Friday, February 5, 2016

Who are you?


I'm going to ask you one thing. Who. Are. You?
Who are you?

How would you define yourself to me, had I asked you that?
What would you respond to that sort of question? I can almost see you. Smiling or laughing awkwardly, responding with, what do you mean? Well, I simply  mean, who are you?

Let me try to answer that for you.
At one point in life I would have started describing how I looked, where I was from, what were the things I liked and so on... Later, in my early twenties I would have defined myself by the activity I was at that point occupied with, such as being a student or a volunteer, etc. And perhaps in the  beginning of my seeking journey I would have told you I was a ceramist.

Now, in this very moment, I can say only this. I am myself.

All my life (well, I say that as if I were 65), I have been searching for my passion, my purpose. A lived my days filled with curiosity, continuously seeking it. I clearly remember being a bit jealous on every friend, and cousin who had known from a very early age what they wanted to become when faced with this question. And rigourously stuck to that resolution. I admit. I was jealous. And to some extent I might have envied them.

I was a child with so many interests and hobbies. Also very many subdued ones, those that felt right, but for some unexplainable reason I repressed them in my heart. You know I came to understand that the only way things can change is if I am willing to believe that I am worthy of experiencing the great depths of life. If I am willing to accept that I am worthy of being blessed with phenomenal experiences. But even though these feelings were twisting up in the deepest of my soul, I could still not point myself into the right direction. The way to my heart was like a labyrinth, if not closed.

I have mentioned this before on this space, but perhaps the meaning of those words was not quite clear. So let me repeat it for you. Six years ago, I have found  the way to my heart. A process that did not come into being overnight. It was a process, a struggle, a difficult period when tension was almost tangible. I was impatient, rebellious, discontented and repulsive. When our world, and everything we thought we knew is shaken right down to the core we do everything in our power to fight back. Change does not come about seamlessly, it is not a peaceful manifesto, but comes about through a battle. A fight between the mind and the heart, the core essence of our being.

But when against all odds, after every small and big battle has been fought, both on the inside as well as on the outside, after sleepless nights and long walks in the broad daylight have passed, a peace overcomes every single cell of your being. This was the time I wrote those two sentences down, that you can read on the right hand-side, right bellow my introduction photo, when you open up this page.

Your presence matters. Your existence in this world is enough to prove that. But you don't have anything else to prove. To anyone.

I grew up with an overwhelming wish to make a change. I gathered knowledge in this sense and kept trying to look for ways to contribute to making this world a better place. You know what the conclusion was after all of this? I didn't stand a chance. It consumed me. It drained me. And it deepened my frustration in everything that I have found faulty with how the world functions.

So I stopped aiming at this. It was a process, and it still is a continuous progress, but I no longer wish to change the world. I am just being myself.  In everything I say, in everything I do and in everything that I am. If my identity was defined by the activity that brings so much joy to my everyday life, the activity that occupies most of my days, then I would not be where I am today. I am not a ceramist. Nor am I a jeweler. Or an artist. I am recognised through my work not because I am talented in any of these crafts, but because I am true in what I do. But if I had to leave my business behind, and would be called in another direction, I would not lose ground. Because it does not define me. What I do is not who I am. Being grounded in your truth is not bound to your external reality. Standing firmly on your inner ground is a very powerful inner reality, a timeless one, that is not rooted in the knowledge and wisdom you gathered throughout your life, nor does it stem from the belief you came to profess after your life experiences. It is an inner voice. This energy is not located in you, but moves through you. A flow, a realisation, an unexplainable will that takes you beyond that which you never thought possible.

Your journey is yours. And yours alone. No one can walk the same road.
If there's anything I wish for you, it is for you to be able to embrace that road. And believe that you are worthy of receiving and embracing the truth, that arises in you. Each and every human life has a purpose in the world. A purpose, that is always shown, but most of the time we are too distracted to recognise it. Sacrificing your own truth, by hiding away from the flow and direction that moves your energy is the greatest mistake you will ever make. And the only way to listen to it, and act upon it, is to look deep into your heart, shut your mind out completely and let the essence of your being manifest, let that energy carry you where you need to be.

The stronger you think you stand, the harder you will fall. The stronger you feel you stand, the higher you'll rise. But if you do fall, remember, you have not failed your journey. You've merely come to a crossroad, that will allow you to get back on that energy that carries you closer to fulfil the higher purpose of your existence.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

February studio scenes


We're having such a warm sunny February, it melts my heart and sinks my boots into a thick layer of mud out here at the studio. Good old countryside life! Meanwhile inside the studio there's a more refined "mud" that's being carved into rings, one by one (and every once in a while this happens; it's part of the job, and works on my patience levels). For those of you waiting on cobalt platters, there's a porcelain firing that is coming up very soon, which I am very much looking forward to. High firing is a lot rarer in Jasmin Blanc studio, and always makes my heart skip some beats while the kiln is cooling. I have some very awesome experiments in process, so this firing will be even more exciting. Hopefully I will have some awesome stories and photos to share, if not I will at least have a few lessons learned. We will see next week.

Many of you have been asking me about the "Matsumaini" collection, which I planned on launching before Christmas, but haven't gotten around doing that. I'm really sorry! Obviously I am very excited about it and looking forward to sharing more with you guys, but I will need to ask for your patience a little while longer. I have a few new ideas added to the whole concept and it took a bit more time to develop. But I'm getting there, so just bare with me.


This batch is from the previous high firing (porcelain fires at a lot higher temperature than earthenware clay). I will have new designs coming, if the firing will be a success! Keep your fingers crossed.


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Recipe: Coffee rum balls


Praline wannabees with less chocolate is what the title should really say, but I went with the truth instead. So if you're feeling lazy for kneading and turning your oven on, here's something to munch on after lunch.




Coffee rum balls 


350 gr finely crushed vanilla cookies 
250 gr mascarpone cheese
4 T castor sugar
150 ml strong coffee 
1 vanilla bean 
1 T rum essence
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 T dark cocoa powder 

I would like to point out firstly, that even though we are mixing everything like when children "bake" in the kitchen with their mothers, and as simple as this truly is to make, it is crucial to use quality ingredients. Don't get the cheapest, toughest, tasteless cookies, because coffee will not cover that up.

So I'm sure not much explanation is needed, basically you mix cookie crumbs with the mascarpone cheese in a large bowl. Dissolve the sugar in the warm (not hot!) coffee and add it to the cookie/cheese mixture gradually. Slice the vanilla bean open and scrape seeds out, mix into the dough, along with rum and cinnamon. You can use your stand mixer on dough setting, but I like to keep things as analogue as possible, that way I have even less washing up to do, and so I use my hands. I'm cheap like that!
Cover the bowl with clear plastic wrap and place it into the fridge for 30 minutes.

When it hardened a little take it out and start forming the dough into small balls. Roll them into the cocoa powder and place them on a platter. Keep refrigerated and serve directly from the fridge. Also, keep in mind, that significant amounts of coffee and dark chocolate were used for this recipe, so you might not want to eat them after dinner if you're not a caffeine junkie like some of us.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Hello February!

The reason I am glad to greet February is that I know winter cannot stick around for much longer. As I said before, I am that friend! So just bare with me. But if I disregard the dreadful cold of these last winter months (which was kinda hard to do in -15 C!) I must say I love their rhythm. Always have. The subtle shift of moods and energies, the cozy teas and dinners with friends, that glass of wine shared discussing sweet nothings and everythings. I become nostalgic. Yet very present. I might romanticize it more than I should... But I am okay with that!

Follow Jasmin Blanc on Instagram to see fragments of my studio moments.


Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sunday


Isn't the instability surrounding the days of the week unusual? The whole imbalance of positive and negative emotions tied up to various parts of the week...The "I love Fridays & hate Monday"cult is the most popular these days, right? We've all seen grumpy baby bumper stickers whining over the fact that the week is about to start off. Do we even understand the meaning they bare? Do we ever think further to understand what lies behind it all? Is this a world, which hates life so much as to dread the beginning of new possibilities? Is it really?

If I was going to be a bit sarcastic, I would ask the question who is the idiot responsible for the way a day is spent, except me? Social media is packed with Monday photos each and every single Monday morning, hell, on Sundays they already start with the tomorrow's Monday posts. And it saddens me a little.
I developed a practice, that whenever I see such a post among my friends and acquaintances I check the author of it. I want to know who hates a new chapter so much as to showcase it to this extent and the next time I randomly run into that person I try to remember to ask them how their life is going, how their carriers are working out, but mainly what I'd always like to know is what their dreams are and what their actions are in respect to actualize those dreams. Sometimes a little push, a heads up and a little support of an old, seemingly ignorant acquaintance is everything we need to turn our day around.

I close my eyes, and the first image that pops up in my mind is that of a bridge across a rift. A secure, calm balanced time that represents not only the end but in a subtle way already foreshadows the beginning. A time to reflect, but also a time to dream; a time to say grace, as well as a time to warmly envision hopes. That is what Sundays are to me. A time to conclude the old and embrace the new. One of my best friends told me, he always embraces his tomorrows with the hope of fresh encounters... Isn't that a beautiful thought?

Saturday, January 30, 2016

mindfulness

I entered the apartment, and as the the front door closed behind me, I had shut my eyes to soak it all in, while Kleopatra was turning and twisting around my feet in utter joy.

I take long walks in the countryside, over the hill above my studio or in the nearby forest almost every day. And somehow I fell out of the habit of taking the time to walk from one place to another within the city I live in. I suppose it is just so much faster and straightforward to drive. Lately the crowded sidewalks and noisy streets make me want to head out from here as soon as I can, and spend the most part of my day in a calm and silent place, where I can hear mavises sing. Tonight was an exception. Tonight there was something in the air around me, something in my heart, so inviting and nostalgic. My mother helps me with henna-dying my hair and we've spent the afternoon doing just that. I was about to leave, but suddenly turned right, instead of turning left to pick up my car.

I used to walk these roads so many times. My grandparents lived in this very direction, and as a child I used to walk down to their place countless times, it was so much joy to pass by the lakes, stopping by playgrounds and forgetting to check my watch. In a dream I said goodbye to my grandfather in the very spot the apartment I now live in was built. This used to be an open garden, a fence-less private property that everyone used as a shortcut. I had that dream in 2008. But I remember it better than what I dreamed about last night.

Was it nostalgia? I am not sure what the reason was for my sudden urge to take that right turn... But I don't believe in happenstance. The mindfulness I experienced was everything I needed tonight. Slow steps. The girl in the white coat and the vibrant red lipstick, her bashful gaze at the fellow walking next to her...The man carrying an enormous gym-bag, with his jacket zipped open. He was not wearing any scarf, though it was a chilly night. As I turned to face the tall office building I remember looking up at the all-glass cubicles, some embraced in darkness, others lit up by a tired dimmed light. I walked across its parking lot and ended up by the front lake, facing  four women walking towards me. The one on the far left was so engaged in her storytelling that she nearly knocked me off the sidewalk.They reminded me a little bit of Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda.
A peaceful melody filled the light evening air. I could sharply hear the sound of my steps against the wooden path that was recently built upon the side of the lake.
A father carrying his baby boy in a sling wrap. His footsteps grounded in grace and security. It was his time to be just there, the peace in his movements, the way the world revolved around him and his toddler, they were both so grounded in that very moment in time, as if nothing else had existed...what a marvelous thing to witness! The bewildering dark eyes of an ambitious jogger, as he timidly passed me by, not having the courage to look fully up.
The asphalt glowed in crystal black, as the cold misty night settled upon it.

It is the tiny moments. The meaningless. I appreciate details. Presence. Life is nothing but snow-frost on the front window of a desolated barn.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Spicy lemon cookies


I usually get over excited about recipes I read on the web or in some magazine. Most of the time I only read the title and I adore the photo, but when I head onto making it, I am not entirely satisfied with ingredients and measurements. So I end up entirely revamping it.

This is what happened last night. When I read "Lemon Cookies" in a magazine I had lying around in the kitchen, something clicked in my head. The photo featured a lovely glass of milk next to the platter heaped with scrumptious looking cookies, and I could already envision breakfast for the following morning. The cookie monster in me was awakened!

But then as I had already prepared basic ingredients and I started going through the actual recipe I got more and more disappointed. If anyone, I surely bake by the "less is more" principle, but still, the combination of flour, butter, a scary volume of sugar and the poor addition of one lemon zest will not cut it. The basic idea of preparing cookies at home as opposed to choosing store bought cookies is to invest the time in a product that lacks preservatives, ideally contains less sugar and is made with unsaturated fat, is fresh, features quality ingredients and thoughtfully blended spices and contains that one special ingredient that only the maker can add to it. It is by no means a way to recreate the same unhealthy crap that can be bought in a store, has a ridiculous expiry date somewhere in the distant future and is made of highly questionable ingredients and substitutes.

So I looked at the photo in the magazine again, smiled, and had set it aside. 
So here goes my version. 



Ingredients

140 gr. white flour
50 gr. semolina flour
100 gr. butter
60 gr brown sugar
2 T honey
1 egg
1 lemon zest
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp powder ginger
pinch of cardamom
50 gr. white chocolate

Mix two types of flour with baking soda, ginger, cardamom and lemon zest.
Cream up sugar and softened butter, add the egg, whisk. Add the honey and blend it in well. Gradually start adding the dry ingredients into the wet blend, mix well with a spoon (I usually just use my hands). Lastly add the finely chopped chocolate to the cookie dough. 
Line a flat cookie pan with parchment paper, form walnut sized balls of the dough, and place them onto the pan, making sure you leave some room for them to flatten out. I can usually fit 9 dough-balls onto my pan comfortably. 
Bake in a preheated oven at 175 C degrees for about 12 minutes. If you do not have a heat controller on your oven, just look for a nice light golden edge.

I was able to make 15 cookies, just so you are able to plan it out, maybe you'll find that you need to make a double batch. 

Make sure you let them cool and rest overnight. Some cookies are best eaten right off of cooling rack, but this one is waaay more delicious if it sets. Enjoy! You will, I am sure of that much!


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

early morning



...in the caressing calm of starting off Tuesday, through the fog and the snow covered hills I've heard the lively song of a tiny mavis. Very unlikely in January, and yet there it was, joyful and propulsive just like on a fresh spring day.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Studio days


If the glittering dry snow did not reveal the sharpness of the cold air, the sunshine that lights up my studio on this pretty Friday could easily deceive my seasonal reality. I had the sudden impulse to feed spring in my heart early in the morning, so in an attempt to do so, I brought home beautiful spring buds, a pot full of grape hyacinth. I find such beauty in the growth of plants, their sudden progress and responsiveness. They react with surprising gratitude to my providence...

In the end warmth is in the heart, it is not to be sought or found in the outside world.



And in moments like these I truly understand the frivolous nature of words.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Sunday


January is mostly slow and subtle.
Life gets a pace I resonate with deeply.
Days filled with even pulses of energy, which is by no means overflowing, yet enough for the meditative monotony that wraps around life.
Sleepless nights filled with discussions about the smallest details of life, of death... the little things, and joggling between thoughts of aspiration from mundane to divine through the ordinary everyday life. Presence. In the seemingly meaningless moments. And presence. In the magical blinks and flashes.

Outwardly it may appear like nothing has changed. Yet nothing will ever be the same. Once one's soul awakens, it cannot be tamed, and much less framed.