Q & A :
Welcome to our Spotlight, Evan. The buzz over at our anb forum is that you have some pretty exceptional products. You are a truly, passionate (and gifted) formulator. Give us an idea of how you come up with a formula, from start to finish.
Thank you so much, Sharon! This is a big question, so I'll start with the essence of it here. The entire activity of a product's research, formulation and handcrafting is defined and guided by an intention. I decide upon the results. And throughout, any thoughts and decisions are determined by and consistent with that intention.
The first thing to say about that is what does not come into play. It can happen that concerns for costs can knock at the backdoor of the formulator's mind, urging compromise with what he or she knows to be best. But compromising in the matter of quality or messing with goals undermines any high purpose activity. It reduces or blocks results so it has no just place in a formulator's decisions. A company president may worry and stress about every penny spent, but this is not the concern of a formulator. At Evan's Garden, the Formulation Queen and Purse Strings Dictator happen to reside in the same body :-) so I alternate between joy over formulating and freaking out about the money for it!
The other point is a technical one - I don't take as gospel what other researchers are doing. While I do study extensively in the field to learn from others, I always square this around with my own observations and experience, apply my own testing methods and so forth. I find that to do this right you have to be able to think WITHIN generally accepted concepts and then also be able to step OUTSIDE of conventional thinking. As you go back and forth, shifting your viewpoint, re-sorting and weighing relative importance's of data, you may come up with answers that work better. Observation and intuition have a lot to do with my formulation process. It's not a rote activity.
As parts of nature, we respond to natural substances. Drugs and other such chemicals force our bodies into various conditions and we react to them. I love to use herbs, and essential oils and hydrosols are also essences that capture a plant's complex and unique portrait. Since I have experience with helping people using whole, ripened, healthy plants, my formulations tend to use these.
We get all whipped up about a newly discovered substance and forget that that substance exists and functions in harmony and balance with all the other chemicals in the plant it was taken from. Remember the punch line of that Parkay (I think) margarine ad: "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature!" I chuckled over that as much as anyone, but now it seems pathetically dumb to attempt to subvert, thwart, ignore or sidestep what's natural. The plant has worked out its blueprint for survival through millennia of trial and error. It is still here; it has won in a brutally decisive environment called Nature. We should learn from that.
Another intention I have is to find synergies that work with the body rather than shock it into line. Response rather than resistance and submission, encouragement rather than force. This parallels life situations: I prefer someone to suggest to me lightly if I have gone off track and leave me to make the adjustments. Just so, in healing, I feel that the gentler approaches have in fact the most profound effects.
Your company, Evan's Garden, offers both all-natural beauty as well as all-natural health products. How did you first get involved with making your products, and how did your interest in these fields begin?
I got really interested in natural health and healing after college. I had been into gourmet cooking and the usual pizza, Coke and ice cream diet of my generation.
Remember those 1950-60's 10-minute or so TV science documentaries (also movie shorts and newsreels), marvels of PR and brain-washing, where men in white lab suits authoritatively touted the wonders of modern science in bringing us Sterility and Convenience? In the fifties, especially, we were indoctrinated into considering modern science as a quasi-religion. It is understandable, a generation after people had dropped like flies from influenza and other diseases and with hunger and want so common throughout history. So we learned that processed foods were better, added vitamins were blessings, preservatives something to be inordinately thankful for. Convenience, Shelf Life, Flavor and let's not forget what it's all about...more TV and Leisure Time! :-) We bought disposable everything; the existence of a B.P. world (before plastic) was unthinkable. We now recognize that in all this, we were abandoning natural methods and lifestyles.
Around the late 60's, somebody backtracked to the whole plant and the soil it grew in. Eating more naturally became a new fascination, or, as most saw it, a perversion cultivated by a few weirdos. I felt the tug of reason and nature. To "learn" what was so obvious but had been obfuscated (hidden), that foods were actually better for you unprocessed, raw, fresh and whole, even though they might rot sooner, was a revelation. Eating whole grain bread gave an odd, complex taste sensation and made us feel like realistic peasants faithful to the land. We felt pure and more alive, less dependent upon Science and more connected. And we discovered...you've got to chew!
The people whom you encountered at these little stores were themselves inspiring & carrying their own containers for the bulk foods and sharing stuff like books, knowledge, recipes and songs. What is so good about all this is that it includes being responsible for health and a better world in the future.
I gradually gained herbal and other healing knowledge; it was a leisurely path. I started to read and collect books about diet and healing methods. In the 1970's I recovered from prolonged bronchitis at the hands of an Applied Kinesiologist and learned that technology. (Applied Kinesiology uses something called "muscle-testing," to help show if something is good for you or not, or detect allergies and so on.) While we lived in Oregon in the 80's, I began a bit of formulation and kept on learning. Moving ahead here by decades, in the 90's I learned about herbal tinctures and infusions, a raw foods diet, poultices, that sort of thing. The new millennium led to aromatherapy, hydrosols and various essences such as of flowers and falling leaves...to mention some of the new interesting things. Most recently, I have been studying Chinese Herbal Medicine and the healing plants and methods of various native peoples. I am most excited about the evolution of medicine toward healing via wavelengths and energy field manipulation. I've always felt that we'd end up there as this seems like the correct place. I feel that healing takes place spiritually and manifests physically at this level.
A turning point in terms of avocation came in the late 90's when my husband, Kevin, and I worked in the field of herbal cleansing and raw foods diet. We studied the works of Master Herbalist Dr. John Christopher, originator of the well-known 'Incurables Program.' Dr. Christopher's work was so inspiring and his case histories were nothing short of astounding - his patients were healed of every imaginable situation through herbs, cleansing, improved diet and lifestyle changes - no drugs.
One day about 5 years ago, I was looking for a product to handle a very intense (and expensive!) dental situation I had. I went to my local health food store and searched online and could not find any product that contained an ingredient that Dr. Christopher said was THE thing to handle this type of problem. So I decided to make my own formulation. I ended up creating a Tooth & Gum Powder that saved me from about $3000 in dental surgery. I shared it with friends and family and they had terrific results.
My complexion needed to revive, so I made The Perfect Rose, a serum. This really was a wow; my friends were demanding it. I next made something that was kicking around in the back of my mind, a healing salve called All Better, Honey. It handled quickly whatever it was used for and my friends began showing up asking me for this or that, something for athlete's foot, a deodorant, something for backaches... a local chiropractor sent over a patient with a flaming sunburn for me to create her a remedy...I got the message...do this! Our business was formed.
What type of standards does your company adhere to when creating and manufacturing it's products?
In addition to all the usual ones concerning cleanliness, proper labeling, licensing of the facility, etc., I have my own standards I follow. I wash down the area and implements in purified water and selected essential oils, for instance. I store my ingredients in special ways that keep them in their optimum condition. I only use the highest quality, safest ingredients. Also, I create or decide upon the tone or atmosphere of the handcrafting environment. If I am bummed out over something, I don't make any batches or formulations until whatever's going on is resolved. And I focus on the intended results as I make batches.
As to ingredients, well - there are a ton of ingredients that are supposedly 'okay' in the industry that are really horrible and are in fact not okay. You can read about such things all over the internet - things like sodium laurel sulfate - the foaming agent in many products like soaps, shampoos, toothpastes. This ingredient can cause canker sores when used in toothpastes, damage the corneal development of children, cause urinary tract infections when used in bubble baths, roughs up our skin, etc. Why follow an industry standard that is actually harmful?? Just because 98% of companies are doing something does not make it right.
Which of your products are you the most proud of, and which ones are the most popular with your customers?
I don't know if I can answer this one. I have put total intention and focus on the best possible creation, have relied upon knowledge as well as feelings and other more inexplicable perceptics to make every single product. I don't have a favorite in that sense because each is rather like a child I've given birth to. I get very excited about them and rave. This is because for years I was dissatisfied and searching, too.
It's really hard for me to pick favorites...gosh. Well, let's see. I adore the perfumes. Oooooh. And making perfumes from natural essences feels like you've been invited to a fairy party...as if you're privy to and subject to the exclusive, private blessings of each plant. It's hard to explain but that's a try.
I am especially proud of All Better, Honey as it has worked on everything it's been applied for and I turned to intuition later confirmed by study to make it.
When I first used Natural Silk (Antioxidant Body Treatment Cream) and felt its nutrition sinking deep into the skin of my arms and legs, I realized that I had not before felt anything like it. My body felt like a kid who has gotten a long hoped-for gift.
I love Herpules, Lip Hero! because cold sores are so embarrassingly ugly. Also I found an ingredient's application by realizing it...no other intervention of logic or study was involved. It proved true, which is testimony to the more esoteric abilities that we all have.
Every single skin care item was made to renovate my own, frankly. The ole pelt was aging and I wanted my younger skin back. :-) I am so pleased that DreamSoap came out not drying at all and rinsing all the way off. La Créme de la Créme ended up just as I'd hoped...I don't at all like goopy creams, I just wanted results and not to have to feel it on my skin. Rose Bouquet masque was a particular pleasure as it reminded me of concocting rich food recipes like Thanksgiving stuffing...wo, everything in it and yumm!! Ma Jeunesse is a wild banquet for the skin, regenerative to the max and I'm hooked. I suppose all the Skin Perfection System products are favorites. Our customers are devoted to them. If I have orders to satisfy and haven't been able to make a new batch yet, I get calls and emails, so I've learned to make fresh batches before what we've got is used up.
Okay, another is SuperImmune Boost Tonic. I love the flavor and often only one sip is all it takes.
My schedule and not the most perfect diet these days ends me up with some wicked leg cramps, so I keep always ready a little bottle of CrampBetter Oil for Legs - works so fast.
I love LiverPure tea and have to watch that I don't overdo and drink it more than what I need.
Can't leave out that I passionately love to soak in Sea Baths. The salts leave me feeling just like I've soaked in the ocean but better because of the essential oils. I sleep like a log.
And Astonishing. I use it for everything, floors, dishwasher, laundry.... And it smells mmmmm.
The mineral makeup is getting great reviews, which is a gas as it took me, sheeez, too long in formulation with lots of trial and error. I still want to see if I can make make-up out of foods, but so far staining is a problem.
Our customers are like me generally; they love most or all of the products they try. We do have some people, very few, who are just not into skin care of any kind, but rave about Certainty deodorant or Tooth and Gum Powder or whatever. Most popular with customers would be the Ma Jeunessé™(means 'my youth' in French) Youth in a Jar™, the Skin Perfection System products (DreamSoap™Facial Cleanser, Velvet™Nourishing Facial Scrub, Rose Bouquet™Gentle Anti-oxidant Facial Masque, Skin Perfection Mist™, La Créme de la Créme™Lotion for Beautiful Skin and The Perfect Rose™Refining facial Serum - whew, longer names than I realized!), the Clarity System (for very oily or acneic skin) - Tooth & Gum Powder and Rinse, Natural Silk™, All Better, Honey™, the make-up: Foundation Powder and Creams, Shea Butter Cheek Tint, Rouge Powders and Eye Colors, SuperImmune Boost™, what else, perfumes, deodorants, body wash are very popular, too.
It's very happy-making to hear from parents that their babies have gotten calmer and happier after they used the baby products on them. I love helping solve people's problems and to know it's safe for them.
What advice would you give someone that is just starting, or thinking about starting an all-natural beauty business?
Know why you are doing this, what good you want to do in the world, how you want to help people. Make sure that you are having fun, that working in this field is fun for you. Put people and purpose above profit, then arrange things so that you profit simply because people are winning with your products. Never compromise your standards. And be willing to say no, even to customers, if taking their money violates your integrity in any way. You cannot please 100% of any population - not everyone is appreciative, not everyone cares about health, so you've got to let some go and just serve well the people who want what you have to offer.
Realize that business is not always predictable, so expect to be surprised and to keep learning. There are no manuals that can prepare you for its every eventuality. You've got to demand the right decisions of yourself but be patient and not freak out when you make a wrong one. Learn and move on. Lastly, don't relinquish power of decision to anyone in order to get funding. It's your vision and as such deserves protection from alteration.
I would like to see companies where ethical products are made express more appreciation of one another. When we share goals with others, it makes sense to align with them or at least not get in the way. We assume perhaps that competition is a given and unavoidable fact of business life. Competition is an attitude that in business make sense to only a point. But competition is not a spiritual leaning and this is at the crux of my message. It is borne sheerly out of physical demands and concepts of scarcity and as such is a relatively depraved feeling worth surmounting. When a company, as an individual, is too self-concerned, he misses the larger scene and deprives himself of the pleasures of seeing others win and maybe even of winning himself.
It's important to recognize teammates in any game we play, as much as it is important to accurately identify the opposition. It seems that I witness too often one company getting up in arms, all riled up about how another (that is in truth close to it in quality and sincerity) is or is not doing this or that. Such quibbling draws attention away from what is important, getting on with the broader goals. I've seen these attitudes too often in any field I've been in, be it music performance, running a private school, all of them. In a world so full of actual enemies, greed and lies, the good guys ought to pat each other on the back and share the field. The broader sphere in this case is the safe future of the human race and of the planet and all its life. The people who keep their sights on higher purposes and goals rather than the extinction of competition have enough free spirit left over, with all the day's jostling around, to have fun at it. Hope that makes sense.
What changes have you seen in the consumers of beauty products since you opened your business? and... What changes would you like to see happen in the all-natural beauty?
A great surge in awareness and demand! When we first started almost 5 years ago, it was often a battle to educate people that there was something amiss in all the chemical-laden products they were using. I would do a half hour presentation just on toxic ingredients in personal care products before the lights would go on. Nowadays, many more people know about this issue and are seeking a change. A very refreshing trend!
We'd like to see a massive exposéof the issue of toxic ingredients in mainstream media, to reach those millions who are still relatively in the dark about all this. Unfortunately, that is not likely to happen since mainstream media are owned or at least heavily influenced by the big players in the industry, companies with, shall I say, less than people's best interests in mind.
Besides being a creative force with your products, you are also a creative musician. Please share with us what you've done with this talent, and what your future plans are.
I've been composing since I was a baby (in my mind - I for some strange reason recall life from infancy) and on the piano since I was 3 years old. My dad would write down my work before I knew how to do that myself. I've written probably a hundred or so compositions. I revolt against having always to describe a style, since to me this sets up expectations that may intervene between the music and the listener. That said, I've written mostly classical pieces, for piano or small ensembles (for example, piano, clarinet, oboe, cello, violin). I love to write songs, too, and they tend to be in whatever style fits, be that jazz, folk, rock, whatever, and I've also done a bunch of children's music. A CD of music is on the horizon - I've composed music for three so far and need now to complete them.
I'm working on a book of essays, too, and have more sculptures and paintings to do, although my favorite media are music and writing. I plan to go into these much more in the near future as Evan's Garden grows to support these activities. How sweet of you to ask me about this, Sharon!
One last thing I'd like to share with your readers: People tend to minimize their abilities. This is a dangerous habit. Despite daunting social scorn, allowing yourself to acknowledge your own abilities is a sane and beneficial attitude to take. Some people prohibit themselves from this.
It's notable that when someone is put to the test, when a skill is required to save others' lives, for example, under dire necessity, we come forth with ability. It's there. It is there anyway and all the time, I feel.
Acknowledging your own skills and powers is about the most valuable thing you can do for yourself and the world. You can make a difference just by speaking with a strong, clear voice backed by your own intention to help. I encourage you to follow your dreams, to cast off discouragements, to ignore anyone telling you to be 'practical' or to 'get a real job' or who laughs at or belittles your goals, especially your artistic or creative ones.
The world needs you, now more than ever in history. Humanity has acquired the technical means to destroy itself much faster than it has acquired any wisdom to prevent such a catastrophe. It's time we all got very wise, very generous, very fast - and you, not politicians or armies - can help lead the way to a better world. Thanks so much for this interview, Sharon! I have never had this opportunity before and I hope I have not blabbed on too much. I would like to add that you are one of the most generous and creative people I've known and all you do is testimony to that.
Make sure to visit Evan's web site: