Meet the Crafters: Cucamanga
What do you make?
Cucamanga makes botanical skin care products. Wild harvested and organic botanicals are infused into every product. The majority of the harvesting is done in the Canadian boreal forest, on my travels between northern Alberta and Quebec. The vision that I had, and have, for Cucamanga, is to transport you from your apartment/home in an urban environment to the depths of the forest for a moment, all the while supplementing your skin with natural, wild nutrition.
What is your process?
I would say I start, quite literally, at the drawing board. The drawing board doesn’t necessarily need to be at a desk, or even a board. For me it is generally in the woods. I think about botanicals that I would like to work with and that hold significance for me. I enjoy working with botanicals that can be seen as ‘weeds’ in the garden – it’s neat to turn a classical pest into a healing formula. I created my boreal forest line 3 years ago and over that time several best sellers have definitely emerged. If I had to pinpoint one in particular, it would have to be the antioxidant face balm made with fireweed, labrador tea and calendula. I put these botanicals together because they are some of my favorite to work with. I have been using calendula the longest, as I find it very healing for my skin. I collect and dry the botanicals before infusing them into organic sunflower oil which is high in essential fatty acids, and so is also deeply nourishing & moisturizing. From here I decide what other ingredients will be complimentary to the final product that I am looking to achieve.
How long have you been a crafter?
I think have always been a crafter! I attended an arts based high school, and from there attended the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) where I pursued photography. I have always loved working with my hands. (I used to knit during my high school classes). I began selling Cucamanga products 4 years ago and I love it. I especially love communicating with customers and learning how my products are helping their skin.
What is your background/How did you get started?
There was a point when I noticed that I seemed increasingly sensitive to the chemicals in conventional products, and so I began making an effort to look toward more natural solutions. I have always felt connected with nature, and when I combined that connection with my mother’s background in botany and midwifery I was compelled to continue researching ways to use the natural ingredients around us to create products that weren’t always readily available. It was a very cool process in that I felt more invested and reinvigorated with every new thing that I learned.
Before I decided to start sharing Cucamnaga with the public, I played around with the product line, using it myself and gifting products to all of my friends and family for feedback. Cucamanga continues to be a heart opening project for me; however, as Cucamanga grows, it has become more challenging to juggle all of the aspects of small business ownership. While I welcome expansion, it is very important to me that I maintain my connection with both the plants and botanicals I use, and with my customer base as well. There are times I become very attached to my small batches of sweet smelling soaps and oils!
Why do you do what you do?
I do what I do for love of the game, as they say. I love it. I wish that could be everyone’s response to that question. Sometimes I find myself questioning my path, but am quickly swept away once more by the outdoors, or by a sweet scent, and am once again restored. I recently moved out of Montreal to a small village in the Laurentian Mountains. It is easier to ignite my creativity when hiking with my dog, or gazing through the treetops through the valley out here. I definitely inherited my passion for physical and mental nourishment through our own natural surroundings from my mother, and from her mother before. This is an idea that I enjoy sharing with those around me.
When you’re not selling at Crafters markets, where can we find your work?
I have an online shop: www.cucamanga.com, where you can find a link of stockists surrounding mostly the Montreal area. Come visit, its an awesome city 🙂
What makes Halifax Crafters different from other shows?
Though I have yet to vend at Halifax Crafters, I have several friends who have in the past and have heard that it is an awesome event, with many talented artists and a great positive atmosphere. I am really looking forward to experiencing it myself.
What are you excited about seeing at the Winter Market?
I am excited to see new vendors and to buy all their wares! Supporting local artists is important . Last year I was proud to have bought 100% of my gifts from artisans. Each one of us has a role in defeating the corporate system.
What inspires you to create? How do you begin a new project?
Inspiration arrives in this space in many forms. It is always surprising and exciting when it hits. Being outside in the forest has to be my biggest inspiration though. Sometimes it feels like the wind blows through my hair, full of ideas. And a new project breezes into my brain with it. I’ll come home and return immediately to the studio to tackle the new idea, and turn it into a new product!
Where do you do your work?
I have a home-studio, my own special haven, where I get to be surrounded by my products and favourite ingredients. Although the first step of the process begins outdoors, when I come in I get to bask in any number of wild-harvested botanicals.
What kind of music do you listen to while you work?
Recently I have been listening to the cbc radio 1, there is a pretty good spread of shows and genres to keep my listening and interested. If not the cbc, then I like working to electro-chill or classical music. But, if i really feel like i need some motivation I’ll tap into my 13 year old self and listen to the spice girls ;).
A place you love?
Besides being outdoors in the woods, I love my home. It is cozy, and has a great bathtub, and a fireplace. I’ve got a cute dog, Sitka to cuddle with too!
An artwork or artist you love?
Frida Kahlo was my favourite artist. Not only is she a woman, but she was controversial and had a ton of passion. She fought for what she loved, and she traveled and did what she loved. I find that very admirable.
Favourite time of the year?
Do I have to choose? Fall: because of the weather changing and the natural world preparing for hibernation. Spring: because when the snow melts the world once again springs forth. Summer: for obvious reasons, lake jumping, shorts wearing, plant picking. Winter: snow snow snow snow, skis and christmas!
Three things you need in order to create?
This is where things get pretty basic; I need to be well-rested, well-fed, and well-excerised to get the creative juices flowing.
A favourite quote?
Turn all your “I have to’s” into “I get to’s”.
A film or book you love?
The Alchemist by paulo coelho
What’s your favourite way to procrastinate?
Walking in the woods, netflix, talking to my bestie on the telephone, cuddling with Sitka!