Musings for Change

May 12, 2011
Facial Cleansing Grains

Facial Cleansing Grains

Hello my dear readers. Oh, I wish I could blog more often. The intensity of my full-time day job combined with a busy craft season (actually, every season feels really busy) makes it tough. I am so looking forward to what amounts to an “herbal retreat” for me this June, the Medicines of the Earth Herb Symposium , Black Mountain, North Carolina. Check out the cool PDF brochure if you’re interested. Not only can immerse myself in the world of herbs for a nice, long weekend, but I also get to learn from some of the greatest herbal teachers of our time.

When I begin to shift into a new paradigm or even have some ideas for changes to be implemented, it seems that it takes me a very long time to migrate into a new place. I muse about changes for what seems like months, even years, before I make a move.  A true taurus! I confess. This slow drifting towards change can extend from new curtains to new Lilith’s Apothecary products, to new life practices. Why is this? I’m not sure, but I’ve come to accept that it is just my process. On the flip side, I’m also impressionable. When I read about great ideas, hear convincing arguments about ideas, growing practices, food, and so forth, I can internalize them with a passion. But I don’t flit from one thing to another; rather, I deeply internalize things that make sense to me until they become part of my own personal tapestry. And I’m finding that unlike Athena, who sprang from Zeus’s head fully formed in all her philosophical, conceptual, and ideological glory, it’s taken me 34 years to get me to where I am now. Maybe that’s just how it is for we mortals. Given my nature, I fully anticipate changes ahead to be a gradual, growing process. This is why I fully believe in the power of the third phase of life, the Crone’s stage, as one’s potential arrival at wisdom. Before that, it’s not really possible (as I see it anyway), though we try. We do.

I have some goals for the future of Lilith’s Apothecary. I will begin to slowly move towards the accomplishment of these goals over the next year, following my last craft shows of the Spring, The Art Star Craft Bazaar and the Trenton Avenue Arts Festival Last summer was a time of rest. This summer will be a time of careful implementation of new practices in my business.

1. I am going to move away from the use of Plastic. Yes, the plastics I use are all recyclable, but it just doesn’t make sense. I will probably keep certain components, such as pumps, caps, or mister tops, because at the moment, I don’t really see a way around it.

2. I am going to be focusing my product line much more exclusively on Facial Care. This is my area of expertise, and in an effort to keep my customers happily contented, I have often created products that are not really in this sphere. As they are lovely products, too, it’s hard to part with them! I have far too much diversity in my offerings, however, and I am spread too thin in production, which means that people often need to wait for staples such as facial creams and serums. What I may do is offer certain body creams, lotions, etc on a limited basis from time to time, but they may not be as regularly available. An exception to this is my Chamomile & Calendula lotion, as far too many people depend on this lotion to treat various dry skin conditions.

3. I’m going to have to eliminate my Tea line, which I have been pairing down for the last few years. I am still available as an herbal consultant to make specialized blends for pregnancy, post-partum, breast feeding, insomnia, anxiety, etc, however. Feel free to contact me directly, but realize that custom orders can sometimes take up to 4 weeks.

4. By paring down my offerings, I will be able to put more time into the development of new products that fit into my Facial Care line, such as creams that address skin discoloration (in development), products specific to acne issues, and others that have been bouncing around in my head for months!

5. I’m going to invest the necessary time in the development of my website, which was started over 2 and a half years ago, but for which I have rarely felt the ability to devote the necessary attention and time.

So, there are exciting changes ahead! And as I progress along my learning curve as a business owner and developer of natural bath and body products, I hope all my learning shows!

The main thing is that I love my business and I want to continue working on it in a way that is sustainable for myself, for my customers, and for the earth itself. I always welcome a dialogue with my readers and customers and would love to hear about your own personal experiences as well as favorite products. Thank you, as ever!

Lilith Restructuring: Do I get a bail out?

July 20, 2009

09.07.09_orchard_maeve&momThis is an important post because first and foremost, Lilith’s Apothecary is here to serve my customers. For those of you who are loyal to my products, contact me for custom products, facial consultations, herbal tea and tincture blends, and just rely on natural body and facial care, I am here for you! The upside of this business is that it is growing and growing! In fact, I can’t possibly keep up with the growth curve, though I wish I could. It’s unfortunate that I am not in the financial position to quit my 40 hr a week ‘day job’ and that, combined with parenting a toddler and trying to be a good partner to my archaeologist husband, makes it almost impossible to keep up with the diversity of offerings, increasing numbers of wholesale requests, and local retail opportunities here in Philadelphia.

I love what I do with Lilith’s Apothecary and I am not willing to let the business diminish, but I am going to need to ‘restructure’ a bit to ensure that I can keep up. All these 3 am work nights are just not sustainable! Though there’s no financial bail out for me (sadly), despite my passion and love for what I do, I still need to find ways to refine my product offerings, perhaps limiting some lines that are currently available.

So the very important request for YOU, my fans, is to comment below on what you personally can’t live without or had hoped to try in the future. What are the vital Lilith products that stand out? Not only will this feedback help me hear the voice of my customers, but it will ensure that I don’t cut out a product that you personally love. I don’t want to let anyone down as a restructure the Apothecary.

Living a more ‘green’ existance? My top five favorite strategies

May 28, 2009
Wonder Cabinet’s Globigerina

Wonder Cabinet

It seems that living a ‘greener’ life can actually be a very subjective process, as individuals make specific choices for lifestyle habits, eco-passions, or environmental issues that he or she considers most pressing. I realize that my choices are just as biased to my own subjective views and particular soapboxes, or so-called ‘green’ priorities.

1. Support local.
There are myriad benefits to supporting local movements and businesses. For one, you are investing in your own local economy, which adds to revitalization of the area in which you live, builds community, and provides numerous long-term perks. Second, you are decreasing the use of energy to transport items long distances. Third, you are making choices to support items p1oduced by individuals who earn a living wage for what they do. And fourth, you are considering your choices more carefully, whether that be a hand screen-printed organic cotton t-shirt, or local produce. I am lucky to have Greensgrow Farms  right here in my neighborhood in Philadelphia, and Greensgrow is a stellar example of an amazing local endeavor gone right.  The farm was actually built on a superfund site, using hydroponic agriculture and raised beds, and it is thriving as it directly supports, and is supported by, its local community, with a spring nursery, a CSA program, a regular farm stand full of all kinds of local produce, mik, dairy, eggs, meats, and hand-crafted goodies like arugula pesto and the most amazing smokey eggplant dip imagineable.

2. Cloth Diapering.
I know that there have been studies ‘demonstrating’ that the use of energy and water to wash cloth diapers negates its environmental benefit. But I’m sorry. There are plenty of studies that show that water use is wholly dependent on where you live (and I live in the most flood-prone state in the union) and in my opinion, untreated human waste, wrapped in plastic, sitting in a landfill for the next thousand years (trash in landfills don’t really decompose very quickly, to say the least) is simply not the same as using a bit more water and energy. It’s not equal! Check out an earlier post about greener breastfeeding support.

3.  Kitchen Gardens
I live in the middle of a working class, urban neighborhood in Philadelphia, I have a fantastic organic farm minutes away from me (right in the middle of the city), as described above, but I have no community garden in site. Community gardens are a fantastic investment of time and energy, and if I didn’t have so much on my plate, I might try to mobilize the formation of on. However, despite my absence of actual ‘land’ (we have what they call a “pavement” around here), I manage to grow quite a bit through the use of pots, trellises, and window boxes. Nearly everything in my garden is either a food or an herb, so that I can maximize the space rather than growing annuals that might not help feed the family. I just wish I could do more! Though I am an herbalist, that doesn’t mean I’m a gardener, and I am definitely learning more with every growing season, especially with a handy subscription to Organic Gardening. Someday I’ll have a ‘real’ plant-things-in-the-ground garden.

4. Keep your own Chickens
I had to put this in here because I think this is a brilliant move; many individuals are engaging in raising their own chickens, which is awesome! Fresh, organic eggs in your own yard; lovely fat chickens when needed; and certainly, a smaller population of pests such as ticks, a favored snacks of our poultry friends.  This is a fantasy for me at the moment, but again, someday when I have my own yard, perhaps!


Pigeons in the Attic's Toppled Mushrooms

 Pigeons in the Attic

5.  Composting, urban or rural
There is just no excuse for not composting this day and age, no matter where you live. I am a hypocrite here, because I have really wanted to figure out a good system for urban composting that is going to work for me and my family with extremely limited space. However, I have heard that many Montrealers have this down, and I have no doubt that there are resources out there for figuring out a good system. There is simply no excuse for throwing away kitchen scraps, tea and coffee waste, and especially herbal matter when one could be turning it all into garden GOLD!

Extra!  Recycle, upcycle, downcycle, whatever
I love the many artisans out there who upcycle sweaters, vintage clothing, leather, plastic–you name it–in order to create incredibly useful, beautiful hand-crafted pieces. I’ve purchased leg warmers upcycled from cashmere sleeves, notebook cases from recycled herringbone fabric, and other items with this focus on re-purposing goods that would otherwise go to waste, languish in thrift stores, or end up in the trash. I was walking outside one night and it happened to be ‘trash night’, when I happened across a pile of so-called trash left out for the trucks. Full art boxes filled with sponge stamps, paints, brushes, markers, and other crafty items intended for children! I was shocked that anyone would throw this out rather than even trying to take it to the thrift store, but Americans are notoriously wasteful. We would do better to learn from our European cousins or even our Canadian sisters and brothers to the North: even the plastic wrapper from a tea bag can be recycled. Do it! (and pay no mind to this hilarious blog post that pokes a little fun at those who prefer to recycle.) Just as an FYI: there’s a new on-line venue, Cosa Verde, that tries to bring together many of these artisans with ‘green’ practices.

Girls can tell moleskin

Girlscantell crafted moleskin

So tell me, what are your favored strategies for Greener Living? Comment below so that I and my readers can benefit from all that creativity and originality out there!

A Crowd Ready to Rally: Crafters in Lean Economic Times

May 20, 2009

There’s no question that the impact of the ecomomy has affected all of us, not least crafters who depend on a loyal customer base, local craft events, and on-line venues such as Etsy and Artfire to sell our products. After hearing about a local Doylestown bath & body business closing its doors, I wanted to explore the impact the economy is having on businesses like my own.  I wanted to share with my readers, especially all of you working on a business that is based on your own handmade items, my recent blog post with just that subject.

Please do check out my latest blog post for Tara Gentile at the amazing blog, Handmade in PA. Tara works night and day to bring the stories, products, and promotion of Pennsylvania crafters to the fore. She’s been such an awesome support and I’ve been having great fun writing for her blog.

puddleLimited Edition Art Print – Puddle Jumper by Robert David Bretz (Girard, PA)

Tamara’s Herbes interviews Lilith…er, me!

February 19, 2009

Herbally-inspired artisan and fellow etsian Tamara of Tamar’s Herbes has recently interviewed me for her charming blog as a featured seller. I thought I would share this interview for those who would like to know a bit more about what is “behind” Lilith (or who!) as Tamara’s questions are great. Don’t miss that last ‘random question’ for a fun bit tidbit or two! Thanks Tamara.

I am trained as a medical anthropologist and work full time in the public health sector. The intersections of disease, healing, and culture have always interested me, from historical, cross-cultural, and even philosophical perspectives. I’ve been studying herbal medicine for a number of years now, and when I first discovered herbology, it was a total “ah-ha!” moment — finally everything was coming together in a way that really resonated with my life. It’s my true passion! I am also a mother with a two and a half year old toddler, Maeve, and wife of Tony McNichol, who is an archaeologist and kindred spirit. I work a forty hour week and then spend between 15 and 20 hours more (at least!) toiling away at night in my basement workshop to create what is Lilith’s Apothecary, a vehicle for my herbal knowledge.

Well, first of all, Lilith does fulfill many of my creative needs. In that sense, I am lucky. I would love to be able to devote more of my life to the Apothecary, but at the moment, my day job provides an income that we can’t really do without. The tough part is not finding moments to be creative, it’s finding a way to make THAT my full-time job. Finding a balance between a full-time job and a ‘hobby’ that really wants to be a full-time endeavor is not easy, actually. Lilith is always growing! But that’s a good thing.

You mean, philisophically? I could answer this questions a hundred times over. I personally believe that a lot of the problems that we have as a species boils down to the fact that we’re just big apes at the end of the day. It sounds reductionist, but when you look at primate behavior, it makes more sense why we as humans do the things we do. That said, what we lack in biological superiority, we do have in the potential to be creative, wise, and cultured beings. I wish we could — as a species — tap into that aspect of ourselves more readily. Can’t there be more Ghandis? Capitalism needs to go, for one thing. It demands an underclass.

I think we all think about this. At the end of the day, I want to feel as though I have impacted people in a positive way. I don’t think there is a legacy that is more important than being a loving, positive influence on those you love the most. I’ve been to memorial services of academics, for instance, who were mostly estranged from their own children because of the all-consuming nature of their work. The negative impact that had on those children is probably worse than the so-called legacy of their academic contributions.

Yoga is a wonderful respite, but I haven’t practiced in a while. It’s really hard to make time for myself that isn’t “work” related, even in terms of Lilith. That said, Ikebana (the art of japanese flower arranging) has been a wonderful outlet for me. I study with an ikebana teacher of 30 years, Midori Tanimune, and she is an incredible influence on me. I have learned so much from her. I also make jewelry, and have a little site, and I do custom work for family and friends, which is a lot of fun.

Etsy, for as ‘expensive’ as it ends up being between etsy fees and paypal fees, has been a wonderful thing for me. I have learned so much about my business since I opened Lilith’s Apothecary in 2007. My photos have evolved, my products have evolved, I’ve been able to reach a much wider audience, and I get a real sense of what my market is and a deeper confidence in my product and what I have to offer.

In my studies of herbology, I learned how to make basic skin care preparations, including salves, ointments, syrups, linaments, tinctures, creams, and skin care products. I have always had sensitive skin, and I realized how superior my hand made products were compared to commercial versions. Family members started “ordering” products from me, and soon I was being commissioned to make things at christmastime as gifts. Once etsy came along, beginning to think about a real business began to take shape, and the etsy store has really forced me into a wonderful learning curve.

I love making bath & body things, but I also love herbal teas, which I offer in my shop, using my herbal knowledge, and I make jewelry, garden, love cooking & nutrition, and practicing ikebana. I hate to sound like a dork, but creating is really what I love to do most, whether it’s a dandelion and gruyere quiche or my latest ‘Boudoir Blossom Facial Cream’

I wish this was a full time business! Maybe someday it will be. It is not really a hobby though, either, as I devote 15-20 hours a week to the development of Lilith, on top of my full time job and family responsibilities. Do I *make* money? No, not really, but I am optimistic! Lilith is young.

Other crafters’ stories of success can be very inspirational (though sometimes it makes me feel a bit defeatest too). At the end of the day, just knowing that I would not ever really want to live without Lilith keeps me going. It’s too much of a wonderful creative outlet for me, and I absolutey thrive from the feedback and interaction with customers. Such a positive experience.

I love the creative evolution ~ the continual refining of a product as well as trying out new formulas and products.
The shameless self promotion that I know i should be engaged in 24/7 to really push these products and get myself out there.

I have no idea. But let’s say that in ten years, I want Lilith to sustain me financially.
That’s my dream. I don’t know if it will happen but that’s my dream.

I have a website that has been in development for a year now and a source of great frustration. Hopefully it will be together soon ~ that’s a different story. I don’t have a brick and mortar store and don’t forsee that happening for a long time, though maybe some day! I am starting to do some consignment and wholesale and it will be interesting to see where that takes me. mommaeve_christmas08

Random Question:
If you were having a dinner party and could invite three famous people, who would they be?

I would like to be really ‘clever’ with this question, but I think I’ll be self-indulgent and answer it as honestly as I can (of course it is somewhat impossible because there are so many people I’d love to sit down & share a glass of wine with). I am not sure if these famous people are supposed to be alive or if I can drag some back from the dead, but I’ll be doubly indulgent and go with the latter: Marcel Duchamp, Alistair Crowley, and Gertrude Stein. Now that would be an interesting party!

Phew – what a week!

November 6, 2008

I have to say that working full time, parenting a toddler, dealing with regular household crises AND trying to get an herbal bath and body business underway is soooo tiring. Some nights I am just desperate to put my feet up. But on one hand, I remember reading about people starting their own businesses who would be up until 4 am every morning trying to get things accomplished. Still, when you are advocating for balance, it is hard not to crave some in your own life!

So this is what I try to sneak in as mini-moments of me time:
* blog entries!
* reading Herbal Quarterly and Herbal Gram, to great herb-based magazines/journals
* etsy surfing
* a glance at Mothering magazine or natural toys catalogues (with my toddler in mind!)
* a nice cup of tea in the afternoon ~ maybe even with a treat if I’m lucky.
* True Blood or Dexter (though now I’m trying to watch Bleakhouse, a BBC Masterpiece theatre production
* movies with my huspea! (that’s hubby to you)

Still, i am feeling pretty out of balance these days but it’s the holiday season so I don’t think I have much choice in the matter! Tough luck 😉