Creativity. It’s as mysterious and elusive to humans as love. We stalk it. We crave it. We try to bring it out in ourselves.
Every creative work you’ve ever loved has a hero’s journey behind it. Whether it’s a book or a building. A movie, a mural, a musical. It starts with a spark. Then: Endless iteration. Inevitable setbacks. Magical people who appear to help. And the breakthrough idea — that takes on a life all its own.
On Spark & Fire, for the first time ever, you’ll hear what was happening in the mind of a creator as they brought their iconic work to life. But this isn’t an interview show. It’s a story — told entirely in the artist's own words — against the backdrop of originally composed music of the prepared piano.
In Season One, you’ll hear from Yo-Yo Ma on the Silk Road Project, director Rian Johnson on making Knives Out, Isabel Allende on The House of the Spirits, Kemp Powers on Pixar’s Soul, architect Thomas Heatherwick on The Vessel, choreographer Bill T. Jones on Afterwardsness, book designer Chip Kidd on the cover of Jurassic Park, executive producer Kamilah Forbes of the Apollo Theatre, Susan Orlean on The Orchid Thief and more.
With host June Cohen — cofounder of WaitWhat, former executive producer of TED Talks and co-host of the TED conference — in her first hosting role since TED.
What really happens on the road to success? You’re about to find out. Let these epic stories spark your own creative journey.
Spark & Fire is a WaitWhat original series in exclusive partnership with Skillshare.
How to build your creative vision: Photographer Stephen Wilkes on the 2021 Inauguration Photo
Making art is a distillation of all your life experiences – from the half-remembered images from your childhood to your fascination with what's happening around you right now. Photographer Stephen Wilkes developed his signature Day to Night images to share his passion for how time passes – and soon found that they also helped him explore everything else that interested him: nature, city life, even politics. Learn the backstory behind his famous photo of the 2021 Inauguration as he explains how he developed his signature style – and where to start as you develop your own.
See images from this episode and a full transcript at sparkandfire.com/daytonight.
Apollo Theater’s Kamilah Forbes on "Between the World and Me"
"I want to make this into theater, in a way that’s never been done before." When Kamilah Forbes first reads "Between the World and Me," by her friend Ta-Nehisi Coates, she's moved, shaken, gutted by its truth and beauty. She dreams of presenting it at Harlem's Apollo Theater, a legendary space for Black art and excellence. First step: convince Ta-Nehisi. Spark & Fire follows the journey from book to stage to HBO – during a pandemic – in a story of collaboration and trust, joy and challenge.
Architect Thomas Heatherwick on NYC’s “Vessel”
How do you change the creative brief? You start with play. The architect Thomas Heatherwick was asked to create a monumental public work for the plaza of vast new development in the heart of Manhattan. The expected route would be to copy what’s worked before on other plazas in other cities – a statue, a fountain. But Heatherwick knew he had to push past what was expected. Spark & Fire follows the journey of “Vessel,” a massive piece of public art, from its roots in traditional Indian forms, to its sophisticated construction and multi-year assembly, to its reception by the public – a complicated story that is still unfolding. It’s a story of creative bravery, play, and persistence – at the drawing board and in the meeting room.
Bill T. Jones on "Afterwardsness," his pandemic masterpiece
When faced with a crisis, how do you move forward? Sometimes, you look backward first. It’s March 2020, and legendary choreographer Bill T. Jones is weeks away from a world premiere. His company is forced into lockdown. All seems lost. But what comes next paves the way for a transcendent performance at the Park Avenue Armory called “Afterwardsness” — one of the only large-scale performances held anywhere during the pandemic. On Spark & Fire, the larger-than-life Bill T. Jones tells this powerful story of creative grit, love of art and reckoning with legacy — in his own fierce, fiery, funny words. He’s joined at times by his Associate Artistic Director, Janet Wong, and together they offer inspiration and ideas to fuel your own creative journey.
Follow along (with transcript and amazing photos) at https://sparkandfire.com/billtjones/
Isabel Allende on "The House of the Spirits"
How do you write the stories of your life? Any time, any place, any order. Isabel Allende was 39, and a refugee from her native Chile, when she started writing a letter to her dying grandfather — recounting the family stories he'd told her – of love, loss, memory, magic. This letter evolved into her first novel, the beloved epic "The House of the Spirits.” With her trademark warmth and wit, Isabel shares how she found the time and space to write as she rebuilt her life – and how her 500-page typed manuscript, heavy with correction fluid and coffee stains, found its way to the agent in Madrid who made it an instant international sensation. Throughout the story — told entirely in Isabel's brilliantly chosen words — you'll hear never-before-told details about her creative process and journey, including ideas on story structure and writing rituals; first readers and family politics — all of which can fuel your own story-telling.
Follow along (transcript and amazing photos) at https://sparkandfire.com/isabelallende/
Chip Kidd on the "Jurassic Park” book cover
What do you do when you’re stuck? Something else. Designer Chip Kidd got a dream assignment: Create the book cover for a soon-to-be-blockbuster: Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park. Oh, and make it iconic. When the pressure to perform is that high, it's easy to get creatively paralyzed. Chip recounts exactly how he got started and how he got unstuck — over and over — on the journey to create one of the best-known book covers of the 20th century. He tells the story in his own fast-paced, funny, pointed words, with lots of smart, actionable advice for anyone setting out on their own creative quest.
Follow along (transcript and lots of pictures) at sparkandfire.com/chipkidd
Bio: A longtime book designer for Knopf, where he designed the cover for Jurassic Park and hundreds more books, Chip Kidd is the author of two novels, two non-fiction titles and a study of Batman. Follow him at @ChipKidd