Just a quick note on what "wildcrafting" is to Barnaby Black. Only because people ask me & when i'm doing demonstrations or talks about my craft or setting up a booth at a craft fair, it is my designated mantra, my on-going, ever evolving speech & it is something I am happy to talk about.
For me wild crafting is a ritual. Its a study of myself & what it means to be part of the natural world. In a nutshell, it means I go into the wilderness, whether it be the grand wilds of America or the local ones in my backyard & I get dirty. I harvest plants & trees that go into my products & I take them back to my workshop where I extract their aromatic properties using old world, perfuming techniques. I immerse myself into the world I love & when I come out on the other side I may not always be clean but I am alive with the knowledge of nature.
I am following a road paved by ancient civilizations. The Egyptians would stuff the bodies of the dead with flowers & the most prized perfume elixirs came from their culture. I am only taking an ancient technique, an industry that has been advanced by technology & chemistry, that has been developed & pushed to the edges of its craft already, & I am using this as a vessel. I do not consider my self an innovator of any course. I do not think for any moment, that my craft, that of wild foraged aromatics, is something fresh, something that no one else is doing. In fact I am humble in the fact that if anything I am starting back at the beginning of a craft, an industry, that has already created itself & truly has reached a pinnacle in technology. This is not to say, that starting at the beginning is a bad thing because at the end of a long day, I can say that I started from scratch, learned myself up the ladder of knowledge from the ground up & have taken in a craft that almost every human on the planet appreciates. Starting at the beginning has always been my thing. Starting with the basic elements, the basic human instincts & connections.
I often struggle with the whole underlying life that a brand takes on even when you are not looking. There is something lurking there that has nothing to do with "the craft" & has all to do with some social conscious that will one day, hopefully pay the bills. There are so many products out there & so many may not be what they say they are. So how do I make my products speak to the people when they are lost amongst the shelves a local retailer? How does my product, the real deal, Holyfield, a product not hiding behind good word smithing, stand out? This is a constant phantom that sometimes keeps me up at night, sometimes it haunts my days, it drives me more often than not & yet, sometimes it cripples me. There has been many a dark hour where I was ready to close the doors to my workshop forever. Nonetheless the most important thing I personally possess, & something that if you want to be a successful business owner you have to have, is grit. That unrelenting motivation that drives you through the hardest of downpours, the toughest of storms, the darkest of night & the lowest of lows. Grit is the thing that separates you from the ocean of other, sometimes wonderful, sometimes crap, brands that want to do the same thing you do. Grit is what you will wash off your hands after a long day, when all the others have gone to sleep.
Crafting wild foraged aromatics & making a plethora of products is all about the story. Its about the treks into the wilderness, the excursions into the unknown & the harrowing details of being alone in the forests across the American landscape. It is also about the plants & trees that I collect out there & the amazingly, rich history of botany & the weird, wonder of the flora kingdom. Its about the conservation & preservation of our planet and all its wildlife & to me that is the biggest story - the appendix of hard bound books, 1500 pages each of why this important. Anyone can make liquid soap, bottle it & get it onto the shelves of stores but its what that bottle does on the shelf once its there that matters. In a sea of products out there, how does my story resonate? How does the "wildcrafting" label really make people understand what it is I am trying to do?
Wildcrafting to me isn't just a word on my bottles. I don't buy ingredients to use that I don't know their origins. I don't make my products to fit some cultural status & I don't really concern the brand with trending. I have never let go of the love I have for nature which is why I started doing this thing in the first place. I have never replaced my need to connect with the wilderness for the need of making money & I never will. Wildcrafting to Barnaby Black means getting dirty. Trekking through the cedar swamps to make Dark Woods Cedar. Trudging through huckleberry thicket & braving the gazillion ticks that infest the Long Island wilderness. Never ceasing to find some new plant that has some universally immense aroma. In the end, wildcrafting is grit.
Our single plant studies are love songs, pure, unfiltered, admiration, of one species of plant or tree. One plant with so many scent notes in its catalog, balanced by millions of years of evolution...
Traditions run deep. They swirl around in our collective imaginations and bring us to that cherished, nostalgic place. I wonder though, if these heirloom notions and warm traditions have become a burden on the environment.
Breath it in. Really look into it. Those pines. Now look at the nuances. Look at the smaller things - the post & chestnut oak, the pepper bush and fragrant bayberry, laurel & huckleberry, then even smaller - the viney greenbriar, cranberry, summer grape and the sweet fern. Even deeper, under the leaves of that underbrush, deeper to the forest floor, hiding under the shade of gorgeous blackberry and sassafras, the rare pink lady slipper orchid, the mosses and cinnamon fern, the tiniest of violets and British red coats.