GROOM: briar winters of marble and milkweed
December is busy and January is reflective. A month built upon strict resolutions, it hinges entirely upon willpower. Willpower being an expendable resource, my own store is often completely depleted at months end.
No matter, for February is a welcome tryst. I’ll remove the monk-like veil of hard-work and abstention I’ve cloaked myself in, and choose instead to don rose-colored glasses and pink mohair sweaters in its place. After the glut of January’s resolution-setting, the second month of the year finds me feeling softer, and I’ll spend my off-time in completely self-indulgent ways, slathering myself in rose and chamomile butter , shopping for lace bralettes rather than work boots, and ordering cranberry-colored effervescent cocktails in the place of my usual Knob Creek neat.
February is my month of self-care marked by excessive moisturization, so of course it is also the best month to feature Briar Rose Winters of Marble and Milkweed. ‘Disarmingly analog,’ her line of personally-blended, small-batch beauty products are integral to my top shelf this month.
A pastry chef by trade, the past three years have led Briar farther and farther away from the adrenaline rushes and sugar highs of kitchens. Instead, her days are now spent in a beloved Brooklyn studio, concocting confections of a more topical type.
“It’s been a goal of mine to prove with my business that you don’t need a whole lot of products to feel like you’re well taken-care of. It’s the ritual of it -- just that feeling of being alone and taking the time to pamper yourself. Beauty means many different things, but most importantly it is about well-being.”
Briar hails from Bellingham, Washington, where growing up amidst an apple orchard and plentiful amounts of bucolic beauty may have proven the initial impetus for a line of natural botanicals. More likely it was was also's Briar's creativity, along with a hefty helping of can-do, want-to-do attitude. That, and a disconnect between her passion for nurturing others and her profession -- making dessert-- are what led her to begin Marble and Milkweed. Initially inspired by a healing soak after a long day spent in the kitchen, the name of her line comes from the moment of clairvoyance she found in that claw foot tub.
“I love desert. I think desert is necessary for the soul. We need sweet, luxurious things. But when it comes to eating it, and making it everyday... I struggled with the idea of over-feeding people sweets for a very long time. Working in restaurants for years and years, there’s no focus on self-care. In a kitchen you rarely get to stop and watch anyone enjoy your work. I was a little fatigued of that scene. I would come home at night and start playing around with the same things I was working with in the kitchen instead. I had no idea where I was going with it. At some point I just knew I wanted to start my own thing.”
Slowly, Briar began pouring more and more of her creative energies into making lip salves late at night, or experimenting with the same teas, oils, and honeys she was using in the kitchen to formulate unique scent stories for her spritzes, serums, and salves. After the launch of an etsy shop, and an intense period of research and soul-searching, Briar’s brand grew ever-so steadily.
“Marble and Milkweed hasn’t been a full-time thing until just last year. It had always been something I did on the side. It took two and a half years, almost three, before it had a real identity and specific voice. Sometimes you’ll see things online and it will seem as though each one just popped up overnight, and maybe some did or have, but my growth was very slow and very organic. It’s grown at a nice pace and given me time to watch and think. I never said, ‘okay, now I’m quitting my day job and making this happen.’”
Briar’s ‘let it be’ attitude towards business development is mirrored in her own beauty routine, which is an un-fettered as one can get. “The core of the Marble and Milkweed line is very basic because that’s how I am. I don’t need something new all the time. But I do have an essential-oil collecting problem. It’s terrible. I go to the store to pick up something new and suddenly I’ll have hundreds of little bottles all around. I keep a big bottle of Dr. Bronners by the bathtub and that’s what we use to wash. I live in an old tenement apartment in Lower East Side and the bathtub is in the Kitchen and that’s where we take baths every night -- it’s a vestige from working in kitchens, where coming home at night you’re always just completely filthy. If there’s a little extra of something left in the studio that I’m working on that’s what I’ll bring home for us to use. I also use a lot of Hydra-Sol oils. They are distilled in my hometown of Bellingham Washington by an old couple who wildcraft a lot of botanicals from the forests of their nearby home. The cedar is my favorite -- it’s a very, very, pure scent. I just pat on few drops of facial serum and a spritz of hydra-sol on my face and then I’ll go to bed. Half the time in the morning I won’t even wash my face when I get up. Sometimes I will though, and when I do, I will wash my face with honey. We have a beekeeper in our neighborhood and their bees make a fantastic creamed honey. I use it as a facial scrub -- the sugar crystals are a wonderful natural exfoliant.
I asked Briar a final humdinger of a question at the end of our chat. As a tomboy who only rotates between four diffferent men’s colognes -- never women’s perfumes -- I was curious as to what her opinions were on scent.
“Coco Chanel said ‘a woman who doesn’t wear perfume has no future.’ Do you believe that to be true?" “Oh my, that’s very absolute isn’t it?” “Well, she seemed to be a pretty absolute woman,” I answered. “Yes, I suppose she was wasn’t she,” Briar said, then paused to think before responding.
“Oh gosh, You see, I’m very much of two minds when it comes to something like that. Part of what draws me to natural fragrance and botanical fragrances are that they’re actually alive, they’re something that will interact differently with our own unique body chemistries. Chanel lived in a time when perfume was just beginning to become synthetic, and, as they began making more scents in labs, perfume began to be much more accessible to many more people than it once was before. I love scent, it has such an ability to bring us back to a certain sense of place or memory that nothing else can. Yet there are times when I don’t want to wear any scent at all. For example, it’s really distracting when you’re working in the kitchen. Yet I suppose there are moments for scent and moments for no scent. That Chanel quote also reminds me of another, the one from Napoleon in the letter he sent to Josephine. As humans, scent is an important way of how we relate to each other.”