• Featured Brands: Plantfolk Apothecary

    When we ask Kate Clearlight, founder of the botanical apothecary line Plantfolk Apothecary, what she hopes people get out of the line, she has the perfect answer: "We live in a society where it's easy to feel isolated and lonely, and the plants are the best facilitators of connection; they remind us that we're part of something much greater than our immediate situation." Her positive vibes immediately sell us on her creations. "The products nourish our outer beauty and in turn we feel more beautiful inside," she continues. "The beauty that shines out from our spirit, that’s the goal, because it translates into treating the whole earth with kindness."

    Kate's positive feel-good attitude transfers directly to her line: she creates organic, sustainable beauty products (some grown with herbs she's harvested directly from her garden), all meant to make someone feel better from the outside in. And with a long history of herbal studies under her belt, she knows what she's doing. Interested in finding more about the line, we spoke to Kate about her foray into studying herbs, and what makes her products so special. (Trust us — we've used them!)
    Photos by Michael Persico

    Can you tell us a little bit about how Plantfolk was formed?
    Plantfolk started as a dream about six years ago when I was attending herb school at the California School of Herbal Studies. I've always had a love for walking in the woods, gardening, drinking tea, and being close to the earth, and that manifested as studying herbalism. I’ve always been a bit of a purist when it comes to purchasing organic, local food and the best organic skincare. As I learned about herbs, medicinal actions, ingredients, and formulations, I realized I would never have to purchase skincare again because I could make it all - and I could make it with the best ingredients available. I could infuse healing herbs into the products, and leave out all the fillers and arbitrary ingredients many companies are adding. As I perfected my recipes and started sharing them, people kept telling me that my creations were magical and some of the best they've ever tried. So that feedback from my friends and family is what really nurtured Plantfolk to become what it is today.

    So that's what made you interested in creating a line of your own?
    The line of products transpired on its own; surprisingly, I actually never had the thought “I’m going to start a botanicals company.” I started formulating products and perfecting the recipes one by one, and then suddenly one day I realized I had created a line of almost thirty products (which is still growing daily). I love traveling, adventuring in the wilderness, and infusing those experiences into what I make in the apothecary, and everything that has come with creating my own line of botanicals is very much in alignment with that lifestyle.

    What was the hardest part about getting it all started? The easiest?
    The hardest part about starting the Plantfolk line as an official “business” was realizing that I was going to have to start putting prices on the products and charging people money for them! So much of what I love about herbalism and botanicals is the community-based mentality and the sharing and trading that takes place. It was a difficult step to convince myself that in order to build a sustainable business model, I would have to start developing realistic price points. When I started selling the products, I couldn’t believe how willing, excited, and grateful people were to purchase them. That was the easiest part: actually putting the products out there. I'm still in awe of how the Plantfolk line is supported and whole-heartedly embraced by so many people across the globe.

    How did you transfer your background in plants and herbs to beauty products?
    I graduated from the aforementioned California School of Herbal Studies, and this is where my background in formulating, plant constituents, energetics, and medicinal actions comes from and it serves me every time I start creating a new product. So many herbs have a very similar action on the skin as they do on the inside of the body. I also learned about different plant constituents requiring different extraction mediums and other methods for creating really potent botanicals. The plants are complex beings and I always feel encouraged by them to be creative and curious, and playing with different ways to highlight a specific attribute of a plant using different extraction mediums is so much fun.

    I also completed an advanced herbal apprenticeship with Rosemary Gladstar in Vermont. The knowledge I gained from studying at herb schools was absolutely fundamental to the creation of the Plantfolk line. I also worked at Zack Woods Herb Farm, a medicinal herb farm in northern Vermont, which was like an herb school in itself. For anyone interested in making botanical body care or herbal medicine, there is absolutely no better education one can receive than from working hands-on with the living herbs every single day!

    What kind of ingredients do you use? Where do you source them?
    Our products are made with the purest plant-based ingredients we can find. We source from the smallest producers possible and organic certification is very important. I take into consideration the carbon footprint and global impact of each ingredient, and ask myself if the ingredient is a positive addition to the product. We grow as many herbs as we can for the products and sustainably wildcraft those that are growing in extreme abundance. The goal is that the products be as vibrant and beautiful as living plants and flowers, so in order to achieve that vibrancy in the final product, the ingredients must be pure and full of life force. It’s all about the life force. That's what shines through and makes the product come to life, and it’s what people are really referring to when they say “Your products are magical!”

    Follow Kate on Instagram for more nature-filled pics!

    Once you have your ingredients, how do you create your products? Is there a trial and error period? Is it all very scientific?
    When I first start creating a product, there isn’t much science involved; it’s mostly based on intuition and creativity. That’s where the word “folk” comes into play from our name Plantfolk. It’s honoring a type of medicine that all of our ancestors knew how to make, which is called folk herbalism or folk medicine. The beginning stages of a product often come as a dream, or a thought when I’m walking in the woods or working in the garden. I get an idea for the personality of a new product and what its purpose will be, then it usually turns into putting things into a mason jar and starting an oil infusion; at this point it’s not really about science, just a connection to the plants and a creative spirit. I spend time experimenting with different infusions and scent combinations, and I think about the therapeutics of the plant ingredients and what role they will play in the overall formula. Once I’ve created the prototype product and I decide I want to re-produce it, that’s when the precise formulation happens and it becomes a little more scientific. But the roots of each product are folk-based, and it’s all about heart. Botanical products are a synergistic formulation of both art and science, and we can all relate to that...because so are we!

    Do you draw a lot of inspiration from living in New Mexico?
    I’ve moved and traveled a lot on my path of studying herbs, and the beauty of all of those places serves as inspiration for our products. Plantfolk is based in Taos, which is a very spiritual and untamed high desert community. This place gets infused into everything that happens in the apothecary, and serves as daily inspiration to maintain an open heart and a wild spirit. There is an unmistakable freeness in the air here that makes everything feel possible, with no limitations, and it truly nurtures the creative process and a connection to the earth as a whole.

    Where can we find you when you’re not working on your brand?
    When I’m not in the apothecary, I’m always outside! That’s where all the energy that I put into Plantfolk gets returned to me and it brightens my spirit. I spend as much time as possible adventuring to beautiful places and being in the wild with my dogs. I love camping in the wilderness and spending days hiking and identifying plants. Then all of that wild beauty gets infused into me and I come home and transfer it into Plantfolk creations. It’s a great system!

    If you weren’t working on this line, what do you think you’d be doing instead?

    I would probably still be leading a sort of nomadic lifestyle and traveling around teaching about herbs. Sharing the love of the plants is mandatory for me and if I weren’t making botanical products, I would be sharing that love in some other way. It’s my passion and it’s an honor.

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