Director, Coach, Author – Gwen Gordon

Many of the women I share with you are people who inspire me. I stumbled across this week’s creative women when I was doing some research on the value of play for adults.

Californian based Gwen Gordon lives a life of creativity, transformation and play. From designing Muppets earlier in her life to currently writing her first children’s book for grownups, Gwen has made it her mission to spread the word about how vital this is to our wellbeing. This speaks deeply to my passion and belief of the intrinsic need for transformation, play and creativity in all our lives.

And so I felt a need to have her as one of my Creative Women. Take it away Gwen!

 Tell me a bit about yourself and your creative practice.

 I’ve spent the past 15 years spreading the gospel of play through talks, articles, and videos. I emphasized all the benefits that play provides as a fundamental human need and a driver for evolution. Mostly I’ve been interested in what it takes to shift our state from what I call the Proving Ground mindset to the Playground mindset.

As I’ve dug deeper and deeper, I find that there are two core obstacles to living life as play.

1. The fundamental identity as a separate, skin-encapsulated ego that leads to enormous insecurity; and
2. The developmental traumas most modern human beings experience.

Realizing this, I have shifted the emphasis of my work from play for play’s sake to transformation and healing, engaged playfully. Now, instead of writing about play, I write about transformation, playfully. The passion I have, to liberate people from the bondage of the Proving Ground to the Playground, has also channelled my creative energy into more individual and group work.

While I started my life designing Muppets and working in world-class innovation think tanks, I now bring all my playful spirit to the most important task of all. The one in which our collective future depends – the transformation that enables us to see all of life as a playmate and wherever we are as a playground.

The Wonderful W is my first children’s book for grownups, which you can find, along with an activity guide, journal and W charm necklace at www.gwengordonplay.com/the-wonderful-w-3/

 

What is your greatest creative achievement?

Like most mothers, I try not to rank my children and I don’t think much about my past creations. That’s why the latest is usually the greatest. That would make The Wonderful W book trailer the greatest so far. https://youtu.be/dJ8ee0ycAw8

And still greater ones are yet to come. Stay tuned for Mia’s Magic Window, my next book!

What is your first memory of being creative?

When I was five years old, I made a giant stuffed crab out of grey satin that I stuffed with anything I could find in the kitchen: wooden spoons, potholders, napkins, plastic containers and stitched up myself. It took mom a while to figure out that my lovely crabbish-shaped pillow was actually a repository of kitchen items. Fourteen years later I built a crab Muppet for Sesame Street and used kitchen tongs for the mechanism that opens the claws. Full circle!

Who or what inspires you?

#1.NATURE! I just got back from Hawaii and the creativity that gave rise to sea turtles, monk seals, eels, urchins, coral, birds of paradise, you name it…astonishes me.

Is there anything special you do to get into the right mindset and get the creative juices flowing?

First and foremost, I meditate to get very quiet. As soon as I’m quiet, creative ideas generally start gushing in. If I’m not quiet inside, I generally recycle old thoughts.

I keep a good stash of inspiration from other artists around me as well. Then I find the seed of inspiration, the thing I really care about creating and I let it simmer for as long as possible.

I like to wait until there’s a restless impulse in my system to start working before I actually go to the “canvas.”

I don’t put any pressure on myself to work when that creative tension isn’t there. So, if it’s not there, I do other things. Unless I’m working on a project with a deadline! Then I get informed, taking notes as ideas spark. I scan for inspiration from a wide range of sources not necessarily directly related to the project.

Then I do my own brain dump and start making connections and experimenting. I keep the experimentation process open for as long as possible!

How do you deal with creative blocks?

I take all pressure off myself to break through any blocks. I do other things, enjoy my life, see friends, play, cook, garden. When I’m not so attached to breaking through, I come back to the project and look at other people’s work for inspiration. By then the block has usually dissipated.

What is one tip you would give other creatives?

Don’t let your creative projects define you or you will burden them with your identity and crush your creativity. Keep returning to the creative process as play and keep the play of it going for as long as possible. It’s not worthy of your time or gifts if it doesn’t come from love and joy.

What is your favourite, colour, book, song, food and place?

Colour is like vitamins. – the needs change over time. Right now, I’m in love with rusty orange. My favourite book is The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and as for music anything by MaMuse. Favourite place is Mt Tam in California and the best food ripe olives!

If you want to read more about Gwen, head to her Website https://gwengordonplay.com/ , follow her on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/gwengordonplay/ or Instagram gwengordonplay.

And don’t forget her amazing new book The Wonderful W. I’ve read it and it is a Wonderful magical journey, into self-discovery and wholeness, all wrapped up in a beautifully illustrated easily readable book.

It’s a book that we not only should be reading ourselves, however also sharing with our children.

Team Building – it’s a love or hate relationship!

Team building, you either love it or hate it,

there isn’t any middle ground.

When I used to hear that word, I would break out into a cold sweat. In the meantime, some of my colleagues were bringing out their body armour and whooping war cries around the office. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard team building days referred to as a waste of valuable time.

Somewhere along the way, the lines between team building, competition and socialising seem to have been blurred. There are so many things to choose from its hard to know what is ideal. But before you run off and start planning a survivor style warrior weekend or day, make sure you first analyse your team and their needs.

So, what are good team building activities?

The answer to this question is complex, and it varies between teams. To drill down to what is needed we need to ask some more questions.

Who are your team members and what are their needs?

Does the planned activity suit everybody’s abilities and lifestyle?

There is nothing wrong with high-intensity activity. But there is also nothing worse than being sent on a sporty team building activity if you are a member who isn’t the athletic type. Or being a mum and you need to do the school run and take care of your family at the time when the activity is planned. Maybe you are someone who has very clearly defined personal space boundaries and the planned activity is an invasion of your space.

Instead of uniting your team these all have the possibility to do the exact opposite. They can serve to highlight differences as weaknesses, alienating individuals and fracturing teams.

What do you want to achieve?

Is it team building or actually socialising?

Social activities are fine but not everyone will want to attend them, and that is okay. Team building, on the other hand, is experiential learning that is work focused. Through learning together, teams can become more cohesive, strengthening their common goals. They can share ideas and clarify thoughts.

What outcome are you looking for? Is it a stronger team with a greater understanding of each other? Or is it solving a challenge within the team or workplace? Maybe you are looking to develop a strategy or a new product.

Working collectively in a healthy environment

can bring solutions to these areas,

at the same time it also builds stronger teams.

It’s one of the reasons I love using the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® Materials and Methodology when working with teams. Yes, it’s fun, however its also accessible by everyone and purpose driven. It creates a level playing field and we are using play as a constructive platform to uncover hidden information and build capacity.

So next time you are assigned the role of planning a team building day, think long and hard. Ask the questions, find the answers and use them to develop a healthy constructive event.

I know your team and organisation will appreciate your efforts.

And if you want to know more about how to organise a workshop using the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® Materials and Methodology give me a call or drop me a line for your free consultation.