Skinned Knees

sanguine circles

Skinned Knees
sanguine circles

TSKC's Ashuni Pérez interviews North American triple threat (teacher, healer, and artist) Saffron!

 Natalie Deryn Johnson/ Lady Deryn Photography

Natalie Deryn Johnson/ Lady Deryn Photography

Saffron is such a beautiful name. We love that its red, vivid, and fragrant, but when used in cooking changes color and fuses with other ingredients to make everything a beautiful mix of yellowy orange. Does the name have a connection to your style of healing?

Saffron was the name given to me by a circle of my closest sisters as a gift for my 27th birthday. It was important to me as a person coming very, very freshly into deep queer, trans-y territory that I didn’t pick my name. I figured I’d pick something of my ego and I wasn’t interested in that. People call me Saff now and I enjoy the soft way the ‘S’ arcs over the ‘a’ to connect to both ‘ff’s. It’s the kind of gentle presence I aspire to in my art and healing practices.

How did you get started in the world of healing and therapy?

I started getting interested in my own moving body very early on. I started doing yoga around twelve or thirteen and it grew from there into ballet and other dance forms. Dance ended up being what stuck and I’d still say I’m a dancer today, though I’m more inclined to introduce myself generally as ‘artist’. In college, I realized that I could talk about the body in a kind of poetic depth which really felt like a calling. I still have dreams and goals with dance, but I experience a different kind of truth and passion within myself in my practices with teaching and healing. It’s that sense of flow people talk about where the truest form of yourself effortlessly shows. I feel very lucky that so many people have come through my door for my services and I feel confident that I’ve done well so far, but in a lot of ways I still feel like I am just beginning which is something I hope to not lose.

 Natalie Deryn Johnson/ Lady Deryn Photography

Natalie Deryn Johnson/ Lady Deryn Photography

We think it’s beautiful that you use the body as a canvas. What inspires you?


Oh god so many things....I think what I’m always coming back to are the times in my life when I’ve been shaken to my absolute core with movement. There have been times in dance, especially, when I was involved in a Contact Improvisation community where I felt this wildness and freedom, like I danced and sweated my way out of my ego and was experiencing and expressing truth. You’re moving and moving and your limbs are everywhere and someone just rolled you over their shoulders and your stomach is burning from fatigue and you’re slinging sweat and your eyesight has become irrelevant; you’re just fucking dancing. It’s religious and when you experience something like that and you understand that feeling exists inside of you if you can just dedicate yourself to excavating it, it’s impossible to turn back.

Cupping is a really interesting treatment and we are absolutely fascinated by the post-cupping images; the circular forms and vermillion pigmentation of the blood pushing right up against the skin. Would you say cupping is for everyone?

Cupping in some capacity is accessible to everyone. It’s about allowing your musculature to experience space in a way it, literally, never gets to. I’ve treated people with/for fibromyalgia, anxiety/panic attacks, muscle fatigue, posture correction, and scar tissue. Just recently, I had my first client who came through just because she wanted to learn how to love her body more...this is my favorite reason. People always tell me that it looks painful or icky and, to be quite frankly honest, I don’t have patience for this kind of talk. We have to work towards seeing our bodies in a sensual way, where we enjoy ourselves and then, also, in a clinical way where we understand the science of the body and can deal with it looking a little strange at times. If you haven’t gotten there yet, then I don’t think you’re even able to receive effective healing. It’s something we do together, it’s not something I do to you.

As someone who works with healing and therapy you must help a lot of people improve themselves mentally and physically. What are some of the biggest issues you encounter?

That post long day depression is so real. I know I don’t do enough to take care of myself ESPECIALLY when I’m fully booked. I think part of it is the toxic New York hustle mentality where value is placed in productivity. So my body is inflamed and worse, I’m the moodiest girl at the end of the day because I’ve given all of my goodness away and there is only (what I call) ‘Other Saff’. She has no patience and is very hungry. I work it out, eventually, but it’s a humbling problem to have as someone striving towards, but is far away from, Mastery.

 Natalie Deryn Johnson/ Lady Deryn Photography

Natalie Deryn Johnson/ Lady Deryn Photography

The theme of this issue is ‘Red’. What do you think of when you think of the color red?

Red is the lowest point of the fire. It’s the embers underneath the wood. Politically, it’s violent. I feel like it represents war and pride. In the skin, it’s the sign of vitality. Sign of life. In a lot of ways, I am resistant to red. I am hesitant to invite it into my home as decor or onto my body as clothing. I have never really understood why that is, but I would guess that, although I am a bold person, I do tend to keep a lot of secrets. I maintain a lot of control in the way I am seen by others and I feel that red as clothing or as decor represents an almost reckless sense of openness and vulnerability. The idea of bleeding out what was once held inside by a protective skin.

We’re also really interested to see how different cultures view the color red. How do you think Americans view the color red?

I think Americans have an obsession with the red-pride-blood-war-reading civil war books as a hobby mentality. Its gross tbh and I?m not here for it. It’s hard to think about ‘Americans’ as a people without thinking politically. I’d love to say that red in America means presence of passion in the same way as flushed cheeks, but I’m not sure if there is any worthy passion inherently infused in American culture. I don’t know. It’s disappointing. When I think of other countries and the color red I instantly think of the flamboyantly dressed Cardinals of Vatican City. I’m not currently able to think of an official customary uniform more pretentiously and grandly gay. Other than that, I think other countries use red as a symbol for life either passionately lived or passionately lost.

 Natalie Deryn Johnson/ Lady Deryn Photography

Natalie Deryn Johnson/ Lady Deryn Photography

You were recently in Mexico. What experiences did you have with the color there?

As a kid I grew up in Texas, so Mexico was kind of an annual trip to some degree, either beaches or border town visits. My experience of red in Mexico is maybe how I feel red should be for everyone. Red clothing is vibrantly sexy there;  it could maybe be said it’s a courtship color or a color of sexual celebration. Any time I envision the archetype ‘red dress’ I always imagine a ruffly dress with lots of movement and flashes of yummy parts of the body and it feels very Mexican. This is probably the reason I view red clothes, in general, as bold in that they exude a strong sense of sensuality and active pursuit of sex.

Do you have any projects or collaborations you're working on at the moment?

I’m actually writing all of this from the comfort of my parents house in Texas. The project I’m currently working on is moving from New York to Los Angeles. Super original, no one’s ever done that before. I started feeling stagnant in New York: I wasn’t dancing, because I find the dance scene to be incestuous and elitist and funded by everyone’s parents, I wasn’t creating as much illustration work because any time I had was spent trying to find escape, I just wasn’t doing anything besides teaching pilates and cupping because it started to feel like the only thing I was good at anymore. The two latter things were honestly my saving grace. To teach and to heal people was so hugely rewarding that they kind of blinded me to the fact that my geographic location was smothering me. So, now I’m working on the project of liberating myself and finding a new way and a new meaning.

What can we expect to see from you next?

Expect a LOT! In light of my move to L.A. I have so many hopes and dreams. I’ll be continuing to teach body-oriented Self Care Workshops, I will be implementing cannabis into my healing methods, I’m coming back to the world of dance with a sense of independence so expect my moving body. I’ll be working on my own movement method that will invite all abilities and all bodies to delight in movement. I’m also actively working towards becoming a writer in a couple of ways. I am interested in writing more about the diverse experiences of the human body, and I’m interested in producing artistic writing in the world of poetry and essays as I go deeper into my identity as a person riding the edge of non-binary and trans-ness. All of my ambitions and efforts will be towards building community and connecting us all together across the borders of gender of gender, race, and experience. I just want to be a person who lifts up others. So basically strap in (or on) and stay the fuck tuned.

 

 Natalie Deryn Johnson/ Lady Deryn Photography

Natalie Deryn Johnson/ Lady Deryn Photography