Supporting creativity

By | Creativity, Daily Life | No Comments

It’s been great to have a video chat this morning with Andrea Lewicki, a brave and lovely soul! She’s starting a series of interviews about creativity. It’s a pleasure and honor for Naomi and I to help other people embrace creativity in their lives.

How can you embrace multi-creativity?

By | Creativity | 2 Comments

Koldo at a drawing contest, 10 years old

How can you embrace the multi-creative side of you and not feel guilty about it? We all have heard the saying “Jack of all trades”. It implies that using your talent in different things is wasting it. But, at the end of the day, it’s nothing but a judgmental demagogic argument that dramatist Robert Greene wrote about his rival William Shakespeare to discredit him as a writer, pointing out that an actor couldn’t be also a writer. Ha!

When it comes to feeling guilty about multi-creativity, I can do nothing but speak for myself: it took me 45 years to accept that I’m a multi-creative person and there’s nothing wrong with that.

My father was a talented painter who used to copy art as a hobby, so it’s logical that at a very early age all the attention was on my drawing skills. I started taking art classes at 6 and I wanted to be Walt Disney. But, just like any other kid, I enjoyed being creative in as many ways as possible: writing stories, acting, making up games…

It was not until I was a teenager that I was conscious that  I loved to do so many different things: painting, drawing comics, playing music, publishing fanzines, writing stories and lyrics…

My teenage years were a very exciting time working with different types of artists. I mostly worked as a visual artist painting illustrations, comics and album covers, and got my first job at a design studio. But, at the same time, I also worked both professionally and as an amateur in numerous different creative activities: poetry, storytelling, crafts, sculpture, music, stage design, etc…

Then, at 22, I decided to pursue a career as children’s book illustrator. I forced myself to fit the market and consequently I burnt myself out as an artist and illustrator. The passion I used to feel for the work was extinguished and I felt sad and empty as never before.

I had always been mad crazy about music and for a long time I had been  involved in various music projects. So, for the next decade, I dropped the pencils and brushes to concentrate on music. I had the privilege of working with numerous excellent musicians on several projects of progressive, traditional, jazz and electronic music and I also produced a solo album with their help. It was a very exciting time! But all that glitters is not gold…

To convince myself that I was becoming a real musician, I completely buried my love for visual art and didn’t touch a pencil for years. I didn’t feel validated because I didn’t go to music school and that made me a very insecure person. For awhile,  I didn’t even want people to know that I used to be a visual artist. I thought exclusivity would give me extra points. Oh, how wrong I was!

There was no need at all to kill the artist side of me to become a better musician. There was no need to be ashamed about not having been a trained musician beginning when I was a kid in order to experience music. Because that’s what creativity is all about: the act of love for experiencing it. But took me many years to understand this.

All the time, society and media praise the success of artists in a particular creative field. But very rarely recognizes the value of multi-creativity. Is a fact that most renowned artists are knowledgeably creative in other activities, but they’re not usually recognized for it. Robert Greene’s sentence keeps hitting us in our society: “stay in one parcel or you will lose the gas”. The social and political system wants a world of specialized workers who can only be good at one thing and can be easily controlled. And it seems that nobody wants to be surrounded by people who change and evolve.

Did you ever feel your friends and family turn their backs on you when you discovered a new side of you?

It’s easier to have our friends labelled, so we don’t need to wonder about their eventual eccentricities. We don’t like surprises. We want them to fit the reality that we have created for them. But this way, at an early age we are all denying our human essence to be curious creatures, to explore life, to be creative and transform and grow along with the universe.

Thanks to my wife Naomi, I discovered and recovered my passion for visual arts. With her support, I started exploring very different styles and subjects as an artist and illustrator. Then, again, I hit the same wall: publishers, agents and artist friends would keep telling me that my portfolio was too diverse. They thought I was making their job to sell my work too difficult. I regretted that I had been so experimental; that it was not a clever decision for my career. So I tried to be a good boy and stick just to one thing. And once again, it turned into frustration, disillusion and sadness, because my eagerness to explore was always bigger than my wish to fit the mold.

Early this year, Naomi and I talked about many things related with our values and inner being. She happened to go through a similar frustrating experience for the last few years, after having worked as a web and graphic designer, UX designer and conversion optimization consultant. We were very fortunate to have each other and be in the same page when it comes to growing together.

So for the last years we thought a lot about what multi-creativity means to us. We realized it was time to quit feeling  guilty of having an itch for different creative trades and we decided to embrace multi-creativy. We gave ourselves permission to experience creativity at it’s full dimension. And we thought we could also help other people like us by creating tools and techniques to promote multi-creativity. We imagined TRIO: an Idea Book System that helps to use your creativity in three different areas. Then a new epoch started for us: Epokka was born.

Creativity and the Feminine Cycle

By | Creativity | No Comments

When I think of the act of creating something, I think about it like an inherently feminine type of process. Think about these metaphors for a moment:

  • I’m gestating ideas
  • I’m giving birth to this business
  • This product is my baby
  • I’m nurturing my creativity
  • I’m going to found a startup incubator
  • It’s baking in the oven (possibly a reference to “bun in the oven“)

Now, of course I’m not saying that men are not as creative as women or that it’s a character trait. We’re all born creative and we all have facets of ourselves that are masculine and feminine.

What I would like to briefly explore today, however, is how a woman can attune herself to the creative process in a more organic way so that fits with her natural cycles and all the ups and downs and ebbs and flows that come with it.

One of the biggest issues with the culture we live in is that we’re always expected to be “on”. This is highly detrimental to creativity because it doesn’t give us the space we need to reflect and create. If you look past the tech world, the past decade there haven’t been many cultural shifts catalyzed by creations like art, music, the written word, and design. Being constantly on is hard and stressful on everyone, but I believe it can especially be hard on a woman because there are certain moments when it’s just more difficult to be in this “on” state.

When a woman is going through menstruation, due to hormonal shifts,  it is the time when her left and right brain hemispheres are most actively in congruence with one another. Since creativity has so much to do with connecting different types of ideas, this might be a match made in heaven for birthing new things. It seems that neuroscience has caught up with what many ancient traditions have already known!

This time is perfect for daydreaming, a little downtime, scheming, connecting dots, and creating art,  but it’s not great for things that need a lot of heavy-duty action or communication.

I know I find this true in myself. I especially dislike talking on the phone a few of those days. I feel a little cloudy-headed for proper communication and if I’m honest, there aren’t many things I’d rather do than go sit in the park with my pen and DUO and daydream. With chocolate.

It makes me wonder if there are certain other moments when we can more finely tune our creative process to our own natural ebbs and flow.  I’d personally like to learn how to better listen to myself and embrace the natural cycle more instead of pushing and fighting it.

How about you? Have you noticed your creative endeavors being influenced by cycles?

Photography by Naomi Niles

Creativity involves any type of creative inspiration and expression

Do I need to be an artist to be multi-creative?

By | Creativity | No Comments

When someone says ‘creative people’ we immediately think of people like Pablo Picasso, Walt Disney, Steven Spielberg, Coco Chanel… I mean, we think of artists who are renowned and specialized in one particular profession. That’s the type of value that our society applauds and rewards. So, if we decide we want to follow the creative path, specialization should be our goal. But that’s nothing but an erratic social stereotype that has nothing to do with our real potential as human beings. There are unlimited ways to be creative, so why should we limit ourselves to one way for the rest of our lives?

And what is more important: there’s no human way not to be creative. Neuroscience knows today that we constantly use both teh rational and creative hemispheres of the brain, especially when we make decisions and solve any sort of problem, so creativity is at work all the time. We are all born with this unique gift to be creative in multiple and unlimited ways. But our Western culture and educative system prunes our creative branches and then puts them into little labeled boxes.

Do you remember being asked ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’. What a terrible castration for a kid who cannot even conceive of limits to his beautiful and multiple stream of creation and experimentation!

You don’t need to be an artist, a designer, a writer or a movie director to be creative. Scientists, educators, cooks, computer programmers, handymen, homemakers and house hubbies… everyone in their essence are creative people. Every time you solve a problem, be small or big, you’re being creative. Just think of how many creative things you do in a day and that will give you the answer to if you are a creative person.

When Naomi and I started conceiving of the first tools for multi-creativity, we didn’t think of an specific type of creative person because we are all creative people. There are no creative and non creative people. There are people who are conscious about their creative skills and nurture them and people who are not. We would like that our Epokka tools help everyone to develop their creativity, no matter the way they use them.

That’s why we decided to start with simple materials that could be used by all kinds of creative activities: design, science, architecture, poetry, philosophy, art, thoughts, and, to summarize; anything inventive and constructive that you can think of.

In my next post I will talk about how can you embrace multi-creativity and will share with you a story about Naomi’s and my long journey to reach where we are now.

Video still from promo video by Naomi Niles and Koldo Barroso, featuring Epokka’s TRIO Idea Book.

What is multi-creativity?

By | Creativity | No Comments

What is multi-creativity?

Do I need to be an artist to be multi-creative?

Am I a multi-creative person?

How can I embrace multi-creativity?

Naomi and I have been asking ourselves these and other similar questions for a long time. The answers that we obtained were the seeds of the dream that we are now putting to life. We’d like to share them with you in this and a series of forthcoming posts.

There is no such thing as ‘multi-creativity’. Our brain makes no difference between creative professions and creative tasks. It’s all part of the same string of expansive movement: an impulse of constant transformation which mirrors the creative universe we are part of. The universe expands, destroys and creates. So does our mind.

If all creativity is multi-creativity, why to use this word at all? Only for practical reasons. Sadly, the original sense of creativity has been erased in our culture, so we need to remember it’s ‘multiple’ condition in order to understand it and reclaim it.

When Naomi and I first thought of tools to promote and reinforce the act of multi-creativity, we were very clear that we wanted to focus on products that would help everyone develop their multiple forms of creativity, rather than making tools only for certain types of creative professions. That’s why we’ve designed three different types of idea books (dot grid, lined and sketch) that can be used to multiple ways to work with creative ideas, including creative writing,  designing, and drawing.

And we wanted tools that would work in tune with the natural creative process. So we have designed a set of Idea Books that can work together as part of the same Idea System. This way, you can easily work with different types of creativity ideas and/or also easily switch from one to the other. Just what we’ve been missing all these years!

In the next posts, we will both talk more about what means to be a multi-creative and about the journey that we made to get here. A rather long and winding road…

Image Credits:
Photography: Naomi Niles
Illustration: Koldo Barroso

Meet me at the candy shoppe

By | Creativity, Multi-Creatives | 3 Comments

I’ve been fascinated lately with candy. Why is it so pretty and why does that make you want to eat it more? Why is it so fun? Is it a nice remnant from our childhood? Or are there designers behind the scenes, carefully crafting eye-pleasing colors and shapes that make it irresistible?

All I know is, whoever came up with the term “eye candy” to name all things lovely, nailed it!

I don’t eat very much candy (dietary reasons), but every once in a while I like to go to the bins and get a little bag full of various pretty items.

Until the next time I make a trip to the candy shoppe, I will satisfy my candy cravings with these adorable shoes I bought last week. When I saw them, I immediately thought “Oh, candy for the eyes!”  and low-and-behold, ModCloth was thinking the same thing because they call them “Candy Shop Quartet Shoe“.

My favorite thing about them is the mint and vanilla combination. I’ve been on a mint kick lately, loving anything and everything mint in sight.  One of the things both Koldo and I like to do is keep small records of the little things we like in our Epokka Idea Books. Something about sketching ideas out keeps them fresh in the mind for later. Candy! Mint! Fresh!

I’ve also been deeply in love with this storefront for Barton’s Bonbonniere. I wouldn’t say no to having a storefront like this, even if it wasn’t for a candy store. Actually, that’s a lie.

barton's bonbonnier

I’d be thrilled to have a store like this!

Alvin Lustig was the graphic design consultant and you can certainly see his influence on the work. Lustig happens to be one of our design heroes, so it was a pleasant surprise to find out that he contributed to this. It’s too bad that he passed away at such a young age and that this store no longer exists.

Why do the good things have to go? If you’re lucky, you might find one of the light fixtures someday on Ebay for a few grand though.


Here’s some more eye candy from Barton’s Bonbonniere for you to nibble on.


Ok, I’m curious! What was your favorite type of candy when you were a kid? And what’s it now?


Photo Credits:
Shoes and Notebook: Naomi Niles
Storefront Share: Sandiv 999
First Tin:  Karen Horton
Second Tin: julielion

Things to Make and Do


By | Creativity, Multi-Creatives | No Comments

One of the things that drives our design decisions is nostalgia. You may have noticed that we are influenced by things from the past. From the curious and fun to playful and charming.

Both Koldo and I are the nostalgic types and feel that a large part of creativity is approaching your project with a child-like curiosity and sense of wonder. When you were a kid, I bet you didn’t worry about getting everything just perfect or if something was very practical. You just tried it and if it didn’t work, that was ok, you just tried something else!

This is the feeling we want people to have when they use our products. That it’s ok to have fun again. In fact, it’s more than ok. It’s encouraged!

To honor our own pasts, we’ve started a Pinterest board with some of our favorite objects from our childhood. Things that we created fun stuff with or that made us think about and understand our world just a little better.

Koldo’s also added several items from Spain from his childhood. I think it’s fascinating to see how Mid-Century design developed in Spain. It has its own special charm. It’s also funny to see that Koldo and I shared some of the same objects even though we were over a decade and many miles apart.

The book above is one passed down to me from my mother. It was a little short on instructions, but long on fun and creative ideas to make things with simple objects like paper and wood. I made several projects from the book with big DIY love.

You can find the board here.

What special objects do you remember from your childhood?