The Grimoire

How Folk Potions Came To Be

Written by Raina Rose

Ever since I was a child, I wanted to be a folksinger. I loved sea shanties, Elliott Smith, Joni Mitchell, and traditional ballads. I started playing guitar when I was 11 years old. I had never committed to anything before that, always dabbling and quitting art forms when they required any real work. 

But guitar? I loved it. I worked hard at it. I wrote songs naturally; they flowed out of me. 

When I was fresh out of high school, I lived full-time at my summer camp on the Oregon Coast instead of going to college. 500 acres of Sitka Spruce forest full of thriving and varied plant life. The plants spoke to me. Have a bug bite? Smash some bracken fern on it! Hungry? Eat a salmonberry. Need a spiritual boost? Study a trillium. I learned about plants in the same easy way I learned about music. It flowed. I loved the work. 

After four years of working and living at camp, I moved back to my hometown of Portland, Oregon, and started a band with my best friend, Meredith. We called ourselves the Gypsy Moths. It was as if the Indigo Girls led the Grateful Dead. That band ran its course, as bands do, and in 2005 I struck out on my own. 

I got a minivan and my dad built a bed in the back out of plywood. I called coffee shops and bars to find gigs. I went on tour for a month singing my songs for people and somehow, I didn’t run out of money! I was hooked on that high. 

I spent the following decade living on the road and touring full-time. I didn’t pay rent for years. I met the most amazing people in the Folk Music Community and was the subject of a documentary called FOLK

In 2009 I met a bass player named Andrew (you might know him from your customer service emails) and we had a kid and got married. We were still living on the road. I would hunch over the car seat to breastfeed our son going 80 mph down the highway. It was not the luxurious life I had envisioned as a child, but I still loved it. Mostly… 

We slowed down our touring life around the time our first son, Emmett, turned two. We got pregnant with another son, Benny, and Andrew got a gig playing bass with Megan Mullally. So, I stayed home more.

 When Benny was two, I went on a tour for about 10 days and returned having barely made enough money to cover my costs. I had hoped I would get more rest than usual on that tour, but that was a fallacy. It was November 2016 and I knew I needed to change my life. I needed to do something with my hands but I needed to do it at my house, where I felt centered and at peace.  

My friend gave me her old KitchenAid mixer and the next few months were a blur. It was like an out-of-body experience. Every day I’d wake up and go into the kitchen and make skincare products. In the beginning, I mostly made body butter and salves. I was obsessively watching soap-making videos on Instagram, but hadn’t dared to make my first batch yet. 

I sought out and read all the books on herbal medicines I could get my hands on, like Herbs for Natural Beauty by Rosemary Gladstar and The Modern Herbal Dispensatory by Thomas Easely. My creations poured out of my soul and my kitchen and they needed a name. I don’t even remember naming it Folk Potions. That was just what it became. 

I love telling stories, that’s the thing about folk singing. You have to tell your truth to others to make a song vibrate, and I wanted to do the same thing for this little skincare brand. As Folk Potions began to form, I knew it was the way I could continue to tell stories. Folk Potions allows me to do fulfill that same innate desire, while not living in a car. Having a bed and a refrigerator are really nice perks. Soft hands are a nice bonus, too. 

dried herbs in a bowl
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