We need a little bit of help with our next creative initiative

1) If you could bring any kind of creativity to a public space in the city, what would you do?
2) Is there anything on the internet (could even be a feeling/experience) you’d like to bring offline to make it a thing IRL?

TERRIBLE TWENTIES: RAINBOW RETAINERS, REGRET, AND GENERAL SHIFTING

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As a kid, I wanted to be cool, but I didn’t want to be a nerd. Unfortunately, I didn’t understand that all the things I thought would make me cool were, in fact, the nerdiest. Glasses, braces, inhaler, cast for broken wrist. I wanted them all and, eventually, I got what I wished for – except for the cast, which was not for lack of concerted trying.

The reason I thought they were cool was because all of these things intrinsically elicit a lot of attention. Being popular and cool meant everyone gave you attention, right? So, even though it seems counterintuitive, it makes sense why I wanted these painfully dorky items in order to feel cool.

Glasses were easy to check off the list in second grade, followed by an inhaler for my “exercise-induced” asthma – which basically confirmed my status as an indoor kid.

I had to wait until I was eight years old to get my first taste of orthodontics when my big adult teeth began to crowd each other in the small little cavern of my mouth. From my first visit to Dr. Yamada, I knew what I eventually really wanted: a fucking cool retainer! 

On the arm of every chair in the orthodontist’s office were two laminated index cards. One listed the impressive amount of flavors to choose for impressions, and the other was my holy grail: retainer color choices. I knew I still had about 6-7 years of time left before I had to make one of the biggest decisions of my life, but I thought about it every single visit.

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Over the course of my time with Dr. Yamada, I had a myriad of excruciating appliances and oral surgeries. But, there were awesome things too. I had braces TWICE, which meant that once a month I was able to choose seasonally spirited colored bands for my brackets. And although, to my disappointment and dismay, I wasn’t made to wear headgear, I was forced to wear rubber bands that connected my top and bottom jaw.

When I was about three years old, I saw a cashier in a department store (probably the late Bullocks) in the late 80’s with neon rubber bands on her braces. I knew then what cool looked like. After being given regular rubber bands, I inquired about the neon variety that I had seen ten years prior. The assistant went to the back and dug some up from the early 90’s no doubt. They were so old, they snapped constantly, but I loved them.

When the time came for my braces to be removed, the pressure was on to choose a retainer color. I had known friends who brought in tiny purple butterfly stickers for their retainer molds, people with glow in the dark, glitter, neon, and even ones that looked like a watermelon – seeds and all!

I half-joked with my friend Lauren that I should cut out a magazine photo of Tobey Maguire for my retainers because he was my ultimate celeb crush at the time. 

Sadly, D-day arrived and I was faced with one of the greatest decisions I’d ever had to make, a decision seven years in the making – half my lifetime – and I didn’t want to screw it up. I wish I could tell you that I didn’t, but the truth is I choked. I got nervous and chose something safe. I told them I wanted bright red, because it was my favorite color, and because it was a fun color that also blended into my mouth. Why I believed anyone would look inside my mouth is beyond me.

At the last second, the assistant told me they could split the retainers in half and I could choose two colors. I made a game-time decision and “yellow,” was released out of my mouth. And so, that’s how I ended up with two of the ugliest little pieces of plastic and metal. I owned MacDonalds themes retainers.

But, retainers are expensive and, unfortunately, I was pretty responsible with them. I didn’t have a dog to accidentally chew them up, and I diligently put them in their case at night. I wore them for 15 years straight, until I began dating my current boyfriend. I wanted to come off cool and sexy, and besides, they had been bothering me for some time. Into the bathroom drawer they went – in their case of course.

This is how I found myself at the dentist for a chipped tooth, with him inquiring if I had worn my retainers, because my teeth had moved. I was shocked and offended! I had worn them religiously for over a decade – two years of laziness shouldn’t be so harshly punished.

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(This is STILL in my folder at the dentist office. The hygienists always expect a 12 year old when they retrieve me from the waiting area.)

But, he was right. I knew it. Since I started making a real adult level income, I have known in the back of my mind that I really should man up and get a new pair. I made an appointment to come back in for impressions, and I realized that I was giving myself a do-over in the retainer department. “Excuse me,” I flagged down the dentist before he walked away. “Can I choose a color for my retainer?”

“I usually just order pink,” he replied. “But, I’ll look into it for you.”

One week later I returned to the dentist’s office to take my impressions, remembering how much they make you want to gag. As I wiped the saliva and strawberry flavored plaster from my mouth, my dentist returned with a large laminated chart of retainer colors.

I suddenly realized that at 29 years old, I was faced with yet another life altering decision. I would do it right this time! I flipped the options from front to back, oohing and aahing over nostalgic choices that were still available. The watermelon was still around, as was glitter and neon, but there were also new intricate designs depicting a snowy mountainside, a meadow, and a strawberry.

Should I finally get my Tobey Maguire retainer? I earnestly considered.

Ultimately, being the almost 30 year old that I am, I placed my order for the classic rainbow design. Because I have always loved anything with rainbows, and nothing, absolutely nothing has changed.

I had to wait an anxious two weeks to come back to pick them. But when I did, it was worth it. They were nothing short of beautiful. Such craftsmanship! The minute the dentist opened the familiar hard plastic half-moon shaped case to reveal my shiny new rainbow beauties, I was in love. Not to mention, the retainer artisans took the liberty of adding glitter to the yellow panels. They were just as inspired as me, it seemed.

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I walked away feeling great for so many reasons. I had made the adult decision to go out of my way to have them made. I paid for them all on my own, in full. They fit like a dream. And, I finally felt like I had rectified a real regret.

I wear them every night because it’s nice to know that I am preserving my parents’ $10k investment in my smile, because I paid for them, and because they are really fucking fun. I even recently discovered they are also glow in the dark. Can you even??

Even now, I am struck with my guttural desire, the same desire I had 15 years ago. We mature and grow so much, but we’re still so very much the same. It’s comforting to know that these versions of you still exist, ingrained in who you become. 

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But, just as I am excited to have the dream retainers I always wanted, this time it isn’t in an effort to be cool. It’s not for attention. It’s just for me. As much as I wanted to seem cool with my attention seeking glasses and neon rubber bands when I was younger, it was always for me. I realize that just being me, nerdy ol’ me, was what made me cool and I was doing it all along without trying.

I share my dumb elation on Instagram. I share them here with you. I will probably receive attention for it. It might even make me cool. But this time I don’t care either way. We all get excited about weird shit, and this is mine. It’s comforting to know that even though the 8 year old me, and the 14 year old me are still in there, I’ve grown up quite a bit.

Retainers are meant to hold things in place, but despite their best efforts, things still shift a little.

TALENT: COREY MULLANEY

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Introduce yourself!
Hello! My name’s Corey and I’m a twenty year old photographer living in Manchester, UK.

What are some of your influences?
My influences are drawn from all different forms of creativity, particularly pop culture, but I love anything from Ben Zank’s minimalistic nudes to David LaChapelle’s chaotic high fashion. I connect so intimately with the devotion to art and the way that an individual will give their soul entirely to the purpose of photographic expression. I also spend a lot of time listening to music because for me, it can inspire some of the deepest feelings and realisations and that is what I aim to bring out and show about myself through the work that I produce.

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What are you working on right now?
This is probably the most daunting question of the bunch. I spent three years constructing BLOODSHOT and I had such a hard time bringing the production to an end. I got to a point when I was doing my best work and I just didn’t want to stop. I recently had to build an exhibition from the ground up, and I decided that this presented itself as the perfect opportunity to expose all of my hard work. It turns out that I couldn’t have timed it better and people were absolutely infatuated with the finished product.

I am already producing concepts for the following photobook; all I can divulge is that the work seems to be mainly based around my difficulties as a child. BLOODSHOT has given me the ability to reflect on things with a psychological eye, but my main wish is that the audience can find something within the narratives that they can relate to

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Tell us about “BLOODSHOT”.
I have struggled to comprehend the meaning and destiny of my imaginative persona for a long time, but I’ve always known that the photographs I create are deeply nostalgic sentiments. It is only now that I realise how these real memories and ideas are my therapeutic and artistic ways of dealing with some of the challenges in my life. I want the audience to gaze through my BLOODSHOT eye as I craft some of the most personal and heartfelt pieces that are sewn together through the themes of fashion and theatricality. Though my visual constructions are extreme, they are built upon the hyperbolic foundations of my difficulties as an adolescent, and I feel that, without this ability to artistically express myself, I could not exist. 

My self-portraiture however, is not created solely as a statement of deliberate expression; it also generates subconscious reflections which have led to an affiliation and familiarity with the nature of my personality. Fears are the reoccurring symbol in my conceptual work and I feel that they have quite delicately demonstrated a weakness in my creative reality. Some images in particular tackle the fear of an artistic lapse, a fear of the darkness, a fear of sexuality or sexualisation and a fear of both family and intimate relationships breaking down.

How do you feel about an emerging creative? Thoughts on how the online community and social media has changed to benefit us?
As far as I’m concerned Social Media will always have a place in my heart. It allows young artists to find and build an audience that is willing to learn about and understand them. However, it is also full of people that will hurt and critically analyse you, but it’s not always a bad thing. I started photo-making when I was just 16 and the oppression, misunderstanding and low expectations of others really pushed me to work harder and now I am at a point where I absolutely love sharing what I can do because I know that all of those people were wrong about me.

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Any advice?
Speaking as a self-portrait artist with not a lot of money, the only advice I can give to other emerging artists is that they must not be afraid to explore themselves in any way possible and to have faith in what they can achieve. I’ve always lived under the notion that photographic equipment is not essential to the creation of something beautiful. In fact almost half of BLOODSHOT was produced with a compact camera and the built-in flash. I had to strive for understanding and knowledge in the area of technology.

How do you spend your mornings?
I’m studying in my final year of university which means that most mornings are stolen from me, but I mostly enjoy spending my mornings in bed, who doesn’t? 

FIND MORE OF COREY MULLANEY’S WORK HERE

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Michelle Akin ( michelleakin ) is a life coach, singer and a YouTuber. She talks about how we spend a lot of our twenties refusing to take ownership of our own lives and how we need to be more mindful of what we consume and who we allow to matter.

It’s insightful and might be hard-hitting for some people, but definitely very honest. Give it a listen - it’s worth your time. Promise.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INTERVIEWS ON TWENTYBLISS

TALENT: THE STEPTONES

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Introduce yourselves
We are a four-piece band coming out of Canberra, Australia. The band consists of Patrick Ryan (vocals/guitar), Tim Douglass (guitar/keys), Jono Warren (drums) and Jack Schwenke (bass). Stemming from a broad range of musical influences, we aim to capture and deliver what has been special about pop music since its origin: Relatable lyrics and catchy hooks that are able to evoke foot-tapping enjoyment. That, and something that people can just dance to. And we also throw in a few cool guitar solos.

How did you all come together to start making music?
Tim, Jono and I all lived in the same residential collegree at our university, ANU. After a few times playing in the college band for various events, we decided to have a bit of a jam. Turns out, it went rather well. After a number of gigs and swapping instruments (to compensate for the lack of a bassist), we met Jack, who studies with Tim and Jono at the music school. The rest is history.

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How would you describe your music?
We’ve been described by a college radio presenter in the US as “Well, imagine if you will, Jack Johnson accidentally walking into a Beatles’ session and they decided to write and record a few tunes ‘just for the fun of it’”, which is pretty cool. Those two artists definitely have an influence on us, but not so much so that we’re bound to the confines of that brand of music. Fundamentally, we’re a guitar-driven pop-rock band that doesn’t mind mixing things up to keep it interesting.

What are some of your influences/inspirations, musical or otherwise
There’s always the classics. And they are classics for a reason. Dylan, The Stones, the Beatles and Pink Floyd are all some of my favorites, who, along with many others, have shaped modern pop music. My personal all-time favorite is the Dire Straits. Tom Petty comes a close second. We write what we know, so all of these musicians, and countless others from a range of genres have helped to shape how and what I play.

Can you tell us about your experience working on your debut EP, ‘Someday Soon’?
If you asked me a year and a half ago how I’d be spending my summer of 2013/14, never could I have fathomed that I’d be recording an EP. The whole experience was scary, mildly tedious at times (doing the same take over and over again can get to you), an awesome learning experience, and most of all, so much fun. 

After writing a number of songs, we had planned to record a few tracks at a local studio in Canberra, then send them out for mixing. So, we shot off a couple of emails, to which we got back an email from Producer ‘Lindsay Gravina’, who not only was happy to mix our tracks, but wanted us to come into the studio to record with him. After months of pre-production, we managed to find the 5 that we were happy with to be released on an EP.

Once we got to the studios, we were exposed to a whole new world of music production that none of us had ever experienced before. Four weeks later, after many a late night listening over and over again to the same 5 tracks, we came out with an EP. It’s a completely different side to gigging and live performance that we’d only before experienced to a minor degree. For me, I love the live stuff, so this was definitely where all the hard yards go.

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What’s your first musical memory?
Me and my Dad driving in his car blasting ‘Breakdown’ by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, with us both singing along. That song rocks.

Favourite collaboration? (Either real or imaginary - is there someone you’d love to work with?)
I reckon Katy Perry and The Steptones would make a killer song, negotiations are still in progress… Aside from that, I think it’d be so much fun to work with Dave Grohl.

How do you spend your mornings?
Sleeping, if I can. Although I start work at 6am a couple of times a week, which really throws a spanner in the works. Apart from that, lots and lots coffee.

Would you rather live one 1,000 year life, or ten 100 year lives?
Ten 100 year lives, It’d be fun to mix things up a bit.

TALENT: KELLY CHO

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Introduce yourself!
Hiya, I’m Kelly. I’m a twenty-three year old designer living in London. I’m from Hong Kong.

What are some of your influences/inspires you on a daily basis? Explain your creative process.
Elements of history are always in my work. On a daily basis, I’m obsessed with history documentaries and will watch anything to do with it. When I go on holiday, I’m tempted to stay in my hotel sometimes just to watch the history channel. Lately, all my work are digital collages made with cut-outs from encyclopedia illustrations. Encyclopedia illustrations are so well-drawn and odd at the same time …like the illustrations of different races. It’s such an out-dated visual source but I’m really drawn to that aspect of it and also to the fact that it feels like a lot more care has been gone into documenting one thing, like for example, an egg. 

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What are you working on right now?
I’m working on a series on the theme of colonialism. I just finished the first piece, called The Landing. (Shown above)

How do you feel about being an emerging creative? Any thoughts on how the online community and social media has changed to benefit the creatives of our generation?
I’m not against it. I think the things I see online are pretty interesting these days. There is so much you can do nowadays. On one hand, there is an overkill of trends… there are more things that make you go, oh I’ve seen this and that before. But trends will always exist, and there are still so many things I come across online that blow my mind and challenge my thinking of design in new ways all the time. The online community pushes us to go further because there are just so much good work out there that are available for everyone to see and appreciate. 

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Any advice you could give to other emerging artists / advice you’d been given in the past that you’d like to share?
Someone once said these encouraging words to me, “Someone one day will find your work and things will take off from there”. My mantra, as cheesy as it is, is to keep doing what I love doing and not worry too much.

What would you like to get out of your twenties? What would you like to have achieved by the time you reach 30?
There isn’t any one thing that I’m aiming to achieve because I think there are too many possibilities …some that I have considered and probably some that I haven’t even foreseen. I think as long as I can find a balance of some kind with my creative work and the boring stuff like being able to make enough money to sustain myself or save for my future then I’ve done ok. 

How do you spend your mornings?
I’d rather skip breakfast than lose a minute of sleep, so I usually sleep till as late as I can… put on some instrumental music: the opening title score of Crimson Wings is my favorite haha. Then I shower and take forever to chose my outfit for the day and am usually late by the time I get to work… even though I live five mins away. 

You’re on death row. Giving you the benefit of the doubt, let’s say you’ve been wrongly convicted. You have to choose your last meal: what do you have?
A bowl of soup noodle …though chinese style scallops with vermicelli, soy sauce and garlic is also another fine option.

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CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT MORE OF KELLY CHO’S WORK. THEY’RE CURRENTLY ON SALE.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INTERVIEWS ON TWENTYBLISS