Talia has forged a space of her own in the realm of storytelling, and through her sensitive and insightful approach
has extracted honest and intimate interviews
from a plethora of high profile subjects.
Her courage to go after opportunities, even in risky climates, has won her the respect of her colleagues. Unchartered ground being her terrain of choice has meant that her career is testament to her trust and faith in the face of the unknown. Usually camera ready in the spotlight, these portraits of Talia serve to reveal the subtleties of her nature, and the abundance of contemplation and spiritual enquiry that underpin and nourish this brave woman’s’ success.
“The act of ceremony is a mindfulness practice. By bringing your mind in to
focus with a choreographed set of movements and processes, you eliminate
opportunities for the mind to become distracted with the outside word. This
gives the mind less power and allows you to be an active creator in your world.
It’s an act of meditation, a yoga.”
Q: You’ve been involved in a love affair with tea for the past 8 years. Describe your
first experience that you recall of tea and the impression it make upon you?
A: It was my childhood circumstances that make it part of my every day life. In
boarding school it was the way we connected, the ceremony where we shared so
many moments of laughter, soothing sadness, reflecting on moments and just having
fun. My grandmother taught me about its mysticism by showing me how you can
taste love in tea, how the way you make it reflects the very nature of your mind at the
moment through its flavour. When I had these realisations I looked at tea in a whole
new way. It began a process of mindfulness and observation that created in me a
serenity, equipping me to handle my every day challenges.
Q: Tea has such an ancient and rich multi-cultural history. How do you embrace the
richness of the past and marry it with the contemporary?
A: I love the way ancient cultures harmonised with the world. They did not see a
separation between themselves and the environment. Tea is a means through which
I want to create a space where worlds collide, people connect and divides are
severed. Tea is common to all the world… it has the magic to bring people together
and bring people back to themselves. We do this by creating ways people can
integrate tea into their daily lives in a contemporary way without overwhelming them
or requiring extended periods of time to prepare and enjoy. We summarise the
process that still allows a small opportunity to be present, thereby giving the
beneficial effects, without disrupting or creating expansive effort. The tea really does
the rest of the work.
Q: You talk about the healing properties of tea. Is this deeply important to you and
does it somehow reflect your own personal journey?
A: Tea is an incredible way to achieve serenity, and serenity creates the ability for us
to better handle our every day challenges. The samurai created something called
Wabi - The Way. It was a process by which they attributed every act as an art. By
being present one is able to calm the mind and simultaneously the body. This ability
is what made the Samurai so formidable. They moved this mind practice into other
arts and tea became an integral part of their means to attain serenity. The very
process of preparing tea requires focus… presence. The very physiological effects
produce the same conditions - uniting mind and body. When I am in this state I can
better handle my experiences, taking into consideration the consequences of every
thought, word and action, because it’s our thoughts, words and actions that create
our experiences. Tea has over 2000 different beneficial chemicals in each leaf that
has an interaction with the body, explaining why the Chinese founded it as a
medicine over 4000 years ago, and why it’s still so prominent today.
Q: You’ve just opened a tea ceremonial room. Describe to us the power behind the
act of ceremony?
A: The act of ceremony is a mindfulness practice. By bringing your mind in to focus
with a choreographed set of movements and processes, you eliminate opportunities
for the mind to become distracted with the outside word. This gives the mind less
power and allows you to be an active creator in your world. It’s an act of meditation, a
yoga. We hope to share this practice with people in our Cape Town and
Johannesburg spaces, providing them with respite from the chaos of the outside
world so they can also extend this into their home, inspiring change.
Q: You are a great reader. Share something with us that you recently encountered
that you made an intimate connection with, an insight
A: I am a lover of philosophy and old world spirituality. I just read an amazing book
on love called the 40 Rules of Love by Elif Safak. It delves into the life of my favourite
poet, Rumi. It talks about Rumi’s process of discovering the nature of the world and
the nature of himself through the ultimate nature of all things - love. As tea dictates,
we’re not separate from our environment. This book explores this concept, and if we
embrace this commonality, we can cultivate love as the core of all. And love is a
beautiful place from which we can heal the many divides of this world.
Q: Your new Fall Winter 2017 collection launched in April celebrates the ephemeral and uncertain, yet is routed in beautiful and sacred age-old oriental principles and practices of ikebana, Waba Sabi and the mermaid Ama pearl divers. What is your relationship to the uncertain?
A: I think the art of a designer or a creative - which we actually all are - is to get still enough to sense and hear the stories that need to be told. We are responsible to take the ephemeral and guide them into manifestation. These Japanese mindful practices encourage stillness and observation that support the truest and clearest manifestation.
Q: In a world where there are so many quick fix solutions filled with aphorisms about living, creativity and spirituality, there’s equally a deep-rooted desire in the other direction, illustrated by the uptake of Leonard Cohen’s profound lyrics from Anthem:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There’s a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
Your inspirations and process seems to resonate with this?
A: Yes, this completely resonates for me not only as a creative but also with the brand. We handcraft all our products and in line with this, we select small producers for anything we outsource. We are a slow fashion brand that understands the importance of taking time. And with handcrafted pieces, there is no such thing as perfect, each has a fingerprint of the maker, so each is unique and idiosyncratic. This relates to wabi sabi, as we are celebrating the handprint handmade and individual quality of making.
Q: Women again are celebrated as an ongoing theme in all your collections. This time you talk about your great-grandmother Leonora; a photograph of hers that you found captioned Woman, and the matrilineal group of Ama women that deep sea dive for treasures. Elaborate.
A: Well I come from a strong lineage of women - so it was the environment and culture that I was brought up in. I also understand the importance of strong feminine role models as mothers do hold the tent pegs of a society as they nurture, discipline and raise the children. So I guess I am fascinated by women's self development and personal growth as that facilitates conscious children and a mindful society.
Q: You are a great admirer and follower of Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings. This passage she shares seems to talk to you: “One doesn’t arrive - in words or in art - by necessarily knowing where one is going,” the artist Ann Hamilton wrote …in her magnificent meditation on the generative power of not-knowing. “In every work of art something appears that does not previously exist, and so, by default, you work from what you know to what you don’t know.” Your comments?
A: I guess the passage illustrates so well the process in the emergence of the Fall Winter 17 Collection. It began with a photograph of my great grandmother’s that triggered an inquiry into Japanese culture. From there I was intuitively led into wabi sabi and ikebana that both aesthetically and conceptually informed the design of the collection. I began with an image and journeyed through the unknown into a collection.
“Mindfulness is the bridge between the exterior and interior life… the dance between the process of becoming and the product or manifestation of being. This dance invites us to allow all phases to co-exist naturally together, and not to attach to either, and in so doing allows for change and letting things, people, careers go…all the while trusting that these changes are right.”
Question: You’ve had such an interesting life that truly reflects the cycles of life .. an émigré as a young girl from communist Poland; a philosophy and economics’ university student by day and waitress by night; a media, advertising and television exec that travelled the world and mixed with local and international icons; two spectacular bankruptcies and then an amazing tranformative period. Tell us about this journey and the incredible cycles, and highs and lows you’ve experienced and how you found mindfulness in your life.
Answer: I have had a phenomenal business life which spans over 21 years and which to a large part defined who I was in the world, and as a result, my material wellbeing allowed me to lead a life of privilege. I was totally defined by my material success and who I was in business. When this aspect of my life failed, once again in my 40s, I really needed to relook, take stock and re-construct a new life, one with new meaning and a new story of who I am in the universe.
While I had been introduced to yoga in my early twenties and always had a great interest in the esoteric, spiritual and mystical practices of self-realisation, it was during this last phase that I have really deepened my yoga practice to the extent that I thought I may as well do my yoga teacher training. I did this with a 500 hours Ishta yoga training (Integrated school of Hatha, Tantra and Ayurveda) and am currently becoming a Kundalini Yoga teacher as this is my chosen life-long practice.
And it was through the rigour of yoga teacher training, its discipline and the varied practices that something clicked inside of me …the discovery of the inward journey towards self-realization while existing within the modern world. With this came the realization of being aware of myself in my totality, the me that was, is and becoming… to be in the world as the person and product of my past decisions, but also acknowledging the process of change and becoming the future me, all of this while not being restricted by past hurts, failures and disappointments.
Question: With the arrival of Spring, we experience a heightened awareness of the cyclical nature of the universe. You’ve mention the concentric circles in our lives, and relate it to being human. Tell us more.
Answer: Everywhere we look in creation or nature, the animal and plant kingdom are engaging in some form of consistent daily routine. The natural world at large is deeply influenced by the rhythms of nature – the rising and setting of the sun, the cycles of the seasons, and the underlying impulses directing the broader community of life. Most plants and animals embrace a predictable daily rhythm and, as a rule, live by it. As humans, we have largely lost touch with these.
Modern comforts allow us to bypass these natural rhythms. We work late, we play hard, we overeat and drink too much and generally neglect many of our personal needs. Many of us even have jobs and other obligations that require us to keep irregular schedules. The increasingly erratic nature of our lives is inherently taxing. Layer that on top of the busy-ness and stress that pervades modern life, and it is no wonder that so many of our nervous systems now exist in a chronic state of high alert – hyper-vigilant, increasingly unable to relax and ultimately burn-out.
I was there, as many of you are or have been! During these periods of our lives, we usually do not make the best decisions for we often override our intuitive selves. Now that I have had some distance from the crisis that saw me lose my identity as a media business executive, and through my yoga practices have brought my body, mind and soul to a state of harmony, I am able to see what were the contributing factors that led to its demise and mostly it was toxic way of life …. a life and engagement with the world that was not entirely congruent or true with who I am.
My road to gaining back myself, a place where I have joy of the external and internal aspects of my life, took place within the yoga discipline and this is what I would like to share with you.
Kundalini yoga speaks of humanology to understand this dynamic of interplay of personal energies, emotional and physical changes.
Question: I love your definition of mindfulness as the bridge between the exterior and interior life. the dance between the process of becoming and the product or manifestation of being. Elaborate for us!
For me it was the formalised practice of yoga which led me to mindfulness and allowed me to consciously discover this bridge between the exterior and the interior life.
During our lives, we all constantly oscillate between the interior and the exterior, which I would say is really the dance between the process of becoming and the product or manifestation of being. This dance invites us to allow all phases to co-exist naturally together, and not to attach to either, and in so doing allow for change and letting things, people, careers go…all the while trusting that these changes are right.
It’s like that with all of creation - be it art in the form of the beautiful Pichulik jewellery collections and the delicate fine looking ceramic pieces created by Michelle Legg. This dynamic underpins fashion, sculpture, architecture, writing - every act of creation … in the process of becoming the final pieces, there are many ‘failures’ and results that do not always meet our ultimate vision for our product. We can ‘curate’ our failures, make up stories of them as they shame and embarrass us - they did me - and yet they are the parts that most definitely sculpt the next better and different iterations of you. My journey to totality of self allows me to hold the whole of me simultaneously.
Question: Expand more about the three golden cycles of life, the concentric cylces and how do you relate this to your own life and being humn with the ups, downs, successes, failures…
Answer: Every 7 years, the fundamental sense of your identity evolves. It deepens, building on the wisdom of past experiences. We call this the Cycle of Consciousness – and it talks to our sense of identity, values, how we understand things, our priorities and our sense of self. Growing up I wanted to be a poet, a dancer, fashion designer and later an architect. My childhood prams were filled with stranded dogs, cats and fallen out of nests birds, so naturally my family thought I could be a vet or better yet a doctor. And so our sense of ourselves moves through our focus of being and playing multiple roles in the world; that of daughters, sisters, bosses, yogis and so on…
Every 11 years, the way you apply what you know to solving problems changes. The horizon of the intelligence expands. We call this the Cycle of Intelligence. This is a process where we can identify our thoughts and create a clear intention which then backs up our action and manifestation in our life. One of the key lessons of this cycle is the idea of non-attachment. The honouring of the impermanence of things and the allowing the ebb and flow without becoming defeated… but with grace and kindness.
Every 18 years, the physical body goes through a process of maturity and change. We call this the Cycle of Life Energy. This cycle looks at our vitality and the overall life quality. It underpins our careers and how we choose to manifest our energy in the world, what kind of material life we build for ourselves. How we establish and maintain relationships.
These cycles are built into the structure of our human body and in the moments where all three converge - depending how we engage with life and how we have lived and conducted our lives in the previous phases - we go through periods of tremendous upheavals, change and growth.
Once we understand these cycles inside of us, not only are we able to gain a deeper perspective into our life and its themes, but we can better prepare to face these universal human phases and enter changes that await us with more ease and gracefulness. Naturally this process of awareness will impact positively all our relationships with our loved ones, and our community, as we acknowledge that each one of us is in a different stage of being. This knowledge can bring with it a sense of compassion, gentleness, kindness and softness… It has done so for me.
The concentric circle aspect comes in when we consider that these inner changes happen against a backdrop of our family constellation, our religious heritage, the heritage of our country, the changing seasons and other such daily and other greater cosmic cyclical influences. All these galvanize great forces that shape our inner and outer awareness of us as individuals engaging with the cosmos, allowing us to successfully (or not) navigate the many life changes (good and bad) that is our individual journey.
It is important to acknowledge these concentric cycles of influence as this allows us the knowing that whilst we may be experiencing a universal dynamic in our ebb and flow of energies, these appear as an infinite tapestry of possibilities based on the infinite combination of these energies that infuse and affect our transition.
Question: So much in our life is focussed on the outcome, the success, the result - and we so often ignore and never honour the process. There are so many ways to do this, but you have chosen the Kundalini Yogic tradition of humanology. Why does this make sense to you?
Answer: Let me start by saying that I respect and embrace all practices that invite mindfulness into your every-day life, as they have a way of contextualising oneself and one’s life within a context of a greater universal existence. In other words, all such disciplines have a w
ay of enlarging our space of care beyond our mere selfish individual focal point of interest.
To me the beauty of Kundalini Yoga and its intense practice is that it is experiential. You really cannot read about it … you must meet yourself on the mat every-day and practice and what you put in is what you get out. It is intensely personal but very rewarding and it guarantees results.
For more, listen to our podcast HERE with Katherine-Mary Pichulik in conversation with Grazyna Koscielska.
“The creative process is both an inward and outward journey. Inwardly I
need to love myself unconditionally, imbuing all I do with positive energy,
good intentions, love and compassion. This is key to my integrity and creating
a collection that is authentic. Outwardly, I love perceiving the world in new
ways and finding hidden patterns in my daily life.”
Q: Describe your first memory of fabric. What was it? The colour? The sensations?
A: When I was about 5 years old I distinctly remember my mom's hand-wheel Singer
sewing machine. Over weekends, she’d spend her spare time making curtains with
loads of mint fabric - proper 90’s style – strewn all over the house. The best was the
shocking pink and purple/blue tie backs that she has plaited to like koeksisters.
These minty curtains are still around and my mom still has them up in our house and
they still give me the feeling of safety and security every time I come home.
Q: Both your Autumn/ Winter and Spring/ Summer collections last year have a
hallmark of both simple lines and beautiful muted colours. Does this harmony reflect
something internal that you are striving to communicate in the physical world?
A: Our hand-dyed hemp fabric in muted colours to suit the particular season exudes
harmony, and this reflects my drive to be at peace with the universe and myself.
Many people obtain harmony in different ways and I feel that through design, I find
this sense of balance and strive to reflect it in all our capsule collections.
Q: When mapping your creative journey with design, do you look outwards and /or
inwards? How does the process work for you?
A: The creative process is both an inward and outward journey. Inwardly I need to
love myself unconditionally, imbuing all I do with positive energy, good intentions,
love and compassion. This is key to my integrity and creating a collection that is
authentic. Outwardly, I love perceiving the world in new ways and finding hidden
patterns in my daily life.
Q: In the fast paced world of fashion, how important if it to ‘know thyself’? Is it
relevant to listen to the voice within?
A: We need to shed our wrong and unreal patterning and concepts, thoughts and
beliefs and open ourselves to a new way of being that is more conscious, in tune with
that inner voice and in sync with your surrounds.
Q: We all talk about growth .. emotional, spiritual, creative. For you as a woman and
a designer, when do you experience the greatest growth. Is it in moments of
brokenness, stillness, inspiration?
A: When I have balance in my life, I find that my creativity flows at its optimum.
Brokenness can unhinge me. What’s important to me is setting goals in every area
of my life, making time to realise myself on a daily basis. Most of all be willing to take
risks. That’s when I need that inner voice to give me strength and confidence to
throw caution to the wind and go for it!
Q: Your ikebana flower arrangements talk to the newly launched Pichulik Fall Winter 17 collection. Tell us about this collaboration and how it happened?
A: It started with the inspiration behind the Pichulik new collection – the photograph of the Japanese woman and the story of the Ama pearl divers. We were then presented with the textiles, colours and textures that made up the raw materials that were to be used. This interaction with the creative process provided the strong and inspiring feeling behind the collection. I was drawn to the combinations of natural elements and wanted to reflect them within the containers for the arrangements – a glossy black bowl for the kelp and rough ceramics to mimic the earthy wooden tones. I then sourced flowers that complemented the palate of the collection – orange, red, burgundy. I also foraged for branches and dried elements to incorporate into the arrangements.
Q: You’re a botanist and ikebana specialist. How did you get to practice this sacred eastern art? How did you learn it and why does it resonate so deeply with you?
A: I found myself being drawn to images of flower arrangements that were extremely simple, with strong flowing lines. About a year ago, I started ikebana lessons with Bea Soboil from the Ohara Chapter in Cape Town. In our first lesson, we learnt that ikebana began with monks who collected broken branches in the forest after a storm. These branches were arranged in simplistic ways so that their beauty could be observed. The appreciation of individual branches resonates with me as it contrasts with traditionally western flower arrangements that emphasize abundance.
Q: The practice of ikebana is about balance, yet it incorporates elements of chance and impermance. This duality seems key to eastern principles. Did this duality wih your Chinese heritage growing up in South Africa influence you?
A: I think the practice of minimalism and simplicity behind the art of ikebana is more prominent in Japanase culture than in Chinese culture, especially since my parents grew up during the cultural revolution in China. Their experiences influenced the way that I was brought up as they constantly reminded me to always be appreciative and never wasteful. This teaching is what speaks to me the most in ikebana – there is absolute appreciation and value placed in individual branches and flowers. Broken branches and damaged flowers are praised for their beauty.
Q: Explain to us the principles of ikebana and do the pursuit of these principles resonate in other aspects of your life?
A: The Ohara School teaches you that the basic foundation of an arrangement consists of three elements – the subject, the object and a filler. These three elements work together in guided ratios to produce arrangements that are complementary and harmonious. Practicing ikebana reminds me to never underestimate the beauty of a branch.
Q: We’re going to close our eyes now and ask you to illustrate the process of applying these principles by describing how you put an ikebana arrangement together …
A: When I create an arrangement, I like to start with one special element. This element can be a moving branch, a special flower or a beautiful ceramic container. The subject, or principle stem, should be approximately one and a half times the height and width of the container, placed in a position that allows for empty space. The object is then added at a third the height of the principle stem, with the head facing up towards the sun, tilted outwards at a angle of sixty degrees away from the subject. The empty space should be considered and remain uninterrupted. The filler element then accentuates the colours or lines present between the subject and object, at a height lower than that of the subject.
“When one picks up a pebble one holds the story of the earth in one’s hand. I revisited the creation of these forms as I needed to be quiet and I find the act of making them is contemplative - like a meditation – with all the news around us that bombards our senses, this process enabled me a take a step back, breathe and be quiet.”
Q: During September, we celebrate Spring and the recent total eclipse of the sun with an exhibition of your beautiful pebble pots at the Pichulik shop at 44 Stanley. The shapes are so perfect and satisfying and remind one of a covetted treasure found in nature. Describe to us what inspired these organic shapes and the process of making them.
A:For my masters degree many years ago, I made five small burnished pots which are very similar and I suppose these incredible organic shapes and forms have always resonated with me. Pebbles are used in the African tradition of burnishing pots (the action of smoothing and polishing the clay) and they are revered objects that pass down from one generation of potters to the next. I found my perfect burnishing pebble on the beach in Nature’s Valley twenty years ago. The primal noise of pebbles rolling and hitting each other and worn down by nature is very powerful. When one picks up a pebble one holds the story of the earth in one’s hand. I revisited the creation of these forms as I needed to be quiet and I find the act of making them is contemplative - like a meditation – with all the news around us that bombards our senses, this process enabled me a take a step back, breathe and be quiet. It’s very calming to make and turn these shapes. I use a dolomite glaze I mixed up myself – the whole of Johannesburg stands on a dome of dolomite - which is one of the main ingredients of the glaze that gives it such a distinctive look and feel.
Q: Our theme this month is Spring and the cycles of life that deeply affect us as women. You have been a creative for many years. How do these cycles affect your creativity and do you find that there are period of stillness and bursts of activity and how do you navigate the ups and downs?
A: I do need to move into stillness at certain period of my life, whether it’s through ill health or overload from all the noise around us. My pebble pots were preceded by a cycle of creating beautiful moon jars – along the Korean tradition – where you throw two pots and then join them and the beauty is in the celebration of the imperfection of the linking the two. So this process of creating beautiful lunar shapes is also also very rewarding.
Q: Artist often talk about the empty page, the empty canvas. Do you experience this vacuum in your creativity?
A: No, that has never been my problem. I am always thinking ahead and have so many ideas circulating that I need three or four lifetimes to complete. I have moved through many different creative cycles in my life .. one that really stands out is the warrior women pot series incorporating spikes. My inspiration here was to look at warriors and women leaders in history and pay homage to them and make women aware of the power they carry within them. The Pichulik brand and my work have a common thread of honouring brave women and encouraging women to embrace their innate strengths.
Q: What we notice about your body of work is that you remain true to your inner aesthetic. There is definitely a strong sense of Africa and nature regarding the design, form and colours. You don’t seem to be much affected by the commercial side of ceramics. How do you do this?
A: It’s not something I consciously think about .. I rather just do it and know that I would rather starve than copy other people’s work or let commercial needs or the public dictate what I do. It would be far to damaging to my soul and pysche. Teaching gives me the freedom to safeguard my own creative process.
Q: You are known to be one of the best ceramic teachers. Teaching is a very important part of your life. How do you tap into others’ creativity and inspire them?
A:I love the fact that I can guide people and facilitate a process that they are sometimes scared of, or don’t even know they are capable of. Some students join my classes and don’t know what to do and I encourage them to look at history – ceramics, painting, architecture, sculpture - and identify what they like and what they think is beautiful or meaningful and use this as a starting point. Other people don’t know what technique they like, so I take them through all the different ceramic techniques and let them discover what resonates with them and then guide them thoroughly through this process. I never impose my aesthetics or preferences on them.
Knots are ancient symbols with a multitude of meanings across legends, mythology,
religions and cultures. The Pichulik knot in the Maison Mara collection is based on
the The True Lover’s Knot - a decorative knot symbolising true love.
According to tradition, a young couple would take a small limb of a tree and tie a
lover’s knot. If the knot held and grew for approximately a year, their love would stay
This neckpiece is a bronze cast of a Peruvian coin worn alongside a bracelet that Katherine-Mary Pichulik that she received on her 30th birthday that belonged to her great-grandmother and family matriarch, Leonora, who bought it in Peru on her worldwide trip – retracing their travels - and mourning the death of her beloved husband and soulmate. This pendant was cast in bronze, allowed to patinate and was dripped in freshwater pearls. This is the ideal piece that celebrates the new moon, spring and the solar eclipse as it honours the past and incredible journeys of our ancestors yet re-imagines and re-aligns to what we want to manifest.