After a brief hiatus, I’m pleased to feature Helena of Helena’s Organic Garden. She also sells on Etsy, and make creams, soaps, skin care, hair care, perfumes, jewelry, home decor, body care, baby care, jams, and spices — you name it.
This feature is very special to me because Helena was the first to introduce me to truly handmade natural and organic skin care. Although I was using some natural products before, I hadn’t met someone who made everything from scratch, who grew most of her own herbs and flowers, who made everything by hand from start to finish with positive and meaningful intention and with a supreme respect for nature and the wisdom of ancestors. At the same time, Helena keeps her products affordable, and she is a quiet pillar in the organic living community with a wealth of knowledge and skill that is truly awe inspiring. Thank you, Helena, for taking time to share with us, and thank you for all that you continue to do.
1. Please describe your background. How did you come to make such a wide variety of skin care, body care, teas, jams, and more? What do you do when you are not creating these lovely products?
My fundamental herbal knowledge comes from my Slavic background-both my parents are Eastern European. My spirituality stems from my deep respect of Native American traditions. I joined the Ganondagan Indian Organization in which I participated in classes taught by Jeanne Shenendoah-who’s father is Chief of the Onondaga nation. Also, with Dr. Les Moore, who has an extensive background and education in the field of botany and herbalism, both eastern and western. Dr. Moore has a Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine and a Master of Science in Oriental Medicine from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine. I later became certified through the teachings of Dr. Moore at Clifton Springs Hospital and the Botanical Institute in Medicinal Herbs.
I am the sole owner of http://www.lunadoncella.com. I’m always gardening, and have from scratch, grown over 8 gardens on our property with herbs and plants. I also visit the country side wild crafting various plants and/or visit antique shops or estate sales. My learning never stops and I continue to learn by attending various holistic classes.
2. What are your top three favorite ingredients and why?
· Organic, Garden Grown Herbs. When you grow your own- you, the sun, the rain control the energy in your plants. When I incorporate these into my products, I know from the heart, where they came from.
· Fair Trade Products (raw butters, mineral salts, sugars, oils). These I cannot grow or live in an area that produces these. Basically these wonderful ingredients come from countries that are what we consider developing or third world. It’s important to make sure that these people are given fair price for reaping these raw goods from their land and also to maintain the integrity of the wholeness. I never use for instance butters that have been altered to remove their fundamental properties. Cocoa Butter smells like cocoa. Why do I want it deodorized? I want it in its purest form possible.
· Essential Oils. I think a majority of the population doesn’t even know what a true essence of a flower or plant is anymore. Pure essential oils are the purest aroma of our natural surroundings.
3. Describe your creative process. How do you usually get ideas for a new product, and what is your process for creating and testing that product?
The library and research. I love history and will always look into what cultures did in the past and what ingredients were used. Not just in beauty, but in spices and jams and herbal healing. I am humble folk healer using time honored herbs. My method of testing is on my family, friends and myself; as we extensively use my creations. You get a wide range of a spectrum because these are very honest feedbacks. My husband is a great cook and we incorporate a lot of my herbal spices in the cooking. I make no claims on anything I make. It is what it is. It’s all about choices in our personal wellness.
4. I just love your body creams, and everything else you make. But if I had to single out one of my most favorite products, it would be your Monoi de Tahiti Body Bliss Butter. Divine and decadent. What is your philosophy that informs how you create your products?
Keep it simple and stay true to your heart. Never skip steps or sell out. Once you’ve sold your soul, you’re at the point of no return.
My body crèmes are really my signature product. People are so intimidated about making crèmes and lotions. That’s why so many go the route of purchasing wholesale bulk products and adding their scents to it. That’s easy. But creating from scratch knowing what works and what doesn’t is really an experience. Also, I have people coming to me for healing. I make my own herbal tinctures and Goldenseal in most cases is utilized. My own aromas are Juniper Berries and Sandalwood. For me it’s such an intoxicating aroma. I’m not fond of the florals.
6. Can you describe the best feedback you’ve ever received, or describe an interaction that you had that made you feel good about your creations?
I’ve been publicly vending several years before launching on Etsy. I’ve always received positive comments on my booth set up. People felt like they were walking in an exclusive boutique. They always complimented my skin. On Etsy, which is difficult at times, you were a proud advocate of preservative free organic products and were always praising my creations.
But the ultimate, my three year old granddaughter, Adelina, loves loves loves to take an herbal bath; which I prepare for her every time she spends the weekend. She asks for her calendula and chamomile. After her bath, she just has to put on my homemade organic lotion. She’s like, “Grandma, you made this?” and she’ll just put it all over herself. I bought her own powder puff and made her own organic herbal powder (talc-less) and she just feels and acts like a princess. When I took her in my private herbal workshop, she looked around and just exclaimed “Grandma this is Beautiful.” You just can’t get any better than that!
7. What plans do you have for your shop in 2011? What should we be looking out for?
I’ll be concentrating on doing bigger but less shows in 2011. Right now I’m waiting for confirmation from Ithaca’s Summer festival. Ithaca is a huge green, grassroots community. Because I make my own packaging and labeling, I’m hoping to streamline the process. I really am a one-woman entity and sometimes it takes a lot of patience doing things by yourself.
8. Do you have any favorite crafters or artisans that you would like to share with us?
A friend of mine, Terra Star, who crafted beautiful jewelry, has just recently passed away from cancer. One friend, whose garden artwork is featured at the Lyons (NY) Historical Museum, crafts everything from nature that she finds in her back woods and cottage. Another friend crafts beautiful primitive creations. Everything is painstakingly wired- not glued. You can’t find much of the old-time crafters anymore. My favorite artists and/or crafters are the ones that craft from the heart.
9. What advice would you give to budding artisans who are looking to present their wares to the public?
Have fun, enjoy your craft – be comfortable and confident in what you do. Stay true to yourself and to your craft.
10. Is there anything else that you would like to share?
Be positive. Remember your Roots and never stop learning.
Possessing the skills to help yourself and family naturally.
Feeling safe, confident, secure and knowledgeable in making your own herbal home remedies.
Becoming a home medicine maker or herbalist.
The only thing that stands in your way is your feeling that the subject of plants and herbal medicine is too huge to tackle.
The simple secret to learning herbs &
home remedies is taking it
ONE EXPERIENCE at a time…