Artist Interview: Kristina of Mother Mountain Herbals

     Mother Mountain Herbals immediately caught my eye when I saw some of their products tagged on instagram. As I do I took a look at their feed and fell in love. The packaging is reminiscent of the iconic 60's embroidery patches which I love. Kristina runs MMH and makes herbal wellness products as well as handmade tea blends. While I am admittedly a coffee over tea kind of girl I am always drawn to the beauty and ritual of tea ceremonies. I love looking at photographs of tea blends as they look so beautiful. As soon as I saw the maiden earl grey tea blend I knew I wanted to try it. I do prefer black teas, caffeinated teas, and with the edition of jasmine buds, roses and lavender I knew this was to be a heavenly blend. Add a spoonful of honey and a splash of milk and you are in for a treat. This is my new favorite tea! I recently had a chat with Kristina, and this is our conversation below. 

Hi Kristina! As soon as I saw your packaging on instagram, I fell in love. your dyed bags reminded me of my own and I knew we had a similar vibe. I am so happy I could try your products! I keep your sage and salt spray on my work desk and I sprayed it right before a really important meeting last week!

Thank you so much, Ally! That's exactly why I do what I do, to help people integrate plant magic into everyday life!  

How did you get started? You sell both teas and healing herbal products which came first or did you make both from the conception of your brand?

I first got started years ago after I moved from the Arizona desert to Los Angeles. I was living in a gigantic concrete wasteland there and on a career path that was no longer serving me. I longed for a deeper connection to nature and to be aligned with a more natural way of living. Life in LA just wasn’t for me. Whenever I had free time, I roamed the hills and beaches wondering what uses all the magnificent plants I came across had. I started carrying field guides and read Susun Weed's "Healing Wise". That was the book that ignited a fire that could not be extinguished. I started making all sorts of plant potions for myself and friends. I moved from LA to the rolling green hills and forests of Southeastern Ohio. This greatly deepened my connection to the plant world as I was living in an extremely rural area and had daily connections with the very plants that enlivened me. It wasn't until years later that I realized I could actually make a living doing what I loved. I moved to the Asheville area and everything sort of just fell into place. I got hired as house herbalist at a coffee shop/bar here. I made teas for the coffee shop and herbal elixirs for the bar upstairs. Shortly after that Mother Mountain Herbals was born!

What inspired your logo and packaging? I love it so much it feels very mushroomy, 1960s sunshine rainbow embroidered patches on my bellbottoms vibe! 

You definitely picked up on my vibe! I have a passion for all things 60’s-70’s, especially music and artwork. I've always really admired the Fillmore poster artists from that era and the artists that inspired them. I also attained inspiration from Ram Dass's "From Bindu to Ojas" and believe it or not, Mollie Katzen's books "The Enchanted Broccoli Forest" and the "Moosewood Cookbook". Aside from all that- one of the most important things I wanted to convey in the aesthetic of Mother Mountain Herbals is FUN. Plants dance in the breeze, turn their faces to the sunshine, and are overall really joyful beings- they want us to be too! Herbalism oftentimes takes on this very serious mystical tone. While I definitely wanted to incorporate a little bit of that into my products, I also wanted to express the cheerful magic too. I think plants would like us to remember to laugh and be silly and not so serious all the time. 

What are your favorite herbs to work with? What are some of the local herbs that grow in your area? Do you incorporate any of these into your products?

Oh jeez, there are too many! I couldn't possibly pick favorites. In the recent years I have worked very intimately with Mugwort, Nettle, Elder, Skullcap, Chickweed, and Motherwort. This year I had the joy of meeting Mimosa and one of our native hypericums, Spotted St. John's Wort. I also came across a big patch of mature American Ginseng in the forest, which I only admired and did not harvest. Coming across an endangered plant thriving in the wild makes my heart sing!
I do incorporate some of my wildcrafting into the products when I can and if it's sustainably viable. Some herbs I use way too much of and wouldn’t want to over-harvest. In those cases I feel better using something that has been cultivated. I do plan on growing more of my own herbs in the coming year though! I'm pretty excited about that.

I know you recently got your products in urban outfitters! How do you feel about this natural beauty revolution that is happening?

I think it's absolutely fabulous! I would like natural beauty to be the new standard. I think we could all use a little less toxin exposure in our lives. I'm also honored to be working with Urban Outfitters. They are the only corporate chain that I feel good about supporting. They help out and support the little guys, like me. 

How do you come up with your blends and do you see tea time as a ritual?

I love the idea of setting an altar and having a "real" tea ritual- but I don't do that very often. To me, no matter what, it is always a special occasion when you are pouring water over the plants, watching the steam (spirit) rise, and then drinking this precious thing that lived an existence completely in tune with the seasons and elements. Plants don't require us to perform rituals for them. Their love is intrinsically present in our everyday lives without requiring anything more than a simple "thank you", and I am grateful for that. That is pure love. And it's one reason why I believe it is so important that we honor them with that "thank you" whenever we harvest, take tea, or any other herbal preparation. I believe they have a consciousness, just like any other living thing on Earth. Just because humans don't understand or relate to that consciousness doesn't mean it's not there. 
I come up with blends that I think people would like to consume on a day to day basis. As much as I appreciate a bitter tea for something like digestion, it's important to me that they taste good so they're pleasant for everyone to drink, including people who might not be familiar with medicinal herbs. But I also want them to be effective, so it's a delicate balance. 

Are there any other healing practices you take part in besides herbalism? Are these what led you to begin making your line?

There are lots of different things I do to care for myself and heal. Many are unconventional and not typically what people would consider “healing practices”, but I don't think healing necessarily follows a blueprint. Whatever is health-promoting and makes us feel good from day to day is a great way to heal. My daily self-care practices range anywhere from forest bathing and tarot cards to blasting hip hop and awkwardly dancing around my house. I’ve even considered taking hip hop dance classes! Simply because it’s something fun and completely out of my element. There are no rules! It all comes back to letting go of seriousness. Seriousness of who we think we are or who we think we should be. It’s a practice in my life. I think humans would find it much easier to heal if we let go of those ideas.
The biggest reason I created MMH is because I want this movement of products that are healthy for humans and the planet to keep expanding. This isn't just a trend- it's a way of living. People are waking up and they care enough to make a difference. We can help heal each other and we can definitely help each other heal the Earth too. 

Did you study herbalism? Do you feel like its all an instinctual practice, something you must study in depth or somewhat of a combination? 

I studied herbalism (and still study) on my own terms. I never went to school because I couldn't afford to take time away from work. A few years ago I was very close to signing up for an apprenticeship with Susun Weed, but it didn't work out. I've taken lots of workshops and I tend to be pretty obsessive when it comes to absorbing information from books and the internet. Herbalism consists of lifetimes of knowledge. To be an herbalist is to be in a constant state of learning. 
I think herbalism can be somewhat instinctual, even though I'm the type of person that needs information about herbs before I use them. There have been times when the name of a plant pops into my head, I feel called to read about it, and then discover it totally aligns with something I've been needing. There have also been times when I would read about a plant and then a few days later I serendipitously stumble across it outdoors without even looking for it. They're magical little beings like that!

What is your zodiac sign? I never ask this but it's something I am always wondering. I find that a lot of us are aquarians!

AQUARIUS! Yeah! With a Gemini moon and Aries rising. Aside from my general spaciness and sometimes frustrating ADD issues, I love being Aquarian, don’t you?  (yes i do!)

Do you have any exciting new projects in the works? Is it secret or is there anything you can let us in on?

Yes! I'm always thinking about and formulating new products behind the scenes. But there is one extra special thing that I've set as a goal to start working on this year. I want to write a book! A hand-written, hand-illustrated book. I won't reveal exactly what it will be about, that will have to remain a secret. I've had a lot people ask me to host workshops, but I hate public speaking. I refuse to do it and have no desire to get over my "fear". I really think I just wasn't cut from the public speaker cloth- and I’m totally fine with that. So I thought the next best way to share information would be a book, of course!