Three St. Louis Artisans on the Rise: Herbal Tea, Embroidery and Jewelry
Each month, Guided: St. Louis showcases three artisans who bring beautiful, innovative products into the world. Below, creative companies RootBerryLeaf, Gulush Threads and FierceLoveSoul give us a peek into what fuels them.
Image courtesy of Jamila Owens-Todd.
Jamila Owens-Todd of RootBerryLeaf
A naturopathic doctor by training, Jamila Owens-Todd creates herbal tea blends that marry ancient herbal wisdom with modern day science. A tasty way to boost health one sip at a time, RootBerryLeaf’s teas feature superfoods like turmeric, ginger and holy basil (also known as tulsi). RootBerryLeaf teas are available at Union Studio, Seedz Provisions, Golden Grocer and through Owens-Todd’s medical practice.
Guided: How did RootBerryLeaf get its start, and where do you hope your business will go?
Blending herbs has been a long-term pasttime of mine. When I started my naturopathic career, I started with making herbal blends for patients. Mixing one or two herbs together was an easy way to introduce herbal medicine. Patients would then consume these herbs as teas and provide their feedback and healing experiences. As time went on, I created more and more herbal combinations based upon a patient’s response. I would then combine this information with my clinical background in order to find the best combinations to eradicate disease. After 10 years of making “therapeutic” herbal blends for conditions such as blood pressure management, thyroid health and reproductive healing, I started to make teas just for sipping. The herbs still hold a therapeutic value—however, they are blended for pure enjoyment.
Blending teas has become my fun activity for the week. I play my favorite music, mix a few herbs for myself to sip on and then I start blending. I plan to continue to make tea blends, and I enjoy finding new combinations. I am constantly exploring how herbs have a flavorful synergy when combined with one another. I would love to continue providing teas to small, artisan shops, as I feel that this is the best fit for now. I am excited for all of the new opportunities to come.
Image courtesy of Kristen Gula.
Kristen Gula of Gulush Threads
A self-taught fiber artist from St. Louis, Kristen Gula has taken her love for hand embroidery to the next level with Gulush Threads. Gula sells sweet-yet-modern floral embroidered hoops through her website and spreads her love of embroidery through workshops, online classes and a book of patterns, “200 Embroidered Flowers: Hand Embroidery, Stitches and Projects for Flowers, Leaves and Foliage.”
Guided: How do you keep your creativity flowing?
The best way to keep my creativity flowing is to keep moving forward and never settle for the now. I am always thinking of the next thing I can accomplish, whether it’s a new design, project, campaign, etc.—because, whether I like it or not, the world won’t stop turning, evolving and moving on. If I’m not too careful, getting comfortable in the now can leave me left behind (and forgotten) in the dust of tomorrow.
By staying this vigilant in my work and in life, I am forced to challenge myself to learn new things, take bold risks and ask those hard, anxiety-ridden questions (thus, by default, learning new platforms and mediums in the process). See, if you are always evolving and growing in your work and process, that creativity switch should stay flipped on, all on its own, with that flow keeping you sustained as a creator. Now, this isn’t to say you should work 24/7 (and thus reach burnout), but instead realize, as a creator, when to continue working on and pursuing the now and when to move on to the next thing and never look back.
Image courtesy of Debra Ware.
Debra Ware of FierceLoveSoul
A regular vendor at St. Louis’ many craft markets and fairs, Debra Ware aims to “spread joy through jewelry made with hands, heart and good intentions.” Often utilizing African trade beads, brass and beadwork in her designs, Ware melds a traditional African aesthetic with modern flare, bringing vibrant creativity to her statement piece earrings, necklaces and bracelets.
Guided: What’s inspiring your designs right now?
My current designs are largely inspired by Adinkra. Created by the Akan people of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, Adinkra are symbols that not only decorate but communicate. Adinkra represent both objects and the philosophy of the Akan people. For example, the popular symbol Sankofa (often illustrated by a bird with its head turned backward), reminds us to learn from the past. I find the layered meanings of Adinkra inspiring, and I’m excited to feature these rich cultural symbols in my designs.
Batik bone made by Ghanaian and Kenyan artisans is also inspiring a lot of my designs. The bone is sterilized, hand carved and dyed with flowers, tree bark and plant extracts, using a lost-wax method that has been handed down from generation to generation. I love using traditional materials to create a modern aesthetic. And by using these materials, I get the added benefit of contributing, in a small way, to the livelihood of the artisans and helping them sustain their culture and traditions.
Cover photo courtesy of Kristen Gula.