Local Creative: Jessica Chrastil, the founder of Pocoapoco
Pocoapoco taken quite literally means “little by little”. When navigating our way through life we often forget to approach each day slowly or one moment at a time.
Jessica Chrastil is the founder of Pocoapoco, a multidisciplinary residency in Oaxaca, Mexico. The residency was founded based on this philosophy that encourages people who visit to consider the experience of living as a creative act in itself. Jessica insists that you don’t have to be an artist to live a creative life. As a lifelong learner simply engaging with our surroundings creates unique experiences of our own.
Pocoapoco is where these ideas can be practiced at a pace slow enough to see results. It is a destination where active observation and accumulating knowledge are recognized as keys to the creative process. Pocoapoco hosts residents from varying fields around the world and allows them to merge their research, conversations and ideas while exploring process and purpose. Jessica is the most gracious host swiftly facilitating each project, connecting her residents with fruitful resources and sharing her expansive knowledge about the community she has created.
As inspiring as the community she organizes we were lucky enough to spend some time with Jessica and learn about her personal journey to Oaxaca and the idea of life as art.
Where you are from is just as important as where you are going, is there a specific person or memory that has shaped where you are today?
My mother and my grandmother, her mother, two of the smartest women I know. Both have a fantastic ability to offer people such deep connection and support — and I believe this stems not solely from compassion, but also from a pure fascination with how and why we, as people, exist and interact. They both have an incredible lust for knowledge and information — a combination of spiritual and intuitive exploration within a logical and intellectual-based grounding. This combination of an innovative and creative approach to learning and research, along with a more linear investigation of the psychological, spiritual and metaphysical has been incredibly influential.
What does Pocoapoco mean? How did you choose Oaxaca as the home for your residency?
"poco a poco" means “little by little” or slowly, gradually -- the way in which I find most of the really good and important things unfold. Slowly, over time, whether that is a piece of work, a sector of knowledge, or a deeper understanding of what we want, how we are. The solid things usually take an incredible amount of patience and often much less action than we are accustomed to or comfortable with.
Oaxaca, to me, exemplifies this slowness, an understanding and respect for the unfolding of time and self. Maybe this is what makes it such a beautiful, inspiring and culturally rich city. A very proud place, and one that is much more about the history and community than the individual. I think this is what makes it such an important place to step back, reground and reasses. To explore, let go of ego and focus more on connections, observation, purpose. How to do this with ourselves, with others, with places, with work.
Currently what captivates your attention?
So many people. Probably too many ideas. But at this exact moment, the ocean. The sluggish pace of coastal life.
But generally what's been on the mind is how to stay in touch with the overall purpose of this project and the connective tissues of it rather than getting swept away by pieces, details, logistics that are important but also distracting. Exactly what the residency project aims to encourage to residents. I need to maintain that.
So, balance. Balance always captivates my attention. I'll never get bored with trying to keep balance.
Most valuable lessons so far.
Learn Spanish as a child, not as an adult. Don't expect too much, definitely don't expect too little.
You often describe experience as art itself. Through your residency and own experiences what led you to this idea and what do you think others could benefit from embracing this way of life.
Many things, probably everything, led up to this. I could write a million essays on these thoughts.
Meeting my close friend Jessica Niello at 18 was one of the first times I felt so actively conscious and curious about this concept and how it was experienced and manifested. She has a fascinating way of viewing and moving through the world, seeing every person, object, event as a facet of her creative practice, which is probably why she is such an inspiring artist and person to be around. When we first met I couldn't figure out if her life was actually twice as rich and full and exciting than everyone else's or if that was just the way she saw it.
It’s probably a balance of both for all of us. I think, or I hope, the more we enjoy and engage, the more we tend to seek out joy and engagement. The more we approach life in a interested, creative, or "beautiful" way, the more likely we are to draw interesting and beautiful things into our lives.
What are you currently reading?
How to Cook a Wolf by MFK Fisher, Sarah got this for all residents during the Saipua workshop in December, I’m just getting back to it. Also my friend Molly Prentiss’s new manuscript, which is brilliant.
When you are home alone what's your favorite thing to cook for yourself?
My friends always say that I don’t cook, I assemble. I usually have a good supply of avocados, fruits, vegetables, tortillas, salsas from the market. Jars of things from Suculenta, Bread from my two favorite bakeries here. Coffee, wine. Maybe an egg on top of everything. No, that’s a lie, I don't even make an egg. Now that i think of it, not only do I not cook, I rarely eat cooked food at all, anywhere.
I suppose I'm very boring when it comes to these things, I like routine, I could eat the same things for weeks and sometimes years if the opportunity presented itself. I'm lucky to have many friends that are amazing cooks that keep me from drowning in my own habits.
For someone visiting Oaxaca for the first time, what are some of your favorite neighborhood spots?
Mostly friends' homes and gardens. But that isn't helpful is it? Also Pan con Madre, my friend Jorge's bakery. Cabuche, a restaurant near the textile museum, Central de Abastos, Museo de las Cuturas de Oaxaca (the museum next to Santo Domingo) Boulenc, Suculenta. Orquideario La Encantada. El Diablo y La Sandia. La Chicharra Cerámica. Lanii. Colectivo 1050. Mama Ropa. IAGO.
Next workshop or project for Pocoapoco.
Las Mujeres Fuertes — I am so incredibly excited about this project -- its a 5 day residency / conversation with women entrepreneurs, community leaders, and artists of Oaxaca. The project is in partnership with photographer Andrea Gentl, she's going to be creating a portrait series of the women involved to show in both Oaxaca and New York. The residency (April 25-30) is open to 10 women from outside of Oaxaca of to come down and be part of lectures, discussions, and visits with Oaxacan partners (bio-engineers, weaving collectives, mezcaleras, museum directors, chefs, industrial designers, dancers etc) along with fellow participants. Also some really beautiful meals and other collaborations happening this week -- still a few places open too :)