Words and interview by Yana Papaya
Edited by Rina Patel
Photos by Katherine Brook
Have you ever found someone interesting on Facebook or Instagram, to the point where you decided to connect with them in real life? And we are not talking about poking, hooking up or, Tinder-like connections. We are talking about a genuine connection between two or more people who are driven by similar ideas, vision and dreams. This, is how Chris and I met. We met through Instagram. And to my biggest surprise Chris turned out to be one of the the most helpful, engaging, easy-going and open-minded individuals that I have ever met through social media.
Driven by the power of human nature and its potential, Chris Pemberton set up a couple of creative projects in New Zealand that are designed to connect members within a specific community. His first project, Humans of K’ road, follows in the steps of the well-known Humans of New York concept. Chris puts a unique spin on the spirit of K’ road – the most vibrant, controversial and free-spirited street in Auckland. The Humans for the Future project caught my attention and captured my interest. Humans from all walks of life are asked to share ideas towards a sustainable future providing inspiration or advice. Photographic street portraits accompany and complete the many words of wisdom coming from the individuals within the community. These projects are only the tip-of-the- iceberg regarding who Chris Pemberton is and what he represents.
In my mind, Chris breaks a heap of stereotypes. Our hero hasn’t always been a part of the creative community. He jumped on that creative rollercoaster afte promising himself to unlock his own creative potential as part of his New Year’s resolution. Originally he works within the trade industry as an electrician who loves his job. He is also the recipient of a black-belt in judo, won at a tournament in Japan. However, it was never enough for him. He didn’t settle for a work-home-work lifestyle and continued to question his creative potential – this is the very thing that inspired me the most. There are so many people out there who stop developing/learning new things due to whatever limitations –be it parents, society…work -there are so many. But we need to somehow overcome these limitations, to experience life to the fullest. Nobody says that it’s an easy path to choose. There will be moments that hold you back. And you will need to learn how to be and deal with them. This, is why our story about Chris Pemberton is so good, as he shares his thoughts on how to overcome those uncomfortable moments and the need to continue creating in everyday life.
Before we move to the interview itself, let me share a couple of fun and inspiring facts about the life of this amazing human being. Starting from 2013, Chris Pemberton decided to undertake an unfamiliar path towards limitless creativity and unknown opportunities. In 2015 he moved to Perth, Australia for a new professional and personal push. Then, he became freshly inspired on all creative levels in the annual Nevada Black Rock Desert event; Burning Man, after which Chris travelled to Mexico to start work on a his first fiction title; Dragons’ Meow. It was there that Bri Basco, his project partner, flew down from the USA to finalise the launch of an international exhibition Creative Mirror. This particular project’s mission is to motivate everyone to find their creative potential and express it freely. Chris Pemberton and Bri Basco saw that it could be achieved by bringing artists and non-artists together who in real time would be creatively challenged.
To expand personal creative boundaries Chris decided to dive deeper and take part in an ayahuasca ceremony in a small village in Peru. He had a few epiphanies that he has shared with us in his story below. This year he plans to publish his fiction book Dragons’ Meow as well as a non-fiction book based on the psychology and spirituality behind creativity, which he is really excited about. These and many more short stories combined create a full picture of the intense and fulfilling life of Chris Pemberton.
Discover the hidden creative potential in yourself whilst reading this remarkable story.
I like to think I am a bit of a badass. I am loyal to my friends and take pride in my integrity. I love adventures of all shapes and sizes and I am always keen to try new things and experiences.
My favourite place would probably have to be up on Mt Eden, as it’s a good spot for adventures or to just chill. Being up high gives you a different perspective. I would love to watch our planet from a spaceship. I am sure that this amazing experience would affect me deeply. You see everything from a perspective that portraits the whole world in one window…our only home, where resources are too limited to squander in the way that the human race is doing.
I think it should be mandatory for every president or politician to go and explore the tangible overview effect from space. Then perhaps they would change their priorities.
Governments are more or less business driven. Business models are geared to place profit over the protection of the planet. Even Richard Branson’s massive financial promise to the environment was overwritten by his own Business’s model. Now he is working on a spaceship to escape when needed (laughs). So to save our future we would require a collective uprising of the human race backing the planet over profit.
Last year I hit the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert. One of the world’s most harshest environments. Everyone’s survival depends on each other and this becomes transparent as humanity reveals its true colours here. People say you swap a cup of sugar for a cup of salt but that’s not quite true, there is no swapping. If you need something it will be provided to you.
At Burning Man you won’t be able to see and experience everything on offer, it’s just not physically possible. Everything is more of a go-with-the-flow, enjoying a ride wherever and whenever, taking whomever you want on this ride with you, embracing every moment as it comes. I got caught up in the spirit of things and a couple of nights after arriving I gave away my bike because some dude needed to keep up with his pack of mates. Next morning I woke up with no bike but it didn’t matter because walking from A to B is a whole different experience because of all the interactions you have along the way… in fact you probably won’t make it to B… but that’s OK!
Burning Man is a desert of creativity that left me with a deep sense of inspiration, it is also where I first launched our international Creative Mirror project. Since then my project partner; Bri Basco, and I have grown the project Creative Mirror to an international level, gathering material from people all over the world including all the way down Central and South America where I travelled after the Burning Man festival.
Our Creative Mirror project works as follows: we provide drawings of random objects, split in half on two separate canvases which are then separately passed on to an Artist and their participating family member. In an attempt to maximise creativity, the two candidates are briefed that the object is from a parallel universe where anything is possible. Then they are not allowed to view the other half until it is completed by their family member and vice versa. The moment when they both line up is everyone’s favourite part and is usually quite magical. What we have found so far is that sometimes the professional artist completes the drawing in a quite predictive beautiful way, while the person who isn’t practised at drawing does a really interesting creative piece. This proves the fact, that you don’t need to be an artist to be creative.
We will launch a unique exhibition in NZ and America once we collect 100 pieces. We hope this event will bring the general public and art community together, and allow them to engage on visual and thought provoking levels. Our exhibition will be used not only as a platform for promoting local artists but also a place for inspiration to ultimately educate people on creativity and motivate them to unlock their potential.
I met my creative co-partner Bri Basco randomly on Instagram. She lives in the USA and where she majored in Art and Psychology, which is a specific interest to myself. After several or so Skype sessions Creative Mirror was born. Many more Skype meetings later she flew down to Mexico where we met in real life for the first time and worked together to officially launch the project. Now we welcome anyone to apply and participate. How wonderful it is to be to open to abundant possibilities where your passions can take on many creative forms.
Weaknesses? Sometimes I can be self-destructive, like I am aware of bad habits but do it anyway. Making an effort to form productive new habits, is something I really need to work on in order to move forward faster.
I believe following what intrinsically drives you is the most important component of life. Some people go through their entire life without even stopping to evaluate what this really is for them. You need to look past the activities and things you enjoy, to figure out the finer points that drive you. If you do follow your gut and and something doesn’t work out that’s fine, there was probably a reason for it. Whereas if you do not follow your gut and something doesn’t work out, you kick yourself and this could also be quite depressing.
My strength lies in the unshakeable belief that I am always mentally working at. It’s the transition from having those experiences and thoughts “is it going to work?” to pushing through those moments and pinpointing those. These are the moments that I can define as the most productive periods of my life. So knowing when those moments are coming along and recognising those feelings makes me aware that all I need to do is to push through. I welcome those moments now as they have now become a part of my unshakeable self.
When I had an idea to create Humans of K’ Road, I had plenty of voices in my head telling me that it was a waste of time, and that my photography wasn’t good enough and that no one would be into it and so on. With the encouragement of my friend, I drove to K’ road, got out of my car and started doing it anyway. Now the blog has over 20,000 followers and my photography skills have blown up, immensely immersing myself in a world that I am passionate about.
If I could offer some advice it would be to be more creative with your reality. If you look at life from an analytical point of view it can seem pretty black and white. Halfway through my Electrical Apprenticeship I realised that I was following a set path in life and letting the analytical part of me rule my existence. It’s safe to say I wasn’t the tiniest bit excited about this perspective. This is when I came up with the goal to unlock my creative potential. The best goal I have ever made in my life. From here I started reading books on the psychology of creativity as well as creative motivation. To be fair the path I am on now years later has similar aspects to what I had imagined back in the black and white days but my perspective is now full of colour.
Thanks to this new perspective I have found a new appreciation for being an electrician. Although it originally appealed to me because it was the most systematic type of trade, in actual fact, coming up with a professional resolution sometimes requires a creative solution and therefore, led to the non-stop functioning of two parts of my brain. Very cool. Then to make things even more exciting I developed my own artistic niche, incorporating solar power and electricity into my art.
I think we should always seek this balance between the left and right parts of the brain. If you are using only the right side of your brain in life you are probably an extremely creative and passionate person, you are a happy traveller, going around the world in your campervan for your whole life and you can come up with lots of creative cool stuff and all this is due to the fact that you are not using your left side. Because of this, these things you create are therefore, not being shared widely with the larger community – who are sure to benefit from your experiences and appreciate it.
I started writing my own book on the psychology of creativity. But this has now evolved into the spirituality of creativity because ultimately creative ideas come from within and can generally be explained by means of psychology, neuroscience and spirituality. It is the spiritual side that cannot be fully gauged and this is the most exciting part. In the fast-fast-fast pace of everyday life you are usually just reacting to circumstance. The best way to control your reality is to slow down and dive inwards. This is also where the best ideas come from.
Someone said to me the other day, ‘I couldn’t be a writer, I would be afraid of not being able to come up with ideas.’ In actual fact when you open space in your mind ideas will always flow in, so less filling your mind with worry and more filling it with believing in yourself.
A few months ago I traveled to the sacred valley in Peru to find a shaman and partake in an ayahuasca ceremony. For many people this ceremony is for healing but I was looking to further unlock my creative potential. Because from what I had researched ayahuasca breaks barriers and conditioning in a way that could very well expand your mind further into the spiritual and creative realm. I wasn’t wrong and it was a huge mental process but Mother aya walked me deeper down the path of trusting your subconsciousness. Giving me the solid notion that idea productivity comes much more efficiently from quieting your mind completely of all thoughts, in order to drive past your conscious mind and create from within. During one of the nights as I was undergoing the ceremony I managed to successfully do this meditative process, the psychedelic element in the drug gave me an amazing vision of an infinite abundance of possibilities inside me. So therefore, I now believe there is the same infinite abundance of possibility inside you as well. Oh yeah, I also saw a dragon. That was cool, I don’t know what it meant though it was just swimming around there in the infinite possibilities – (laughs).
I never used to be creative in the slightest. I still can’t draw a stick figure to save my life but it was when I took on the personal challenge to unlock my creative potential that my life motto was spawned – you are not living unless you are creating.