Celia Raquel Jimenez, owner of Cucamanga, spends her summers cooking for tree planters in the northern parts of Canada, allowing her to be closer to nature where she wild harvests ingredients for her Boreal Forest Line. She was kind enough to answer Chic & Basta questions. She spoke from her heart.
Where were you born?
I was born in Toronto, Canada, a little after my parents had immigrated from Guatemala. I have two brothers that were both born in Guatemala, and because of that, still to this day, they tease me about not being a “real” Guatemalteca. However I am more fluent in Spanish than they are!
Tell us about your origins.
I am lucky enough to consider myself Canadian & Guatemalan. For almost my whole life I was confused into what nationality I fit into. Coming from a family of immigrants I was never seen as a Canadian when growing up.
However upon my first visit to Guatemala, and many after, I was always looked as an outsider, not as Guatemalan. I remember being 16 and living in the Antigua for the summer with my mother who was at the time working at a midwifery clinic. She had a patient go into labour (to which I had the honour to help with the delivery), who was also 16 and indigenous. We were both 16, living completely different lives. One doesn’t need to be indigenous to be Guatemalan, however I felt so uncertain with which nationality I was most associated with. It wasn’t until I heard a Chilean artist speak at my University (OCAD) that everything came together for me. He said that he, like us all, were citizens of this world, of this planet. Its true, yes we hold values and ideas from the society that we grew up in, however, when it comes down to it, we are all related.
I am a Canadian-Guatemalan, I speak spanish, english, and french and am a citizen of this earth. I feel as if coming into these ideas helped me grow not only as an artist, but as a human being. Accepting people for who they are, and not what language they speak.
How many years have you made soaps and oils to heal the skin, and how did it all begin?
To tell you the truth, this is all a bit blurry. I’ve been making natural skin care products for about 8 years now. My mother, the midwife, has been healing me with botanicals, homemade tinctures & remedies ever since I could remember. I’d say that maybe the reason she was so knowledgable in botany, was with her background in medicine, and the fact that she grew up in a country that was still acknowledging plants as medicine in a time where the ‘west’ was relying on mostly pharmaceuticals. I clearly remember washing my hair with ‘head & shoulders’ and for the rest of the day I would walk around with this huge headache and couldn’t stop sneezing. My mother, the herbalist, just said, “why don’t you make your own soap?” And that’s where I believe it all started. I searched how to make soaps and creams, and like two little witches we created products that didn’t cause any sneezing or headaches. Around this same time my mother introduced me to infusing botanicals into oils. She had been using body oils forever, and also tried to get me to start. I thought it was a joke, that you could infuse plants into oils and receive they’re benefits, clearly I had no idea what was in store for me in the future.
I’d also like to note that my father, the chemist, artist & activist, has shown me how to have compassion for everyone in this world. He has always supported my mother with her herbal ways and continues to support mine in following my dreams.
What are you currently reading, listening to or looking at to fuel your work?
Honestly, the wilderness is my biggest inspiration. I was born in Toronto, a concrete jungle. When I was about 7 my parents took us to Algonquin park, the feeling of the breeze hitting my face bringing along the perfumery of the woods: soft, rustic, spicy. If you want to breath it in, I highly suggest taking some spruce bark, or any tree bark & grind it up. Close your eyes, thats where you’ll be. I guess that is exactly what I want from my clients. I want them to be able to experience that feeling of adventure, of a getaway into our boreal forests.
Classical & Electro Chill music will spark creativity in my mind. It evokes the same feeling as the crisp wind does to my skin.
I’ve always been an artist, and listening to lectures has been the number one thing for me to get my ideas flowing. I guess that’s why I’ve never done so well in academic courses, they stimulate my brain so much that all I want to do is write about my ideas. Write about what inspires me, because maybe what inspires me will inspire others, and that is successful art.
This spring will be my tenth season in the reforestation industry, which feeds my desire to live in the woods for months at a time. Living out of a tent and being able to walk on earth whenever you want is so rewarding.
What is your creative and production process? And what’s your favorite part?
All of the above. As I said, the wind in the woods carry ideas into my brain. Lets say for instance I am walking from point A to point B (in the wilderness), all of a sudden i’ll get an idea to make, for instance my ‘Boreal Hair Oil’. Maybe this idea came to me because I was walking with horsetail under my feet and I am fully aware that horsetail is high in silica and calcium which is perfect to strengthen our damaged hair. I use horsetail as a tonic for my hair. I infuse horsetail in hot water, let it sit and cool and then pour into onto my scalp & hair. So why not make it into an oil & a shampoo bar?
From there I harvest the horsetail that is surrounding me, hang it upside down to dry and greet me outside my tent.
Once the summer is over and I am back in this wonderful city of Montreal, I finally get to create all my ideas, label them, photograph them and share them with the world!
It is all awesome.
What’s the most important philosophy you live by on a daily basis?
Time is always moving forward. Time is always moving, and never moving straight. Life is like a sound wave, there will always be ups and downs. There will always be people who love you, there will always be mistakes. Whatever you desire, will always work if you try. The only limits are the ones we create in our minds. So, always be happy and see the good side to the situation. You cannot control peoples reactions, but you can always control your own.
How do you like to spend your time when you’re not working?
Getting outside, nothing beats a walk in the woods with my dog. That being said, I love fibres. I love to knit, crochet and weave, but don’t get too many chances to do it anymore. I try and go to yoga everyday, brings you back to your centre.
What has been your most cherished memory along the way?
Creating a business with ideas that inspire you so much its hard to concentrate on just one, my favourite moments are when clients reach out to tell me how amazing my products are. That the blemishes on they’re skin are going away with my “Antioxidant Face Balm’. That they feel as if they are entering the woods and they’re skin has never felt better.
This to me makes it all worth while.
Where would you like to go next?
I would love to open a holistic centre where I can host workshops and teach people about botanicals, how to make their own soap and foods with what is growing in our backyards. To teach yoga, and how breathing can calm you down. A place to host retreats, a place to learn.
Photo credits: © Celia Raquel Jimenez - Cucamanga.
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Imagination is not given, nor is it acquired. Imagination is experienced. Nadine Hajjar's imagination draws its origins from her childhood in Beirut, Lebanon, and it developed further throughout her adventures abroad.
Trained back home as an interior architect, she worked in this environment to realise that she was actually and truly attracted to the shape, texture and above all, function of the Object. Nadine therefore decided to specialise in furniture and industrial design by enrolling in, and obtaining, a Masters degree at the Domus Academy in Milan, Italy.
Nadine was kind enough to answer our questions.
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