Cattail Apothecary

Aesthetically perfect. Every image of Cattail Apothecary is an intrinsic example of what I want to promote. Carefully picked bits of nature are in each photo to beautifully showcase her products. She has many cosmetic items available in her shop, but much more than that. So. much. more. What I am most excited about is the variety of tinctures she has! Recently, I have been taking elderberry syrup to boost my immune system and it really works. She has a tincture for that! She also has a ginger tincture, headache tincture, and so many more.


So I asked Rebecca Hildrew, shop owner a few questions over the last few weeks and after interviewing her, I decided it was best to copy the entire interview here. She has a great personality and voice and I could not do her responses any justice. So without further ado, my first interview for Pittsburgh Handmade:

What was your greatest inspiration for starting your store and what is your overall goal?

“Plants obviously. It’s extraordinary what nature provides for us. I don’t think many people realize how many of the ingredients in their medicines and skincare is plant derived.  However, much of the magic is lost in the way that science has pinpointed and isolated specific constituents. This has been necessary and wonderful for some of the things we rely on to get and remain healthy but it’s also nice to step back when possible and look at the plant as a whole. My goal has been to incorporate whole plants into my daily body care and health support, and through the shop, share those findings. You’ll never hear me saying that herbs take the place of seeing a doctor, but I think they should be looked to more, not as an alternative, but as an integrated support system.

As for skincare, read the list of ingredients on a few things in the bathroom cabinet…can you even tell what half that stuff is? Why? Why would we want to let all of those weird things leech into our skin?  But there are a lot of other options out there, and it would be easy for me to get a hold of dozens of alternatives without making it myself but one thing I found is the scents tend to all be the same; lots of lavender and florals. Not my cup of tea. So I set out to makes my own line of natural, plant-based products with scents that were more in line with my own preferences, earthy, woodsy and spicy.”


What is your favorite product you sell?

“This is a hard question. Since developing them, I have not gone a day without the face oil, cuticle balm, or Rosehips & Honey under eye balm as part of my routine. The “Breath of the Dragon” tonic (yes it’s a silly name, but drama in the herbal world has forced this on me) and Drink Your Vitamins tea have also become daily staples. Don’t make me choose just one of these, I’ll go down fightin’!!”


What does your creative process look like?

“Lots and lots of books and notebooks. Stacks of references and sticky notes. While messy, it’s certainly not the same kind of mess that my painting process creates. There’s a lot of research that goes into the development of new product, lots of reading before I even get to get my hands dirty with the plant matter. When I do get around to actually making the stuff it’s a well-choreographed disaster. I typically have 4+ products on the broilers at once. I have a 14-month old son, so getting time to create is limited and every second must be used wisely. By the time I’m through, every bit of equipment I own is coated with oils and waxes, but at least it all smells amazing!!”


Winter Blues

I have been really struggling with the cold this winter. I am one of those people who never gets cold. Ever. For some reason, this winter, I am freeing! The week after the holidays is especially depressing. I took my tree down and now it is so gloomy. So what to do? Well, in my humble opinion, self pampering is the best cure to winter blues. I do not know of a better way to pamper myself then to take a bubble bath with as many self care products as possible. Bath salts, salt scrubs, bath bombs, and a really good body butter to use when I get out. So here is the thing, I love buying these things local, but I also love making them myself. The second best way to pamper myself when I am feeling down is to take on a hobby.

Serious self care equation:

Create a series of awesome bath products + take a bath with self-made products =a healthy me

I know this seems to contradict the purpose of this blog, but seriously, I want everyone to create and expand themselves. Maybe you will be the next person I interview?

Instructions for winter blues concoctions:

Body butter is so simple to make. It is simply whipping oils. You can literally add coconut oil to your kitchen aid and within minutes, it turns into a silky smooth butter. Add your favorite essential oil and voila! Body butter. I like to add a mix of oils and aloe vera. My skin is a little oily so I like to add something with water content. Lotion is a slightly different process and does contain water. However, due to lack of preservatives, homemade lotion has a shorter shelf life than body butter.

Salt scrubs are simply oils and salt. You can become really creative with these and they are lots of fun. Sugar scrubs are the same and are a blast to make. Bath bombs are a little more intense and I will link a tutorial at the end. You will need a bath bomb mold and some citric acid which can be found on amazon or Pat Catan’s.

Find out how to make bath bombs here.

Pittsburgh Made Cosmetics

I visited the shop Sunny Bridge in Peters Township recently and I discovered so many great local products. I purchased a multipurpose cleaner made in Pittsburgh by a company called Naturally Clean. It literally smelled like Christmas! (And I love Christmas scents). They had other innovative scents that I would also recommend checking out. Seriously, check them out. Yes, I know this is a cosmetics post and I am going on a tangent but trust me, it is worth mentioning as soon as possible.

Anyways, I also noticed some locally made cosmetics at Sunny Bridge and became inspired to find more Pittsburgh based (more) mass produced cosmetic companies. I feel like the focus of this blog is to stay as small and local as possible but growing business is a success for local folks of our city and that is worth celebrating and sharing, right?

Una Biologicals were the first cosmetics that caught my eye during my visit to Sunny Bridge. They have a simple, appealing design and a nice variety of items. Based in Lawrenceville, they also sell products to many locations throughout the city. Their products are also available in many boutiques across the nation as well. What I really love about their expansion is that they have kept their products in small local shops and boutiques. They truly are a green business to their core. Their products have an emphasis on organic, natural production and are made with less than 8 ingredients. My favorite products they sell are from the wellness collection. They make a natural vapor rub, poison ivy spray, muscle rub, and natural hand sanitizer.

Now Una Biologicals makes homemade deodorant but there is also a company started in Cranberry that was founded solely on deodorant. Stinkbug Naturals is a much larger and less locally focussed company that has become a huge success by selling natural deodorant. They are available in Whole Foods and even Giant Eagles. Another local company available at your supermarket is Simple Sugars. Simple Sugars is a company that was started to help with sensitive skin. Her products are made with few ingredients and have yet another focus on natural living.

See the trend? Shopping local is so green and is so much better for you. Check back soon and I will have that first interview I promised.

Top 5 Pittsburgh Holiday Homemade Gifts

As I prepare for formal interviews and research for Pittsburgh based homemade makers, I figured an obligatory holiday gift list was in order. Now, for last minute’s sake, these are found on etsy and are mostly pre-made which is great because -no waiting! They are all Pittsburgh handcrafted, of course (because that is what we are all about here) and gift appropriate.

Pittsburgh Pottery’s Gumbands Mug

Now is there anything more Pittsburgh than a dialect mug? The answer: Yes, a Pittsburgh made dialect mug. Also, on the shop are mugs with other Pittsburgh famous “words” such as my personal favorite, slippy!


Strawberry Luna’s Screenprint shop

Beautiful, modern, creative designs are available from the shop. They have prints, posters, Christmas cards, lunch bags, t-shirts and rock posters! THe Pittsburgh bridge print, shown on their homepage is a wonderful salute to the City of Bridges, of course made here, in Pittsburgh. Would Andy Warhol be proud? We probably will never know, but I surely think that these screen prints testify to the impact he had on the Pittsburgh community.


Etta Arlene’s Witty Occasion Candles

With scents such as “Man” and “Boss Bitch”, Etta Arlene’s shop is sure to win someone over in your life. There are also more toned down scent names such as “Merry Christmas” and “Best Friend”, however, her options go as far as a candles for bridesmaids and parents. They literally have a candle for everyone. Wrapped in a hip and chic design, they list that they use US grown soy bean for their candles. Etta Arlene is run by two sisters, Etta and Arlene.


Nevermore Body Company

When I am totally unsure of what to get someone, I typically default to body products. Not because I am personally such a sucker for them, but because everyone uses them and even if they do not need them right now, they will someday! I love finding really unique body products and I dabble in making my own now and again but supporting someone else’s small business is really what I strive for this time of year.

Nevermore Body Company has some really unique products. My favorite, the whiskey aftershave, is such a great gift for a dad or brother. On the shop is also a bar of soap called, “Lump of Coal”. Lump of Coal is a soap stick. I thought, “What the heck is a soap stick?” It is a bar of soap in a deodorant tube! I am so in love with this concept. I use bars of soap but they melt easily when wet. This entirely solves the problem. There are also bath bombs, gift sets, fragrance oils and so much more.


KloRebel’s Designs

I could not praise the beautiful designs of Kirsten Lowe-Rebel, creator of KloRebel, enough. They are artistic and breathtaking. She sells beautifully designed views of Pittsburgh printed onto pillows, hand towels, decor and so much more. She also produces many other designs that are not Pittsburgh. For example, you can custom order a design she will create or you. Beautiful, custom art, made in Pittsburgh!


Creating this list was so so hard. There are so many talented people in Pittsburgh creating beautiful things. I am so excited to start spending time getting to know and promoting some of these talented artists. Please also take a look at a few honorary mentions: White Swan StudioNaked Geometry.

Happy Winter Solstice and enjoy your holiday! Check back soon!