Creative Mornings Charleston

Jess Spence

All photographs by Stephanie Greene


The artistic community is not known to be an early-bird crowd, and honestly, who doesn’t pass up sleeping in when they get the chance? So why schedule a lecture at 8:00 a.m. on a Friday? For obvious proof that your students actually care.


Creative Mornings is not required like your job or class; it’s a completely optional (and free) event hosted once every month. In 2008, Tina Roth Eisenberg began the event series in New York City out of a simple desire to share ideas and breakfast with her creative community. It shaped into a program that welcomes a different speaker every morning to discuss a chosen theme for about half an hour or so. Seems pretty simple, right? Well, the idea has spread like wildfire to 110 cities across the world, each with its own team, speakers, venues, and local sponsors. You have to be chosen to become a chapter, and last April, Charleston was extended an invitation.

Sophie Treppendahl


Sophie Treppendahl, the host of the Charleston chapter, had never heard of Creative Mornings before, but as a freelance artist and coordinator at Garden & Gun, she was well connected to Charleston’s creative realm. So when her friends Helen and Josh of Fuzzco drew her attention to the possibility of bringing the lecture series to their city, she welcomed the potential outlet to promote growth and collaboration within the community. She just didn’t consider herself leading it, as Helen and Josh suggested, and shied away from the unknown territory of planning not just one, but a year-long series of events. Helen insisted that not only would she be a great candidate, but also that the community needed something like Creative Mornings. Needless to say, Sophie’s application was accepted and she immediately sought out help to get the ball rolling. 


Headquarters granted $1,000 to get the chapter started, and the rest was up to Charleston. The only requirements? Follow the monthly theme, have a speaker, choose a venue, and don’t forget coffee. Easier said than done though, especially alone.

Counter Culture Coffee


However, the community recognized the promise of the breakfast lecture series, and a handful of talented people stepped up to help make the chapter happen. Megan Schaeffer, the Gallery and Marking Manager at Jericho Advisors, was one of the first to join the team as a coordinator, especially focused on attaining sponsorship. Madison Miller came on to primarily manage media and communications, and Chloe Gilstrap took up the role of photographer. While their titles make the organization appear seamless, they made it clear that it is very much a group effort, and they do everything from transporting food and setting up chairs to electing speakers and finding venue spaces. Since then, the team has expanded to include Sally Morris, Cristy Jamison, Andrea Gruber, and Jordan Terry. While they’ve since had to say goodbye to Chloe, who left for Seattle last year, the team has found increasing support.

Megan Schaeffer (l) and Madison Miller


The Charleston community gravitated towards the events quickly, and soon they were hearing from several people interested in volunteering. Tickets now sell out within an hour of their release the Monday prior, and the wait list swells with people hoping someone has a change of plans within the next four days and forfeits their spot. Over the past few months, the elected speakers have varied from local entrepreneurs, such as Dellz owner Nikki Brown and Gustavo Serrano of Vapor Apparel, to College of Charleston professors Paul Roof and Edward Hart. The first welcomed local artist Lulie Wallace and farmer Caitlin Etherton. Each guest spoke on different themes in various host locations, including the Halsey Institute of Art, Charleston Library Society and, the last, Candlefish, a kitschy boutique on Wentworth that primarily sells, you guessed it, candles (sans fish or fishy smells). 

Paul Roof (l) and others outside of Candlefish


The first lecture of the new year was on the theme "ugly," and successful entrepreneur Brooks Reitz was chosen as the speaker. While you may not recognize his name, you’re likely familiar with his business endeavors: Leon’s Oyster Shop, Saint Alban, and the Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. Sophie made sure to joke around with the theme: "Of course, the first person I thought about for ugly was Brooks." Actually, he’s very attractive and young considering his resume (sorry ladies, he’s taken). Rather, the theme applied to the extensive renovations that Leon’s and Saint Alban underwent before opening their doors. Brooks told each location’s story, from the process of replacing walls and installing hardwood floors to upholstering vintage chairs and finding antique lighting fixtures. “Cram it full of lights, and put that shit on a dimmer” was his motto, and, I guess, advice if you’re looking into interior design for a restaurant.

Brooks Reitz     


So to sum it all up, hipsters in Charleston are gathering at 8:00 a.m. once a month on Friday in surprise locations to hear a stranger talk about their life and are rewarded with free coffee and pastries. Why does everyone care? Well, it’s cool. Duh. And we have to change it up from Saint Alban every other morning of the month.


OK, honestly, no. It’s important because it provides an opportunity to share thoughts and ideas with other like-minded people in your community, as well as lead to growth and greater success. Even Reitz emphasized that he couldn’t have accomplished all of his endeavors alone. 

WildFlour Pastry breakfast goodies


Artists tend to get a little boxed in and discouraged, scrolling through their perfectly curated Instagram feed of other artists doing cooler shit than them, or at least making it seem so. Social media has been both a blessing and a curse—it’s easier to share and connect, but at the same time, it’s making us all disconnected and overly competitive. Creative Mornings is a reminder that there are people right down the street from you who share the same interests, and it provides an opportunity to feel less alienated from them. Even if you walk in alone as a complete stranger, you’re bound to talk to at least one new person while lingering in the space. Or at least you’re sipping on free coffee, and I’m not talking about the shit in the diner that was brewed four hours ago. I’m talking Counter Culture here.


Now go follow Creative Mornings on Instagram and grab one of the tickets for next month’s upcoming lecture. And if you’re fearful of the highly competitive nature of the tickets, then don’t be afraid to reach out and inquire about volunteering. Or if you’re a part of a local business in Charleston, pitch the idea of becoming one of their sponsors or future venue spaces. While the organization has only been improving since their first event, they are still avidly seeking out sponsorship so that they can accommodate the overwhelming demand and expand their programming for 2015. 


Once you attend an event, you’ll understand the hype. After all, you have everything to gain, and maybe you’ll leave with the rest of the day ahead of you feeling inspired to do something, well, creative.