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An Interview with Briar Winters, Owner of Marble & Milkweed (a small apothecary studio in NYC)

An Interview with Briar Winters, Owner of Marble & Milkweed (a small apothecary studio in NYC)

When we started Carton Blanche it was important to us to source special, high-quality items that our customers may not have seen before. With that in mind, we thought we'd start showcasing some of our vendors to both illustrate the care that goes into assembling our cartons and to educate our customers about some of the brands we carry.

Briar Winters from Marble & Milkweed is one of our vendors we admire most. Not only does she have a one-woman business, she does everything beautifully and manages to magically combine her knowledge of plants with her background as a pastry chef to dream up organic concoctions that are both soothing and nourishing.

Briar has graciously agreed to answer a few questions for us regarding how she came up with such a thoughtful line:

Hello, Briar! As you know we are big fans of Marble & Milkweed and have been carrying your rosy rip tint since we started three years ago. We love everything about it: the compostable packaging, the delicious scent, the soft rose color and the fact that it works well on all skin tones.

First, Marble & Milkweed is such an intriguing name. How did you come up with it?

Oh, thank you! I really wanted something that felt like poetry, to reflect the deep consideration and care that I was putting into crafting my formulas. It’s partly inspired by my beautiful clawfoot tub in the kitchen on New York’s Lower East Side, where I spent many hours recovering from long days on my feet in the pastry kitchen. The cool, smooth interior of the tub reminded me of marble. And at the time I was also becoming very interested in gardening, especially in native plants and creating habitat for pollinators, even here in the middle of the city. I became completely enamored with the milkweed family, the way it provides crucial sustenance for so many beautiful creatures, like the Monarch butterfly. I wanted this attention and respect for the natural world and our place in it to be a part of the ethos of what I was creating.

Did you set out to start your own business, or was it something that evolved naturally?

I started out just making things for myself, it was a creative outlet and a way to take a little extra time to care for myself while working in such an intense industry. When the beloved restaurant I was working in closed, I made the leap. I had been working for a friend and had so much creative freedom and wonderful camaraderie with my colleagues that it was really hard to imagine finding anything that good anywhere else, unless I created my own work situation.

Could you please explain your company philosophy for our customers and what you mean by "analog beauty."

Simplicity is at the heart of my philosophy. The world is very complicated these days, and I want to provide my clients with a break from that. A chance to reconnect with themselves and with the beauty of nature. Luxurious products don’t require all the additives so often found in commercial beauty and skincare. Our grandmothers and great-grandmothers did not have any of that and they were gorgeous. It’s also about the recognition that true beauty comes from vibrant health in body and spirit. Our products go back to the basics, exquisite small-batch oils and locally grown organic herbs and honey. It truly can be that simple. When caring for ourselves well is simple and nourishing, we have time and energy to give back, to ourselves, our loved ones and to our community.

photo of Briar Winters by Christine Han

After trying a number of your products over the years, your fragrance combinations (i.e., jasmine & cardamon, rose & chamomile) really stand out.  Could you please give a little insight into your process.

That is so kind, thank you. Much of my work with scent is a natural outgrowth from my time in the pastry kitchen, thinking day in and day out about combining flavor, scent and texture. So many of the combinations that work beautifully in dessert are also perfect in skincare and perfume, when done in a subtle way. I love discovering new magical pairings, things that don’t necessarily make sense on paper, but really sing when you bring them together.

Your business aligns well with ours as we both offer comfort items that promote well-being, as well as a chance to slow down and take care of yourself. What do you do when you are trying to escape from the pressures of having your own business?

It’s so true that it can be difficult to put the day away when you work for yourself, but keeping a separate workspace has made all the difference for me. I still do a few administrative tasks at home, but most of my workday is spent at the studio, and that makes it easier to leave lingering tasks behind when the day is done. I spend quite a bit of time in our local community garden, where I’ve learned so much about plants and cultivated friendships with neighbors, it’s a wonderful restorative escape right here in the heart of Manhattan. I am also involved in a lot of community organizing, which I started getting interested in when I was evicted from my first studio space so that a developer could demolish the building for luxury condos. I’m part of a local group that organizes working people around fighting displacement, which is rampant in New York City, and taking back control of our time. This is so connected to the philosophy I try to share with my business. How can we have time to properly care for ourselves when we are constantly overworked? Organizing with my neighbors helps me to feel like I’m a part of something bigger and contributing in a meaningful way to my community and the world.

Thank you for taking the time to give us more insight into what you do, Briar. You have really built a beautiful brand and it's one that we are especially proud to carry.

Lastly, we encourage everyone to check out Briar's website at www.marble& or follow her on Instagram: @marbleandmilkweed.