We weren't at all surprised when Shawna Forney asked if she could share this interview with fellow organizer and friend Erma Tijerina. It's in Forney's nature to invite people, to turn everything into a group project, to make everything a party. Tijerina is the same. The community organizers/event planners/media consultants behind CulturePilot, a branding/design company and CreativeMornings Houston, a series of monthly breakfast meetings with imaginative, inventive speakers, Forney and Tijerina are both natural hosts, natural leaders. They're smart, focused, gregarious women with infectious enthusiasm and it's extremely difficult to ever say no to either of them.
A couple of generations ago, they would have made a hell of a pair of Tupperware ladies. These days, they're more aptly described as culture gurus.
Together Forney and Tijerina are a third entity: SHER. The three of them answered our questions (we admit we had to color code the answers to keep everything straight).
What They Do:Forney has one of the coolest job titles we've heard lately; she's Director of Delight for Culture Pilot. "I usually receive a weird or funny [look when I tell people what I do] and then I go on to tell them about all of the fun things that I work on at Culture Pilot as well as my passion projects such as I'm number two at CreativeMornings Houston, I'm a curator of TEDxHouston, and I do freelance social media."
Tijerina has a more ordinary sounding job title, but her actual duties are as fun as Forney's. "My primary role is as a graphic designer at Culture Pilot, that I'm also the host of CreativeMornings Houston, on the board of AIGA Houston, and involved in TedxHouston. I also take on freelance design work from time to time."
Why They Like It: It's SHER that answers this: "We are not only inspired by our speakers and performers but by the community that comes together for the events. It's been fun to hear about the people who have met at the events and are working on a project together or who maybe found a job from someone they met at the event.
"Plus, we have been able to introduce some of the speakers to new people, the venues have seen lots of new faces from the people attending the events. some of the community discovered [new musicians who perform] at the events."
What Inspires Them: Forney readily admits one of her strongest inspirations is "a crippling case of control and trying to make things perfect - which never are!"
She goes on to say, "I'm inspired by people, community, art, music and technology. I have had some pretty cool jobs with super creative people and I'm always inspired by my environment. I really try to surround myself with wonderful people who inspire me. My enthusiasm comes from the things that make me happy and from humor. I love a good laugh. Drive comes from working hard and seeing the results."
Tijerina adds to the list: "I'm very inspired by design, art, community - both global and local - and architecture. I find it amazing that I get to meet so many inspiring people. My drive and enthusiasm stems from following my passions, and from the amazing examples from visionaries in the field of design and community building events."
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If Not This, Then What: When the two women tell us about their perfect jobs, they describe what suspiciously sounds like what they're already doing.
Forney says, "I really love events. I love social media and I love to travel. If there was a job where I could combine all of those, that would be pretty sweet. Maybe I could own a boutique hotel chain and just throw parties and post Instagram pics? I would enjoy that."
"Like Shawna said...it'd be amazing to combine my loves," adds Tijerina. "I love design and love events. I also really love to travel. So, designing and planning events around the world? That would be cool."
The two had different childhood aspirations. "As a child, I wanted to be VJ on MTV," Forney laughing tells us. Tijerina had a slightly longer list of career choices: "I was inspired by everything and wanted to do it all! I wanted to be an artist, a ballerina, a nurse, a vet... everything!"
If Not Here, Then Where: With her natural tendency to find options in everything, Forney finds it difficult to settle on just one city. "Could I live in two cities? Maybe one in the winter and one in the summer," she asks. "I have always loved New York City or Brooklyn. Also, I recently went to Minneapolis and it was beautiful there. Gosh, that's a tough question. Plus, Houston has been nice in that it has allowed me to do some cool things since it's so affordable."
Tijerina echoes Forney. "Shawna's answer of living in multiple cities is exactly what I've said before. Ha, see, we've got many things in common. I do love Houston. It's an amazing city with a diverse culture, and so many things to do and see. However, I also love New York, Chicago, and Germany - I haven't been there yet, but I already love it. Someday, it would be amazing to live in multiple cities, or to travel for longer periods of time. I find it inspirational to feel the culture and life in many cities. And, the architecture. Beautiful architecture is stimulating to my senses."
It's SHER that finally starts to zero in on an answer then even SHER goes off-track: "The ultimate dream would be to live in two different cities - one in the winter and one in the summer - and throw events with unlimited budgets in cities all over the world. Oh did we mention, that we DJ too? Could we DJ at some of those events too?"
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What's Next: Forney thinks immediately of the upcoming CreativeMornings Houston event. Shawna "It's this Friday, August 22. It features the oh-so-cool Kirk Brand Coburn. He's kind of a genius and he is going to talk all about failure. Plus, we are going to the first ever CreativeMornings Summit at the beginning of October. All of the organizers are meeting together for the first time. It's going to be insanely fun."
Tijerina chimes in, "What she said. But, I'd like to add to that. In addition to the amazing CreativeMornings events in the works, I'd love to explore planning additional events and conferences with Shawna and like-minded people. That would be amazing."
More Creatives for 2014 (In order of most recently published; click here for the full page).
Mark Bradley, photographer James Ferry, comics artist Keith Parsons, author and philosophy professor Alonzo Williams Jr., photographer Rudy Zanzibar Campos, painter Paige Kiliany, director Betirri Bengtson, visual artist Melissa Maygrove, romance novelist Natalie Harris, bridal gown designer Larry McKee, cinematographer Tiffany Heath, filmmaker Jonathan Pidcock, Jewelry Maker Mallory Bechtel, actor, singer, dancer Janine Hughes, visual artist Nyssa Juneau, artist John Merritt, artist Leslie Scates, choreographer and dance educator Denise O'Neal, producer, director, playwright Jason Poland, cartoonist Courtney Sandifer, filmmaker, actor, writer Lloyd Gite, gallery owner Henry Yau, The Children's Museum of Houston's publicity and promotions guru Angeli Pidcock, fantasy writer and mentor Jennifer Mathieu, author Scott Chitwood, writer Anat Ronen, urban artist Amber Galloway Gallego, rockstar and sign language interpreter Michael Weems, playwright Lane Montoya, artist Jordan Simpson, SLAM poet Joey & Jaime, designers Suzi Taylor, photographer Ashton Miyako, dressmaker T. Smith, artistLindsay Finnen, photographer Kaitlyn Stanley, tattoo artist Eleazar Galindo Navarro, video game maker Kate de Para, textile and clothing designer Shawn Swanner, video game painter Andy Gonzales, painter Chris Foreman, comic book sketcher Theresa DiMenno, photographer Jessica E. Jones, opera singer Atseko Factor, actor John Pluecker, writer, poet and language justice worker Ricky Ortiz, painter, tattoo artist Rabēa Ballin, artist David Wald, actor Lisa E. Harris, performing and visual artist Stephanie Todd Wong, executive director of Dance Source Houston Pamela Fagan Hutchins, novelist Heather Gordy, artist Mark Nasso, comic artist Shelbi-Nicole, artist Marian Szczepanski, novelist Jonathan Blake, fashion designer Doni Langlois, interior designer Kat Denson, dancer Blame the Comic, comedian Margaret Menchaca Alvarez, artist Jacquelyne Jay Boe, dancer Rene Fernandez, painter Teresa Chapman, choreographer and dancer