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Chris Dunmire: Uncowering Your Creativity!
Chris Dunmire : Soul Food Cafe Interview with Chris Dunmire

Soul Food Cafe Interview with Chris Dunmire

By Heather Blakey from the Soul Food Cafe

"The Creativity Portal is the Creative Kingdom of its host, Chris Dunmire. It was an absolute pleasure to work with Chris on this interview. Chris is a generous spirit who permits the world to enter and share her private creative kingdom. Meet her here at Soul Food and enjoy the interview which she insists expanded her mind." — Heather Blakey,

HB: Dreaming tracks in Australia trace the creative journey of the Spirit Ancestors as they formed the land and laid down the Law. Dreaming tracks are sometimes called 'songlines' and record the travels of the Spirit Ancestors who 'sung up' the country into life. It is believed that performing the right songs and ceremonies at points along the Dreaming track gives people direct access to the Dreaming. Provide us with a map that outline some of the dreaming tracks that have sung Chris Dunmire, creative enthusiast into life.

CD: It all began with an inheritance from my mother.

Besides passing down a sensitive temperament to me, my mom was my first creative role model. I have faint memories of her taking a clay sculpture class when I was 3 or 4, and plenty of incidental craft projects going on in our house as I was growing up. I heard stories that before I was born (I was the youngest of 5), Mom spent lots of her creative energy during the holidays decorating the house and making things. Though I wasn't around to see it, I know it was true. By time I was old enough to walk and talk, my parents' newfound religious beliefs put an end to holiday celebrations in our house, but didn't take away her creative spirit.

I believe that my mom always had an emerging artist within trying to free itself, but as a young mother with five kids to tend to, she had to put aside her own ambitions to raise her family. As she got older, I saw that spirit asserting itself at times, and occasionally she'd give herself over to it. It transformed her the same way that it does me.

Outside of the home, several of my elementary school teachers really stimulated my creative spirit. Specifically, my second grade teacher Ms. Raymond, and my art teacher, Mrs. Graham. Both created a healthy space in their classrooms for their kids to explore and experiment creatively. On the first day of school, Ms. Raymond gave each student in her class a colored rectangular stick of clay (the non-hardening kind.) We were to keep that clay in our desks all year long, and allowed to take it out during our free time and other special occasions. Mine was red.

When I think about my life up until the end of second grade, I can see how much I was drawn to the "artistic" and creative side of life. It was always a natural feeling. My creative spirit lay dormant for some years after, but re-emerged again later in life, and is currently thriving on just about everything I feed it.

HB: The Boab has been a bounteous tree to the Aboriginal people of Australia. Almost every part of the tree is used in one way or another. The seed pods have a woody casing with a velvety covering that is scraped off to create artwork on the pod. The seed kernels are eaten raw or roasted, and are a highly nutritious food source. Leaves and roots are used for medicinal purposes, primarily gastric and chest complaints. The Boab's bark is used to make string, rope and twine, and the gum of the tree can be used as glue. I perceive you to be like a Boab Tree in that your creative brain child, the Creativity Portal, is bounteous. In what other ways are you like a Boab Tree?

CD: I find it complimentary that you perceive me like a Boab tree. I am very fond of trees and appreciate them for their beauty and gifts. I also have a witty sense of humor and now expect I'll hear comments about me "being out of my tree." :-)

Seriously though, I put a lot of effort into living life with the least amount of waste, not just in physical forms, but also in mental and emotional forms. I feel my "work" is to facilitate within boundaries, all the while being an explorer through the journey of my own life. I see everyone as having beauty and something worth sharing, and I'm delighted when I can be part of the "helping them to realize it" process.

Perhaps like the Boab tree, I value being grounded and don't mind standing alone in the shadows sometimes. Trees give me a confident, secure feeling — one that I think transfers to those I try to inspire.

HB: When I work with primary school students I teach them about the joy of silence and take them on guided imagery tours to mystical magical places. Imagine that you are sitting by a mountain stream, listening to the water gurgle over the stones. The stones have memories and you feel those memories drifting within you, stirring up memories of your own. A figure emerges from the landscape and suggests that you come with them, down a path and through a doorway. Mentally walk down the path. Design the doorway that leads to the kingdom of your imagination. Tell us about your guide and the world beyond the doorway. What do you bring back to help grow the Creativity Portal?

CD: As an adventurous child, I spent lots of time in and around bodies of water at Woodhaven Lakes. One of my favorite places there was reminiscent of your guided imagery description of a stream with water gurgling over stones. My real-life counterpart was a winding creek that swelled past my waist after a hearty rain.

One year, the rain was so heavy that it washed away the small foot bridge over the creek. A friend and I discovered the bridge some ways down the creek a few days later, wedged next to a beaver dam made of branches a twigs. We immediately made a secret fort out of the heap, unconcerned about what the beavers might think. Today I would make it a point to ask the beavers for permission.

Nonetheless, I'd spend hours in that creek with my pants rolled up to my knees picking out "pretty" rocks for my growing collection. Before I hit puberty, my imagination ran wild near the creek, and I often found myself role-playing in the surrounding forest on the narrow hiking trail hidden among the overgrown thickets.

Don't fall asleep, Heather. I'm offering all of this background information because of what I'm about to reveal about myself: As an adult, I have a difficult time creating imaginative worlds in my mind.

I laugh to myself because it all came so easy as a child, but it seems that now the needle gauge in my brain polarizes back to the material world that I know, and memories of the past become the foundation of "mystical magical places" in my mind. While I brag of right-brained tendencies, the truth is that I struggle somewhere between right- and left-brainedness. The distinction becomes clear when you compare my art with my writing.

This struggle frustrates me because the lack of raining Skittles and naked M & M's running through my mind would certainly make me a lousy fiction writer, and it also takes away from my being able to give you a colorful "Wizard of Oz" answer about the "kingdom of my imagination" that I draw upon for the Creativity Portal.

Now that I've sufficiently sidestepped your question, I will attempt to offer this in exchange: The Creativity Portal is THE KINGDOM of My Imagination, a place where I relish in the process of rediscovering the creativity of the child within and unleashing the honest, dormant spirit that has crouched within my soul for years. At the same time, the maturing, rational part of me asserts itself through the site, perhaps as a dual entity also acting as a sort of guide. Ha, I guess you could say that I'm on a self-guided tour in this world, and the Kingdom is materializing before your very eyes.

Of course, this doesn't squeeze out the inspiration I glean from my everyday world for this Kingdom. Inspiration comes to me from everywhere. I think of myself as as an absorbing entity, taking in information, observing life, learning from others, and noticing the little things. All of this gets filtered and interpreted within me and expressed through the site and the projects I create. Secretly I think that it's better this way for me. I often wonder if I were too successful as an artist or author (HA!) that I'd be so self-absorbed about my work that I wouldn't notice anything else. I've observed that inclination in others, and it's made me more content about where I'm at and what I'm doing. At least for now, this is where I need to be, creating a much needed Creative Kingdom for myself and others to enjoy.

HB: If you could paint a landscape which depicts The Creativity Portal sitting in a neighbourhood, where would it be and what would it look like? Would it be in a big old warehouse, down an alley way of a busy cyber neighbourhood, tucked behind a Cathedral? And, if we found the doorway what would the Creativity Portal look like inside? Would it be filled with rooms with people chatting as they work or would it be like a big supply store?

Nit Wits #5: Mirror Image by Chris DunmireI'd love for the Creativity Portal to exist as a brick-and-mortar experience. A couple of years ago, I visited the DuPage Children's Museum in Naperville, Illinois, and at first sight of the building, I was in love! Imagine a huge building made out of red, yellow, and blue Legos. That is exactly what the Children's Museum looked like. Likewise, the Creativity Portal would be a big, colorful, playful building sitting smack dab in the middle of Main Street. It certainly would distract from the serious "adult" businesses in town, serving as an ongoing reminder of how important it is to stop and play in life.

The inside of the building would have many levels and rooms. Big rooms, small rooms, gigantic rooms with stadium seating. Rooms for work, and rooms for play. Rooms filled with pools, and rooms filled with sand. Rooms with white walls, and rooms with Swiss Cheese walls. Rooms for bouncing balls, and rooms with books. Rooms flowing with paint and canvases, and rooms filled with candy. Rooms with magic Sarkian cottages, and rooms with rulers and compasses. Rooms with creative conferences, and rooms to take naps in. Yes, the Creativity Portal building would have whatever the creative heart desired for everyone who entered. There would be no pressure from the outside world, and no judgment from within its walls. It would be a playful paradise, a Utopian world for the imagination.

HB: Before you answer this question close your eyes and relax. Now! Who runs your life Chris? To what extent has The Creativity Portal taken over? Who are you when you are not the webmaster of this exciting cyber resource and how have significant others shaped your direction?

Author SARK (Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy) often expresses how creativity saved her life. Others I've known have also found powerful healing and life-giving energy from their creative work. I too, have felt the transforming effects of creativity, and am amazed at how much my perspective has changed in the last few years because of it. Of course, some of that is simply due to growing older, but I truly believe in the "magic" of creativity. I've witnessed it in others, and I've lived it myself.

I've come to realize that when you find your niche in your life's work, it doesn't feel like work. It just feels right. The Creativity Portal and I have a symbiotic relationship. It's a project that perpetually motivates, teaches, and inspires me to learn, grow, and express myself. It's a transforming tool that helps me align who I am on the outside with who I am on the inside. Some would call this authentic living. I call it an awesome journey of self-discovery and personal growth.

Being that the Creativity Portal is an extension of me, the Kingdom of My Imagination, you'll find me just the same in real life. That is, I am not someone else offline. My sense of humor, curiosity about life, and sense of wonderment is always switched on. I listen more than I talk, and am quite content with my nose in a book or magazine learning something new. And I love people.

People truly fascinate me. My eyes have been opened to how much we really need one another and benefit from getting along. We glean so much through our relationships, not only in love and friendship, but in life experience. You can learn so much through the people you surround yourself with.

Everyone whom I come in contact with affects me on some level, that in turn, shapes my perspective on life. I'll also add that I've been greatly influenced in recent years by other creative souls such as yourself, and those who've freely shared their work on the Creativity Portal. Susan M. Brackney, Joy Sikorski, Roberta Allen, Michele Pariza, and Angela Mack are a small representation of the hundreds of authors and artists who've left a mark on the site that promotes the exploration and expression of creativity worldwide. These people have contributed greatly to the success of the Creativity Portal and have given it more life than I could ever have done on my own. Thus, credit for the Creativity Portal is no longer just due to me, but to the collective voices that teach and inspire visitors coming to the site every day.

Finally, an enormous amount of credit is due to the driving force that has stood behind me for the last 14 years, my partner in life and unending source of left-brained expertise, Curt Dunmire. Without him, my venturing into the world of digital design and Web publishing may not have happened, and the Creativity Portal wouldn't exist.

Curt has been a constant source of love and inspiration to me the whole way through, encouraging me to keep moving forward with the site and enjoying myself along the way. He's also been the sounding board for a plethora of my ideas (kooky and otherwise), and the technical wizard behind many of the features on the site. Much of the Creativity Portal's success is owed to Curt, and I can't thank him enough for all he's done over the years behind the scenes to keep it running smoothly. •

— Chris Dunmire, January 8, 2005