Q + A with Josh Horton, Founder of Creative Works

by Chellie Bowman | image above by Brandon Rike

How long have you been a part of the creative community? When and how did you start the Creative Works Conference?

I’ve been working as a creative professional since 2000. I left Memphis in 2004 because my work didn’t stack up to folks I wanted to be peers with in the industry.

An internship opportunity in Seattle opened up a full-time position and I designed album art, packaging, posters and apparel for the music industry for 3 years with Invisible Creature. Being around others who were ahead of me grew me exponentially and expeditiously. I also saw firsthand how a strong creative community helped grow and establish the culture of a city. My home (and my heart) have always been here in Memphis. I have a deep conviction for helping creative folks like me in the Deep South do great work and understand their value.

When I returned to Memphis in 2007, I found a mostly disconnected, stagnant, and apathetic creative community. And after years of bouncing around from nonprofit to nonprofit, and a handful of freelance and personal projects, the idea for how to bring what I had in Seattle to Memphis was born.

I founded Creative Works Conference in 2014 to connect my network to Memphis to spend time with and inspire local creatives…to help them understand their value and find new ways to accelerate change here in our city.

What speaker or workshop are you most excited about this year?

I’m really excited to hear from our 3 keynote speakers; Brian Collins of COLLINS agency, Teresa Fitzgerald from Sesame Workshop, and Amos Kennedy Jr. a printer, book artist and papermaker. They collectively have more than a century and a half of experience with creative work and craft. I’m excited for them to share their work and perspective from the main stage along with 15 other presenters from all over the country.

We also bring some of the top leaders in the industry helping our attendees grow their creative practice. So we’re offering 10 hands-on workshops on branding, hand-lettering, illustration, storytelling, business, photography and more.

What role does diversity play in creative work? How is it showing up at the Conference?

Design solves a human problem and to reach the biggest audience you have to have a solid understanding and value of different groups of people. Diversity shows up at the conference in our panel of speakers and instructors and our attendees. First of all, it’s important for our panels to look like the diversity that’s present in our city and it’s also important for those in our community to learn from and hear from those that aren’t in our bubble to expand the possibilities of creative work and career.

photo by Ziggy Tucker

You mentioned in our prior conversation that creatives drive change. How exactly can creativity push our community forward?

Creative work seeks to create something new. A seasoned creative knows how to build and craft a fresh, bold message and/or brand that can reach an audience, change their minds, and help them have enough empathy to change their behavior. This is mostly glaring in advertising for consumer goods, but can be leveraged to help build an audience and raise support for social change.

Do you think creativity is or could be an important tool for LGBTQ advocacy?

I think that it’s the most important tool for advocacy, period. Understanding how to weld the crafts of brand and story is imperative to attracting and building an audience, starting conversations, changing minds and undermining the status quo.

When is your conference? Do we need to be professional creatives to attend? What might we expect to learn and get out of the conference?

The conference is this October 6-8 at The Halloran Centre downtown. 

If you want to learn how to put your creative and artistic sensibilities to work then the conference is for you. If you want to be inspired by the possibilities of creative work and career then the conference is for you.

I think it’s important to not only empower people who consider themselves creative, but those who also want to equip themselves to be advocates for creative people, ideas and work to help build a new Memphis.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Each year, alongside the conference, we host the Creative Works Pop-Up Market and bring in more than 30 designers, makers, manufacturers, and brands from all over the country. And we open the whole thing up to the public for two days. 

It’s a great way to connect our community to creative entrepreneurs and their products. And an important way to help inspire local artists and creatives to start their own businesses making and selling their work… also a great way to stock up on one-of-a-kind gifts for the holidays!

The 8th annual Creative Works Conference will be from October 6-8. Head to creativeworks.co for details.