Nature & Nurture: above, Clary Collection founders Adriel Denae, left, and Jen Auerbach, photographed by Caroline Allison; Mama Knows Best: main pictures top, Jen with her 21-month-old son Early, photo by Alysse Gafkjen.
ou were prompted to start Clary Collection after finding it difficult to buy all-natural salves for your little ones. How did you go about about creating the formulas together? Adriel: We started by asking questions, researching, then experimenting. We learned the basic process of balm-making and then began to look more deeply at the tradition of oil infusion. Most natural balms and oils found in the skincare market today rely on essential oils and complicated formulas. We were attracted to midwifery recipes dating back to the 1800s and herbal formulations that were not complicated and more specifically therapeutic. We focused on traditionally used herbs, flowers and cold pressed oils that have been utilised across several cultures for many generations. We started experimenting broadly and narrowed our approach and ingredients to botanicals that have the lowest rate of allergic reaction for the widest spectrum of individuals. This led to our current blends based in calendula (marigold), chamomile, lavender and plantain which we have found to be as simple as possible and also as effective as we hoped. We also sought advice from a variety of sources including midwives, herbalists and indigenous healers.
Jen: It's important to remember that your skin is your largest, and most permeable organ. Just about anything you put on your skin will end up in your bloodstream and distributed throughout your body. Once these chemicals find their way into your body, they tend to accumulate over time because you typically lack the necessary enzymes to break them down. This is why I'm so fond of saying "don't put anything on your body that you wouldn't eat if you had to." Whether you make your own like we did, or switch to a truly natural, toxin-free brand, there are alternatives to the common products that line drug store shelves. There's no reason to be slathering questionable chemicals onto your skin everyday. Adriel and I spent two years researching and testing historic formulas based on old herbal recipes. We ended up being our own guinea pigs, followed then by our babies and many friends, which turned our kitchen witchery into a flourishing business we are super proud of.
Flower Power: Focusing on native plants from the duo's home regions – Tennessee, Illinois, Wisconsin and Australia – and oils from South America and North Africa, Jen and Adriel work with simple blends of herbal and floral steam distillations, along with cold-pressed oil infusions. Photo by Alysse Gafkjen
What is your ultimate goal with Clary? Jen: I would like to see every man, woman and child educated in how to take care of themselves without using harmful chemicals on their skin, and maybe a new science curriculum for schools educating children on the effects of chemicals on themselves and on the planet. Adriel always tells me that I aim high.
Adriel: I love that about Jen. I agree that a big goal of ours is to increase awareness around the topic of self-care and how we can choose to consume products that truly nurture our bodies and the planet. We are doing our best to build a company that is rooted to this value and hope that we can grow Clary into something that offers a viable, effective alternative in the often confusing natural skin care market. I would love to see Clary used in larger institutions that serve vulnerable members of society – such as hospitals, eldery care facilities and schools. I am often struck by the amount of toxic products offered to individuals in these places. Most newborns are bathed and moisturised with toxic, synthetic ingredients hours after birth and this seems wildly irresponsible to me. I love bringing Clary Balm to nursing homes and seeing how much relief and comfort it brings to tender, aging skin – beginning with my own grandmothers. It inspired me to aim for more accessibility to more people. I'd say our ultimate goal would be to build an increasingly sustainable company that supports the rights of consumers to be able to access safe, effective products, while also providing opportunities for more people to learn and benefit from our growth.
Can you share your tips for achieving maximum skin health and feeling good during and after pregnancy? Adriel: I think pregnancy is a remarkable opportunity to tune in to your body and know and love yourself more deeply than ever. Throughout pregnancy, we encounter valuable lessons in boundaries and how we can choose to respond to criticism and doubt created by our own thinking and the judgment of others. Developing a practice of mindfulness connected to breathing will help to integrate this process and prepare you for birth, postpartum recovery and the transition into motherhood. We shouldn't be surprised by the difficult feelings pregnancy induces just as we should be expectant of the joy, tremendous satisfaction and enlightenment we also find. It's so incredibly important that we build bridges with others and cultivate a sense of community and support for this process. My own difficulty with postpartum depression and feelings of isolation has given me a sense of urgency to understand and address the issue. Developing a routine of nourishing self-care is vitally important as it becomes much harder to establish these patterns with a newborn. Drinking plenty of water each day, finding gentle ways to move your body to keep your circulation fluid and your body open does wonders for relieving the aches and pains and common anxieties of pregnancy. I really enjoyed Hatha yoga and being in water, especially as I reached my third trimester. Himalayan salt baths are also wonderful for soothing and detoxifying and one of the best ways to speed healing of perineum tissue and replenish lost minerals after birth. One cup of salt in a warm bath up to three times daily after birth will have a tremendous impact. Nourishing your body with whole foods each day will not only help you to grow a healthy placenta, which will in turn nourish your baby and help her achieve a full-term birth, but it will also help you to build healthy patterns that you'll be so grateful for after baby arrives. The Brewer Diet was a helpful tool I used to learn about my placenta's nutritional needs in pregnancy. And I wholeheartedly agree with Jen about removing toxins as much as possible. Add as much moisture to your stretching skin using only 100% natural and organic oils. Use the moment to direct compassion towards your growing child and to your growing body for the miracle it is undertaking. Above all, practice self-love. Begin to explore the idea deeply and see how you can apply it to every aspect of life as your child grows within you. We can only love to the extent to which we love ourselves, so it’s a better time than any to develop this crucial skill.
Jen: When I was pregnant Adriel told me about placenta encapsulation: I opened my mind and did some extensive research. Research has shown when taking your placenta in the form of a capsule, it increases the release of the hormone oxytocin, which helps the uterus return to normal size and encourages bonding with the infant. It is also said to increase CRH, a stress-reducing hormone and decrease postpartum depression levels. It can restore the iron levels in blood and help to increase milk production. If I forgot to take a pill my poor husband would quietly say “Babe did you take your pill today?” and I would break down in tears and then, without fail, 30 minutes after popping one I was totally calm and centred. Pregnancy is an extremely daunting feeling, your body is preparing to carry an extra human – I was worried about stretch marks and sore nipples before my second trimester even hit. My routine was like a military operation. I firstly threw out any non-organic products; I didn’t want to use anything that wasn’t free of chemicals. I loved using our Bath + Body oil after a bath tub, the herbal lavender infusion creates a true sense of calm and would often help me sleep during that last trimester when only one sleep position is possible. I would lather myself in the Stretch Mark Oil twice daily and I still do. I am allergic to lipstick so I will drive 10 kolometres back home to fetch my balm if I leave without it, this multi-purpose salve acts as diaper rash cream, bug bite relief, dry skin and chapped lips salve and also as an under-eye balm.
Rebel Belle: above and below, Jen photographed at home in Nashville by Alysse Gafkjen.
What is your viewpoint on motherhood and what lessons do you hope to instil in your children? Jen: Motherhood is a funny thing. It brings joy, sadness, laughter and frustrations. Motherhood can be the most rewarding job on the planet most days, but it can also be the hardest. Day in and day out we are on the battlefield, wiping noses and cultivating future stars. Sometimes I think the beauty of motherhood can get lost in all of it. Sometimes, we just need to take a step back and remember how it started. Picture the moments that make us smile; the moments that make it all worthwhile. I want my children to look at me and be proud that their mother wanted to keep them safe, and teach them about why I do my job, educating them from a young age.
Adriel: I think that Motherhood is a sacred journey that pulls you further into the mystery of love and renewal. I think our world is very confused about love. We think of it as a pleasant feeling we experience, when in fact it is an act of courage and ultimate strength. I think our world suffers from an enormous lack of true love and all sorts of things that masquerade as it instead. Mothers have a unique and powerful opportunity to shift this tide and it is a tremendous honour and responsibility to do so. In this way, I hope more than anything that I am modeling true love for my children so that they will know from their earliest days in life, the difference between manipulation, abuse, coercion and real compassion, and can understand the value they possess and then extend that love to other living things. In this way, I think it is the most important job I can do. And perhaps the most challenging. It is so difficult because it begins with how we love and value ourselves and many of us have to break patterns that we were conditioned with in childhood. I’ve found that motherhood has forced me to look much more honestly at my own dysfunction and find ways to overcome it. Loving myself enough to care for my mind and body with healthy products and habits is a big step in a new, better direction for me and my family.
What are your other great passions, and how do you motivate, mentor and inspire each other in this new partnership? Jen: Adriel is my level-headed, calm spirit animal, she was at my birth and held my hand throughout one of my life’s biggest achievements and I hope she continues to hold my hand through my second one – Clary. My background is working in not-for-profits and children’s charities overseas. This is something close to both of us and as Clary grows we will endeavour to incorporate more of this into our mission.
Adriel: I am passionate about creativity as a means to express our true selves and to establish connection with others and I enjoy the process of engaging in a creative and collaborative life. Jen is a constant source of courage and audacity for me to reach more intentionally for this goal and to believe in myself and the value of what I have to offer. I have hurdles of doubt and insecurity that threaten to keep me from living authentically and fully and Jen is the kind of sister-friend you thank the heavens for because she consistently sees and reflects the best parts of me. She makes me feel strong and capable and keeps me laughing through the weirdness! There would be no Clary without her drive and vision and confidence and I learn more about those things from her everyday.
Field Of Dreams: Adriel at her artist's retreat in Wisconsin, pictured with her two-year-old son, Rhodes Wilder.
Adriel, you are working on a solo album and recently co-founded an artist's retreat. How did this come about, and can you describe your own writing process? My partners and I became the stewards of a former Franciscan retreat centre, now called The Refuge, in Appleton, Wisconsin, about two years ago. With the support of the broader community and our town, we have built a foundation for the arts that is responsible for the care of the property and buildings and developing artist’s residencies for individuals seeking a change of pace. We are set on 11 acres along the Fox river and have living and working studio spaces and a pretty, old chapel where artists from various fields and genres are working. We also have an apple and pear orchard where we are planning our spring flower and vegetable garden and plan to propagate wild plantain which grows plentifully here. We are also building a network of individual and corporate patrons who are helping us create a new system of releasing and supporting creative work. I made my record just before this all unfolded and have waited to release it because of an intuition that I wanted to do it my own way. As a member of bands, I have worked with many different types of labels from major to independent for the past 15 years and wanted a chance for my creation to exist in a new place – one where I am not forced to betray my own sense of calling in order to turn a profit for an entity that isn’t nurturing my community. I was incredibly lucky to work with a hero of mine, Norah Jones, who produced my album. It was a life-changing experience to work with a female in that role and it has spurred me to find a way to help more women develop skills on that side of record making – myself included. Clary has been such a grounding part of this transition for me. Sometimes I think I have learned more about my inner direction from having my hands in herbs and oils than I have in many hours of intellectual ruminating and debate. For me, writing is a cathartic and mysterious process. I have experimented with all sorts of methods and habits, but the challenge of motherhood, with its funneling of time and energy, has forced me to learn that inspiration is truly life itself and the more I accept myself and the thoughts and melodies that flow through me, the more fun I can have with it and the more productive I am. I capture everything that gives me a sense of joy or intrigue. I hum melodies into my phone throughout the day and tease out the good ideas on the piano when I have a quiet moment. Some songs arrive in whole pieces like a giant wave crashing through me. Those are exhilarating highs. But I find that the most satisfying songs usually come as a result of being consistently open to ideas as they tumble around, and then disciplined enough to create space to let them bloom into something beautiful. Usually that means getting a sitter (or waiting until everyone else is in bed for the night), locking the door, turning off my phone and demanding concentration. Contrary to my own fears, motherhood and entrepreneurship have proven to be wonderful muses.
At the end of a busy week, how do you positively reenergise body and soul? Jen: besides hiding in a room and locking the door, I go to my husband’s boxing gym where I play old school hip hop really loud on his speakers and do yoga.
Adriel: I could use some hip hop boxing yoga! I try to take a salt bath, do a little yoga, play my piano and spend some time with friends – preferably outside, most preferably in the woods, and hopefully with a glass of wine.
And lastly, it's always such a thrill to make new friends with a great sense of style in everything:
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