Vendor Spotlight: Making Thyme for What’s Essential with Earth Philosophy
by Michael Marefka
photographs by Breanna Kulkin
It smells like wildflowers inside the concrete studio.
Tucked away on the second floor of an industrial-turned-creative warehouse on Superior Avenue, Rachel DuFresne, creator of Earth Philosophy, welcomes me at the door. Inside, glass jars of dried lavender, pomegranate, and cayenne peppers line the walls. DuFresne invites me to have a seat at her desk, where late afternoon sunlight falls from the ceiling.
“I grew up in Erie County collecting plants with my mom, ” says Dufresne. “She always had us outside in the Metroparks and nature preserves.”
As a former student of botany at the Ohio State University, DuFresne was introduced to Ethnobotany – the relationship between plants and people – and began seeking out plant identification books on her own.
“That’s how I spent my summers,” says DuFresne. “I did a lot of Ethnobotany, and I really [came to understand] how some societies sustain themselves on plants and nature.”
Music plays quietly in the background during our interview and I cannot help feeling removed from the city streets bustling with rush hour traffic. Scattered over the wooden tabletops of the studio are scraps of yarrow, comfrey, rose geranium, and thyme.
Yarrow, which is native to Ohio, is one of the many plants DuFrense grows herself at her garden in Berlin Heights, just south of Vermillion. It’s also where she wild crafts elder flowers, which are then used for pomegranate and rose spray to soften and hydrate the skin.
“I became disinterested in mainstream products, ” says DuFrense. “A lot of over the counter products are synthetically derived. They’re not actual extracts.”
DuFrense was introduced to essential oils while living abroad in France. While she had heard the term aromatherapy before, it usually pertained to candles. “We don’t have the same understanding of the medicinal value of essential oils [in America],” says DuFrense.
It turns out that therapeutic plants can be used for much more than scented wax. “That’s the cool thing about plants,” says DuFrense “they’re versatile.”
The known benefits of herbs and their use in essential oils have global origins, including Eastern cultures, where native plants with aromatic values have been used for centuries. Earth Philosophy, a business that is cosmopolitan in name and practice, is another piece of this patchwork. At Night Market, DuFrense stitches together the cultural seams.
Adding a personal touch to the process, DuFrense grows everything for her herbal infusions, a process that utilizes the entire herb, which in the end gives the product the potent scent of lavender or calendula. Her essential oils, which are steam distilled, are imported from growing climates.
“I have the whole product line for Night Market: wellness blends, single botanical oils, and botanical mists, which include witch hazel to cleanse the skin,” says DuFrense. “I have bamboo gift boxes made of plant paper with samples of three different wellness oils that customers can purchase there.”
We finish the interview as the sun sets over the city, diffusing light throughout the studio. As I pack up, DuFrense separates lavender leaves from their stems while explaining the benefits of fresh ingredients. She directs me to the glass jars along the walls packed with brilliantly colored plants. “This is what you want”, she tells me.
You can take home the essence of DuFresne’s extensive research on August 26th, between 5-11 p.m. at E 21st and Rockwell Avenue when Earth Philosophy sets up shop at Night Market Cleveland. It will be an evening permeated with the scents of East and West, an occasion celebrating global community, one of which you too can be a part.