For this installment of Meet Your Maker, I interviewed J.D. Grove of Teehaus Bath & Body. J.D., her partner and two sons live in Greencastle, IN on Fullcircle Farm where they grow many of the components for their line of skin care products. J.D. is extremely knowledgeable about making 100% natural, beautiful and effective products. Reading this interview, you can almost imagine yourself escaping to their house in the woods, wondering amongst the plants and animals, being one with the Earth. Using their products will immerse you in just that, too.
How do you describe your work to people who don’t know anything about making soap?
I make small batch soaps, lotions, and skin care products from scratch with the best things I can find. I use our local Indiana honey and beeswax, goats milk from a farmer down the road, botanicals from my gardens, and lovely cold-pressed and organic oils from around the world. Handcrafted soaps and skincare products are functional luxuries that are great for our skin.
How do you work, and where?
Teehaus began in my farmhouse kitchen, with lots of breaks to gather things from the garden and a collection of herbal infusions gathering sunlight in the greenhouse. Our business and family have grown, and we’re now building a lab for Teehaus in our hand-built cabin on the farm.
Describe your typical day.
Right now, I’m hand-building a house while running my business. This morning I drank coffee on the balcony, sent out my orders, and starting hanging drywall. Every day is different right now!
Ever since I was a kid I have loved working with plants to make something new. After a childhood of digging up dandelion roots to roast for tea and collecting petals for rosewater, I’ve grown into a big medicinal garden and a huge collection of oils and essential oils to craft with. I am building a homestead with my family in Greencastle, Indiana, and becoming self-sufficient is a big goal for us. It has been so rewarding to learn how to make things like soap, salve, and lotion that we use every day,; it gives me the same satisfaction as gathering eggs, harvesting honey, or canning green beans. I like to think that every bar of soap or jar of cream that leaves our workshop carries some of our dream of getting back to basics in our daily lives.
What is your favorite Teehaus product? What do you use everyday?
I use the Rosewater Toner and White Tea Face Cream so religiously that I even take them camping. My skin feels softer when I use the toner, and the cream gives my sun-damaged skin a serious lift. Lately I’ve become addicted to the Dead Sea Mud Facial Bar and wash my face with it every day. We also tend to have half a dozen bars of soap lined up along the bathtub!
What do you love about your job?
I love the alchemy in the work I do, and the old ties to folk medicine and witchcraft. From the sensuality and magic of blending essential oils into layered perfumes to the satisfaction of harvesting comfrey and calendula for healing oil infusions, I feel I’m continuing a long tradition. I’ve been lucky to work with herbalists and healers of all kinds throughout my life, and part of my work is to join their ranks.
How did you choose the name Teehaus?
Teehaus was the name of the funky coffeehouse where I spent much of my childhood and young adulthood; a hippie oasis in rural Missouri. The owner taught me a love of teas, and introduced me to the idea that a business can be about creating a community. That’s what I want to do with Teehaus and with Fullcircle Farm.
Was being a working artist always your plan or was there an “aha” moment?
I spent several years living and working on organic farms around the United States, Latin America, and the Carribean. I fell in love with the simple, meditative, connected life of the farm. Over the past eight years, my partner and I have been slowly bulding Fullcircle Farm, and crafting soaps and lotions for Teehaus is our focus.
If you could swap lives with another artist and live as them without anyone knowing that you were really you and not the other person, who would that person be?
Not an artist, but a healer and herbalist; maybe my friend and mentor Constance Ferry, who owns Hobbit Gardens in Fillmore, Indiana. She has had the years to build the vast medicinal garden that I’ve just begun, and has deep, intimate relationships with many plants. So many of the established crafters in my field live in happiness and harmony, in magical spaces they’ve built for themselves. It’s inspiring. Really.
What makes a handmade object valuable?
I think it’s the energy, the personality, of the maker that infuses handmade objects with so much beauty. I have so much art in my life, all of it made by hand by people I know and like. I love thinking of Jen’s hands delicately carving that little spiral in the bottom of my cup as I drink, or imagining Andrea at her sewing machine in a room full of colorful fake fur when I make my bed covered in monster pillows! I have so many quilts made by a beautiful friend, all of them patched in the Drunkard’s Path pattern that is her signature. And yes, the soaps I use to wash down my little boys at night, they’re so carefully crafted, full of all my love and my dream for us.
Using that definition, what’s the most valuable object you own?
My house. We are living in the midst of piles of boards right now, but we are crafting the biggest thing yet; a space built with love by many hands. This house is made entirely of poplar cut from the woods around us, that have been in my family for 150 years. It feels like part of the woods. We’ve built it from sketches on a cocktail napkin, adding touches here and there as they occur to us; it’s a big, eccentric, piece of art! I hope my great-grandkids will live here and continue stewarding these woods.
Tell us one true thing about yourself that people don’t believe when you tell them.
I have a growing, multi-generational family of peacocks in residence. I wanted two, and was told they couldn’t incubate their own eggs; I was told wrong. At last count there were thirteen of them living in the trees and the meadow, including five babies born this year.
Give us three more non-crafting-related details about you or your life.
I am an avid reader of good quality fiction, and spent my youth writing poetry; I have a degree in English. I have two gorgeous, tangle-haired little wild boys, Silvan and Jasper. I have a tendency to rescue cats in need, and always have a shifting herd of at least half a dozen.
Any new products on the horizon?
I have been working to develop a hair care line this year, and have just put the finishing touches on my Rosemary Peppermint Shampoo Bar and Camellia Conditioner. I love these solid shampoo and conditioner bars; they’re made without sulfates, chemicals, and pollutants, and work wonders on our hair. I’ve even had good results on my little boys’ long, fine hair (often full of burs and mud). It’s great to be able to make these products myself and share them!
What do you wish people knew about what you do?
I like to educate people about soap and skincare. For me, natural skincare is as important as natural and organic foods; our skin is our largest organ, and absorbs what we apply to it. My products are a world away from most of what you will find in drugstores. I give out tons of free samples, because it’s easy to get hooked!
Check out Teehaus right here at Homespun, or online at the following links: