, depending on a lot of things like budget, scale, who I'm working with, etc. What has worked best for me in the past is following my creative whims as quickly as I can before the self doubt sets in. It's a little harried, but because I don't have that much time for personal projects, I try to say "yes" to them with what little free time I have. I try to get others involved in the process, too, when my idea feels half-baked and still needs a lot of work to become fully formed. I am motivated more when I involve others, so I can't back out of a project so easily.
You've worked on a number of live productions, from theatre in college and now at Disney. How would you say art on the stage compares to other art forms?
Live production has an energy that I haven't found in any other art form. A play isn't finished at the final dress rehearsal, its only complete when an audience sees it. The performers feed off the crowd's energy, and that relationship creates something totally unique. Each show, no matter how many times it is performed, is an individual work within itself. So, unlike other art forms, the artists don't have complete control over their work; they share that control with the observers.
Are there interesting or surprising stories behind some of your work?
The story that sticks out to me the most is from the installation of "Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular" at Disney World in the summer of 2016. Because the parks are open seven days a week, any new work has to be completed during late nights; I was basically nocturnal that whole summer. To top it all off, it was a really terrible summer in central Florida. Within one week in June, a child was eaten by an alligator at a Disney hotel, Youtube and Voice star Christina Grimmie was shot in Orlando, and of course, the then largest mass shooting in U.S. history happened at Pulse. I would drive home as the sun was rising, sobbing the entire way home. I remember hugging the friends I feared I would never see again, feeling so lucky that they were still alive. I remember waking up in the afternoon and having to call my family to let them know I was okay.
Yet the good memories also stick out. No one believes me when I tell them that around 3AM, the entire park at Disney smells like cookies. I would be exhausted, fighting tree limbs, as I tried to hang string lights in them, and then all of a sudden, the world would feel so much better because it was "cookie time." Other good memories include taking a 65-foot boom lift as far up as it could possibly go to catch the first glimpse of the sun rise with my lift partner. I was so physically and emotionally exhausted by that install, but I am also so incredibly proud of the final product.
Any upcoming projects you're especially excited about?
Unfortunately, I can't talk publicly about any of the Disney projects I'm involved in currently. Personally, I'm trying to get back into creating for myself first. I feel like I'm still rebounding from college, when I was overstretched, creating on someone else's schedule. Now, if I want to write, I write. If I want to draw, I draw. It's nice to rediscover the joy of creating, instead of the anxieties that come with academics.
And we have to ask, if you could produce any piece of creative work without any limitations, what would it be and why?
I would love to write a play, then design scenic and lighting for its production. I love creative writing because I get to create my own little world, but theatrical design requires the tangible realization of that world. I would create the play's world from scratch by both writing and designing it. It would be like playing God.
That sounds epic, Mary! We would love to see that production one day. ◆
You can find more of Mary's work on her website.
Los Angeles-based multimedia artist and writer Nicolette Daskalakis bares her heart and humor in her newest collection of poetry, Portrait of Your Ex Assembling Furniture, available for pre-order before its release on September 24. The book promises to echo the woes and wonders of "anyone who's ever ran into their ex, fallen in love at the grocery store, or gone on a few too many first dates." While we eagerly await its release, we chatted with Nicolette about her writing, how she balances making visual art with poetry, and what she's learned along her journey through creating.
Q: First, share a little bit about your background.
Nicolette: Since my mother was a collage and sculpture artist, I grew up in an environment that encouraged creativity in any artistic medium. I fell in love with photography, poetry, fashion, music…anything that allowed me to express myself in a visual or auditory way. I did my undergraduate studies at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, where I received a BA in Film & TV production and a minor in Intermedia Arts. For me, film felt like the perfect way to combine every art form I loved into one.
After graduating, I worked as a freelance production designer and did a lot of my own writing and short films on the side. I ended up working for BuzzFeed, creating short beauty, style, and craft videos, and eventually built up a large enough portfolio to transition into directing and shooting digital content as a freelancer. Working as a freelancer has granted me more control over my schedule and allowed me to pursue both poetry and film simultaneously. I’m working on something every single day. Honestly, the only difference is whether or not someone’s paying me for it.
Looking at your portfolio, you've dabbled in quite a bit of everything, from photography to production design to creative writing. What do you think threads all your work together?
I’m of the mindset that the idea comes first and the medium comes second. Sometimes the best way to express an idea is through poetry, other times it’s photography or music. I love the freedom and excitement of not containing myself to a single art form. Regardless of the tools I’m using, I often find myself exploring themes of intimacy, sexuality/gender, and societal expectations, often through a lens of magical realism or humor.
As I’ve grown as an artist, it’s been fascinating to discover commonalities and patterns when working in different genres. For example, where I choose to break up a line of poetry and where I choose to have silence in a film have become one in the same to me. It’s as if they are the same words, just translated into another language.
Portrait of Your Ex Assembling Furniture is your third book of poetry (the other two are entitled because you're now banging a French girl and All The Boys I Never Kissed). How do you feel you've grown as a writer?
Looking back at my first and second book is like reading a diary from that point of my life (except it’s public and unalterable... yikes!). I wrote the first book alone in my bedroom, without a wide knowledge of poetic form, structure, or tools. As I began writing this latest book, I took it upon myself to really explore and study poetry from a more “academic” standpoint. I felt like I had established the aesthetic and tone of the series with the first book, but I also had a lot of room to grow as a writer. As I started reading the works of both historical and contemporary poets, I began to gain a toolkit of sorts. It opened up so many more doors for play and experimentation with how I could make my work more rich and layered.
Your writings feel very raw and honest. Do you ever feel vulnerable releasing them into the world?
Surprisingly, no. My books are probably 75% truth and 25% fiction. For me, that 25% leaves so much room for not only creative license but also the confidence to write about more vulnerable emotions. I always try to write as if no one else will see it, because I think the best art comes from not filtering yourself. I hope people read these poems and find parts of themselves they were afraid to share, that they realize those parts are valid and real.
We gotta ask, have your exes read any of your poems about them... what is that like?
Poets tend to kiss and tell. I try to do it in a disassembled way so that only someone who has seen the full piece can recognize it from its parts. I’ve never blatantly told anyone, “This poem is about you," but I’ve had people read them and realize it. At the launch for my second book, my partner at the time came up to me and said, “I learned a lot about myself tonight.” I think that sums up what most people say, that they saw a certain moment or experience through a different lens, through my lens. Jury’s still out on the third book though, so we’ll see if I have any exes at my door wielding pitchforks...
Finally, what are some lessons you've learned in your journey through art and creating?
Those are very meaningful lessons, Nicolette. We'll have to try out all your creative advice! ◆