Chris Soll is graphic designer, blogger, business owner, and creative powerhouse with his hand in a variety of unique projects. I linked up with Chris after stumbling upon his amazing Instagram account. In this exclusive interview, Chris discusses the positive role cannabis has played in his life, and specifically how it has unlocked his creative potential.
Give me a little background; where are you from and where do you live?
I’m originally from Germany, though I’ve spent 20 years living in Sydney Australia now. I speak both languages fluently and feel like I’m returning home whenever I fly out to either place.
All it takes is one look at your Instagram to recognize your pension for design and creativity; when did this all start?
I’ve been drawing since I can remember. Most of my school life was spent by me covering my arms, desks & bags with intricate little patterns. My grades naturally reflected that; and although they weren’t great, I always maintained a solid ‘A+’ in Art. This was a very early sign that I’d end up in some kind of creative industry. With the advent of computers, I managed to merge my passion with technology and decided to become a graphic designer. I studied for 3 years at college, then spent 6 years working for various big brands in their design departments, before finally going freelance about 5 years ago. I’ve never looked back.
At what point did you recognize that cannabis played a positive role in your creative abilities?
Well, it took a while. In Australia, cannabis still has quite a bad reputation; many people think it will destroy your life, make you fat & lazy, and all those other silly outdated stereotypes. I had personally tried cannabis about 10 times over roughly 10 years (starting at 16). Every time it had the same effect, I’d laugh, my eyes would get droopy, then I’d get hungry, and soon I’d be asleep. I thought this was all there was to it, so I never gravitated towards it very much, instead sticking to alcohol like everyone else.
It wasn’t until I visited some friends in Germany in 2012 that things changed. At a party someone was passing a joint around, and I had a few drags – expecting the usual response. However, I noticed that 15 minutes after, my eyes were still wide apart, no drowsiness or droopiness. Thinking it was a weak strain, I had more, and soon realized that I was completely high…but without the usual associated lethargy. Asking the guys at the party, they assured me that I must just have been smoking the wrong shit (Indica vs Sativa)…which was news to me. The next morning I woke up, a little dazed, trying to remember the last hours of the night before. Walking to my work desk, I noticed a crossed out “to-do” list of most of my outstanding freelance design jobs. It suddenly came back to me that I had stayed up once I’d come home, still stoned, feeling creatively invigorated. After proofing the work, I was amazed to discover that it was all great, very meticulous, very creative, and completely on point.
Can you tell me a bit more about why it helps your design process?
Sure, after returning to Australia it took me quite a bit of searching to find someone who could supply cannabis sativa, so that I could replicate the effects I experienced in Germany. Since then, it’s been a great tool in my creative tool belt. Whenever I need to brainstorm ideas or have a design job that takes meticulous attention to detail, this wonder plant helps me temporarily bridge the low level of ADD I feel I now have from all phones, TV’s & social media.
Without it, I’m certain my life would look a lot different right now – probably not as creative, interesting, free and spiritually connected
I used to never contemplate working on projects that would take me longer than a day to finish, but while under the influence of cannabis, I’m more than happy to take my time, slow-flow, and really put in those hours needed to create highly detailed work. It also lifts my mood, which plays a huge role in wanting to stick at a certain project that I might otherwise try to rush through or put off.
What advice do you have for anyone interested in a creative, design, or photography role?
When everyone goes right, go left 🙂
But seriously, I would recommend anyone who makes a living off their ideas or their hand craft to at least give cannabis an open minded try. But be aware, I didn’t start smoking until I was 27, which is 2 years after my brain’s frontal lobe completed construction. Because I was already older, I’m finding it easier to control my intake, whereas I feel a lot of younger people tend to overindulge and then burn themselves out. My common practice is to roll a nice joint, in a calm & meditative fashion. It’s a ritual for me, and I have respect for the plant.
I’ve found it’s made me infinitely more interested in subjects I would usually not spend any time exploring
I will then take just 3-5 inhales, before I put the joint back in my little tube and put it aside for at least 2-4 hours. Doing this allows me to get into the state, but without going so far to create any mental confusion, which can sometimes happen for a little while when first coming up. I will do this 2-3 times over a work day, and I tend to only use it 2-3 days a week, in particular on my content creation & creative thinking days. This allows me to stay clear & focused, using the plant to it’s maximum capacity without any negative/scattered/lethargic side effects. In the future, I’ll be adding a vaporizer into the mix, since I know that inhaling smoke isn’t healthy, even though it’s still a long way away from the damaging effects of commercial tobacco.
Since I began working from home and adding cannabis to my weekly working schedule I’ve found it’s made me infinitely more interested in subjects I would usually not spend any time exploring. As a result of this added interest, in the last 4 years I’ve practically stopped drinking alcohol, I’ve learned meditation (life upgrade!), I’ve overhauled my diet (which is now giving me the energy levels of a 15 year old), and I’ve stopped watching TV and instead started reading books. The end result; I’ve learned to build a passive income business that makes money while I sleep. I’m not saying one can’t do these things without cannabis. What I am saying is that if I hadn’t been high a couple of times a week over the last few years, I’m certain my life would look a lot different right now – probably not as creative, interesting, free and spiritually connected as it currently is 🙂
What other special projects are you involved in?
Well, I launched a merchandise brand focused on metallic tattoos just over a year ago named iamucollective.
I noticed there was a gap in the market, since I thought I could create better looking designs than what was already out there. I then spent many focused hours creating 7x different tattoo collections, of which we’ve sold over 10,000 units in the first year.
This has enabled me to quit working freelance for other people, and I’m now completely focused on my own projects. I also have a travel blog with my partner where we produce content through our travels. On the horizon are more product lines for iamu, a new charity contribution scheme, and some information products to share the things I’ve learned over these last 4 years of being unusually interested in everything from diet, the mind, online business, philosophy and many other topics. Things are looking very good, and I’m incredibly grateful for the turn my life has taken during the later years of my 20’s.
You have traveled all across the world, what is the one place everyone should visit?
Some of my favorite places on this earth of ours are Fiji (in particular Qamea Island), the Greek Islands (special mention: Crete), and my favorite city Berlin: a place where creativity & individuality is praised. You know what they say, life is a book and those who don’t travel read only the first page.