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Meet the Locals // Chelsea - Black Iris Botanicals

Meet the Locals // Chelsea - Black Iris Botanicals

HELLO! I know, I know I am terrible! A day and a half after this should have been posted and here I am furiously typing away hoping to come up with a cohesive post that will make some sort of sense. This is the first of many Handmade Omaha makers posts that will be up in the month of November. I am so excited to let you into the Saturday morning conversation I had with Chelsea in her Benson kitchen space. It was really a wonderful morning spent hovering over a counter watching attentively as she calmly moved around her space making some Nebraska Balm. I found out at the end of my time with her that I was the first person she has let into the kitchen to watch the making process during an 'interview', you would have never guessed if you were in my shoes that day!

What is your background? How did you end up doing this? Chelsea attended Hampshire College in rural Massachusetts initially studying Music then becoming involved with the on campus organic farm and subsequently switched over to study Horticulture. She has also just started school up again pursuing a degree in Herbal Medicine, she is currently taking pre-requisites and will be looking into a school in Washington state.

How did Black Iris Botanicals (BIB) originally come to be? BIB was started by Chelsea and her childhood friend Mallory they began by learning as much as possible about plant identification. Going for walks and testing each other on what they were seeing. After months of walks and purchased books they started foraging plants to start experimenting recipes and seed collection techniques with.

How do you decide what products to make? Most products have been inspired out of a 'need' for the item. A few examples... the {beard balm} conditioner was created for Chelsea's brother who has a massive beard and was needing something to keep it moisturized in the dry winter months, lavender was introduced into a salve creating the {working hands} healing salve because of a love that her Mom has of the scent and a want for the healing properties and the {jointment} circulatory salve was by request from Grandma.

Is this what you do full time? It is slowly becoming that! Up until a few weeks ago she was working three other jobs in addition to BIB. She worked for four years with No More Empty Pots running their mobile truck farm program at local schools, Fontenelle Forest guiding children on hikes and teaching yoga at several studios. At this time she is down to teaching yoga and BIB.

How many retail locations can BIB currently be found in? As of now they wholesale to eight local shops as well as selling product online through the BIB website.

Do you forage all of your own plants? Where do you get the rest of the ingredients? As many plants as possible are foraged from local forests and fields, while some flowers and herbs are grown in her own garden. As far as oils and other items needed... anything that can be purchased local is bought that way some items though cannot not currently be found locally in bulk, such as aloe vera gel.

What is you favorite thing about the path that BIB has you on? Constantly learning. Whether it is trialling different recipes to end up with the perfect product or discovering while selling at the farmers market that your items may need adjustments during the warmer weather months.

What do your parents / family do? Are your parents entrepreneurial? Do they support you in your BIB ventures? As it turns out this discussion had recently come up while on a trip to visit her sister. Her Dad is a Financial Advisor and runs his own practice, now here is the interesting part both her sister and brother have their own business as well! Obviously she is from a VERY entrepreneurial family!

What has been your biggest eye opener / learning experience? In the winter of 2013 she and Mallory decided to apply for their first show since they had finalized these wonderful product recipes and once accepted it hit them... they didn't have packaging! In the rush of prepping for the event they picked out containers and slapped on labels, only to realize later that the labels only indicated the product name and their stamped iris logo, no business name or ingredient list! They even had a lady pop by their booth at a show about a year or so later that was ecstatic to finally have found out whom made the product she received for Christmas the previous year.

My favorite parts of the interview process with Chelsea were the side tracked things that came up, like our love of all things rose. Fun facts that I learned: It takes roughly 10,000 pounds of rose petals to some up with a single ounce of rose essential oil, no wonder the price is insane! In Greece chamomile is considered a weed and treated as most Americans treat dandelions, how crazy! Finding the perfect color of red for the Kiss Sticks was especially difficult, they experimented with oil and water infusions with sumac, beet, hibiscus and elderberries among many more before final settling on alkanet root infused in oil.

*** All photography provided by James Wells of Stark Media Design. Yes, yes I am giving my dear husband credit this time around. : ) ***



Meet the Locals // Joshua - Made by Human Studio

Meet the Locals // Joshua - Made by Human Studio

Handmade Omaha // Winter 2015 - Nº 1

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