“When we gift our bodies with beautiful, plant-based creations, we make the whole earth glow brighter. And we glow brighter, too.”
So Kate Clearlight sums up her business and life philosophy.
Clearlight uses wild and garden-grown herbs and plants to create a line of products that nurture and soothe the body and mind. Her studio at Central Station is an explosion of color and fragrance, all blending together to create the spicy smell that is Plantfolk. Here, she crafts such products as the Love and Kindness spray made with roses. There is a salt soak called Wood Fired Tub, which evokes the feeling of being in a wood-warmed tub in the outdoors on a cold day with scents of piñon and cedar wood.
“One of my favorite parts is putting an experience or naming an experience that I’ve had in the natural world into a product,” she says, as she describes her texturizing hair spray called Messy Hair, which was inspired by a day of playing in the river and letting her hair dry while she was lying on a rock. “Feeling that kind of wildness, feeling wild and free; you don’t have to do that much to yourself, you are just mimicking what you see in the natural world.”
As fall wanes and winter approaches, Clearlight recommends products that put moisture back into the skin, such as body butters and serums. One example is the Coconut Kava Chai body serum. The label says, “This hydrating body oil contains coconut oil infused with Hawaiian kava kava root, a remedy traditionally used to ease anxiety and calm the nerves.”
This warming and relaxing serum is meant to be used in the bath or rubbed on the skin. Like all the Plantfolk products, the smell conveys a feeling of nurturing and care. She also recommends body scrubs that keep circulation going during the winter months when we may be less active.
Clearlight focuses on growing and gathering plants in a way that is good for the body and good for the environment. She gathers small amounts of local wild plants, but is careful not to take too much of any one plant. Wild rose petals and resin from piñon trees are among the local resources she gathers in the wild. She grows the rest of the plants at her farm in El Prado or buys them from suppliers with organic products and sustainable practices.
“The products we create are not only crafted in hopes of providing humans with a pure, vibrant source of self-care, but just as importantly, our botanical creations are dreamt into being as a way of honoring the plants,” she says.
Clearlight has spent a lifetime living with plants and exploring their healing and magical properties. She was raised in a beautiful spot in the woods of Vermont with gardens and blueberry bushes. Her family made their own maple syrup. She visited Taos with her father, who was a University of New Mexico graduate and was in love with Northern New Mexico.
After some time away from growing herbs, she became interested again after taking a class about the way that indigenous people use plants for medicine. “It opened up a whole world of plant fragrances and the tastes of plants. I felt this real attraction to how magical plants are; you can use them to make clothing and furniture. I was absolutely enthralled by how much our lives depend on plants,” Clearlight says.
She started taking whatever classes about herbs she could find and working on organic farms. She enrolled at the California School of Herbal Studies and, after graduating, studied with Rosemary Gladstar of Sage Mountain in Vermont for an advanced herbal apprenticeship.
Some of her early products include the Sing and Dance flower essence mist, which is made by floating flowers in water in sunlight. Since 2010, she has been making potions: salts, serums and sprays that draw on the inherent properties of plants and use their power to soothe, moisturize and provide calm and healing scents.
Two years ago, Clearlight landed in Santa Fe. Soon after, she was accepted into the Taos Farmers Market.
She says, “The Farmers Market is what made me feel really at home here and embraced as a person. I could be as free-spirited as I wanted and people would love and support me for that.”
The beauty and magic of Taos and the sweetness of the community attracted her, and she eventually found a way to move here.
“Taos was always a diamond in my mind, with its pristine wilderness, unlike anywhere else in the world,” says Clearlight.
She wanted to develop a full line of products to sell at the Taos Farmers Market and did just that. She has more than 20 regular products and an additional 15 that vary by season. Clearlight says that she has so many ideas for new products that it is overwhelming sometimes, but she continues to take those ideas and make them real.
Since she had been in Taos, Plantfolk has taken off. Her full line can be found at Substance on Doña Luz Street in Taos, as well as Cupcake Clothing in Santa Fe and various stores in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay area, and Portland. She also offers the products on her website.