REPRINT: The Women Making Us SLOW DOWN

vor 3 years

Is patience still considered a virtue? We like to think so…

We live in an immediate world. We carry in our pocket an entire universe of possibilities. Not sure which shoes to wear to the party? Post a photo, survey your followers. Got some gossip? Call/text/snap your friends. They respond immediately. Hungry? There are plenty of options around you, and you don’t need to leave your couch. They deliver. In the mood for date night cinema? Why be bothered by someone chomping popcorn behind you? Your TV can stream anything in the world, cheaper than a ticket to the cinema. There is great appeal to the immediacy of actions around us. We want it all and we want it now! Patience is no longer a virtue. …Or is it? These women find power and importance in the act of taking their time, pushing their practices to be more mindful, and their offerings to be more conscientious. They carve out some space for us to appreciate their services in a directly human way, which many of us may otherwise easily forget, which a newer generation may never even experience.

Joanna Louca is an artisan weaver on the island of Cyprus. She creates fabric narratives with diverse materials, weaving them on domestic hand-looms, using local, traditional techniques that have recently seen great decline in practice with the use of industrial machines. Her work can be found hanging in art museums, as public installations throughout her hometown of Nicosia, as well as draped inside of homes of discerning collectors.

Who taught you to weave?  

From an early age, I was surrounded by textiles. My grandmother was a fine lacemaker and I would sit by her side and assist her in unravelling the threads. I was fascinated by the process and the meticulous movement of her hands. She was like a magician.
Before I began my studies in London, I had the chance to work next to a Cypriot weaver, coming from the very first generation of silk weavers. That’s when I understood that the code embedded in weaving was not verbal; it was a form of meditation. I lived abroad for a decade, but I came back to Cyprus in 2001 and set up my own label and weaving workshop.

What inspires you? 

I am always fascinated by centuries-old traditions of pre-Colombian weaving cultures. I love the permanent textile collections within museums. I read a lot about the arts & crafts movement, and essays on human evolution. This finds me turning back to my own archive collections.

Do you think it is important to carry on tradition? 

Preserving tradition means preserving heritage and the history of a culture. It is important to educate the new generation and to stay in contact with our roots. As a craftsman, I feel I have a responsibility to transfer my knowledge as a weaver to the younger generations and acknowledge crafts as a tool for bringing forward this message.

In what ways do you take your time? 

I have my own garden where I spend part of my free time. I enjoy it with my family and friends. I have also been practising yoga daily for some time now. It is something I can enjoy while travelling to important exhibitions. Staying relevant is of great importance to me as well.

Soup Archive is a Berlin-based, unisex fashion brand with an emphasis on the deconstruction and reuse of existing materials. They make all their pieces by hand, and each member of the team is integral to the collective. The original pieces are chosen spontaneously. The new garments created are dependent upon what the old ones tell them. SOUP sources from vintage shops and friends. Each new piece is unique, utilizing one-off detailing, sublimation printing, and total reconstruction that can also be reworked onto the customer.  

A lot of your working hours are actually playtime. Is this simply just a perk of working for yourself, or is this integral to your process of creation?

The longer you can play and delve into your work, the more of a world you can create. We create our own little worlds. One member of our team, Katy, works intensely on playful jewelry. While another, Sophie, is currently hand-stitching patchwork jumpers together. Taking her time means she can pay attention to details, which makes it feel like a sweater you want to keep for a long time. These are investment pieces, they are not things to get rid of quickly. If you tire of it, it can always be reworked.

What does taking your time look like?

It’s not always totally peaceful… I associate the concept of taking time with pampering yourself. We enjoy taking our time to eat, for example. There’s a lot of communal inspiration in cooking and eating. We are named Soup for a reason! We also take our time in order to respect how we communicate ourselves or our creations to each other. We give space to let inspiration waiver in its ebbs and flows. We are happy to take days off when we feel the need to take time away from working on fashion. We respect the process and do not force anything.

If money were no issue, would you still take the approach of upcycling?

Of course when you are upcycling clothing, the cost is greatly diminished. But if money were no issue to us, we would still upcycle. The process of finding pieces is interesting, and there is a storytelling element to it. A friend and fellow designer, Beate Huss, once said that one can feel a worker’s conditions in each bought garment. It is then worn accordingly. We want our customers to feel comfortable and confident in themselves. Clothing is inherently a disguise. We as designers want to help people show themselves as they see themselves.

For Nora Šmahelová, her religion is coffee. She serves as the caffeine ambassador to La Marzocco and is co-owner of one of the most specialised cafes in Berlin, Chapter One, known for its slow-method pour overs and sourcing of small-batched fair trade roasters. Taking such time and control over a simple cup of coffee is an ever-growing rarity in an industry typically used as a form of quick fuel rather than languid enjoyment. Nora worships coffee and treats it accordingly, spreading the gospel of leisure and appreciation, taking her time with each customer and cup. 

What are the benefits of taking your time?

One of the biggest benefits of taking time is deceleration of the moment – the customer being able to observe every small step of the preparation of their beverage and chatting with us about the steps. It is like a small ceremony: spending time preparing for the taste experience later on. Coffee is about communication. For some, this is the only way to drink coffee, but for many, it is a totally new experience. Taking time means focusing on the moment and perceiving it with more consciousness.

Do you find that customers actively choose your cafe because of the slower process?

We have many customers who have changed their drinking habits from espresso to “slow coffee.” And we have people who only order brewed coffee to see how the syphon works. We always have around 7 different brew coffee options on the menu, plus guest coffees. These offerings are a reason why people come to us… they know we have the time and space here for them to experience different facets of coffee.

You are unlike the majority of cafes in that you do not offer wifi. Is this on purpose?

Nowadays we spend so much time with our phones and computers that we often neglect real communication. Our focus is on the here and now. From the beginning, we had the idea to create a place where people come because of coffee, to be part of an audience and to enjoy. This is why we don’t offer much food, or wifi.

What is your preferred coffee?
For me, the ideal atmosphere is at home after waking up. I love to drink coffee in the very early morning, in bed and reading the news. I wake up half an hour earlier than I have to, simply to enjoy this. I typically prefer a balanced, juicy coffee in the morning (to be more specific: a Colombia washed and brewed with a Hario V60 dripper). I like to take my time to enjoy coffee because I am finding myself very often in these moments.

Co-founders Amandine Cheveau and Jean-Christian Pullin are the Berlin-based duo behind Anatomie Fleur creating extravagant and strange bouquets for some of the city’s most beautiful spaces, as well as setting up their own market to help Berliners create living artforms to enjoy within their own home. Amandine shared about their inspirations, rituals and formative childhood experiences of nature.

Can you describe the ideal environment for arranging flowers?

The ideal moment for us is when we are able to cut ourselves mentally from others. It is a form of meditation, a mental space that is a gift for our creativity.

Creating a bouquet is a creative endeavour – especially yours. What is inspiring you right now?

Very often and randomly, landscapes from Le Douanier Rousseau or Aloys Zötl are popping up into my mind. I can be inspired by a passage from a novel, a scene from a movie or the melody of a song. Lately, I am touched by the Magdalene album from FKA Twigs. I can relate to its range of expressions based in absolute classicality while at the same time seamlessly incorporating contemporary elements. And reference to the biblical character Mary Magdalene, whose problematic and complexity transcends time and maintains relevancy. The subject of femininity and its nuances is present in my dialogue, which is why women continually inspire me.

Jean-Christian, he views life as performance and is exhilarated by social interaction. He draws his inspiration from creative queer scenes within Berlin and elsewhere.

How else do you take your time, or make ritual?

I like to paint. The journey there being an hour away from my home makes me zone out and clear my thoughts. It’s a ritual that I award myself. Since I am painting with oil, you have no choice than to be patient with your work; I need to wait until the next work session day to continue it. And it happens that what you had in mind has changed, evolved or vanished. It is always a jump into a new world. It teaches me patience and flexibility.

Jean-Christian makes a ritual of dancing as often as he can. The connection to his body sparks creativity in his mind, which he uses in all other aspects of his artistic journey. His body is in perpetual movement while creating, whereas my energy is much more contained.

What is your favorite flower?

I have some that I particularly like – the Fritillaria Imperialis is one of them. Its beauty was competing with the beauty of heaven. As punishment for the flower’s hubris, God gave it a bad smell and turned its crown upside down. The white pistils are symbolic of its tears.

However, it is hard to answer that since we like flowers for their variety and different characteristics. I appreciate some of them for their monstrous appearance; I can be touched by the ephemeral presence of  another; seduced by the smell of some, and so on. We need all of them in order to create the various landscapes that we have in mind.

The lifespan of a bouquet also includes its death. I heard you sometimes still use them after they have died.

The decay process is something I find fascinating, especially how it affects the colors, the shapes, and even the least graceful part, the scent. I like to keep flowers after using them for natural dying. This is something I like to include in my personal, artistic work. In my painting, for instance, I like to use the pistils as a first layer of background. I am still a novice, in the learning process.

Name a moment in your life in which nature or flowers was a very inspiring time for you, that you still remember and hold dear.

The garden at my parents’ was the first place where I developed my imagination. I was creating fairies, poems and stories. This was probably where I first experienced feelings of eroticism and sensuality, with the secret places that you find in any garden, especially at the scale of a kid, the wet corners, the scents…

When I lived in Paris, the park of Les Butte Chaumont was my favorite. It has a very baroque look with caves, bridges, a temple and artificial lake. It also has a very dark story attached to it that makes the place a bit mysterious and sulfurous. I enjoy being in nature and it makes me feel connected with myself, but I am also afraid of it. I am afraid of what I cannot see. Nature brings you closer to the concept of the “infinite” and your own temporality. Then comes the melancholia… To think about these things is a source of inspiration.

Jean-Christian comes from North America, with a very different experience. He had two very different botanical settings. He is from Montreal, where there are four neatly defined seasons: a warm and humid summer, where he spent most of his summers playing in the forests of his grandparents, the most spectacular fall with all of the autumnal tones, followed by a brutally harsh and white winter, and lastly an optimistic, blooming spring. When he was 8 he moved to Los Angeles, where all of the seasonal rules were broken. Essentially, it is one never-ending season. You see snow in the mountains while swimming in the ocean. All these varieties and colors shaped his aesthetic appreciation, from palm trees to maple leafs.

Aviya Wyse is one of our favorite photographers and has amassed a number of Fräulein covers, not by chance or luck. Her intimate, often nude, photographs of friends, lovers, and strangers convey a deeply private conversation between subject and viewer. Her work is shot entirely on film. In a world where we all have cameras in our pocket with the ability to share images instantly, Aviya takes the time to develop each of her images by hand. In the process, she creates an intimate relationship with each photo, bending them to her will, creating new stories and dialogues.

Why do you prefer working in film rather than digital?

The smells of the chemicals fill the room, alone with only a little red light. At that stage, I start to study the figures I have photographed in depth, retrospectively, and only at this stage do I leave my most significant marks on the figure: Through various manipulations that transmit to the photographic material, the characters suffer injuries and bruises,

stains and blemishes. I experiment with the reactions of chemicals on the emulsion. The image goes through a long process to become what it is. Analogue has such a strong sense of creation, of life !

How did you learn to use your camera and develop film?

When I started art school, they said “analogue is Dead” so they didn’t teach anything analogue. The darkroom was unused and had spider webs. I was a bit afraid to go in and try myself. It was all a digital environment and very frustrating. There was an assistant

in the department who was still very analogue and I’m quite sure he was the one to show me how to develop for the first time. Later, my fashion photography teacher, Ben Lam,  realized that I should be living in the dark room. On a break in between lessons, he took me to the darkroom, poured some chemicals, got paper out, showed me the basics, then left me there. Ever since then, I have been basically swimming in chemicals.

Do you find that taking your time with the analogue approach to photography is a ritual for you? Are you more mindful when shooting this way?

Yes, indeed! My main subjects are naked women and men, so every session is very much an intimate performance that takes place. It is completely different each time, but also very similar. There are only 12 photos on each roll, so it’s also a very limited amount of photos and one chance to get what I want from this exposed space of another person.

The trust I receive is incredible and I admire that in my models. They can’t stop to have a glimpse of what I’m doing in the moment, they have great patience and wait for a long while to get to see the finished results. When I am finished, I always kiss the roll of film and say a little prayer. There is an inner joy of knowing something is in the dark for now, but that it will soon will see the light and come to life.

What environment is your favorite for shooting?

​Interesting lighting, inspiring humans and animals, and I always prefer them in silence.

Text by Janna Shaw

This spread is in our current issue of Fräulein #30: Life, which can be found in stores or purchased here

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