Today let’s meet…
Founder: Brandy Monique
Location: Denver, Colorado
“Organic, hand crafted, small batch artisan apothecary- home, health, & vanity products”
Where do you find the inspiration for your work?
I find inspiration is a mostly mysterious thing for me. Ideas just come like a butterfly landing on my shoulder or some muse whispering in my ear. I’ve received most inspiration in times of quietude, solitude, silence, meditation… But also in engaging with the plants and materials. The herbs, essential oils, clays actually tell me what to do sometimes. It’s like I have a class of enthusiastic kindergartners who all want to help out in their special way. More than anything, my inspiration comes of asking a question and then listening for some direction.
Tell us about your design process.
As with most design, I’m not wholly inventing anything, I’m mostly improving upon what already exists. My affinity for cooking plays a tremendous role. One must have a keen olfactory sense, an understanding for how ingredients synthesize to create certain flavors, textures, colors. Maybe even some level of developed synesthesia to grasp an experience yet to be had.
Working from a general knowledge basis, I’m guided by intuition and I do a lot of backup research to confirm, eliminate, adjust or improve upon ideas I’m working out. I have a pretty extensive library of herbs, essential oils, salts, & extracts, so I can play and experiment and discover whenever I feel so inclined. It’s like an organic herbal Taco Bell with a basic set of ingredients that can be combined in infinite ways for endless applications.
When I designed the basic look of my labels and branding, I wanted clean and straightforward, simple, non-gender specific, humble and practical… A basic template I could utilize to relatively easily produce more products from and an apothecary-type look that would allow the containers and product to participate as design elements. I utilize text as illustration so the wording serves as further crafting of the product. The essence of my branding concept, no doubt, harkens back to my childhood fascination with generic products. No colors, no clowns no spokespeople nor manipulative decorations, just a simple and honest statement about the contents—“corn”, “rice”, “beer”… Brilliant!
What is your favorite material to work with?
You can’t make me choose, I love them all! But I can also say something uniquely nice about each. Like how much I enjoy weighing out herbs for infusions as they create such a lovely bouquet for eyes and nose to behold, or what a delight it is to blend essential oils as I get a heavenly inhale with each bottle I open. Certain herbs like nettles, calendula and hibiscus or oils like hemp seed or sea buckthorn and clays of various hues will lend color in addition to particular qualities of nourishment to a product. Color is an indicator of nutritional content, but it’s also an angle I enjoy utilizing and flaunting in a design sense as it helps to give a product more character and identity.
How does your personal style influence your brand & products?
We share a modest elegance, tongue-in-cheekiness, a kind of naive sincerity and some quality of refinement with a raw edge.
How has your design process changed since you started?
The idea for the line arrived during meditation. It was just a string of clear impressions including the name among other things. Most of my formulations were born in a similar way. It was a contemplative education time that informed the initial development process. Now it’s a very busy business time of managing, growing and trying to keep up with the momentum that started as such a slow roll not too long ago.
Where do you imagine you’ll take the company next?
There’s been shop talk, but first there must be the prototype FIG+YARROW apothecary. I’d like to open shops in hiply obscure locations in various other cities and countries. It’s important for me to find ways to offer this line to others not just as customers, but participants. Whether it’s through becoming an apothecary artisan at one of the shops or hosting FIG+YARROW spa gatherings, I want to continue providing opportunities for self-empowerment and education through this line. I also have plans for a little non-profit dedicated to providing spa days for women out of prison and rehab.
Who would be a dream collaborator?
I have a number of collaborators in mind for specific projects like travel and shave kits (Peg & Awl), weirdly beautiful short films and photo series (Kim Shively and Nikki Pike)… I recently read an interview in Wilder Quarterly about a sound artist named Mileece whose work highlights plant intelligence and human interconnectedness with plants. I wonder what music my formulations might be making.
And there may be a yet unknown and fascinating project waiting for myself and Nicola Twilly (of Edible Geography, Experiments in Motion, among others). The What, Where, How and Why of which I do not yet know, but we would surely come up with something. I just really enjoy her thinking and work.
What colors and patterns are you drawn to right now?
I have this rug I love; it was gifted to me by a secret agent who married my mother. During his secret agent days, he would ride camels into Middle Eastern deserts to purchase rugs for his collection. This particular one he tells me is a Mushwani Kilim from Islamabad. It has a really nice play of deep primaries and dusty pastels. The central design is a radiant diamond pattern with lots of curious shaped patterned throughout the trim. The most accessible comparison I can make is Pendleton. It’s like Middle Eastern-flavored Pendleton. I really love it. So wish I could wear it!
How did you get started in this field?
When I first began, I was studying contemplative psychology at a Buddhist-inspired university. There I also studied Herbalism with Brigitte Mars and Plant Spirit Medicine with Marlow Brooks. I learned Herbalism basics, raw food, beauty and so many other elevated life-style topics from Brigitte. From Marlow, I learned how to shamanically travel, speak to plant spirits, read bodies and personalities according to our elemental dispositions and treat imbalances with plant spirit medicine.
Also during that time, I was guided to get a part-time job at a place called Moondance Botanicals (still love that name!) where I was given the chance to reacquaint myself with the kind of handcrafted plant-based products I used to make when I was younger. While there I gained a lot of practice and took the initiative to expand upon my knowledge and experience. My imagination and curiosity drove me to plot, research and study (for what would become the FIG+YARROW line) in any spare time I could find. As a final project for my Herbalism class, I created FIG+YARROW. My final Psychology thesis was on psycho-spiritual alchemy which further substantiated my sense that material, mind and spirit are inter-informative (Quod est inferius est sicut quod est superius, et quod est superius est sicut quod est inferius, ad perpetranda miracula rei unius. See Emerald Tablet). As well, my personality is very Mercurial/entrepreneurial, so it all blended nicely and organically to produce this line.
What’s one tip you would give to people getting into this business?
A have a few tips, but the main one concerns integrity and honesty. I encourage anyone wanting to do a similar thing as I to personally acquaint yourself with the materials you’re working with. They have a lot to say and too many people regard the plants and minerals as just ingredients or a means by which to achieve an outcome. Really, there is greater vitality, energy and efficacy in a product made consciously and intentionally.
Who do you see as an innovator in this industry?
I don’t really know anyone in this industry quite as I am, so I pick and choose things I like about other entrepreneurs with similar approaches, ideals, ethics, dispositions, products, proclivities, etc. I’m creating this Frankenstein’s monster role model that is really made of the stuck-together parts of others I appreciate and admire – anyone from Estée Lauder to Ben & Jerry to Woody Allen.