Adam J Kurtz

Recap: 2017 WeMake Celebrates: A Design Conference About The Process of Making

This year we explore Experiments in Process. 
"Before there is ever success or failure, there are experiments."
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Photos by Rowen Bradley & Megan Gex

On Friday, Oct. 13, the WeMake team hosted our third conference – WeMake Celebrates – at The Armory in Portland's Pearl District. This year, we explored the experiments instrumental in the creative process.

On stage, six speakers told about their experiments and shared their successes and failures while the emcees Jolby (Josh Kenyon and Colby Nichols) guided the journey and recapped the day with cleverness.

The Line-Up

Artist and author  Adam J Kurtz (Toronto/Brooklyn) told us to feel all the feelings and not to be precious with anything. 

New Portlander and illustrator and designer, Mauja Waldia (India/Portland) spoke about her young career on stage for the first time.

Brilliant designer and science lover Kelli Anderson (Brooklyn) showed us that experiments will lead you to new discoveries and ignite curiosity. 

Nicholas Misani experiments with letters and type in his studio in Brooklyn and makes beautiful fauxsaics, which capture the spirit of cities around the world.

Experimental artist Craig Winslow makes everything an experiment - it's in his job description. He taught us that light can change everything and introduced us to lost history. 

Australian graphic artist Luke Choice (aka Velvet Spectrum) bring motion and color to his visual experiments. He also weaves in generosity and positivity into the elements of his success. 


5 minutes, 5 slides with local creative entrepreneurs: 
Anthony ScottAsa Bree SierackiTyesha SnowSaul Koll and Ian Williams


"Nobody in the world ever wrote their own song. You have inspiration from all the people around you, from your life experiences, to a person next to you who cracked a joke."

Ural Thomas, musician & storyteller,  has uplifted his audiences in Portland and all over the world.

B. Frayn Masters, writer, storyteller and producer, shared her wicked humor and love of the absurd. Catch more of her round Portland with Back Fence PDX and The Moth. 

Helping Arts Education

From ticket sales, we raised $7000 to give to non-profits making a big difference on a small budget. Thanks to you, we helped:

  • MARROW, a radical education, arts, and activism space, centering young people
  • p:ear builds positive relationships with homeless and transitional youth through education, art and recreation to affirm personal worth and create more meaningful and healthier lives.
  • Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls builds girls’ self-esteem through music creation and performance. 
  • Schoolhouse Supplies is an award-winning nonprofit that supports public education in Portland by giving students and teachers free classroom supplies.

Thank You to Our Community Partners

Wieden+Kennedy, Wacom, Aquent, The Study, Klum House, Widmer Brothers, Scout Books, HouseSpecial

Finally, remember the questions that started the day's experiment? Above are the results of your selections. Squares are a rare breed and green is the most favored color. What does that mean? More expereiments. 

Finally, remember the questions that started the day's experiment? Above are the results of your selections. Squares are a rare breed and green is the most favored color. What does that mean? More expereiments. 

Adam J Kurtz: Honesty, Humor and a Little Darkness

As my teen angst subsides, I’ve been discovering, dissecting, and embracing the realities of being an adult
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Let’s all take a moment to remember the glory that was the early days of the internet. That time when your parent’s computer was a treasure chest of wonder that you opened each night after everyone in the house was asleep. A place where you’d pour your heart out on Live Journal and made your first “Internet friends” on MySpace. For me, a angsty kid that grew up miles away from a city or even sidewalks, the Internet exposed me to art and ideas that nourished my creativity and even shaped my values.

According to Facebook, Adam J. Kurtz was created in 1988, making us the same age. Just like me, Adam took to the internet like a fish. He grew up in Toronto, clicking away into a creative oblivion. “I’ve just been online for as long as I can remember,” said Adam. “I launched my first fansite in 1999 after learning bits of HTML. Pokemon and Neopets led the way, and then with LiveJournal and MySpace I was using that knowledge to build out my ideal online world.” Today, Adam is an Internet rockstar. His Kickstarters are triple-funded. He answers all of his fan’s comments. He is a BuzzFeed alum and he has has his own handwritten note series on Design Sponge. While some of us have developed a disdain for the internet, Adam continues to use it as a place to exercise his creative muscles and express his internal thoughts. “My personal work grew out of sharing bits and pieces of my life on Tumblr. My first zines were more like diaries, combining that sort of confessional style with my design student aesthetics. Over time it’s simplified, focusing on penciled lines and primary colors.”


If you search hard enough, you can almost trace Adam’s trajectory to online fame. Adam’s first gig was website layout for Michelle Branch. And he is still in touch with her today, and just created merch for her latest album. Adam is a true fan and companion to his friends.  “I get excited about things and sometimes (often) those things are the people I love and their projects. I’m grateful and honored to know a lot of awesome creative people doing all sorts of things, from Michelle Branch to Siobhan Gallagher,” says Adam. “I’m drawn to a lot of different types of work but often find a spirit of inclusion, humor, and sensitivity to be the most important. I’m constantly being inspired by my friends and I love being able to support them, and feel supported by them, in whatever ways I can.”

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There is something so sincere to Adam’s work, that is must just be engrained in his personality. When you look at Adam’s books like Pick Me Up and Things are What You Make of Them: Advice for Creatives, it seems like he has all the answers. Then his pins and daily planners show his truthful honesty and dark humor. While he can’t tell you if he’s ‘made it’ he can tell you exactly where he stands. “I’m not secure in the ways I’d like to be. There are many, many doors that are not open to me. I work very hard and and am rejected or passed on often,” says Adam. “ It’s important to be transparent about that because I think the perception is often really different from reality. I’m so grateful to have support for my projects, to be able to produce and distribute things that I really want to make. That’s something that’s been more recent and is still amazing to me. But I don’t have unlimited resources. I still have to be really thrifty with how I approach things and how I live life, too. I’m just going to keep doing my thing until it stops working, and then I’ll do something else.”

The early days of the internet showed us that we were all searching for community. Take a moment to explore Adam’s work and get inspired by his genuine honesty and love for his friends. Connect with yourself and those around you in the way that fills you with love and creativity. We’re so honored to have Adam here in Portland for WeMake Celebrates. Grab you ticket to the day-long conference and look forward to hearing more words of wisdom from Adam on October 13!