Artist Tamara Becerra Valdez is the one-woman force behind Botanicals Folklorica, an Austin-based apothecary specializing in herbal infused honeys. Her work is reminiscent of old-world techniques, rich in local lore and has an anthropological feel to it. The reason for the latter became clear after I learned of a few of Tamara's former ventures, which include working at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, the Harry Ransom Center and the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library and Museum. She is also self-publishing a series of field guides inspired by the Texas landscape, which I'm personally excited about as it completely taps into my love for Texas exploration.
Although we've yet to meet (that'll change soon), Tamara's warm and compassionate spirit is one I've been inspired by for awhile now. It shines through in her work, her photos and as you're about to find out, in her words too. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, Tamara!
What is Botanicals Folklorica?
Botanicals Folklorica is an apothecary that specializes in herbal infused honeys, preparations from native Texas medicinals and ornamentals, as well as other items surrounding the lore and region of the Texas/Mexico border.
How did Botanicals Folklorica come to life?
Botanicals Folklorica came to life in 2012 after studying herbalism in Texas and being inspired to care for the well being of my body and spirit. Two friends and I opened a small herb retail shop in a trailer called, La Botanica. I had been developing ideas around “honey as medicine”, what forms medicine could take and put all those ideas into the apothecary line.
Is this your full-time gig?
This is not my full-time gig, but it is my ultimate medicine.
Can you tell us a bit about what else you do to support yourself?
I take on contract positions from time to time ranging from supporting archival research to education positions. My supportive jobs change often.
What does a typical day look like for you? (That is, if there is such a thing!)
There is definitely no typical day. Everyday is different but everyday feels full.
I love slow mornings with C. and our pups.
I am usually accompanied by my favorite Chihuahua companion, Byrd. He travels with me everywhere and is often by my side. He is my guardian.
At the studio, Im working on several different projects at once. My table is a mess and I'm definitely not the clean, neat studio artist. It’s the way I work, but its definitely not the way I live at home. And thats why Im grateful to have a studio outside of where I cook and sleep.
The evenings I like to either cook at home or have dinner with a friend. If I could have ramen from Daruma every evening that would definitely have me soaring. Its so good and I love the crew that works there!
Typical days end with comfy sheets, untied braids and water by the bedside.
What are the biggest challenges you've faced in starting your own business?
One of the biggest challenges for me is the preparation in developing a line with seasonal apothecary items. It was a challenge for me to prepare for the next season and remember what was growing at the time, how long the flowers bloom and what to make for the following season.
My planner has several notes including what flowers were harvested, where they were picked and other helpful thoughts.
Time management is always a challenge when I have several other projects going on.
Any advice for women facing similar challenges?
Buy a planner. Ask for help from friends when you really need to tackle a big project.
What keeps you inspired and moving forward?
Inspiring, loving people move me forward. I've learned to guard my time honestly and have promised myself to keep good company around me and my studio.
If I feel stuck, I have to get outside. Go for a walk or get my hands in the mud. Literally. It has been the most gratifying solution in my practice. There is nothing else like a good mud bath and good laugh afterwards.
I'm inspired by the way we live our lives, the objects we keep close and the way we tell stories or show compassion for ourselves.
Do you consider yourself more of a dreamer or a realist? How do you feel like that influences your business?
This question makes me think about my Gemini tendencies. Ha! Luckily, the leading Capricorn keeps me in check.
I'm a dreamer. First and foremost. And then I think about the reality of situations; however I never let go of my dreams. Sometimes its not always the right time for the ideas to show themselves. Ive learned to write them down. Chronicle the ideas in my mind and wait for the best time.
What makes you feel like you've had a productive day?
When the lists on my notepad are checked off! Or at least, if there are just a few lines to add to tomorrow’s list!
Personally, balancing work and play is one of the hardest parts of self-employment for me. How do you strike a balance between the two?
This year I've been making a big effort to play more.
To go back to “guarding time and place”, this mantra has made a big change in my work/play life. I will plan good work time in the studio and then make a little getaway for my friends when the invitation arises. I enjoy supporting my friends and their accomplishments and make every effort to congratulate them.
We all need to play more. And give our bodies more sun to shine on.
What are your interests outside of Botanicals Folklorica?
I have a growing interest in sound archives, field recording audio and nerding out over print design/packaging in Japan.
Do you have any advice for women considering turning their passion into a business?
You are deserving of it all. Don’t wait for tomorrow to be ready. Take one of the lovely women you're inspired by out for coffee and ask her all the questions you'd love to have answered.
Anything worth having, does not come easy. And, be patient with your growth.
Defining Her Own is an interview series featuring designers, bloggers, shop owners and other creatively-minded women who are forging their own paths based on individual passions and dreams. Is there an inspirational gal you'd like to see featured? Send us an email - we're always looking for women who are following their hearts!