Creators Inspiring Creators – Part One

Six adidas artists offer their tips on how to create when you’re surrounded by chaos.

Julio Aleman painting in his studio. How to create, GamePlanA
Julio Aleman painting in his studio. How to create, GamePlanA
a bedroom in a nice apartment. adidas, hometeam, GamePlan A
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I’m a writer. It’s how I process the world. But as soon as the coronavirus crisis started, my sense of creativity vanished. I felt reactive, scattered, unable to focus. Not only was I unable to write, I couldn’t even read.

We’ve all had moments in our lives when we’ve felt shattered and drained. We know art can heal, but what happens when everything, including creating, seems too overwhelming?

That’s why I reached out to the #hometeam, my fellow adidas creators, colleagues who paint, make music, dance and so much more, to see how they were coping during this time. Were they feeling creative? What were they working on? In a time of great crisis, where did they even start?

What changes have you made so you can create in the current environment?

Norbert Teston (dancer and technical apparel creator)When I’m in a bad spot mentally, I feel like I need to take a mental shower before getting into a creative space again. I need to clean up and reorganize, make some changes to bring some freshness to my immediate environment. I see my home and my studio as the inside of my head  I need to allow light and fresh air to breathe through in order to allow ideas to seed and develop. 

Space for creation for Norbert. How to create, Creativity, Crisis, GamePlanA
Organize your space.
Norbert and his dancing partner. How to create, GamePlanA
Dancing is one of Norbert's creative releases.
Creation space for Norbert Teston. How to create, GamePlanA
Finding the space that works for you will help you create.
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Sarah Elizabeth Foster (dancer)I transformed a small room in my basement into a space reserved for movement. Through dance, through yoga, through spin, whatever is calling to me each day. When I go down there, I turn on my party light and just have a jam session to get my heart rate up and have appreciation for the ability to move. 

Tiankai Feng (musician)I channeled my anxiety and frustrations into positivity through the creativity of making music, resulting in my so called #quarantunes – parodies of famous songs. The idea was to provide a bit of positive energy through relatable lyrics and melodies, since we are hit by bad news and negative energy everyday already. Being on lockdown at home allowed me to spend much more time with music and this made me focus my creativity a lot more than usual.  

That made me wonder what matters most – is it the act of creating that’s most significant to them or is it the satisfaction of the end result?

When you’re creating during a crisis, what’s more important to you: the process or the product?

Julio Aleman (painter)The process has always been more important to me, in or out of crisis, although I’m definitely engaging with my process differently now. I’m trying different methods/techniques to see how I problem-solve differently for each different approach.  

Space for creation for Julio Aleman. How to create, Creativity, GamePlanA
Julio's creative space.
Artist and adidas emploee Julio Aleman. How to create, GamePlanA
Julio revels in expressing his creativity.
Colorful artwork by Julio Aleman. How to create. GamePlanA
It's not just about the end result. The process plays its part.
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NorbertEverything becomes a reward. The process of exploring patterns and fabrics, combinations of colors and textures, but also the end result and the handover of my work to the recipient. I take so much joy giving my work to others. In these days of coronavirus, I have tons of little exchanges with people who need masks, and these interactions bring glimpses of light to my day, even at six feet away. 

“The process is the product for me.”
Sarah Elizabeth Foster, Dancer and Executive Assistant at adidas

SarahThe process is the product for me. It doesn’t matter if I come up with a cool piece of choreography or if I just go down and goof around for a halfhour dance session – the end result is that I let myself feel no judgment, no pressure, and no stress for the duration of my time in that room. 

TiankaiThe process of making the music has an almost meditative effect since everything around me disappears and all that’s left is me and my music. But in the end, the product should always be something I am proud of. 

Chris Duncan (artist)Drawing and painting have always been very therapeutic for me and help to ease my mind during stressful times. The hard part for me is always overcoming the stress and refocusing that energy toward creating. We’re well into the current situation with Covid-19 and I’m finally able to shift my mindset towards art again so the process is more important to me than the results right now.

Colorful artwork by Chris Duncan. How to create. GamePlanA
Art can take on a more therapeutic role when times are tough.
Portrait of Chris Duncan. How to create. GamePlanA
Chris believes a shift in mindset will help you.
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What Chris said about overcoming stress and refocusing his energies really speaks to me.

What drives these creators to leave the comfort of their sofas and Netflix for the challenges of a studio or creative office? 

What motivates you to keep creating?

Kimberly Barnhill (graphic artist): Being creative releases the joy and freedom to be able to express myself. It takes you away from everyday life and opens your mind towards a creative process and a different way of thinking. 

Creative space reserved in Kimberly's house. How to create. GamePlanA
Find the space to let your creative juices flow.
Kimberly Barnhill selfie. How to create. GamePlanA
Set yourself up to express yourself.
Artwork by Kimberly. How to create, GamePlanA
The results speak for themselves.
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Tiankai: Creating music and publishing my songs gives me the feeling of leaving a legacy to the world. Leaving something for my friends, family and everybody else to understand a part of me through my music has something romantic but also calming to it.

Chris: I watch my two children explore the world with wonder and creativity. They have no idea of the bad things that are happening and that innocence motivates me to stay positive and optimistic. If we could all channel just a little bit of how they view life we’d be happier people. I really want them to be proud of the things I did and created while I was here.

Sarah: I think everyone feels better after movement – a workout, a walk, stretching, yoga – it’s a way to appreciate the body and what it’s capable of. The feeling of completely letting go of expectation and just letting music and my emotion guide me (and there have been a LOT of emotions during this period of time at home) is priceless.

Sarah during her home dance-workouts. How to create, dancing, GamePlanA
Get yourself moving.
Sarah's private space for dancing. How to create, GamePlanA
Working out will help your mind refocus.
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Finally, I asked our creators for their advice for people like me, who feel the urge to confront, control or escape from the current crisis through art, but are feeling too fragmented, too inundated to focus? 

What advice do you have for people who are struggling to be creative during a crisis?

JulioPause, step back and take a deep breath. Ask yourself why you create. Really think about what motivates you on the most fundamental, most personal of levels. If the pressure to produce sits front and center while you are trying to create, you’re not going to be motivated or inspired. Try not to let that take over and instead revisit, reconnect with a more naïve and honest reason for wanting/needing to create.  

“Cut yourself some slack and stay quiet for a bit to let your mind wander.”
Norbert Teston, Director Standards and Compliance at adidas

NorbertCut yourself some slack and stay quiet for a bit to let your mind wander. also find that sometimes you just have to do something else and be creative in another way (bake, construct, garden) to put your mind at ease and take you slowly back to your main art. But most of all, listen to where you are emotionally and be gentle with yourself. Anxiety immobilizes me artistically, but it is also here for a reason and it has the right to exist. It sometimes becomes the fuel to inspiration as well.

Tiankai: Do not put pressure on yourself to be creative – that will result most likely in the opposite. Instead, collect your thoughts, think about some creative project you always wanted to do in the past but could not, and think about how to start it now. You don’t have to have a plan; sometimes you just need to start doing something creative and the rest will follow. 

adidas employee composes a song during quarantine. How to create, GamePlanA
The quarantine song hit LinkedIn by storm.
adidas employee keep himself creative and motivated during COVID19. How to create. GamePlanA
Tiankai expresses himself through his music.
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KimberlyPursue something else creative that is not part of your normal routine. I find this can get your right-brain juices flowing. Also remember you are not alone. Just make the effort to reach out. We are all in this together. 

“Do some variation of what makes you truly happy.”
Sarah Elizabeth Foster, Dancer and Executive Assistant at adidas

Sarah: Do some variation of what makes you truly happy. It’s so important to lean into what you’re naturally excited by. Sometimes it feels like being creative means you have to be completely unique, when really, all you need to do is tap into what feels good in your soul. 

Sarah was right. I was overcomplicating things and, in the end, I just needed to sit my bum in a chair and start. In the two weeks between getting their answers and writing this story, I wrote about 3,000 words in a journal entry and short story and novel I’ve been working on.

That act of creation made me feel more grounded, more settled, more focused in my daily life than I had in weeks. But it’s still a challenge to manage work life, home life and creative life amidst so much chaos.

Julio Aleman:; Instagram (includes process photos)

Chris Duncan: Instagram 

Norbert Teston: 

Tiankai Feng: #quarantunesYouTube; Spotify artist page

Read Part Two of Creators Inspiring Creators

Take inspiration from these eight adidas employees. They will show you how to create, even when all you see around you is chaos.

Read More


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by Linda 13.05.2020
Love your honesty Val and the advice the interviewees bring. It's fantastic to see the amazing #hometeam talent that we have at adidas!
by Valarie Linda 14.05.2020
Thanks, Linda! We're so fortunate to work with such talented people.
by Maria Culp 13.05.2020
So inspired and motivated by this group! Thank you for sharing!
by Valarie Maria Culp 14.05.2020
Thanks, Maria! On top of everything else, they're a fantastic community that does a great job of encouraging and supporting each other.
by Julia T 14.05.2020
Thanks for giving us insights to these inspiring creators' lives, Val :) Really feeling a spark to create inside of me now.
By the way, what helps me access my emotions and find that creative state of mind inside of me is listening to classical music with closed eyes. Maybe this works for you, too!
by Valarie Smith Julia T 18.05.2020
Thanks, Julia! I use classical music to start my work days - I do find it really helps me concentrate.
by Jenny Gravestam 14.05.2020
I paint to the beat of Funk and Jazz music. I want to make people happy and feel special
no matter what style they got.
by Valarie Smith Jenny Gravestam 18.05.2020
Great choice!
by Debra Schad 14.05.2020
Val- you always amaze and inspire me!
by Valarie Smith Debra Schad 18.05.2020
That says so much coming from adidas' Inspirer-in-Chief! Thanks so much!
by Tatiana 15.05.2020
Can't wait to read some of your work Valarie - thank you for this inspiring and motivating piece
by Valarie Smith Tatiana 18.05.2020
Thanks, Tatiana!

First time here?