Nicola Fasano

Not just any traditional ceramics.

Fasano Ceramiche photo bia fasanocnf.it.

I’m a huge fan of crockery from every region in the world. Cooking in clay or any traditional form of cookware, like cast iron, makes preparing food into an epic experience. Although cooking can easily become a chore, with the variety of traditional cookware, shapes, colors and sizes, it becomes an entertaining part of the day.

The items I cook with include a crock pot (not so romantic but made from clay), a tagine, and several Spanish clay pots. I bought my clay cookware at a chain homes store. Unfortunately, there are no markings indicating specifics on where they were made.

Enza Fasano, the grand-daughter of Nicola Fasano designs more contemporary ceramics. Photo via archiproducts.com.

I’ve been on the lookout for traditional ceramics, much like the colorful ceramics that are found in Italy. Ceramiche Nicola Fasano is a multi-generation ceramic company that’s made a huge variety of gaudy, traditional crockery and tableware along with simpler versions for modern preferences. Some ceramics are more interesting than others, but amongst the assortment, I found plenty of bright and unusual ceramics that I’d welcome into my kitchen.

Nicola Fasano factory, photo by @mercishopparis.

The Conran Shop has a huge selection of Nicola Fasano’s more contemporary pieces, including a squiggly lined terracotta cup and saucer. There are plenty of ceramics on ebay, and none of them are the same. It’s rare that a manufacturer has such a large variety that the items become unique.

Fasano Ceramiche photo via fasanocnf.it.

From photos and guides, Southern Italy is full of shops selling ceramics. There’re so much traditional crockery painted with regional emblems, but of all the ones I’ve seen, I’m drawn to the designs available at Nicola Fasano. Perhaps my favorites may not be as traditional, but the construction is the tradition that remains.

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Natural Deodorant

Natural remedies

Himalayan Salt Crystal, a natural deodorant that actually works!

I’ve been wondering why fragrance free products are becoming popular just now. Maybe it has to do with Jessica Alba and how she’s been promoting her fragrance free products through her Honest Company. There isn’t such a culture of 'fragrance free' in Germany yet. All natural beauty and home products have fragrance in them.

About a year ago, I came across natural deodorant. Someone told me it didn’t work that well so I didn’t end up buying it. This week, I happened across a similar concept in a shop nearby. My new deodorant is a Himalayan salt crystal.

I tried it out after showering—you’re suppose to apply when wet. I had body odor but it was gone in five minutes. My husband tried it as well and it works on a guy.

Also, it’s so pretty to look at and touch. I hope to find more products that are naturally occurring, as if I just plucked it from the earth.

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Chandelier Prototype Two

Accidental design.

Developing a chandelier that acts more like a frame of my environment than a light.

I finished my second chandelier prototype and realized the first was better. In the first prototype, one axis of strands draped down in a way that was prettier. This unintentional design was a result of eyeballing the side lengths. Although I used a ruler to measure the strands on my second prototype, I like the 'accident' more.

Prototype two has no curves, strands are straight. I prefer the first with the strands curved.

Next steps are to consider scale and the number of strands I’d like. Maybe 8 symmetrical strands? It took a lot of work to make the two versions with four strands each. I’m losing momentum the more work I forsee.

Maybe I’ll come across a good idea from looking at chandelier examples, but I’ll need some time to figure out what I’ll do next. Although it’s hard to have patience, I know I have to in order not to end up with something I don’t want. In the past, I’ve rushed to complete projects in the spirit of 'not being lazy' but I don’t want to make something that I won’t appreciate.

It’s interesting to observe how the process is related to how much appreciation I’ll have. If it is such a good concept, then I’ll have patience. If not, c’est la vie.

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Ruth Gurvich

Delicate 'paper' you can eat out of.

Looks as if you could take any old sheet of paper and sculpt into this...if only I had the skills. Photo by Jérôme Galland.

I’m starting to believe that architects make better artists than 'artists'. On Nowness, there’s a video series featuring the homes of hip creatives. These are people who seem to scream "Hey everyone! I am an artist." Maybe it’s the nature of being a pop culture celebrity. I’m sure what they do is extraordinary, from fashion design to song writing, but their homes all look the same.

On the other hand, there’s a series called "In Residence", featuring homes of architects and prominent artists and designers. Rather than showing how 'quirky' their personalities are, the works resoundingly shows how original these professionals are.

Ricardo Bofill wears a suit in his video, looks like a respectable guy. One walk through his home and you’ll see how out of the box insane he is. Ian Simpson has a completely different style. The order and precision throughout his home seems to emphasize the things that are not orderly and precise: the trees, plants and lighting from the sky. In each of these videos, the style of the creative permeates through every item, from tables to utensils, beyond just walls and windows.

"For me, it all starts with the shape. I start completely from scratch. Then I make a construction plan, just like a designer designing a chair or an architect drawing a house. This was something I had to learn; my first pieces using paper were very clumsy. The difficulty lies in constructing exactly the right shape." - Ruth Gurvich; Photo and quote via nymphenburg.com

Perhaps that’s why I am drawn to the work of Ruth Gurvich. Initially, Ruth studied architecture than she switched to art. Architecture seems to emphasize a physical understanding of materials more than art. If I were to study architecture, there would be more physics classes than if I studied art. How something lasts, wears over time, looks in a particular space—those are considerations beyond the controlled vacuum of a gallery.

"She established a reputation with her three-dimensional works made of paper, which pursue a delicate, wholly distinctive aesthetic. In her designs, she cannily makes the most of the materiality of paper – as a working material, it enables her to introduce light, movement and vitality into things." Photo and excerpt via nymphenburg.com

From Ruth’s porcelain works, anyone can see how much she understands the physical qualities of paper. Enough to create it from an entirely different material.

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Date by Scent

Follow the nose to follow the heart?

A cozy pair: windows I found canoodling in Rome

Online dating app ideas are fun to come up with. Today, I came across a headline: "Date Perfumes before Marrying Them." Could it be? A site where you date by scent? I know I would’ve selected my husband if we dated this way. Next to the headline was a photo of several colored sticks, as if each stick represented a person’s scent.

But no, it was just a perfume company that allowed you to try on perfumes before buying them. I think the only perfumes I would consider this for are the perfumes that cost so much (~$300 a bottle) rather than the $60 ones at Sephora. But in these shops, each bottle is like an ingredient you can mix and match.

I don’t much knowledge about fragrances but I know that the one time I visited Bloom, a niche perfumery in London, I was blown away. I tried several versions each of linen, fig and tobacco. My head felt tingly in places where I never felt anything. Perhaps certain scent receptors had finally been activated.

"niche is the antithesis of 'designer' perfumes that employ clever marketing techniques…"
"mass produced perfumes are engineered to smell good on paper blotters…"
"manufacturers are well aware that in shopping environments products only get one spray to make a first impression, these perfumes are not designed to last on the skin"
"customers chase that initial burst of addictive freshness"
"these scents are often made with basic synthetic materials"

I’m interested in exploring scents a bit more, it’s definitely fun to smell things I normally don’t. And I’d like to get that tingly feeling in my head (I hold some belief that it’s healthy to activate sense receptors that are dormant). There are a few sample packs on Bloom that I’m looking to try, including ’Roots and Shoots’ the Ambroxan Pack.

"Embers is a dark and resinous fragrance that utilizes a sweet and balmy pink pepper note perfectly."

"Ambroxan is an isolated ingredient that perfumers often refer to as a wonder molecule. It’s a natural ingredient that comes from clary sage…"

"We’ve included a 1% solution of pure ambroxan in your pack to help you identify the molecule’s wholly unique and projective properties."

At 10 GBP, it seems like a promising activity.

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Chandelier Prototype One

Kinks that need to be ironed out.

Right after assembling, before painting

I roughly built a model of the chandelier that was in the sketch from a few days ago. It looks nothing like the drawing, but I like how the proportions came out.

My first prototype brought my attention to the thickness of the thread. My chandelier came out kinked. If I made the string longer, the beads run smoother. If I used a stiffer string, I could create a rounded out semicircle, where the bottom half of the chandelier hangs. This unanticipated aspect helped me determine the size of the beads: I want the string to be fluid (I don’t want a stiffer thread) so I have to make a larger chandelier keeping the bead size exactly where it is.

What turned out better than expected was the color and the bead shape. The clay is pink. I tried two shades of light blue and I found a shade with a more transparent blue that looked great in combination with the pink underneath.

The first version has a more elongated top half. Here's an earlier version of the beads.

The beads are tiny and although I planned for them to be more consistent in shape, I couldn’t actually do that with my hands. The result was an assortment of completely irregular beads. There’s more texture and the beads remind me of necklaces I’ve seen in the museum, from archeological sites in Mesopotamia.

I also noticed how the entire chandelier is strung. If I start from the top with one needle and thread and string from top to bottom, round out at the bottom and head back to the top, I’ll have a smoother curve at the bottom. However, the original sketch suggested that the multiple strings at the bottom were tied together in the center. I’m not sure what I’ll do, perhaps but I think the separate strings tied together will work on a larger scale.

Stay tuned for the second prototype.

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Coffee Break 7

State of art ceramics and font.

I love how these trees move, from a former trip to Land's End

"Natural Selections" is a category of posts where I document my favorite findings and share appreciation for nature. As a short list, it's made for browsing during a break, like when taking coffee or tea. The following links lead to the best visuals I've seen. Hope you enjoy!

Art Ceramics

There are ceramics made for everyday. Then there are ceramics that are sculptural pieces of art. Eric Roinestad’s vessels combines old world pottery shapes with unexpected modern details. Takayuki Sakiyama’s ceramics are like the Issey Miyaki of ceramics—endless pleats.

Quirky Printing Press

There are so many graphic designers with 'pretty work', but not many appeal specifically to me. Perhaps that is why it’s exciting to discover Hugues Gentile, a Parisian type and graphic designer. When I got back to Berlin from visiting Frankfurt briefly, I realized how much typography plays a role on the design of posters in my area. I like the minimal design that is typography focused and Hugues’s work is similar in nature, except it’s got a quirkier twist. I’m hoping Ignacius, a gothic inspired font, will be made available for use.

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The Positive Behind Negative Voting

Why it's natural for a population to be divided.

Two parts of a whole: I’m not sure how this works, furniture I found at the Art Institute in Chicago.

I was disturbed by how much negative voting there was during the election. Has the "honorable" activity of voting become a way to merely "unlike" something?

Only today did I realize that negative voting has been around since the beginning of time. The concept that 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ was described in Sanskrit in the 4th century. There’s even a mathematical theory based on the idea:

"The [balance theory] implies roughly that attitudes of the group members will tend to change in such a way that one’s friends’ friends will tend to become one’s friends and one’s enemies’ enemies also one’s friends, and one’s enemies’ friends and one’s friends’ enemies will tend to become one’s enemies, and moreover, that these changes tend to operate even across several removes (one’s friends’ friends’ enemies’ enemies tend become friends by an iterative process)." - Wikipedia

By taking any side, the world moves towards division. It was sad to see how people weren’t willing to consider opposing viewpoints, but now I realize: we’re exactly where we’re suppose to be. Humanity isn’t getting worse. It’s reassuring to know it’s the same as ever.

Having any sort of opinion or identity requires the opposite opinion or identity. Perhaps the internet helps in compounding opinions faster, but as mentioned by Alan Watts, “All winners need losers; all saints need sinners; all sages need fools.”

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Macha Macha Berlin

A quiet space in the crazy busy section of the neighborhood

Not what it seems: The shop appears to be all white, but tucked in the back is a quiet tea room, with darker mossy colored walls. I love earthy colors so it was a delight to be enveloped in different shades of mustard and green.

I finally had a chance to visit a matcha cafe I spotted a few months ago. Macha Macha has a front patio built above and around pools filled with bright orange koi fish. When we were walking around the area one morning, I'd seen the patio decorated with lush mossy greens. It was closed at the time but looked inviting.

So I had been thinking of this place for several months. Today we went to grab food at Hamy, a cheap Vietnamese restaurant, in the vicinity of the cafe and afterwards we poked around an electronics shop a few doors down. We headed to Macha Macha after.

"Wait. There's a back?"

When I entered, I thought we were going to grab a seat at the bar. Instead, we were led to the back.

I didn't know what to expect but there was a tatami floored tea room. No shoes, no cellphones, there were Japanese ornamental details, like a moss covered rock in one corner and a scroll under a warm spotlight in another. The windowed side was bordered by soft gravel. The ceiling and a supporting column were covered with textured cardboard that reminded me of peeling tree bark. Everything was arranged neat and precise in the image of traditional Japanese style.

I didn't take out my phone because it would've ruin the ambiance. My husband sat cross legged at first, then noticed he had a hole in his sock and decided to switch positions so the hole was covered with his foot planted to the ground. I thought he had some discomfort in his joints and mistakenly assumed he was 'paying' for the experience--suffering awkwardly so I could have a good time.

Like looking into a sunset. My favorite tea bowl.

We were given a menu with a wide assortment of matcha. I was interested in matcha lattes. But ordering such a drink is like going to China and ordering General Tso's chicken, a watered down version of what's real. I didn't know which matcha to pick so I had the lady who served us pick one out.

She mentioned that matcha lattes don't require the best quality and the lowest quality is good enough because the flavors get mixed with the frothy milk. Of course I didn't want the cheapest matcha so i asked her to choose something a little different (upscale) to mix into the matcha. My husband ordered an aromatic matcha and matcha cheese cake.

While the cheesecake was intended for me, it was so delicious my husband had most of it. He's not into sweets. It was so rich and delicious that my tongue curled from the flavor intensity. It's an exhilarating contrast to the calm ambiance.

I also tried my husband's matcha. It was fragrant and served in a large bowl vessel. Like drinking the last bits of broth from a noodle soup, I felt the warmth of the tea spread to my hands every sip. Since I'm always cold, any extra warmth is a pure delight.

Afterwards, I didn't feel caffeinated as I'd expected but I felt energized. Being in the space of the quiet room and having tea rejuvenated me.

I haven't been as enthusiastic about coffee recently and I'm interested in learning more about tea. I hope to visit again with my husband, but that'll be based on whether he's up for it.

The cafe also hosts Sunday meditation and tea workshops.

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Model Chandelier

Bringing street art to life.

Making each individual part out of clay

DIY is fun not because it’s a tactile activity but because it allows me to have anything. I’m not thrilled with the selection of items I can afford, so the only way I can get what I want is to make it. And it’s not about copying something expensive—even at the high end, there aren’t many things that I’d like to take home.

I found a chandelier painted onto a wall of street art and sketched it out. This item doesn’t exist in reality, although there are versions of it, but I want to create the one version that I have in my head. I want the beads that drape down the chandelier to all have a 'hand rolled' touch.

A sketch of the chandelier I found on a mural and testing out a chair shape, all research for my home

I’m in the process of creating a model of the chandelier. Yesterday I formed the parts from clay and today I painted them in blue. After I strung the beads, I realized that the shape needs to be more spherical in order for them to drape nicely. I also noticed that the proportion of the beads to the size of the structure needs some adjustment. These are the details I’m looking to pick up on.

This craft project allows me to figure out whether it’s worth making. Okay, so DIY doesn’t necessarily grant me everything I desire, but at least I’ll know what the costs are in constructing an item. I’ll have a better idea of whether something is worth making. If a design still sounds like a good idea even with the understanding that it’ll take a lot of work, maybe there’s merit to the design. Unlike shopping for items that take less time to consider, taking the additional energy and time to create an new item is a way to be more resourceful.

Stay tuned to see how the chandelier turns out over the course of next week.

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