Curious Lola

Why Live Events are Important

It’s a new year and about the time I start reflecting on my business. Here at Curious Lola we share our experiences building things AND an event business with the hopes of helping you with yours. But I’m about to have our first ever Lola Summit at which our team sits down and talks about all things Lola. What we are doing, what we want to do, and how we want to go about doing it. Part of that is thinking about my biz Lola Creative.

At Lola Creative, we create live events. Parties and gatherings. Both terms however are just utterly inaccurate in describing the fullness of the experience we are trying to bring to people. It sounds fun, frivolous even. Sounds like, well, party time.

We’re known for hand crafted events. Bold, sculptural features with well thought out coherent significance. We’re known for creating a more sustainable event, events that are imaginative, and, well sometimes takes a client with guts to allow us to make.

But what we are doing is greater than crafting a great party.

Businesses are created to solve people’s problems. Our problem we are trying to solve is not “Gee, I wish I had the funnest event, the most original, artful décor. We don’t do this so that we can fulfill our desire to make amazing things that inspire and delight (mmmmm, okay that’s part of it).

Utter connectedness. This is what we are aiming for. I’ll explain.

I live and work in Seattle, most of our events are Seattle based. I don’t know about you, but the drive here to achieve, do more, and be more is strong. The amount of overwhelm and distraction people face each day is immense. There is a myriad of decisions and stimuli to pull us away from what is most important. (psst, it’s each other in case you were wondering.)

The stuff that matter is:

  • kindness towards each other,

  • celebrations of togetherness,

  • gratitude for what we have, what we have made for ourselves and gratitude for what we are just given when we are born.

  • commemoration and thanks for the achievement we’ve made by working hard together toward a common goal.

  • generosity of time, to stop grinding, stop trying to do more, and take time to be with important people and realign with what matters.

  • our connection with each other and the physical places we are in, and

  • excitement for the places we can go and the things we can achieve when we have locked arms with the people we choose to trust, respect, and accept.

We’ve all had an experience, a physical experience when we were in a place with others, sometimes total strangers, sometimes coworkers or family that might as well be strangers.  Something about what we experienced transformed us and the people around us. I’ve felt this at music concerts, at dance performances, at my own wedding, at other people’s weddings, during speeches and during stories. I’ve felt it observing acts of kindness. In these moments when I am moved, I know that I can turn to the stranger next to me, and smile because they are feeling the same thing. Hell, I could hug them and they would accept it. And in that moment, we are utterly connected. It is as if we’ve all dropped to an invisible plane where a force of love, passion, intention, and raw creativity is flowing through the core of each of us. A place where we can glimpse the potential of our collective efforts and focus. A place of total acceptance and well, love.

I love business, and I love people and I am constantly amazed by the leaps we can make together. Corporation and business can be a dirty word these days, but I still see it as groups of good people, choosing to work together to do work that is meaningful.

That powerful combo of mutual trust, respect, and acceptance can only can grow when we are together, physically together.

Connection happens through shared experience. Meaningful lives are a collection of memorable, physical experiences with each other and our surroundings. Meaningful businesses have built a team of connected people that give meaningful experiences to others.

Impactful businesses not only find away to connect with their audiences but also nurture that connection within.

This is what our privilege and obsession is, to figure out how to achieve that transcendent level of connection among our clients community- whether that is a personal family, or a business family.

That’s our highest goal in producing an event. What is a gathering but an expression of gratitude and a celebration of abundance and togetherness.

By stripping away the day to day, we can demand attention, eliminate distraction, and create opportunities for humans to do what they do best: connect, imagine, and grow together.

Here’s to the New Year and all sorts of connecting.

Hells yeah.

PS, you can connect with me by emailing me at emily@curiouslola.com or by signing up to our email community HERE!

Lead with Art- How to Become Necessary

When you become NECESSARY to your clients, trust and freedom come naturally. Here’s how I learned this lesson when I learned to Lead With Art.

When I left my professional career as a landscape architect I didn’t know quite where I was headed. I was running away from a desk job, away from a machine that I felt was producing less than excellent quality, and running toward all the things I thought I needed.

One of those needs was a feeling that I needed to prove that my artistic skills and gifts were something that people wanted to pay money for. This was a big one because I knew I was talented but had never experience it valued.

No one had ever paid me lots of money for my artistic talents.

For speed and accuracy? yes.

For quality work? Yes.

For the ability to get a job done? Yes.

But no one had ever wanted to pay me lots of money because they valued my work artistically. And I wanted it to be VERY valued.

Model Raven West getting ready for Bamboo Beats Soundtrek and Mac Fashion House Show. Our Mohawk helmet veil, of course 🙂

Because it wasn’t valued, I stopped offering it. Just stopped doing what I do naturally- find ways to bring different ideas and materials together artfully. And that’s when I broke down and broke out.

I wanted to support myself with my artistic talents and was set on figuring out how.

I’d never done it but I’d seen it done.

In college, I thought I would be a public artist so I got two degrees, one in landscape architecture and one in sculpture.  I had the opportunity to be the assistant to a successful public artist for a few months. After working for him, I approached the Seattle arts commission (I think now it’s the office of arts and cultural affairs). I started a special project that would evaluate public art projects by landscape architecture design standards. Through those two experiences, I got to see how professional artists are chosen, how tax money is managed for major civic art installations, and how an individual artist placed on a build team presented to and interacted with the rest of the design and building team- so architects, city planners, construction managers, civil engineers, structural engineers.

It was fascinating.

What I saw was the power of maintaining a vision. Nobody wants to mess with the strange, mysterious artist’s vision.

In these meetings, after an artist is selected for a big project like a light rail station, The artist is on the design team to build out this project.

And what I saw was artists OWNING their art,  OWNING its purpose and importance, and acting as a protector and steward for the kind of impact their art would have on the community.

Understanding, collaborative, but unapologetic.

For the most part, the engineers, architects, budget managers, would do what they could to make the artists vision possible. City code was reinterpreted, entries and windows were reoriented, ground was regraded, structures reinforced. They knew they didn’t need to fully understand why, they just knew that they needed to trust and find a way to fulfill this strange person’s request.

 

When I started as an art minded landscape architect, I thought, hot dog, I know how this is done! Let’s start making some earth art!

What do you think happened?

Pfthlat!

Barriers!

Condescension!

Suddenly budgets were too tight, construction schedules were too far behind, it didn’t work with the engineering approach, some other component cost more so my budget would have to be reduced.

My perceived value was different because at that time and place, I was not considered an artist. I was a mere landscape architect who had to obey the boring laws of all the other non-artists.

I see the EXACT SAME PHENOMENON working in floral design, and I imagine, every profession.

So now I know this:

LEAD WITH ART

I’m not saying that leading as an artist will get you everything you want; that everything you propose is not still flexible to your client’s needs, but in my experience an effort is made to get you what you need because art has value… to some people… my kind of people maybe yours too.

And here’s a story about how leading with art played out in Lola.  

Early on I would really take anything. Even if I wasn’t a good fit. I could always do something creative with the job.

Now, Our big break project came in 2013 when we got a call for a tech celeb’s birthday party. He was eclectic and would need a lot of strange things made.

I would need to put together a proposal asap. I had minimal information about what was happening or who this was happening for. Oh and I had 4 weeks to concept, get sign off, build, and install this massive event. And I would never meet the actual client- the birthday boy.

I asked how I would be able to do this without some sort of info about the project- with no budget range. She said, give me a number that there’s no way this could ever go over, and that will be the budget.

I said 50K because at the time, I thought, there’s no way anything could ever go over 50K. (Palm to forhead…. Groan.)

I asked how they found me and they had said that they asked the catering manager at their venue and she had said that Lola Creative was the only people she knew that could pull it off.

And then it occurred to me….

….The reason for that is on all of those small jobs that were not quite right, I would make an extra piece that was totally represented our company.

I’d walk the catering manager, planner, anyone in the industry over to look at it, and say with joy why I loved it so much.

This catering manager didn’t see all the boring stuff I had made during my first couple of years.  She saw all the stuff I asked her to see, all the stuff I practically shoved in her face.

Because of that, I am now the only person that comes to mind when she had a golden egg to hand out!

That particular kind of golden egg, anyway.

Yes!

So whatever is your art. Whether that be an amazing service, or a unique technique- whatever you want the responsibility to be known for. Lead with that. Put it in people’s faces even when they don’t ask for it.

That way people will know, when they get YOU, they get THIS, and that is how it has to be.

That way when people want THIS, they know they have to have YOU. You are necessary for THIS.

Come with an artist’s mindset about that and start seeing a new freedom among clients who want that thing and trust you exclusively to deliver it.

Oh man I get pumped up about this.

Lead with Art!

If you’re struggling with leading with art. Sign up to our inner floral posse. We talk about this sort of stuff. AND we have an upcoming product  (September) that may make leading with art in your company a little easier 🙂

I want to lead with art too!

Ps, The images are not from that special break-through event. I was under a non-disclosure agreement and could not take pictures.

These are from the Mac Fashion House Fashion Show and Bamboo Beats Open House

The beautiful people that always lead with art include Jojo Dyckhoff  (Bamboo Beats) and Carlisia Minnis (Mac Fashion House).

I still love these photos so much 🙂 taken by Alante Photography

Thoughts on Bravery and Fearlessness…

Recently, there’s been a slight shift in my outlook on life and business. Maybe, just maybe, brute force when it comes to life and business is not the goal. Maybe bravery and fearlessness is not about making things happen. Maybe most of it is just good ole trust. (first I blather, then I explain).

I’ve never feel at ease next to the ocean. Beach vacations, sandy walks, oceanside camping; there’s an undercurrent of, “the ocean wants to devour me.”

The ocean is teeming with life so different from my own that it’s hard to understand. A true mystery. It’s unpredictable, it’s destructive, it can take a tree and paw with it until it resembles the sun-weakened ghost of a great beast. A beast much bigger and stronger than I. At the same time, it’s alluring.

When faced with great uncertainties in business I tend to jump right in, however, not with the ocean. I’d prefer to NOT try and understand it. I’ll enjoy it sure, but I’ll be wary. That got me thinking… Where’s all my bravery and fearlessness?

Our culture values bravery, stubbornness, and strength. People that will things into existence.

Historically, my go-to method for experiencing life and business has been the ‘DECLARE, DROP, THRASH’ method.

Oh, you haven’t heard of it? Oh it’s very prehistoric.

First you DECLARE:

I’m going to be ______, I’m going to do _______, I’m going to get_______, I’m going to learn_____.

Then you DROP yourself into whatever lifestyle, work or environment you deem necessary to achieve your declaration,

Then you THRASH about something makes sense. Until a path comes clear.

And if it doesn’t, DROP AND THRASH ELSEWHERE.

It’s been brutal, but valuable in that I’ve learned a lot quickly. Eventually, I’ve learned what to thrash on, and what should be left alone. I’ve learned what is already working and what will not improve with enhanced thrashing.

This process is the opposite of ease, elegance, and organic growth.

The rewards are a quick lesson in testing limits. What limits are solid and what is flexible? What rules do I want to follow? I’ve learned what level of risk I can handle, gained trust in my own capabilities, and have gained a fine tuned compass of what works for me and what doesn’t. I know that I am capable and can figure out anything, but that I don’t need to figure out everything.

You may have heard me tout this method because, well, it’s badass, brave, and fearless. Take something uncertain, research the messy bits, and take action. Experiment. That’s been my motto- all in pursuit of conquering more unknowns and achieving a satisfying career and lifestyle.

However, I recently learned of another way. Fierce satisfaction with what one has…. and not striving for more than that.

Historically, I would have called this ‘settling’.

But recently, I’ve been observing and really appreciating those folks who find joy in what they have, only poke and prod at uncertainty when it crosses their steady path, make small adjustments as they are needed… people that prioritize tradition and what is important in the moment. Some of these people seem to be thriving… 🙂

I’m thinking I’d like to have a bit of that kind of bravery too. After all, it comes from the same place, TRUST.

Trust that things will work out. Trust that you can handle it. Trust that you will know what to do.

These statements are the same sort of trust foundation that makes someone brave/ fearless- just on a different path, or maybe looking a different direction.

So for now, I think less thrashing, more trusting.

BUT, if you’d like to take advantage of all the thrashing I’ve learned from in my journey as an event designer/ business owner thus far, you may want to sign up for our email list.

 

 

 

Tips to evolve your business when a ‘life volcano’ erupts.

Curious Lola_5Life is full of transitions and shifts. Same goes for our businesses. But in a time when we feel pressed to find a niche, express your super focused brand, and do that thing consistently so you don’t confuse your audience, it can feel uncomfortable to allow your business to evolve with you.

Curious Lola_10At Lola Creative, we’ve (ehem, I’ve) had a few. First, just transitioning from a well paid corporate career with years of experience and a big ole bill of student loans to a fledgling floral design business took some guts. Then realizing we were more of a full event design company that makes custom fabrications was another turn. My biggest life/ business volcano however was when, almost a year ago,my volcano of a belly erupted into an actual human being. That has been the most startling adjustment to my business.

Curious Lola_11There’s a lot of trash-talk out there about the greedy business person trying to scrape what they can, but a lot of the folks in this industry left higher paying work for their current business. Why? Freedom maybe, greater connection with their customers, greater responsibility, to be able to create something of high quality and value, to do something that makes their heart all big and juicy, to work hard and watch that hard work pay off. Check, check, check, check….To do something that felt right, every day.  To have your work and life aligned. To feel like work is your ‘life’s work.’ PURPOSE!

Curious Lola_12Parenthood, business changes, the loss of a loved one, these things can take your precious alignment and smash its contented face in. So, if that’s happened, or happening to you, here are some tips I’ve found to be helpful when what you thought IS, is no longer.

fall flowers, fall flower arrangement, floral design, baby with flowers

  • Practice Patience. I know the ‘be patient’ advice can make your eyeballs twitch. But practice again and again to be patient with yourself. You need time to get your bearings. Keep things bobbing along or lay low until you gain clarity. If you just had a life volcano erupt, you may need MONTHS, to get back to where you feel you are clear headed.
  • Feel like your path has split into two? Be Curious and find Creativity in both. Get to know each with respect to the other. Can I go this way and still maintain this way? How does it feel to do what I was doing while also giving attention to this new path?
  • Find Your Core Driver. For me, becoming a parent felt like I might have to give up my creative life. Being a present, not-frazzled mom was paramount, and early on, I felt I could not do both parenting and running a business well. If you find that change is necessary, try distilling what is essential about your business. In what ways does it contribute to your sense of purpose and joy? How can you still get those things while still thriving in your new direction? When you are focused on the purpose, the means is not as important
  • Release your identity. It’s hard to accept your purpose and the changes that truly support it if you are locked up in identity illusions. Stuff like, “well I’m a ______, it’s what I do, it’s who I am.” Puhleeez. You are a shifting, spreading, throbbing hunk of life and passion. You are a creative force, girl, no matter what you change. It’s okay to be indescribable.
  • Break the Rules. Maybe your path isn’t going to look like you thought it would. Maybe your way of doing things doesn’t look like the way others are doing it. Perhaps there are social rules that don’t really fit into your new world. Liiiiiiike, maybe your baby hangs out in a baby corral at the workshop and gets used to wearing noise canceling ear muffs when you have to use the power tools…. just an example.
  • Accept the Seasons. If not now, then maybe later. Or maybe not. When later is now, maybe something else. It actually is all-good. It is okay to take a break. It’s okay to stop and it’s okay to start again. It’s okay to say no to one path to fully embrace the new one.

Curious Lola_6Messy. Pretty. Pretty Messy. Glorious. Puzzling. Filled with light. Pissing rain. Whatever. Bring it on.

 

Mad Science Themed Photoshoot and Weirdos.

Brains1   The birth of my son had a dramatic impact on my business. I’m not talking about having less time (though that certainly is true as well). I gained a new urgency that every project I work on needs to be aligned with what our business is all about. It’s guts. It needs to be meaningful and for Lola Creative, that sort of means it needs to be…. weird.

Our clients… well…they are kind of weirdos.

Just like we are.

Lola Creative Select_51

I’m not saying we all are wearing our underwear outside our clothing or working our Halloween costumes into regular work rotation. It’s just that our clients seem to want to connect with a little bit of the delightfully unexpected. They want newness and imagination. Something that on paper, might seem a bit odd.

I’ve always known this about our people, but I got to thinking… maybe we are not clear enough on this.

So, to make sure our freak flags are big and loud, we’ve put together some new imagery for our main site that exhibits the values of our company.  They are:

Guts, Brains, and Imagination

Lola Creative Select_41

This mad science shoot is photographed by Easton Richmond and features the concept of ‘Brains.’ The brains component of our values identifies how essential research and planning is to our process.  Because weird without good planning can be, well, scary.

Enjoy the photos! I’m going to go nurture my inner weirdo.

Lola Creative Select_37 brains

Lola Creative Select_52

Lola Creative Select_43Lola Creative Select_28We’re pretty excited about it. Obviously.

Thanks to all who participated in this shoot!

Creative Direction, Set, Props, and Styling: Lola Creative

Photography: Easton Richmond

Hair and Makeup: Jamyrlyn Mallory

Location: Seattle Wholesale Grower’s Market

Model: Lauren M. Kulbeth


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