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.
“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.
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