monthly muse

Monthly Muse: SantaLena Groves

By Mary, CN Body Care Buyer + The Naturalist Contributor

We’re celebrating love this month and the many forms it may take: self love, romantic love, platonic love, familial love. And then there’s the love that many have for what they do or create, for something outside themselves that causes them to look and learn with a childlike wonder felt by few.

The love that the founders of Heart Grown Wild have for the plant world is emulated by each one of their products. Working in natural skincare, I have smelled nearly all of the wonderful things our growing Body Care department has to offer. But the scent of the In The Trees body oil can transport me right out of the city and back to the woods I spent summers camping in, unlike anything else. And no wonder: it’s made with wildcrafted spruce and balsam fir.

At the heart of the line is a passion for plants and our deep connection to them. Lena, with some help from her husband Tom (recently featured in this month’s Beauty Uniform), has created a line using an herbalist’s approach to skincare with safety and sustainability always at the forefront. Below, I interview Lena to learn more about who she is and how she got started.
 

What is the last book you couldn’t put down? (Blogs and magazines count too!)

If I am not creating in my studio, I’m buried in a book researching information about plants and ingredients. As far as books go, the two that are my go-to right now are Body Into Balance: An Herbal Guide To Holistic Self Care by Maria Noel Groves and The Herbal Medicine Makers Handbook by David Hoffman. We have a huge botanical library in our home and apothecary. Books for me are more enjoyable because they’re tangible and accessible. Turning pages in a book for me is a visceral and cathartic experience much different than scrolling through my iphone. I also really love reading newsletters from fellow herbalists, some of my favorites are One Willow Apothecary and La Abeja Herbs.
 

There’s a strong outdoors influence to the line, is this influenced by any outdoor hobbies or your homebase of Vermont?

I would have to say that Heart Grown Wild is influenced by our outdoor hobbies and our location in Vermont. I found a strong connection to the outdoors in early adulthood. The outdoors is where I felt most at home. I love being outside, whether it be hiking, exploring, climbing over big river rocks, running my hands in ice cold river water or sitting in the comfort of big tree. Being in nature has always given me a sense of warmth and comfort very similar to a mother’s love or spending time with a dear friend.

When I opened the doorway to the world of herbalism, my love for the outdoors greatly expanded. Seeing and continuing to build the connection with the plants on a plant-spirit and medicinal level connected the dots for me as to why I had such an affinity for particular plants. I truly believe there is a strong connection between humans and the plants. If humans are willing to pay attention and listen- there is strong plant medicine accessible for everyone.

Vermont is the ideal location for Heart Grown Wild as it has vast areas of pristine wilderness and land to explore. Living in Vermont, I feel like I have a huge botanical canvas to work with. One of the reasons I wanted to incorporate plants into my self-care routine was so to continue to have the connection to nature - even when I lived in what felt to be a concrete jungle. The Heart Grown Wild line is influenced by the direct connection I’ve had with the plants on mist covered trails covered in vibrant green moss or sitting in a field of wildflowers under a painted sky. Often during these experiences plant combinations come to me - and I trust these intuitive moments. I am often pleasantly surprised to find that these divine, intuitive combinations magically go together. My time outside is highly influential in what Heart Grown Wild creates. In order to maintain our connection to the outdoors, we strive to create our products in small batches to produce ecologically sustainable, quality skin care products.

How did you initially start making the beautiful plant based products that grew into Heart Grown Wild?

There are two parts to this story. The first is that I have had my own skin experiences which molded how I treated my skin. When I was in my mid 20's I had a year-long, severe hormonal breakout that resulted in painful cystic acne along my jaw and on my neck. I went to a dermatologist, and was prescribed medication that was effective against the acne, however, the medication caused sun sensitivity, and my skin began peeling. I also began to notice some pretty intense wrinkles around my mouth and on my forehead that were very premature. Medication didn’t seem to be a solution for my problem. It was either, I can have acne, or I can have wrinkles and peeling skin. We live in a society, where problems of any kind are treated with medication that solves one problem but creates another. My need to find a better solution came at a time when I was starting to shed all the things in my life that were toxic. I became obsessed with reading labels on all types of products, from food to skin care products. I especially paid close attention to skin care products. At this point, I tried to find the most natural products possible, and fell in love with Lush. They were the first product I found that I could understand what the ingredients were.  At the time I was a social worker, so unfortunately it didn’t quite work with my budget. I began writing as a contributor for an online herbal school called the Herbal Academy in Bedford, Massachusetts. One of the first articles that I wrote for them was a DIY Gift Box tutorial for the holidays. I showed readers how to create a sugar scrub, a facial scrub, and a bath soak, all of which were completely natural, and plant-based. This was the start, and from this point forward I was hooked. I continued to tear our kitchen apart creating and formulating mostly for myself, when I had time away from my previous full time job. On any given Saturday or Sunday Tom, my husband, would be plucking away on his guitar, and would graciously would allow me to interrupt him MANY times to smell things.  We moved to Vermont in 2014 and I enrolled in two courses at the Gaia School of Healing, this experience took Heart Grown Wild to a whole new level. My final project included some of the products we carry to this day. For this final project, I created a plant beauty product for every chakra. I use a traditional herbalist approach to the crafting of the line. Our products are created by infusing solvents entirely with the plants versus relying on essential oils. The market right now feels very saturated with this process. Essential oils have high potency and they require a lot of plant material to create just a few drops. Tom and I know about this first hand because we distill our own essential oils and hydrosols when possible.  On a sustainability and safety level, it was important for me to stick to using a slower process that requires less plant material as the base of many of our products. There is also something very ancestral about sticking to traditional herbal roots and this was important to what Tom and I wanted Heart Grown Wild to be.

What are some of the highlights of founding a company as a couple? Any unforeseen or humorous struggles to this venture?

The love for plants Tom and I have has evolved together. When we first met he and I were doing very different things with our life. We both went through the process of shedding things that we didn’t feel fulfilled our lives. At these crossroads, we both became very curious about plants from two different perspectives. I came from a traditional herbal medicine perspective, and Tom came in from a botany/conservation perspective. Reminiscing on our walks in the woods together, they were fairly comical. I would be sitting with a plant, leaving offerings enamored by the plant’s magical spirit and Tom would note as a matter of fact, “It’s not Native” and continue trudging along the trail with his plant identification book. My plant dreams were crushed, but it was a learning experience, and relationships would be boring if partners didn’t challenge each other. Since then, we both have learned a lot from each other's botanical background and perspective. In many ways our plant worlds have collided and have since created a beautiful symbiosis. I think some of our highlights together would be our time spent together in the woods or at the ocean this past summer creating a traveling apothecary of sorts. We love exploring together and it’s really exciting when a product is birthed out of our communal experience. It’s like a photograph of that moment but with smell-o-vision. When I open a jar of our Stars of the Ocean face mask I immediately return to our trip to the Cape Cod National Sea Shore walking barefoot on a misty beach, looking ahead sweetly to Tom and our dog Cici’s silhouettes. When I open the Prism of the Sun body oil, no matter how cold it is outside, it evokes mid-morning moments spent in Green Mountain National Forest looking up at the sun’s rays sparkling through the trees.

I am a huge fan of the Nature’s Nectar body oil! How do you choose which plants and/or oils to blend together to make a new product?

I would have to say that Heart Grown Wild’s products are intuitive and inspired by that direct connection to the outdoors. Nature’s Nectar was part of my final project at the Gaia School of Healing for the Sacral Chakra. The Spruce Resin felt appropriate due to this deep, sweet, earthy energy that comes through every time I work with it. It combines perfectly with vanilla giving it a sensuous base. I paired it with floral earthy notes that are associated with the Sacral Chakra. With Sacral work, much of it is trusting your intuition and this emergence of creative passion that is flowing just beneath the surface. Nature’s Nectar encapsulates this sweet, earthy, deep rooted energy that is just below the surface, similar to the Spruce Resin of the tree. When I first came into contact with the raw, golden, infused oil it was like liquid gold! When I work with the Spruce Resin it’s like sparkling gemstones, so it felt appropriate that the oil have a natural shimmering quality to it.
 

Do you have a favorite Heart Grown Wild product? If so, what is so special about it to you?

This is a tough question! I have such a personal connection to them all. I guess I would have to answer that with my favorite combination of products. Hot baths are one of my favorite indulgences. I love combining making an evening of my ritual. I start by cleansing with Azul Face Serum, applying the Tree Song Toner, and then putting on the Release Face Mask while the bath water is running. When the tub is almost full, I pour the Root Soak under the running bath water. I love how it turns the water an earthy red hue. During my soak in the tub, I love to meditate or dream up new plant combinations. Once the mask is dry, I remove it with the warm bath water. When I get out of the tub, the Prism of the Sun Body Oil compliments the Root Soak bath ritual perfectly. The Root Soak has Balsam Fir and smoky, earthy notes to it. It is truly lovely with each of the tree associated body oils. Typically, I massage the oil into my skin and allow it to soak in while I practice restorative yoga. I highly suggest legs up on the wall, and Supta Baddha Konasana.

Many of the products described above conjure up a sweet memory of the plants or landscapes associated with them. I think what makes them special is the hand crafted piece. We know where these plants are coming from and what our relationship is to them. Our intention from the beginning has and always will be, to bring the connection of the outside world into your skin.

 

Thank you so much Lena! Come see and feel the Heart Grown Wild line in store for yourselves. We’re happy to make you a sample of a mask or two for you to take home and try. Be sure to stay in touch and watch for new products on their instagram @heartgrownwild

 

Monthly Muse: Tripp & Emily Nichols

Photo courtesy Emily Nichols  .

Photo courtesy Emily Nichols.

Since we left you to find your own muses throughout the holiday season, we decided to bring readers a double hitter this month! What better way to celebrate the start of a new year than by celebrating a power couple that shares small, local products every day? Tripp and Emily Nichols are the creators of Small Batch Daily, an Instagram account sharing a curated collection of American made artisanal food products. From salad dressing and jam to coffee and chocolate, it’s easy to find a new favorite or three by simply scrolling their feed and commenting “sold!” But their love of food and involvement in the industry began long before Instagram started. Read on to learn more about out January Muses!

What is your favorite place or thing to do in the Boston area (together or apart)?

There are many but a favorite go-to activity when friends are visiting is hitting up Sofra Bakery and strolling through Mt. Auburn Cemetery. The food at Sofra is unlike anything around and so, so good. Get the mezze plate with crick cracks no matter what you do. And Mt. Auburn is the perfect place to work up an appetite or walk it off. Sometimes people think it's odd when you suggest visiting a cemetery but it's wonderful. There are miles of walking trails, the landscaping is gorgeous, and from Washington tower there are phenomenal views of the city.

White + Navy Everyday Napkin by The Everyday Co. Photo courtesy  Small Batch Foods .

White + Navy Everyday Napkin by The Everyday Co. Photo courtesy Small Batch Foods.

What is the last book you couldn’t put down?

Do cookbooks count? Tripp just got me the Nantucket Open-House Cookbook and that's what's currently on my bedside table. It was published in 1987 and definitely has an Ina Garten vibe. In the non-food department I'm absolutely loving Jessica Klein's 'You'll Grow Out of It'. She's a writer for Inside Amy Schumer.

You’re both very involved in food and nutrition, how did that passion grow?

We both grew up in central Massachusetts in apple country and always loved all the seasonal food traditions we have here in New England. After college we each made our way to food through different paths. Tripp did a few stints on Alaskan salmon and crab fishing boats before moving on to the gourmet cheese world at Formaggio Kitchen where he worked for 8 years. Most recently he's traded cheese for beer and now works as Outreach Director for Mystic Brewery. After college I went on to Tufts to do a master's in Food Policy and Applied Nutrition. Since completing that degree I've worked at Tufts in childhood obesity prevention.

We love following the Small Batch Daily instagram account! What inspired you to start this company?

It was absolutely inspired by all the makers we met through Tripp's work in the cheese world. We met dozens of folks who'd quit their 9-5 to make jams, honey, chocolate, cookies, cheese, butter, etc. Many of them became our friends and I began experimenting a bit with helping to promote their products on the food blog I was writing at the time. When that was successful we had the idea to try and more regularly showcase small-batch products and hopefully introduce them to a larger audience.

Photo courtesy   Small Batch Foods  .

Photo courtesy Small Batch Foods.

Photo courtesy   Small Batch Foods  .

Photo courtesy Small Batch Foods.

What are some of the highlights of running a company together from your home? Have there been any unforeseen or humorous struggles to that venture?

It has been so much fun! The biggest highlight has been all the new makers we've met and connections that have been forged as a result. Makers learn about us on Instagram or through other makers and reach out. Those are always the most exciting emails to get. As for unforeseen struggles, sure things always pop up. We rely on Instagram which is always changing its algorithm but it keeps us on our toes.

As a couple that works together, do you have any tips for balancing work and home?

It's nothing special but just carving out specific time for work and setting it down when that time runs out. Otherwise it just bleeds into every part of your day.

Last but not least, what are each of your top 3 favorite Cambridge Naturals products?

This is an easy one:

  1. Counter Culture coffee! I love that Cambridge Naturals carries such excellent coffee. It's my go-to spot to find new brews.
  2. Caleb introduced Tripp to the John Masters Hair Texturizer. It's awesome stuff and I admit I even use it once in awhile too.
  3. Palo Santo incense. Emily and Caleb first introduced us to this wood you can burn as incense and it's divine. I love burning it at home especially around this time of year as winter sets in.

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us, Emily and Tripp! To see more, follow @smallbatchdaily on instagram!

Monthly Muse: Gianne Doherty

Photos courtesy OBC

Photos courtesy OBC

By Mary, Body Care Buyer and Blog Contributor

You may have noticed some new things around the store lately. New faces, new sales, and most exciting of all: NEW PRODUCTS! We recently stocked some of the shelves in our body care department with a line we’ve been eager to share with our customers.

Organic Bath Co. is owned by Gianne Doherty, a Medford resident, natural skin care aficionado, and all around wonderful human being. We now carry the OBC body scrubs, body wash, and body butters in both full and travel size. Each product comes in a variety of scents, using only organic essential oils, to suit any preference. Not only are you supporting a local company with each OBC purchase, you’re also supporting a bigger cause. With each and every purchase, 1% is donated to charity. As Gianne says, “true beauty begins with giving back.” But Gianne’s accomplishments don’t stop there. She is also the founder of W.E.L.L. Summit, an annual event bringing together and empowering the wellness community. Read on to learn more about Gianne, her work, and how all of this got started.

CN: What is your favorite place or thing to do in the Boston area?

GD: We just spent Sunday walking around and exploring different neighborhoods in Boston, sat on the Esplanade and I loved it! It doesn’t cost a thing, the people watching was great and I found myself seeing the same places with new eyes. The exercise I got from walking off and on for 3 hours was an added bonus! :-)

CN: What was the last book you read that you couldn’t put down?

GD: Ohh, I am a voracious reader and read a few books a week. The last book I read that I couldn’t put down was Natchez Burning by Greg Iles.  I love mysteries!

Photos courtesy OBC

Photos courtesy OBC

CN: Can you tell us about how Organic Bath Company got started?

GD: A  few years ago, when my skin began reacting (by way of hives!) to mainstream lotions I had been using, my boyfriend Jay and I ended up making a pure, unscented, shea butter-based body butter for me that my skin still loves to this day. As I learned more about the personal care industry and its lack of regulation, the more determined I was to make safe products for myself and family and friends. Organic Bath Co. began out of necessity with that shea butter-based body butter (now known as “Drenched”), and we’ve donated a portion of our proceeds to charity since day one!  

CN: What inspired you to found the W.E.L.L. Summit and where do you envision it going in the future?

GD: The W. E. L. L. Summit was created through conversations with our customers, friends & family. We are constantly asked for advice about questions that are often a bit outside of our scope such as: What natural deodorants should we use? Why should our products contain essential oils and not fragrance? Etc. Ultimately, we recognized that there was a need in our community and a larger community to bring the best of the wellness industry together in a space of empowerment and learning for all!  

CN: We love that OBC donates 1% of each purchase to those in need! Which organizations are you currently working with?

GD: We donate to Charity Water which we love because they build wells and provides access to clean water across the globe to others who may not have had it. What's amazing is that 100% of the donations go to funding the water projects.

Photos courtesy OBC

Photos courtesy OBC

CN:  What are your top three essential products from Cambridge Naturals?

GD: This is a hard question because I can and have spent hours browsing Cambridge Naturals shelves. I LOVE that there is something for everyone and all aspects of your life... from beauty, home, gifts & to your kitchen. We always pick up a few packets of 2 Dogs Treats for our dog Bruschi. The tea selection is fantastic and you carry my favorite, Rishi Tea. My sweet tooth demands that I pick up some bars of Taza Chocolate or some [Apotheker's] Mallows. YUM.

Thank you so much to Gianne for taking the time to share her story with us. W.E.L.L. Summit will be taking place next month in New York City on October 21-22. If you’re interested in learning more about this year’s speakers or attending, visit www.wellsummit.org. Let us know in the comments what your favorite Organic Bath Co. product is!