Signs of Spring

Spring at Wilder Ranch, California. Via merchanthome.com

Today marks the official start of our first spring along the coastline of Santa Cruz county, where the hills are breaking into bloom following a near-record rainy season.  In celebration of this season of growth, color, and (finally) warm sunshine, my former colleague at terrain invited me to share a bit of our burgeoning California springtime with their audience (head here for more photos and a bit more backstory).  Happy for an excuse to spend a Friday morning exploring our new home, I set out with my camera, hiking books, and a hot chocolate from our local coffee stop. Here, sharing some outtakes and alternate images, taken at Wilder Ranch State Park, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, and in the protected Santa Cruz Sandhills.

Spring at Wilder Ranch, California. Via merchanthome.com
Spring at Wilder Ranch, California. Via merchanthome.com
Bonny Doon, CA. Via merchanthome.com
Bonny Doon, CA. Via merchanthome.com
Spring in Santa Cruz, California. Via merchanthome.com
Spring at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, California. Via merchanthome.com
Spring at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, California. Via merchanthome.com
Spring at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, California. Via merchanthome.com

On top of finally having that feel of being settled, of having a home that fits us, what has been most grounding about moving to Santa Cruz has been our proximity to nature. Within a few miles of us, and each other, we can wander through an oak-filled valley, put our toes in the ocean, get lost in the moody redwoods, walk along a coastal bluff, visit a local farm to buy produce, or see the wildflowers in bloom. Save for snow and desert, it's like we have all of California right here in our backyard (quite literally).

With that: happy first day of spring! Make sure to get outside. And thanks to my friends at terrain for a project that got me out of unpacking and out into nature, where I am most at peace.

Photos by Alexandra Sklar for Merchant Home. Please credit and link back appropriately.

 

Women, Together


Yesterday, International Women's Day, we participated in A Day Without A Woman, standing with women worldwide in the spirit of love, the pursuit of equality, and in feeling the resonance of mutual empowerment. Today and beyond, we can step forward together to raise each other up.

With that sentiment top of mind: here is a (non-comprehensive) list of businesses and publications founded by inspired, soulful, and take-charge females: some of them friends, some of them strangers, all of them sisters. When deciding where to take your spending: please consider supporting these (and other) women-owned businesses. 

(Thanks to all of you out there who helped contribute to this list or submitted your own company: thank you! I'm proud to have you in my life.  - Alexandra)

Introducing Garden Apothecary

Organic Skincare by Garden Apothecary
Organic Skincare by Garden Apothecary
Organic Skincare by Garden Apothecary
Organic Skincare by Garden Apothecary
Organic Skincare by Garden Apothecary
Organic Skincare by Garden Apothecary
Lavender Harvest, Garden Apothecary

Upon first moving to our foggy sliver of California coastside, I connected with botanist Jenn Segale of Garden Apothecary, hailing from just down the road in Half Moon Bay. A friendship quickly sprouted, and three years later, she's one of my most dear and inspiring friends. In addition to enviable skin, she also possesses a sharp wit, a creative eye, and an old soul.

Since our very first meeting over tea, I've been fortunate to consult with Garden Apothecary on periodic projects, and am excited to (finally!) share with you an initiative I've had the pleasure of being involved with for over a year: a complete new line of organic skincare products; beautifully researched, considered and produced to the most fine level of detail*. Her vision for this product line was unmatched, and it was a pleasure to support her in bringing it to fruition (via providing packaging creative direction, advising on assortment strategy and activation details, and art directing and styling the photographs for her new website). 

Meet the new Garden Apothecary, a trifecta of wild, organic skincare products: Spun Gold, a honey-based cleanser; Higher Ground, a rich serum; and Full Bloom Fog, a calming toning mist.  Simple to use, elegant in feel, intelligent in science, and designed for restoration, nourishment, and balance of body and mind. I've been using these since the testing phase, and my skin has been thriving (I'm a particular fan of the serum).

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Photo styling, art direction; packaging creative direction by Alexandra Sklar for Merchant Home. Packaging design by Kelly Hoffman-Davis. Photography by Cody MacCready. In true #slowcoast spirit, all of us are local to our cherished highway one corridor, and were friends with Jenn before working together.

* Just one example of the obsession with detail: Jenn grew and harvested the saffron for her new facial serum herself, on her personal farm in the coastal foothills.

The High Line

Planting design by Piet Oudolf at the Highline, New York. (via The Merchant Home)
Planting design by Piet Oudolf at the Highline, New York. (via The Merchant Home)
Planting design by Piet Oudolf at the Highline, New York. (via The Merchant Home)
Planting design by Piet Oudolf at the Highline, New York. (via The Merchant Home)
Planting design by Piet Oudolf at the Highline, New York. (via The Merchant Home)
Planting design by Piet Oudolf at the Highline, New York. (via The Merchant Home)
Planting design by Piet Oudolf at the Highline, New York. (via The Merchant Home)
Planting design by Piet Oudolf at the Highline, New York. (via The Merchant Home)

Following a long day at the NYNOW show, I took a few minutes (well, more than a few minutes- I was late to my dinner reservation) to wander through the High Line and chase a bit of sunlight. I've always found it is most enjoyable in the winter, when it is quiet, but on this visit, the beauty was truly overwhelming. The sinking sunlight, the sound of footsteps, the heavy breeze carrying forth the hope and spirit of autumn. One of the most incredible public spaces I've had the fortune of experiencing. 

Photos by Alexandra Sklar for The Merchant Home. Please credit and link back appropriately. 

 

Modern Citizen Salon Series: Women in Fashion E-Commerce

A few weeks ago we attended the launch of Modern Citizen’s “Salon Series”—a concept meant to showcase the varied lives and career paths of modern working women. Each series features a group of women panelists from a particular facet of an industry and offers a guided conversation around their experiences, challenges and learnings. The event is hosted in Modern Citizen’s airy and impeccably designed studio/showroom—quietly perched above Union street, removed from the hustle and bustle. 

The particular panel we attended highlighted women founders of fashion e-commerce brands. Panelists included Nicole Najafi of Industry Standard, Vanessa Stofenmacher and Chelsea Nicholson of Vrai & Oro, and Jess Lee of Modern Citizen. Having been familiar with these brands for some time, it was fun to have a “peek under the hood” of their inner-workings (stories from “the early days” of their businesses were entirely entertaining). 

There was certainly no shortage of insight gleaned from the entire conversation, but something that really stuck with me was a point that was brought up by Nicole around taking outsider advice. In attempting to scale a business, you’re inevitably going to encounter the opinions and advice (solicited or not) of those around you—often from respected individuals with extensive industry knowledge and business expertise. While such advice can undoubtably be useful at times, it’s important to remember that no one knows your business better than you. As a founder looking to grow your business, you have to teach yourself to walk the line between being open and receptive to advice when it’s needed, and maintaining a strong confidence in knowing what’s best for your business.

Modern Citizen’s next series is centered around Women in Venture Capital. Find out more and sign up by visiting their website.

Copy and photography by Ali Hartwell for The Merchant Home. Please credit and link appropriately.

Finds: KAM Textiles

Our coastside California location brings out the earthy side of us every now and then. Currently, feeling drawn to KAM (Kristin Amber Morrison) Textiles, a light, airy line focused on made using natural plant dyes and local fibers.  Her philosophy sums it up quite nicely, we think:

"Through the process of foraging and alchemizing plants into natural dyes, I explore the inherent connection of humans with nature, the relationship between us, and how we can draw upon the plentitude of nature, to nourish, heal, design and create.

Because humans exist as part of the natural world, it is imperative that we not compete with nature, but instead participate and commune with nature, not only for our survival, but also for our prosperity as a species."

View more on her website and follow along on Instagram

Photos courtesy of KAM Textiles.

Reading List: Casa Malaparte

Currently thumbing through: Casa Malaparte. Covering a series of polaroids taken by Karl Lagerfeld at architect Adalberto Libera’s iconic, minimalist home on the Isle of Capri, the imagery is grainy, calm, and evokes solitude and oneness with nature.

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Photos by Aydan Puth for The Merchant Home. Please credit and link back.

Finds: Stefania Vasques

As lovers of simple, architectural design, it’s no wonder we are drawn to the creations of Italian designer, Stefania Vasques. With many careers under her belt, Vasques most recent works are done in clay. Although she credits her inspiration to the spontaneity of nature, Vasques’ ceramics are certainly influenced by her background in furniture and design. Utterly functional, featuring crisp and clean edges, she provides balance by finishing with neutral, inspired-by-the-earth glazes.  

View more on her website.

Photos courtesy of Stefania Vasques.

East Fork Pottery

East Fork Pottery
East Fork Pottery
East Fork Pottery
East Fork Pottery
East Fork Pottery
East Fork Pottery

From East Fork Pottery, a line of tabletop pieces, designed to be both modern and timeless, and destined to become everyday favorites. Founded in 2010 by Alex Matisse and located just north of Asheville, North Carolina, the company has recently rebranded, and along with that, launched a new collection of plates, mugs, bowls, and vases in a wide range of colors and glazes. Each piece is produced by one of their craftsmen in the North Carolina workshop.

For further reading, I'd suggest this lovely, long-form article, which captures the spirit behind the line in a really wonderful manner.  Absolutely worth a read. And of course, check out the East Fork Pottery site and instagram.

If you are local to the Bay Area, a selection of East Fork mugs are available at Yonder Shop in Pacifica. I recently purchased one, and it has a great feel and weight to it.

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All photos via East Fork Pottery, please credit and link back.