MARBLE + MILKWEED, BODY AND SOUL
Analog beauty. In the truest sense of the phrase, Marble + Milkweed's hand-crafted natural products are simple, honest, and imbued with the character, warmth, and passion of their maker---the magical Briar Winters. On a very chilly early spring afternoon, we ventured from Brooklyn into Briar's walk-up TriBeCa studio, where she concocts a line of all-natural products meant to soothe and appeal to the senses.
Ten years ago, Briar began a career as a pastry chef in Manhattan. After a while, her nature-filled childhood in the Pacific Northwest came calling, and she began to dabble in plants, teas, and natural oils.
"There are a lot of similarities between the kitchen and here [at Marble + Milkweed], weighing, measuring, using recipes. I had a solid pastry chef job that left me with lots of free time, so I started blending botanicals."
Eventually, Briar's botanical hobby grew into an online shop on Etsy; from there, it flourished into a full-time apothecary, turning out lovely balms, soothing oils, and beautifully balanced teas.
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"This is the first year that I've really worked full time on Marble and Milkweed and clarified the vision for the company...I've noticed that people respond to plants, especially for people who live in the city and are not surrounded by them. I think a big part of what got me started in this is that I wanted to bring botanicals and plants back into my life. In the chaos and running around of city life it is nice to stop and have a cup of tea, or a hot bath. To just have that moment, that time for you."
Working with botanicals also provides Briar with deep insight into seasonal variation: products can be seasonal and one-of-a-kind, but can also be challenging to present to those who may have only ever used artificial, preserved products with a long shelf life.
"With botanicals, a product is never the same. When it comes to creating, you have to be in the moment. I have recipes, but I have to be willing to adjust and find that balance. You can have an essential oil, and one batch may be very different to the next. It is a challenge, something that I have struggled to express to customers who buy particular items more than once. There are seasonal variations with herbs, oils, and honey. Honey is different every season, depending on the pollen, location, and time of harvest. Seasonal variations are great, but can be difficult--the temperature and humidity can affect oils and honey. It can be a challenge to formulate mixtures that work the same in every season and climate; lip balm delivered to Australia will differ than the one delivered within New York. These variations make me aware of the environment and its impact."
"The practice of taking care of yourself on a daily basis is important, knowing you can play an active role. It just brings something to your day and life to know you're caring for yourself well.These oils and teas provide such a great moment to connect with yourself while also rebalancing the nature in your life." -Briar Winters
Speaking of seasonal variations, we couldn't help but ask Briar about her teas (of which there are many--and all of them pretty delicious, as we can personally attest).
"Spring is such an amazing time; the whole cycle is starting again. [The Spring Tonic Tea] is about all of the properties of the botanicals, even the flowery appearance. It just so happens that so many of the things that are wonderful for you are also beautiful! I really feel that tea should please all of the senses. It’s a blend of Calendula flowers, lemon verbena, rose petal, chamomile flowers, nettles, rosehips and red clover. There are a lot of herbs that are associated with particular benefits for each season. I made this blend for myself in the spring and I really wanted others to feel that we are going through the seasons in a particular way. Making seasonal rituals to go along with what is going on outside. Nettles are a traditional spring herb; they're great in food, tea and also make a great broth. Nettles add a milky flavor; a lot of the flavor is from minerals in them. They're good for the liver, kidneys and are very cleansing. The chamomile in the tea is soothing, and in spring there can be an unsettled energy as things are bursting forth and feel a little chaotic. The spring tonic is herbal tea with no caffeine. I like having a tea around that isn’t caffeinated, which you can drink at any time."
Indeed, the time it takes to prepare and steep a cup of tea, the time it takes to enjoy a bath, or cleanse the face after a long day are all moments of self-care that, when done right, become more than just another task, and this is where the simplicity and honesty of Briar's work truly shines. Our afternoon at Marble + Milkweed was a great reminder that we can all find ways--no matter how small--to reconnect to our essential nature, both internal and external. It's finding those connections that can make us more attuned to the subtlety of a moment or a season, allowing us to be an active participant in life and its beautiful offerings.
ABOUT BRIAR WINTERS
Raised in Washington State and living in New York's Lower East Side, Briar Winters is "inspired by the poetry inherent in any well-crafted thing". Passionate about all things nature (and a curious yogi, just like us), Briar makes sure that all of her products are ethically sourced and environmentally friendly. Find out more on her blog and over at Marble + Milkweed.