creative crush: Chris Maier

This month's creative crush is Chris Maier, creator of Little Salon and Made by Little. I was first introduced to Little Salon by a friend who has since moved away ... and I will forever be thankful. Little Salon is one of my favorite events in DC and I am always inspired by the creativity shared. We'll be at Field Day tomorrow with some other creative acts curated by Little Salon. 

What do you do?

Among other things, I organize and curate arts and culture events that aim to expose DCers to the best creative work — from poetry to puppeteering and beyond — that this city is producing.

When did you first curate an art show?

About ten years ago, I was working with students at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana and I recognized this real dearth of opportunities to exhibit their (really strong) art. The academic department that employed me had a large lobby with all sorts of unused wall space.

So, after a few conversations, the dean agreed to let us turn that lobby into the Fifth Story Gallery (it was on the fifth floor of a building), which featured about 10–15 selected works each semester. We kicked off each exhibit with a gallery opening that drew a great crowd and, I hope, really gave a sense of validation to the artists.

Why did you decide to pursue Little Salon as a regular event?

The idea for Little Salon had been bouncing around in my brain for a while, but the reality of Little Salon materialized pretty quickly and pretty spontaneously. The first salon came together within a week or two and was meant to be a low-key, one-off event in a small apartment with some beer in the bath tub (literally) and some poetry, fiction, and chamber music in the living room. We assumed maybe 20 friends would show up. Instead, more than 60 people came.

Everybody was sweating in that apartment — and everybody was really happy, not only about the performances but about the different kinds of people they were meeting. So by the end of that first night, I started to think that Little Salon might be able to become an ongoing thing that could contribute something worthwhile to the creative community in DC. And it’s been growing from there ever since.

Photo by Little Salon

Photo by Little Salon

What do you do to overcome a creative block?

I have all sorts of tactics for this. Sometimes I just switch to a different project for a little bit. Sometimes I go for a run. Sometimes I go to a bar or café and just chat about God knows what with interesting people. Sometimes I go find some amazing creative work that somebody else has done (at a gallery, in a book, through a film, on a wall in an alleyway), which can be both an inspiration and a challenge. Sometimes I force myself to sit with the frustration until I break through. But most often, I clean.

How do you define creativity?

Creativity is the act of taking in the world around you and pushing it back out in a way that nobody has ever done before.

What’s one thing you have to do every day?

Make the bed. Usually even when I’m staying in a hotel. 

Photo by Little Salon

Photo by Little Salon

What one piece of advice would you give to an artist or entrepreneur just starting out?

Plenty of people will have plenty of opinions about why what you’re doing won’t work. It isn’t cool enough. It lacks originality. It’s too ambitious. Whatever. Those are the people you should unfriend on Facebook. Instead, keep clarifying your goals. Keep trying. And keep going. (Also, stay humble enough to know that you always have something more to learn. And be diligent enough to go learn it.)

What’s your favorite cocktail?

It’s called Cured by Fire and it’s one of the house cocktails at Harold Black. The habanero tincture makes me tingle. (There’s some Ford’s gin and lemon in there, too.)

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Bio: Chris Maier is a writer, storyteller, and event organizer living in Washington, DC. He’s founder and operator of Little Salon, which curates one-of- a-kind experiences to spotlight creativity in the nation’s capital, and he heads up Made By Little, a boutique creative agency that works with brands to craft stories and curate experiences. He holds a B.A. in English literature from Dickinson College and an M.F.A. in fiction writing from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. You can check out his latest short stories in the spring issues of REAL and Queen Mob’s Tea House.