ZARA FLORA | Don’t Call It Ikebana

ZARA FLORA | Don’t Call It Ikebana

One thing that has come to save all of us is this great urge to get back to nature. Whether your current conditions are open to dine out with your pod or stuck at home with hours of Clubhouse/ Tik Tok, this push and pull of our social habits has led to a surging culture around plants and vegetation aka a major plant selling boom. A desire and affinity for a sense of being grounded amidst the endless isolation has come with an added side effect of grounding people and understanding the might of greenery. Central to QooA’s philosophy of slowing down while still indulging, writer Janelle Zara found her path with her latest creative endeavor ZARA FLORA a project which fuses her lush floral devotions with that of her extensive art/architechtural background.

For Zara, an accomplished writer whose critiques of art, culture, and architecture can be seen in T, WSJ, and Architectural Digest, early quarantine strolls through Hollywood’s Beachwood Canyon and roadtrips with her boyfriend to Lake Arrowhead and Big Sur informed her needs to delve into nature. This biophilic desire coupled with her artistic and architectural background has well informed her design aesthetic. We got to discuss this floral venture as well as learned why you mustn’t call Zara’s gravity defying designs ikebana.

 

How did you get into floral arrangements, I feel like I’ve known you for ages and had no idea that you were so naturey.

Oh yes and road trips with my boyfriend, I look at trees and see how I could make them out of flowers. A friend of mine introduced me to this flower shop where you pick your own flowers. When he gave a bouquet to his friend I saw how his face lit up, It was full of so many unusual flowers. Doing this I realized we’re exposed to such a limited variety. The kinds of flowers you see in the grocery story isn’t even the half of it, I like working with the weird stuff. The really unusual creatures.

 

Would you consider this work consider this going in with the Ikebana trend that is so diffinitive right now? How did you learn to compose your arrangements?

It’s not ikebana. That’s a real art form with rules. I’m just putting flowers in a pot. I taught myself on instagram, really. Not by copying other people but studying their mechanics. It took me a while to understand the way that flowers work. You need to build up an arrangement with different depths and levels. Working in 3D is a lot different from looking at pictures.

I know you began this as a hobby but at what point did this become a business?

My friends were all really jazzed and supportive of what I was doing. They were the ones who convinced me to start an instagram, and then the interest started to grow from there. I was surprised that anyone would ever want to pay me for what I was doing for fun. It was a pandemic hobby!

 

Why do you think the art world has embraced you so much?

They’re my friends, a lot of them. In real life I’m an art critic/journalist. But also I’m really designing for certain graphic qualities—motion, contrast, etc… After I make an arrangement, I spend a lot of time trying to get a photo that captures that.

I love the full dimensionality of the arrangements, has your career in art and architecture inform some of your designs?

I think about it a lot like architecture; it’s about structure and problem solving

It used to take me days to figure out a floral arrangement. Lately I’ve gotten a lot faster, It still takes over an hour

 

What are some of your favorite flowers?

I like to mix high/low; really high end statement flowers with your grocery story basics. I have a secret spot where I get secondhand vases, and it’s a gold mine. They feel like the way we treat people; we treat the most delicate flowers like they’re the most precious But I live for a big fluffy bunch of carnations.

Do you Use a lot of flowers with fragrance?

I use a lot of allium, which literally smells like onion, I almost feel bad sending them to people, but they look so damn good. Otherwise not really. I don’t use a lot of “flower” flowers.

 

If you were to personify the plants and flowers you use who are they?

Flowers are challenging. They’re a lot harder than you’d think. They each kind of do their own thing in their own way, and the longer I do this, the better I get to know their individual temperaments.

Tulips: so underrated!

Anthurium: easy crowd pleaser!

Roses: just getting into them now. I thought they were really traditional but they can do a lot.

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Murmurs | Valentine’s Day S

Murmurs | Valentine’s Day S

Love is love is life, either way a desire for sweets and blooming florets is a must. LA multipurpose artspace/ café MurMurs has taken on the almighty task of infusing a delicate dose of wabi sabi indulgence via a pairing of QooA fave zehra zehra and the ikebana decor of Tomato Story. The zehra zehra bay leaf bunt olive oil and ricotta confection covered in mascarpone, is there anything possibly more sexual enticing than whipped mascarpone?

The Valentine’s day special pairing is available for PREORDER from the website as well as at the café and shop which is open for take-out and browsing. Coming in two sizes the florals are ever more expressive in their movements and poses offering an exquisite exploration into an asymetrical declaration of what life and love is.

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ZARA FLORA | Don’t Call It Ikebana

Get to know the journalist who took on a quarantine hobby and launched a successful side gig in floral arrangements informed by architecture, art, and getting back to nature

Spiritual Tools | In Times of Transformation

Spiritual Tools | In Times of Transformation

Spiritual Tools for Times of Transformation. 

A conversation with Astara founder, Crystal Healer & Herbalist Mariah K Lyons and Energetic Healer & Herbalist Julie Hovsepian

2020!?! Why is transformation so important at this time?

M – This has been a year of old systems and structures crumbling to be rebuilt and restructured in a new way. It’s been a root chakra year so on a very foundational level we are re-creating from the ground up (immune system!) and it’s been a massive year of systems in play and structures crumbling in order to rebuild a new.

J – I led a full moon event November 2019 and just saw this was the theme for that month that I had read somewhere “It’s a Moon to remind us of why we chose to incarnate at this tumultuous time and all the support available to us as we undertake huge transformation” and it’s incredible how timely that still feels for us today, and this conversation. To me, it’s so important for us to take this energy that’s building and essentially shouting at us with the turbulence of this past year and use it as opportunities for growth and expansion.  It’s so easy to resist change and stay numb to what’s happening around us, but we all have a fire within us that’s being lit right now to speak up, to change what’s not serving us individually, and to work together globally to help really shift us forward collectively.

What does transformation mean to you?

M: Changing form from one thing into another – energy is never destroyed it’s simply transmuted into something different – alchemically changes into something new. When we are transforming into new versions of ourselves there are certain ways of being that change over to create the new. Energy is shifted and alchemically changed to create something new. Nature teaches us about transformation – Winter transforming into Spring, leaves falling and becoming compost in the soil, and regenerating itself back up. We also learn it from the cycles of the moon, and transforming into different forms of ourselves as energetic beings.

J: Physical and energetic shedding of the old to step into an elevated space of being. It takes a lot of courage and trust to allow transformation to take place. It’s about letting go of the (un)comfortable state we are currently at by really leaning into that trust to leap into the unknown – because of that feeling deep inside of us that whatever is on the other side is soooo worth it.  For some it’s one small step in a unfamiliar direction that calls you – and then one day you look back and realize you are miles away from where you started and so much happier, and for others it’s a swift deep leap and taking the time you need to acclimate to your new grounds. The best part is there is no wrong way to do it, it’s always going to be in divine timing so it’s just about using your intuition and awareness that a change is needed and coming and having the courage to fly.

When you think of the word transformation – what’s the visual you get for yourself?

M: Butterfly – literally changes shape from caterpillar form to completely different version of itself and transforms into something new.

J: There is a visual that I got in one of my meditations of this other worldly version of me flying above – confident, at peace and assured – and it’s what I quickly connect to when I feel like I need to step into something that challenges and scares me.

What’s biggest fear for most people when it comes to transformation?

M: Safety – our brains understand certain ways of being and doing things and when we transform into something different some of the safety structures that we have created by habits, thought forms, ways of relating to other people and self – those change and can be scary and uncomfortable. By nature the reptilian brain wants to create safety and structure based on things it knows and is comfortable with which it then equates to survival – this part of our brain is not comfortable in the unknown or in a new form because it doesn’t have any previous information to base off of and “keep you safe.”

J: Control is another big one and if there is anything that 2020 has shown us over and over again is that we aren’t in control. As humans, we have a hard time feeling like we don’t have control of our present and our future. There’s a huge gift in the practice of being aware of who/what we are trying to control in our lives, and for what we think our future needs to look like and trusting that what’s coming our way is to help us transform, get stronger, and continue to align us on our path.

Moonstone

Best advice/support for people navigating transformation?

M: Finding a space of grounding and connecting with self and earth helps to remind oneself that they are always at home within their body regardless of what’s changing in their lives, relationships and the world. Always at home in their body and deep connection with the earth.

Working with minerals/crystals/herbs to ground the body but work on a subtler energetic system of helping to support stabilization and harmonization within one energetic field.

J: Meditation is one of the biggest practices that we all have access to, that’s free and the more we do it, the more we are able to create space to allow clarity to come through during times of so much uncertainty. As we commit to a daily practice (of even just 3 mins to start), our bodies begin to feel safe and grounded and our intuition/inner compass strengthens tremendously.  We also have incredible herbs, available globally, that are here to help us during times transformation.

Mariah’s Crystal Recommends for Times of Transformation

Malachite – This crystal helps transmute grief, sadness and past traumas held in the heart and helps create open space for the new

Moonstone – This is the stone of new beginnings and helps us attune to energies of the lunar cycle, our own cycles of life and moving through transition and transformation into the next cycle

Herkimer Diamond – A crown chakra stone – very high frequency that helps us imagine and re- envision/visualize our new way of being so we can create that in our physical reality

Smoky Quartz – helps to keep one grounded in times of change and helps transmute and transform dense energies thought forms and ways of being into new expressions of being.

Julie’s Herbal Recommends for Times of Transformation*

(among many other scientific and energetic qualities for each herb listed, here are some highlights specific to this topic):

Ginger – this is one we should all have easy access to in dried or raw form – it’s grounding but really opening, brings more chi/energy to the body, helps with emotional stagnation – really moves energy in the body, opens the breath and the heart (and is also incredible for immune support and migraines) – this herb is great support for the solar plexus

Shisandra – this super herb is made for times of transformation –  an energizing adaptogen (helps your body adapt to stress), great for motivation and helping positive change take place in your life, anti-depressant, playful energy that helps build chi in your body, cleansing, helps with clearer communication and creative expression, great for helping the visionary – this herb is great support for the sacral chakra

Rhodiola – this is a very bitter herb that’s very stimulating and uplifting, also great anti-depressant, it moves a lot of energy, great for mental clarity and focus, great for helping us get unstuck, great for resilience during transformation – this herb is great support for the root chakra

Blue Lotus – very sacred herb that’s a great spiritual ally for transformation and rebirth, very euphoric, crown and 3rd eye opener and also a great heart tonic – this herb is great support for the crown chakra

*Herbs: Ideal to infuse/decoct the tea leaves or roots for at least 20 mins before consuming.

All are available as organic tinctures as well.
You can click here to check out some of Julie’s custom tincture blends:

Please contact Julie if you have any specific questions about these herbs and their usage and would like further herbal support – julie@inagoldenstate.com

Top to bottom: Ginger, Shisandra, Rhodiola, Blue Lotus, Julie’s Herbal Tinctures

More on Mariah K Lyons:

www.astara.com

IG: https://www.instagram.com/mariahklyons/

MARIAH’S BOOK: CRYSTAL HEALING FOR WOMEN

More on Julie Hovsepian:

www.inagoldenstate.com

IG: https://www.instagram.com/juliehov/

+More meditations, including a 9 min guided and 30 min guided meditations: https://www.inagoldenstate.com/downloads

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Aliona Kononova | Masked in Fort Ross

Aliona Kononova | Masked in Fort Ross

Aliona Kononova has been a well cemented part of Los Angeles’ art and fashion scene. Frequently adorning the most avant garde of dressers around the various art openings and social happenings, is there anything more inspiring than to see Valerie Von Sobel in one of Kononova’s confections. When the pandemic hit, Kononova like the rest of the world slowed down. Focusing on fully envisioned one offs, pushing an endearing sense of more architectural engineered garments craft it out of the most rigid fabrics. It is with this strong and dynamic use of craftsmanship which she has applied into the process of her mask making. Having been anointed “Millinery‘s New Star” with the blessing of Stephen Jones, it is no wonder that her expertly crafted masks take on a whole life of their own.

A gorgeous and luxuriant product that transfers wearers to a place which almost makes one forget that it is a product of function, but rather a storied vision of art. In the time of quarantine and isolation the designer has also explored her adopted home of California. Producing shoots which showcase her designs against the alien backdrop of the many coastal towns along 655.8 miles of Cali coastline.

The pacing couldn’t have been better as she also highlighted the little known Russian homestead, Fort Ross. We got to chatting with Kononova about this project which ultimately matches her Californian dream and Slavic roots. she also provided a delectably addictive recipe for Syrniki, a cottage cheese based pancake which is dosed with just the right amount of sugar to be a tea time treat, snack or dessert.

Photo Courtesy Aliona Kononova. Model: Yulia Kirillova.

BJ Panda Bear: Where did you shoot these images they are completely astonishing and alien, you mentioned they were near San Francisco.

Aliona Kononova: The first part was in Sedona and around that area as well as around Vazquez Rocks. Second part was around San Francisco and Fort Ross. It was collaboration between me and my friend Yulia Kirillova who also modeled in the images.

BJPB: Yes and you mentioned there were parts that were Russian, was there a town there? I know Solvang is the one that’s all Danish.

AK: It’s really special so Fort Ross is a former Russian outpost in Sonoma county where 19th century Russians settled on the native Kashia Pomo territory. It’s not big but it’s such a nice place next to the ocean.

BJPB: How did you find out about it, I have hadn’t heard of it being from California.

AK: It was in the books In Russia we have always been curious to go and there was never an occasion. So when everything was locked down I think I saw more things than I saw in the seven years I’ve lived here. We just went to San Francisco then to Yosemite, June lake, and exploring all the things around. 30 hours of driving, but good.

Photo Courtesy Aliona Kononova. Model: Yulia Kirillova.

Photo Courtesy Aliona Kononova. Model: Yulia Kirillova.

BJPB: How far was it all from each other?

AK: 2 hours from San Francisco. it was a very cool experience and it was crazy because in San Francisco in the mornings it is really cold and when we went to Fort Ross and it was crazy hot and we were trying to capture the pictures with no harsh sun which was pretty impossible. At some point you hear this church bell and I felt like I was fainting because it was too hot. There was not even one shadow it was all open so there was no shade while you’re shooting for three hours. You really get that heat I was trying to hide in the church but it was closed. We were looking for any shade with the bells it was a surreal experience.

BJPB: With the masks you have recently released they are really gorgeous what was the construction on these?

AK: I wanted something to cover your face but repeating the shape of the face that it would not squeeze your mouth as it is already so uncomfortable to wear these in general. I wanted them to be as comfortable as possible. The lining is so soft and you can adjust the ears. The whole thing can be adjusted to your face, the veil is detachable the little bird is detachable. It has three main inspired creatures: a bird a dragonfly and a butterfly.

Photo Courtesy Aliona Kononova. Model: Yulia Kirillova.

Photo Courtesy Aliona Kononova. Model: Yulia Kirillova.

What is the significance of those animals to you and how they relate to the masks?

It all started with the bird, a bird can rise above the clouds and see what is going on in the bigger picture and get over it quicker in that sense. The dragonfly has this unique flight pattern which they adjust in certain situations and that’s kind of what was their inspiration. Of course the butterfly has its metamorphosis, so the idea of the transformation and to take all that moment as a personal growth, to take it towards a positive note I wanted to have these creatures on every mask.

They are so welcome crafted are they both feathers and millinery fabrics?

Depends the bird one is made of feathers, And the dragonfly is made of silk they are like little jewels.

Photo Courtesy Aliona Kononova. Model: Yulia Kirillova.

Photo Courtesy Aliona Kononova. Model: Yulia Kirillova.

A little happiness for breakfast to start your day in the right direction, Aliona Kononova’s recipe for Syrniki

Ingredients:

1 egg

1 cup of farmers cheese or ricotta

3 tablespoons of sugar

1/4 cup of flour (or almond flower for Keto)

a generous pour of vanilla extract

pinch of salt

coconut oil

1/2 a cup of blueberries (optional)

Your favorite maple syrup (optional)

Combine ingredients and portion into 5 or 6 servings, pan fry with the coconut oil and serve with a drizzle of maple syrup.

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