Friday, December 10, 2010

A Folk Reveries Interview with Featherheart Trading Co.

I have met some truly amazing people on Etsy which have turned into wonderful friendships. Shannon Smith of Featherheart Trading Co. is one of those folks. Very approachable and sweet, she is filled with heart and tremendous knowledge of the herbs and plants around her. She's awesome to work with (I did her new labels, thanks Shannon!) and her natural products are heavenly. Here now, a Folk Reveries interview with Featherheart Trading Co.!

What do you make/sell:  
Herbal organic body products and teas, nature inspired jewelry

When did you first begin studying herbs and plants and what inspired you to begin crafting your own herbal products?
My study of herbs and plants really did begin with my fascination with dandelions at the age of 5.  I thought it was such a marvelous plant, yet everyone seemed to want it out of their yard.  I could not understand this. Later in my mid twenties I started doing yoga and got pulled into a deep discovery and began my study of the movement as asana.  I eventually became a yoga teacher and it was during that time that I started to realize that once a person starts moving and feeling really good physically, they begin to look for other avenues to nourish and support their body.  Naturally one of those avenues is nutrition.  I realized that there is so much conflicting information about what to put into your body. . . what is healthy and what is not.  It's really enough to make you crazy. One day fat is bad, the next it's not.  And what's this business with trans fats and saturated and unsaturated oils and is eliminating carbs good for you and on and on and on. So I decided to go back to school for the study of Nutrition so that I could perhaps make sense of it all and impart my knowledge unto others who were curious and confused.  I attended Bauman College of Nutrition in Berkeley California.  I loved it.  It was such an eye opener and I learned so much.  They taught first and foremost that we should all strive to get our nutrition from real, whole foods, but we also explored the world of supplements and ailments and of course I used myself as the biggest guinea pig!  I diagnosed myself with gluten intolerance, food sensitivities, candida and so on.  I took supplement after supplement and ate crazy restrictive diets and looked at all the reasons my body was failing rather than how my body was thriving, and then I began to look at myself and say, "This is ridiculous!"  What we must remember is that the supplement industry including the doctors, naturopaths, nutrition consultants and others that subscribe these alternative health therapies are in the business to make money just like everyone else and that perhaps this is not always in our best interest.  At that point, I just knew there was a better way. I knew there was a way to feel good without sinking hundreds of dollars into products and without seeking and reading books by professionals who told me I was sick and I knew I could do this on my own using natural resources and intuition. I remembered the dandelion and how she inspired me at a young age.  Somehow I inherently knew then that the dandelion was not something to pull out of the yard.  She was there for a reason just like all the other plants in your yard.  The message was loud and clear.  My next step was to study plants as medicine.  I knew the fundamentals and body science of what I learned at Bauman College had put me on the right track.  Nutrition should come from whole food.  But taking that a step further, it was and is my strong feeling that should our bodies get sick, the answer is not necessarily to look to allopathic medicine or alternative supplement pills, but perhaps to look at what's growing around us and to use that as not only food, but medicine.  It's the most natural and most pure way I can think of.  I have to think this is what Mother Earth, God or whomever inspires you as the Creator intended. In fact there is a great quote from Rudolph Steiner, "For every illness, somewhere in the world there exists a plant which is the cure.”  For me, it was important that as I embarked on my journey into the study of herbs, that I learn about what is native and what is around me.  Yes there is a study of herbs that exists and is highly effective in China, India and other parts of the world, but I also knew and understood that Native Americans right here in this country had been using what was around them to heal and cure themselves for a very long time and that this was my path.  With globalization, it is possible to import plants from all over the world, but what if -- just what if some day this is not possible? I wanted to know my land's traditions and possibilities.  And thus began my in depth study into the world of herbal medicine.  My first teacher was Kami McBride in Northern California.  She was an incredible first teacher and she taught me how to make all kinds of herbal salves, lotions, teas, tinctures and medicines.  As I learned from her, my connection to the Earth grew.  Once this happens -- once you begin to deepen your connection, plants begin to speak to you. Thus, in essence what inspires me to create the herbal products I create is the plants themselves along with the long line of traditional recipes that are the folklore both written and spoken from plants who spoke to our ancestors.
What is your creative process when creating a new product and where do you get your inspirations from?
My process is to clear myself of the world around me and to simply sit and listen.  I find that if I stop and focus on the intention of making something for myself or others, the recipes and ideas just begin to flow.  I guess I'm lucky in this way.  I've never had any sort of herbal "writers block."  But when you're dealing with material as vast and explorative as herbs, I think the inspirations are endless.  If you study just one plant, what you'll quickly notice that it probably has anywhere from 5 to 100 different medicinal uses.  If you combine that with the flavor and scent profiles of each and every plant, you find that you have a potential and power to create some really amazing, organic and healthful things.
What are your top five favorite herbs/plants are and why:

Nettle because she's so incredibly dense with nutrients.  She's rich in chlorophyll which is one molecule away from hemoglobin, which tells me she's a very generous blood builder.  When the blood is happy and healthy, then all the organs in your body benefit. Nettle makes an amazing tea infusion.  I feel like if there is one herb only that you consider for heath and wellness, this is it! 
St John's Wort because she has so many different layers.  Used on the skin as an oil, you have an excellent dermal healer.  Used internally you have a strong antiviral and deeply restorative muscle/nerve builder and then you've got this whole other level of anti-depression actions.
Oatstraw because I think of her as my calmer.  She's considered a powerful nervine and therefore has the ability to promote a strong nervous system.  She makes a wonderful and delicious infusion that can lower cholesterol, improve bone density, coordination and clarity just to name a few!
Lavender because just the smell creates an instantaneous relaxation and because she is the key ingredient in my Lavender face and body oil.  I've been using this oil on my face for about 6 years. I'd rather not say how old I am (haha), but let's just say I'm at an age where I should be getting noticeable wrinkles and I don't have any!
Elderberry because she is a powerful antiviral and I turn to her when I feel a sniffle coming on.  She usually saves me from a full blown cold.  And because she is just so majestic and wise!

And this only scratches the surface of why these herbs are my favorite.  I encourage you to do your own explorations.  As my first teacher once said to me, "Start by getting to know a few herbs really well and go from there.

Now that it is wintertime, what do you like to do to keep your skin pampered and feeling good?

Well winter can certainly be harsh on your skin -- especially if you live somewhere with snow and COLD like I do now (Michigan).  I've noticed I have to pull out all the stops.  My usual routine begins with exiting the shower and slathering my lavender face and body lotion all over my face, neck and shoulders.  Then I moisturize the rest of my body with one of my lotions (the nag champa, sandalwood or orange depending on my mood) and then I carry my patchouli salve in my purse and hit my hands and elbows as needed throughout the day.  This seems to do the trick! and I can't tell you how many people stop me and ask me why I smell so good!

What do you like about selling not only your herbal products, but your handmade jewelry & accessories and vintage items on Etsy?
Well it's like having your own mini store without the worry of the overhead of running an actual retail location.  I can fail miserably and not have the extreme stress of all of my financial wealth and future on the line like you do if you own a store.  I think this allows me to be creative and try just about anything.  It's interesting though because some of the things that are great sellers when I do craft shows just sit on Etsy with only a handful of views and then expire... and vice versa.  So in a sense, Etsy is like this wonderful mystery.  You never quite know what is going to resonate or how people will even find what you have to offer.  This makes for such a fun, but challenging place to be.  I also love the friends and lasting connections you make on Etsy.
Do you have any future aspirations for your work and your shop?
My mind is constantly on overload with all that I want to do in my Etsy shop.  I have pages and pages in a notebook of things I want to make and do.  I also have lots of stuff that I've already made that has yet to make its way into my Etsy listings. The trick is finding the time!!!  My goal for 2011 is to really make something special out of Featherheart Trading Co, which includes expanding my online Etsy shop and getting into retail stores.  My body and tea products are natural and organic when possible.  I know that there is a demand for this.  I've been coming up with new scents and I'm trying to make my skin care line more accessible.  I don't want the general public to think my line is just for hippies and tree huggers.  I want people to understand that what you put on your skin gets absorbed into your body.  Why on earth would you put Petrolatum Sorbitol Triethanolamine Stearate Ethylparaben on your body??? So education is big for me.  And teas, I have lots of new ideas for teas.  Why not drink something that nourishes your body and tastes good rather than soda?  And jewelry -- I am so inspired by native jewelry customs and feel like this is such a beautiful way to decorate your body.  I do use a lot of leathers in my jewelry and I understand that this may not make my vegan friends too happy, but I want people to know that this comes from a place of native tradition -- of using what Mother Nature provides and of using it in a way that is respectful.  No matter what I am making whether it is body products or jewelry, I am always sourcing from the best possible places and ingredients.

What do you like about being a member of Folk Reveries?
Well I am so honored to be part of it!  I never in million years thought that listing a few items I make in my basement workshop on Etsy could lead to such community.  I feel like I haven't even begun to explore the amazingness of my Folk Reveries partners and I'm looking forward to connecting to even more of you. I think what I like best is that what Andrea looks for in Folk Reveries members is that kinship to folklore and tradition.  That just so resonates with me.

What are you top five product suggestions for winter:
I'd say you've just gotta have some Harold and Maude tea (so warming and delicious), Lavender Face and Body Oil, Patchouli Salve, Sandalwood lotion and The Ass Kicker Tea (for when you feel a cold coming on)!

1 comment:

BlackStar said...

Love this interview! Nice to meet another herbalist. I'm a 'cottage herbalist', beginning my journey learning from the locals in TN, then taking Rosemary's homestudy course several years ago.
Fab shop!