BEHIND THE SCENES WITH MARY AHERN OF BOTTEGA ORGANICA
I first introduced you to Bottega Organica when their Nourishing Face Formula was chosen as March 2015’s Hero product. This time, it’s their Illuminate Eye Cream that has me swooning, and I’m thrilled to feature them again as this month’s Hero.
I visited the Bottega Organica shop on Christopher Street on a very cold day in December of 2014, during a whirlwind trip to New York City. I remember stepping off the windy West Village street and entering the store and seeing its reclaimed wood displays of luxurious glass bottles filled with golden oils. As I tested the different products on my hand, I could both see and feel the rich texture of the oils and smell the pure plant aromas of olive, chamomile, cucumber, orange and, my favorite, vanilla. I knew I’d stumbled on something special.
Fast forward to 2016 and their products continue to exude quality and exceptional craftsmanship. So allow me to reintroduce to Mary Ahern, the very wise and intuitive formulator of Bottega Organica’s line.
How do you collaborate with the Bottega Organica Farm in Italy? It seems like a really interesting opportunity to formulate with ingredients grown on the upstate New York farm and blend them with the ingredients farmed in Italy.
All of the olive oil used to create our ingredients is grown and hand harvested on our Ligurian farm in Italy. This allows us to process our primary base ingredient – solar infused olive oil. The farm in Italy is able to grow 400 plants year-round due to the mild climate. In addition to supplementing the smaller harvest in New York, it is the single largest grower of prawn sage worldwide.
What do you think sets the Bottega Organica formulations apart from any other natural beauty product?
The level of science is special as research of this caliber usually goes to pharmaceutical companies. With a growing audience for pure, natural products, we are excited to be working during this time and to be a part of this great movement of natural skincare companies. We share mutual values for the highest quality organic ingredients.
If Bottega Organic clients are in Hudson, is there a shop they can take a closer look at the complete, luxury line?
Yes, we invite anyone to visit our showroom at 6 Warren Street. We are here during the week and all are welcome to stop by. Please contact us to make an appointment.
Where are you based? How long have you been crafting beauty products for Bottega Organica?
I live and work in the Hudson Valley of upstate New York. We have been working in collaboration since the first year Bottega Organica was founded. We have always shared values and appreciation for traditional work methods.
How did you learn the art of formulating?
It was a gradual process of exploring raw materials until I was familiar with their properties, textures, and chemical compositions. From this perspective, I grew to be able to design combination of ingredients to deliver the most effective results.
What’s your workspace like? What inspires you?
Our farm is on 65 acres of land. It is mostly wooded but has a large meadow. My workspace is an apothecary of ingredients that are needed to create. It’s a space dedicated to processing materials and production.
South-facing windows have shelves built into them for solar infusing. The lower portion of the apothecary was built into a hill to control temperature for production, ingredient storage, and processing. The room in the northwest corner is dedicated to drying plant material. It has cross ventilation and no direct sunlight which is optimal for drying.
I am deeply inspired by this space as all of the wood used to build the apothecary was sourced from our land.
When it’s time to create a new product, how do you begin?
I make an initial sketch of the plant material including properties that will contribute to a product goal. Ideally, it’s an ingredient we can grow or wildcraft on our farms, but if there is a compelling ingredient that I need to outsource, I look for a certified organic grower. After I’ve established the ingredient list, I think about the vehicles for the botanicals in tandem with the texture of the final product. In thinking about what would be the best experienced in use, it helps me consider whether a plant should be processed as a hydrosol, solar infused oil, essential oil, or extracted glycerite.
How often do you make a new product? How long does that process take?
I have books of notes for new formulations. New products take form at different points in time so some are simpler and others are more layered combined with knowledge of ingredients with findings from new research.
Do you have a favorite ingredient?
Although our formulas are supported by an array of potent plants, prawn sage continues to amaze me as I work with it and see its effectiveness. Prawn sage used alone or in synergy, it rejuvenates the skin.
Do you have a favorite product in the collection?
The Lemon Cleansing Face Oil is a wonderful sensory experience with the ability to deeply cleanse. The first application binds and removes unwanted elements on the surface of the skin. The second application deep cleanses pores leaving skin glowing.