I began following Mariana Mae aka @easytobreathe last year during our trip across California and was immediately enamoured by her connection to Mother Earth and the way she expressed herself through IG. Her approach is all about honouring the mantle upon which we walk during every waking moment. She says she strives to live in service to the remembrance of ourselves, the reclamation of our authentic expression and the preservation of culture through craft and Women’s studies. Her offerings through ceramics and ceremony are centred on sharing with those who wish to deepen their relationship with their own creativity and natural healing modalities.
I’ve resonated with her on all of the above as well as the fact that she is originally from Mexico now living in the USA. That internal conflict when you are originally from one place but live in another and the difficult search for belonging and for a grounding feeling of home is something I can deeply relate to.
At Pampa we are excited to include Mariana’s work here for the In Focus series and some of her ceramic work alongside our ethically handmade collection of Objects & Accessories.
You are originally from Mexico, when did you make the move to the US? What made you choose Ojai as your home?
My family and I migrated from Mexico to the US when I was 4 years old. We landed in Miami, Florida where my childhood continued. We then began to move West, to Texas and years later, California. I had been living in Los Angeles for 4 years, working and studying until the longing for a home close to the mountains became stronger. I had only been to the Ojai Valley once before moving there, I spent my entire visit in the mountains, feeling at home. At that time, I knew very little about the town and community, but I felt the belonging in my heart. A year later, a little Spanish bungalow in town stumbled upon my path while searching for a new home. A month later, Ojai became home. They say Ojai chooses you!
Do you return to Mexico often and spend time there? In what ways do you foster your connectedness to Mexico?
Thankfully I return home to visit family and connect with the land a few times a year. Through ritual in the kitchen, I cook indigenous foods on traditional ceramic cookware…cazuelas, comales, ollas. My home is adorned with handmade artefacts handed down to me by my mother and grandmother. I am grateful to have beautiful clothing made by native woman of Mexican lineages and treasure these pieces dearly. Speaking Spanish and communing with my family and native friends is a blessing! My relationship with Copal and Cacao continues to grow, as well as my studies here in the U.S through Toltec wisdom, medicine songs and Law of Time studies. The Spirit of Mexico is present with me, always.
When did you first start making ceramics, what inspired you to do so?
Ceramics came into my life at age 5, when living in Miami. Since I was just starting to learn English, creating with clay became my preferred language. It was a gateway for my voice and creative expression. It wasn’t until moving to Los Angeles, that I reconnected with ceramics and soon after, I committed myself to the craft full time. I’m continuously inspired by the ways in which clay connects me deeper to myself and the Earth.
We love your concept of “ceramic objects for the sacred home”. What does a “sacred home” mean to you?
A sacred home is a sanctuary. A safe space one can return to, to hold and nurture each fleeting moment, to inhale and exhale health, to download visions and integrate emotions, to create beauty from your authenticity. A sacred home is a haven adorned with energies and objects with Spirit, radiating empowerment, simplicity and meaning. A sacred home is a nest. We are like birds, soaring with a mission each day, hoping to return to a home we have tended to with love. For ourselves and those who walk into our doors.
What personal rituals do you keep to feel balanced and grounded?
My daily morning ritual is rising with the Sun. I walk outside and greet the morning light, first sitting in silent meditation then stretching my body through Sun salutations. I have been practicing light therapy inspired by Maggie of PUAKAI – I lay or sit on the Earth, exposing my bare skin to the early morning sun rays for maximum infrared light exposure, supporting my bodies cells with a natural immunity boost. This ritual grounds me for the day and leads me to my morning practice of tea or cacao. Breathwork practices throughout the day are vital for feeling balanced too.
When do you like to burn incense? Do you have a preferred scent?
When I’m home and not traveling, always in the morning during my practice and prayer offerings, throughout the day when I sit to study, work in the studio and again in the evening as I wind down. During my clay workshops and during any ceremony I facilitate, incense is a core element. I burn Copal from Mexico and Agarwood from Cambodia. I prefer to burn incense that connects me to my lineage, ancestral lands/people that have inspired me and sustainable brands supporting indigenous nations.
We share a deep admiration for ancestral pathways, heritage and culture. What encouraged your vision to this idea of preserving the old to venerate the new?
Yes, I adore sharing this passion. I think as a young girl, I felt my work in the world to be one of primitive, unconventional ways. I didn’t necessarily feel a belonging to the U.S culture I grew up in, rather grew up dreaming of creating imaginative worlds for myself and others. Since travelling back to Mexico over the years, I felt a call to bridge my native roots with my modern upbringing in the U.S. I then began connecting with indigenous communities in Mexico, artisans and healers. My vision of preservation is ever evolving as I am currently working on a new project, offering resources and opportunities to these communities.
With a rapid movement of consumerism and tourism, it is important to acknowledge ancestral pathways and sustainable modes of support when possible. We are privileged to have the resources to maintain a reliable financial flow here in the U.S, out of desire. This is foreign to most Indigenous peoples and it is placing their traditions at risk. Now, there is a strong ripple of curiosity and awakening to ancestry and origin. Within the travel trends, it is our responsibility to be mindful of our intentions, our footprint and how we choose to travel and support places and people. It is time to bridge the ancient with the modern in order to preserve the first nations of craft, wisdom and plant medicines around the world.
What can you tell us about the Mujeres de Barro workshop?
Mujeres de Barro is a monthly women’s clay circle born in reverence to the women of indigenous clay communities. After spending time with a beloved family of alfareros (potters) in Oaxaca, I inherited a deeper admiration to barro (clay) and the feminine skill through it’s process, from soil to stone. In honour of this craft, I felt a nudge to bring back these primitive techniques to communities where ceramics may now be seen as a contemporary career.
This workshop is a blend of honouring ancestral skillshare with discovery through our own creative language with clay. It is an intimate workshop of 10 women gathered to create a handmade vessel, coil by coil. We connect with this slow, delicate process of creation in reflection to our cycles as women and our most sacred vessel, our womb.
What kind of an environment do you try to create for your workshops?
I aim to create a safe, welcoming space for all to softly land upon. We begin the workshop with a cleansing Copal blessing, to invite our breath into the present moment. We navigate the gathering in a ceremonial, council way to witness and be witnessed with grace and respect. Throughout our time, we share stories and moments of silence, devoting our intentions to the art being created. I believe it is important to gather in community and feel comfortable to dive into our own process in the presence of others – as is uniting in intimate containers to co-create dialogue and healing, empowering connections.
You talk about “Life as Ceremony”, can you share with us a ceremony of which you were a part recently and tell us what it meant to you.
Life is our greatest ceremony! Recently I had the honour of assisting a dear friend and teacher of mine, Paola Ix in a Cacao ceremony. Through admiring Paola’s way of life, I have received many valuable teachings. One that has influenced a foundation of my path is her devotion to Mindfulness. In every emotion, mindfulness fuels each thought and action. During ceremony, Cacao as an ally supports us to feel our emotions deeply and invites us to love each aspect of ourselves, the light and the shadow. With mindfulness, emotions deliver a response rather than a reaction. And from this heart space, we may see all that arrives into our life as a blessing. When we honour each day as a ceremony, as a ritual of mindful breathing and conscious action, we may celebrate the abundance of blessings that heal us from the past, support us in the present and inspire us for the future.
Can you tell us why you’ve chosen the beautiful name Easy to Breathe for your ceramics?
Easy To Breathe came to me as I was working in my home studio for the first time, attempting to centre ball after ball of clay on the wheel. I realised I had been holding my breath each time. I was stunned! What, why? Why was I making it harder than it needed to be? Quickly after, this revelation translated into my life and recognized how healing it is to simplify our emotional reactions and just breathe.. conscious deep breaths, they work wonders. And the sweetest thing is, it’s truly easy and our most accessible tool for our well being! It became a constant reminder and now, a humble way of life.
Maggie of PUAKAI – www.puakaihealing.com
Paola Ix of KAKAWSANA – www.kakawsana.com