We want to introduce you to the wonderful Victorian-inspired apothecary and perfumer Willow & Birch Apothecary and its Victorian-loving owner Anna Krusinski, who spends much of her time concocting magical potions:
which results in beautifulness like this:
Aren’t those lovely? We can practically smell all that herbal floral goodness. We recently asked Anna a few questions about her process so that we can pretend that we too spend our days testing secret potions and being generally romantical and science-y:
Can you introduce yourself to our readers?
My name is Anna, I’m the owner of Willow & Birch Apothecary, my line of Victorian-inspired beauty products and fragrances.
What draws you to the Victorian period?
What I love most about the Victorian period is how everything was designed for both beauty and function. Even the most mundane items were also made to be aesthetically appealing and enjoyable to use. I love bringing that into my own life…it makes everyday tasks feel special and beautiful! For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by the Victorian era. My grandpa was an antiques dealer and my mom would always bring us kids to antique shops and thrift stores, so I suppose it was ingrained in me to love old things! I first fell in love with the Victorian period as a little girl through the American Girls children’s books featuring the character Samatha, who lived during the Victorian era. I remember being transfixed by the beauty of that time period, and I absolutely fell in love with that wonderful feeling of exploring the past. I’ve carried that same love with me into adulthood, and it’s what inspired me to bring Victorian influences into my brand.
What is your process for concocting perfumes and apothecary items?
It begins with brainstorming, which often happens in the background of my other thoughts. I’ll ruminate on an idea for awhile until it rises to the surface and then I just have to start experimenting, so I get to work on researching recipes and processes that others have used, both past and present. I do lots and lots of trial and error until I finally come to a finished product that is exactly what I had in mind. I’m a perfectionist, so sometimes that process can take a long time. For example, it took me well over a year to create my “Signature Scents” essential oil blends! It’s a labor of love, but all of that time and work is worth it to be able to create exactly what I dreamt up!
Do you work from historical recipes, etc?
I’m inspired by historical recipes and I always love learning about the beauty products Victorian women used. The fun is in capturing that inspiration and translating it into modern-day items for my own unique creations!
Is there a bit of Victorian advice you might share with our readers?
I love this quote from William Morris from 1882, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” This perfectly encapsulates what I love most about the Victorians, and I just think it’s such a lovely way to live. Although I tend to go one step further and seek to fill my home with items that are both useful and beautiful. It adds such a richness and depth to our everyday lives that can keep us grounded to fully enjoy the present moment.
What are some of your favorite items you make?
I really love making perfumes. Mixing up my own blends always makes me feel like an apothecary from another time. I love breathing in the beautiful scents and watching the oils swirl together to create this wondrous mixture, like magic in a bottle! I also really enjoy making soap; transforming oils and butters into beautiful, fragrant bars of soap truly feels like alchemy…and I love it!
Any interesting stories you’d like to share about the challenges in creating historical products?
I’m always committed to crafting 100% pure all-natural products, which does sometimes limit the possibilities for certain ingredients. For example, creating the recipe for my Rose Petals Day Cream proved a real challenge. I wanted to make a very light and non-greasy day-time moisturizer but kept finding that the lightweight moisturizer formulas out there always involved artificial ingredients. Instead, I got to work trying out every moisturizing oil I could find to keep my formula all-natural. Finally, after many, many test batches I landed on a wonderfully light blend of sweet almond oil and rosehip seed oil blended with our local beeswax to create a gorgeous face cream and I just love getting to use my day cream every morning!
How does your location in the Catskills inspire what you do?
I think living in the Catskills opened the door for me to forge a path as a maker. Our area is resplendent with natural beauty and the slower pace of life offers so many opportunities to dream and imagine. The Catskills have inspired generations of crafters, artists, and artisans and as I met more and more of these talented people, I began to wonder what I could make. I started with candle-making, which expanded to soap-making and then skincare, and the rest is history!
Any last advice you’d like to share?
It is my hope that when people use my products, they are transported by the richness and beauty of my creations to another time where they can explore the past and imagine themselves in another world. Even if for just a moment, that feeling will carry with us throughout our day and may even help us to be more present in our daily activities. That is the gift I want to share with my fellow old souls…
Ahhh. Here is Anna just being generally elegant and intoxicatingly scented:
And of course, we have you covered in our enchanted shop because that’s how much we love you: https://enchantedlivingmag.com/collections/victorian-beauty