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The Freaky Raku goes to Rome | Finding zen in a cup of tea and matcha whoopies

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Here’s how our story begins: with a drill, a real one, with the iron tip, the noise and everything.
The spinning drill, connected to an iron plate, turned the fickle and flaky wheel. This was our first makeshift pottery wheel, and it took quite a lot of courage to call it that.
After a lot of cursing and short circuits, we learned to make our first imprecise, uneven edged  bowls. We admired them with a mix of pride and frustration, trying to justify their weird shapes with our inexperience. Freaky. There wasn’t better word for them.
And that is how The Freaky Raku was born, just one year ago, amongst clumsy attempts and some happy-go-lucky shaping, as a side project of this blog (you can read more about it here!).  Usually I like have a well defined direction – a path with no detours. From A to B, straight on like a highway. Everyone has their own nature, and mine needs security – a security that I can grant myself though careful planning, even though I know that this is not always possible.
However, fate always seems to constantly challenge me by putting me alongside people who randomly like to take sharp turns (and without signaling!) with bright, crazy, laughing, excited eyes. At one point, when I truly realized how strict I can be, I started wishing I could be more flexible.
Flexibility is a basic ingredient, just like salt: once you start using it you cannot live without it anymore. You just need to remember to use it in its right measure.
Clay definitely had a role in all of this.

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Flexibility and measure are almost all you need to understand to be able to create the first shapes on the pottery wheel. Doesn’t matter if they won’t be perfectly balanced; they will improve with experience. What’s necessary, even before putting the hands on the wet piece of clay, is finding your own “center”. The ability to be present – here and now – as fully as possible.  Experiencing a “zen attitude” means figuring out how to become completely aware of the present moment, be faithful and focusing on a center around which everything revolves.
It is no coincidence that the Japanese word “zen” stems from the Chinese ch’an and from the Sanskrit dhyana, which means not only “meditation” but also “everything”.
One year ago, when Francesco and I started to develop what would later become a small but very appreciated ceramic production, we found immediate affinity with the raku technique, a firing method to make pottery which originates from Japan and is deeply connected to the zen spirit.

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The imperfect beauty of the cracks that form on the surface of the pottery that is baked with this technique (read here more!) contains the purest essence of the wabi sabi concept, which represents a vision of the japanese world, or aesthetic, based on the acceptance of the ephemerality and transience of things.
Everything is continuously changing, beauty resides in the uniqueness of every imperfection.
Wabi sabi is the asymmetry, the uniqueness of handmade, a chipped mug but also the natural flow of things for a pacific vision of a life without fights, to achieve useless ideals of perfection.
How much flexibility does it take to embrace this philosophy?
Sometimes I think that everything happens for a precise reason. On the other hand, the teachings arrive just when we’re ready to receive them and when we’re willing to seize them.
The Freaky Raku was not born as a business project but as a search for this path of zen, for the beauty in the imperfection and for the archaic connection with nature and with the unforeseeable.
Slowing down our rhythm is necessary to experience the essence of wabi sabi. This is why ours is a small pottery production: all things need their own time and space. This way, every object can have its own story and its own soul.

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The origin of raku technique are also linked to the tea cerimony: a social and spiritual rite practiced in Japan (and many other countries) as one of the most traditional zen arts.
In the Japanese tea ceremony, an ideal combination of four fundamental principles must occur: Harmony (wa), Respect (kei), Purity (sei), Silence (jaku). Amongst these, matcha tea shines as the protagonist, the high-quality and beneficial green powder used for centuries by the zen Buddhist monks as their favorite meditation drink.
The matcha powder I’ve used for this recipe and the incredibly scented tea that came with it were kindly offered by Alessandra, the owner of Te & Teiere, a fascinating space in the center of Rome where all sorts of worlds related to the tea culture find their place. Here, you can breath in the many combination of scented notes exhaled by their precious mixtures. It isn’t just a boutique of treasured teas and handcrafted pottery from all over the world: it is also a place for meetings, tea-related courses, tea tastings and events.
Alessandra came to visit us in Venice in our pottery studio and together we decided to start a collaboration which will have us as guests in her shop for a special event to present our Freaky Raku Project! We’ll be waiting you!

Saturday 12th November at 17:30 pm at Teeteiere shop
Via dei Banchi Nuovi 37/38,  Roma.

We will taste matcha tea into our freaky raku cups and share together a simple zen moment while we’ll tell you everything about our raku techniques. The Freaky Raku bowls will be available in the shop and they’ll speak for themselves.

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For those who will not able to be there with us, don’t forget our online store! Follow us on our official instagram feed @thefreakyraku for updates and all the behind the scenes.
If you’re looking for something specific (bowls, dishes, cups ecc) please don’t hesitate to shoot us an email. We are open for collaborations or requests too! Write us at thefreakytable@zairazarotti.com

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Matcha whoopies
 
Author:
Recipe type: sweet
Ingredients
For the whoopies:
  • 200 g flour
  • 60 g rice flour
  • 100 g sugar
  • 50 g butter
  • 125 g low-fat yoghurt
  • 100 ml rice milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 ½ baking soda
  • 4 drops of natural vanilla essence
  • 2 tbsp black sesam seed
For the cream:
  • 1 tsp matcha powder
  • 250 g mascarpone cheese
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 180 ˚C / 350 ˚F .
  2. Cream the eggs and sugar together using a whisk until really light, thick and fluffy, add the melted butter and beat well until incorporated.
  3. Add yoghurt, rice milk, a pinch of salt and the vanilla essence. Stir well.
  4. In another bowl combine the flours with the baking soda. Sift flours into the mixture a bit at time stir well until all the ingredients are well mixed in a smooth and frothy cream.
  5. Cover the baking tray with some parchment paper.
  6. Place the dough into a piping bag fitted with a rounded tip. Holding the bag vertically and close to the baking sheet, pipe the dough in circles of about 2-3 cm of diameter, taking care to keep some distance one from the other.
  7. Sprinkle the surface with black sesame seed.
  8. Bake for 10 minutes at 180 C° / 350 ˚F. Allow it to cool entirely without moving them from the tray.
  9. Meanwhile, cream mascarpone cheese, icing sugar, honey and matcha powder together using a whisk until well mixed in a soft green cream.
  10. Transfer matcha cream to the pastry bag. Pipe cream onto flat sides of half the cookies. Sandwich with remaining cookies, pressing gently.

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2 Comments

  • Reply Ellie | from scratch, mostly 12/11/2016 at 22:59

    This is such a cool story, Zaira! I love the way you described flexibility and how you liken it to salt. I too have come to realize that flexibility is one of the keys to living a flourishing life. Without it, we just can’t enjoy the process nor can we see what is right in front of us.

  • Reply Natalia 13/12/2016 at 9:25

    Such a beautiful post, Zaira <3

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