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Art & Life with Cici Cyr

Today we’d like to introduce you to Cici Cyr.

Cici, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
Sure! I was born into a family of naturalists, teachers, and artists. My mom is an artist and has always encouraged creative and free expression. My dad, a dentist by trade, is also a skilled handyman, woodworker, and musician. They overlap in their big imaginations, creativity, and love of nature. I grew up in the rural outskirts of Seattle and spent my weekends at our remote family cabin in the mountains. My childhood was wild and I was raised by the earth as much as by my parents and community. I learned how to identify edible mushrooms with my mom and grandma. We explored the forests with our hands and our mouths, eating wild mushrooms, berries, and greens. At home, we kept chickens, horses, a big vegetable garden, and many fruit trees. I have always felt held and nourished by the earth. Wild nature is my sanctuary and home, where I feel safe and like the truest version of myself.

I moved to the Los Angeles area for college, where I majored in environmental studies and minored in studio art at Pomona College. After graduation, I moved to Boyle Heights and lived in a big city for the first time in my life. Coming from a wild and very green life in Washington State, life in LA was hard, full of concrete, and lacking in the wildlife I loved. I stayed grounded and sane by taking frequent hikes and camping trips, beginning to plant gardens and grow my food, and learning to recognize the native plants growing abundantly in and around the city.

A yoga teacher training course introduced me to Ayurveda, an ancient form of Indian medicine, which led me to grow my medicinal herbs. Inspired to broaden my studies in yoga and herbalism, I left LA for a while to travel the world, working on permaculture farms and deepening my relationship with the process of growing and creating plant medicine. Tending to the earth and medicinal herbs opened me up wide to plant communication and plant spirit medicine, which has led me to my current creative pursuits.

Can you give our readers some background on your work?
I work as a gardener, herbalist, and educator. My art and creativity flow through all these facets of my identity and I find the synergy between these multiple expressions fulfilling. As a gardener, I design, plant, and tend to gardens, working with edible, medicinal, and native plants. I work in public spaces, schools, and private homes. As an herbalist, I cultivate communication with the plants and create plant medicine for my family and community. My medicine is local and seasonal, made entirely from herbs I grow in my home garden. As an educator, I share the joys and the process of gathering in community and reconnecting to our wild selves and the earth to explore nature, to grow food, and to make medicine collectively.

My art relies on my practice of grounding myself and listening. My work is intuitive. I keep a constant line of communication open with the earth and my ancestors. All of my creations flow from this space of deep presence and listening. To me, listening is nourishing. I feel that I am nourishing the Earth by simply listening and responding to the needs of the plants and I am nourished in turn by being with the plants.

I hope to inspire in those who engage with my work this deep listening and connecting to self. My work reconnects us to the Earth, to each other in community, and ultimately to ourselves. My goal is that this reconnection to self, community, and Earth allows us to take back our power from the big industries and corporations who try to sell us health and connection, while they do the exact opposite. I dream of decolonizing and decentralizing food and medicine and rebuilding and weaving nourishment, connection, and beauty into our community structures. I also hope to inspire a remembering of those who lived on and tended to this land before we did. I live on Tongva land, a people who developed ten thousand years’ worth of relationships with the same plants and places we live with today. I look to their historic and current ways of relating to the land to guide my own since they know this land far better than I do.

Artists rarely, if ever pursue art for the money. Nonetheless, we all have bills and responsibilities and many aspiring artists are discouraged from pursuing art due to financial reasons. Any advice or thoughts you’d like to share with prospective artists?
Yes, the financial challenges are real! Both my partner and I are self-employed artists and so neither of us receive big paychecks or employee benefits. Luckily, we can connect and commiserate. After working several more typical jobs, I am so grateful to now work entirely for myself and follow my inner authority, intuition, and passion. I don’t think any amount of money could convince me to do otherwise.

Speaking from experience, I know how hard it can be to let the creativity flow when the finances aren’t. I’m always working on finding that sweet spot between creative expression and financial survival that allows me to follow my joy and also pay rent in an expensive city.

I honestly don’t know if I have any great advice, as I am unable to do joyless work and I sacrifice a lot of comforts (and income) to pursue my creativity. I am financially poor and yet “rich” in so many other ways. I will say though that doing any work requires a huge amount of energy and working a job which doesn’t feed your passion and creativity, while it might pay the bills, can get you off track creatively and won’t get you any closer to living your dreams. I do believe that the more you’re willing to focus all of your energy on what you love, the more that passion will provide for your needs. Water a tree and it will grow and feed you generously!

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
Thank you for asking! My business exists entirely to serve my community and keeps running with the help of you all. I offer several workshops each month. Participating in a workshop is the best way to engage with and support my work, learn earth-based skills (like identifying wild plants and making herbal medicines ) and connect to an amazing community of people.

I offer a monthly “Plant Club,” which best represents my work with plants. We gather to explore one seasonal and locally available medicinal plant each month, which I harvest from my home garden. We drink tea made from the plant, meditate on its energy, talk about our personal experiences and the plant’s current and historic medicinal uses, and make medicine collectively. This workshop provides a deep dive into plant communication and medicine making.

I also offer a monthly “Plant Walk,” which provides an opportunity to get outside, explore a wild space near LA, and become more familiar with our local edible and medicinal plants. We walk, engage our senses, and talk about respectful foraging, stewarding the land, natural dyeing, local and seasonal cooking, medicine making, and basic plant identification.

I make plant medicine on each full moon, intuitively, in a ritual setting. I create tinctures, body oils, balms, and immunity elixirs. I offer these medicines for sale in my online apothecary and at periodic pop-up shops within the community. For those who’d like to work with me in their own space, I offer personal garden consultations and school classes.

To stay in touch and up to date, you can sign up for my email newsletter, which I send out on each full moon. I share photos, writings, and listings of my current offerings.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Dan Falby
Sarah Penna
Mark Summit

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