September 08, 2021 MAKER SERIES
Maker Series – Aviva Tilson
When we think of creative curiosity, dedication to craft, and a love letter to the Hudson Valley, Aviva Tilson and her work for Apis Apotheca come to mind immediately. We recently had the opportunity to spend a day with Aviva on her farm learning more about her herbal practice and surrounding ourselves in the same flowers and herbs Aviva calls home. Whether harvesting calendula for her Golden Milk Cleansing Balm, gathering ripe tomatoes from the garden to make a farm lunch, or digging up ashwagandha roots to send us home with, Aviva’s generosity and gratitude for our shared Earth knows no bounds, and we’re excited to share them with you here on the journal.
By Autumn Jordan
What is your name + what do you make?
My name is Aviva Tilson, and I have a medicinal herb farm where I grow plants to use in my super fresh, vibrant skincare products.
How was Apis Apotheca conceived?
Apis Apotheca is the love child of my lifelong fascination with skincare, and my body and soul's need to work with plants in my daily life. I took the dots of my three great loves—herbalism, skincare, and farming—and connected them in a way that I felt could benefit my ecosystem and help heal other people.
When did you start practicing herbalism, and how has it evolved?
I began dabbling in herbalism when I was still working on other people's biodynamic farms full time, finding myself more interested in the weeds we were pulling out of the vegetable beds than the veggies themselves. That lit a spark that carried me back to school to study herbalism full time for a year, after which I started my own herb farm and evolved into formulating skincare with the plants. I will always be a student however, what is so exciting about plants is they have an endless reservoir of lessons to teach and knowledge to share.
What does a day in the studio look like for you?
A typical day here is a blend of inside and outside work. Some days start inside batching and blending products from scratch in the studio, and then move outside to plant, water, harvest, or weed in the garden depending on the time of year and the weather. Some days when I am distilling hydrosols in my copper alembic, I will wait for the dew to evaporate from the flowers and leaves, and then go harvest and immediately distill them for plant waters that practically vibrate with life. I love that this work has a natural flow that connects me to the garden, and by extension the products and anyone who uses them. The plants capture energy from the sun and rain and soil and gift it to us in different forms, and my daily work revolves around what is happening outside and how I harness that energy to preserve the freshness of the plants for truly vibrant skincare.
At MINNA we believe in creating beautiful, ethically made products and using business to do good – how do these concepts relate to your work or inspire you?
My entire business exists because I wanted to create a better path for self care—one that isn't greenwashed using corporate-hijacked epithets of 'sustainability'—but something that is born from a deep center of compassion with an unwavering mission to benefit every creature involved in the process that it takes to end up with the nice product in the pretty box. My training as a farmer helped me understand what the cycle of life really is, and how to work with it as the basis for my business. The garden is a wild haven for millions of pollinators and worms and a jungle gym for dozens of bird species. The process of raising and caring for the garden feeds me both physically and spiritually. All plant waste from the garden and studio gets composted and feeds trillions of microorganisms that make it into beautiful new soil that can go back onto the garden. This is what full circle and zero waste is, and it is not easy. But it is worth it and the beauty of it all benefits so much more than our skin (which of course also benefits greatly).
What does “home” mean to you? How do your ideas of home weave their way into your studio?
Home, to me, is a place I feel calm and safe enough to dream and be inspired. The concept of home is also inseparable from that of the garden for me, since they both feed me in ways that nothing else does. I love letting the seasons express themselves inside the house with different foraged bouquets, and there are always upside down herb bundles drying on at least one wall wherever I live, and baskets filled with half processed plants strewn here and there—so the outside is very much a part of the inside for me once it is warm enough to be outside, and I am lucky that that is something I also find aesthetically very beautiful. A bit messy, but beautiful.
When you’re not in the studio, how do you like to spend your time?
When I'm not working with plants, I am probably making music (I'm a singer/bassist/violinist) with my bandmates or researching an historical novel that I'm attempting to write about the diverse pre-allopathic medical landscape that used to exist in the americas prior to the turn of the last century. :)
Where can we find your work?
Photography + Video by Autumn Jordan