Friday, October 18, 2013

Meet Katherine of Magnolia Fern Studios

I recently had the opportunity to interview Katherine about her lovely polymer creations.  I was interested in how she started, what her inspiration was and where she saw her business going.  Here is what she had to tell me:

Barn Owl Pendant

"Well, alright, I've always been artistic, but I was overly practical as a child and thoroughly believed that being an artist meant you would be a "starving artist." And that never appealed to me, so I attempted everything else under the sun before I ended up back here. I was in politics, I was a dog trainer, I was in sales, tried to study to be a teacher, I repaired watches, everything.

About 5 years ago my sister was broke for xmas and bought a pound of polymer clay to make presents for everyone. She sculpted a character from our favorite Anime for me, and I begged her to show me how she made it. After that I was self taught, pouring over every article and tutorial I could get my hands online.

I'm heavily inspired by anime, it's just such a limitless visual art form, I'm inspired by nature, I'm inspired by Greek and Norse mythologies and I grew up addicted to "The Dark Crystal" by Jim Henson. I need an emotion to drive a sculpt since one can take several sittings over weeks or months.

I work mostly with polymer clay, it's an affordable, safe clay that you can cure in your home oven. It comes in a few dozens colors, with many special effect clays available for experimentation, and stronger varieties for more serious artists. I've also started furring some animal sculptures with Alpaca fiber for added realism.

I make my creations in my home, since I work in miniature I don't need a full studio, but I do have a nasty habit of nesting in part of the house. My husband will come home and see me surrounded by strange tools and reference materials, and he often has to shoo me back into the craft room we have set up. It's a beautiful sun room that over looks our yard filled with birds and animals.

Next on the horizon I hope to expand my inventory by harnessing home resin casting. I've almost mastered pouring my own molds and resin casts of my sculpts. The owl you featured is my best example of that currently. The original took a full day to sculpt and countless days before that to waste on other projects before I found him in the back of my head. But with resin casting I can offer many people the same piece at a very affordable rate. Since it's still made in my home and I still paint each and every one, they're still one of a kind!

This January, I will start my very first Kickstarter campaign, to purchase a vacuum chamber so I can use better and more advanced casting materials. I will use the event to launch posable semi plush art dolls of various creatures. I'm still debating which creatures to feature first (my current choice is a Japanese Flying Squirrel, it's surreal how cute they are)

Wish me luck and thank you for your interest and support, I was raised in Richmond and one of my favorite things is to show off my city to out of towners."

Large Orange, Red and Yellow Sunset Shelf Mushroom Flirty Fungi Necklace

Deluxe Set of 8 Faux Sea Shell Wine Glass Charms

For more of her amazing creations, visit her shop on Etsy, Magnolia Fern Studios

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Sweet Cheeks Natural Bath & Body Launches

Website Provides Natural Bath & Beauty Products for Gift, Wholesale, & Retail

Richmond, VA – September 19, 2013Sweet Cheeks Natural Bath & Body; purveyors of all natural, paraben-free, petroleum-free, and preservative-free bath and body products; today announced the availability of their complete line of eco-conscious body products at

Sweet Cheeks Natural’s new web presence showcases their inventory of vegan, eco-friendly, and cruelty-free offerings including aftershaves, diaper crèmes, body butters, body washes, coca butter, shea butter and solid lotions

In an effort to best accommodate the requirements of their largest target audience – beauty retailers, boutiques, and gift shops focuses on educating wholesalers, gift retailers, and consumers about the true meaning of “all natural, eco-friendly, and green” bath and body products and the importance of living an eco-conscious lifestyle. 

Inspired by her children’s and her own sensitive skin issues, owner & founder, Vanessa McCauley created SweetCheeks Natural with the mission to create products that were not only safe for her family but safe for the planet. 

Free of parabens, petroleums, and preservatives; Sweet Cheeks Natural products are made from the finest plant based oils and natural ingredients.  All Sweet Cheeks Natural products are not only gentle to the body but gentle to the earth and are packaged in recycled glass canisters and utilize minimal secondary packaging. 

For more information about Sweet Cheeks Natural, to purchase Sweet Cheeks Natural products, or for Sweet Cheeks Natural wholesale/retail information, visit or contact them through their online contact form at

Sweet Cheeks All Natural Bath & Body is a registered trademark of Sweet Cheeks Natural.  All rights reserved.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Dry Whating???

Dry Brushing.  No, not your hair, your skin. 

What is it?  Dry Brushing is a technique uses a natural bristled brush to exfoliate the skin.

The premise is you use the brush using long sweeps toward the heart.   It is meant to be done daily and even twice daily.  

What does it do? 

Dry brushing is said to :
  • Reduce cellulite
  • Boost circulation
  • Boost lymphatic drainage
  • Slough off dead skin
  • Tighter skin

*Note they do not recommend it for people with eczema, sensitive skin or acne. 

What do I think?   While I think some of the claims (reducing cellulite….ahemm??)  to be a bit dubious, I think it is a safe, cost effective way of removing dead skin cells.  If you get some additional benefit.. all the better.  I personally do it.  I love the way it feels and feel it helps your skin absorb moisture better.  However, I do it very rarely in the winter it is a bit to harsh on my super sensitive skin. 

This is the one I use, I like the long handle for reaching my back, but I like that it is detachable for the rest of me!  However, this is a great inexpensive one to try if you have someone that can help with your back;)

Let us know if you try it and what you think!  If you have a favorite one post a link in your comments!   

Made with Love,

Sweet Cheeks All Natural

Monday, March 25, 2013

Parabens in Skin Care... Is It Really Bad For You?

Well lets start with… What ARE parabens ?  

Parabens  are a class of chemicals that are uses as a preservative in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and food.

So now that we know what they are, lets talk about if they are good for us.  There is a lot of controversy over Parabens  that started  when parabens were found in breast cancer tumors.   So what are the concerns?
  • They can cause skin irritation,  contact dermatitis and rosacea  in persons sensitive to parabens
  • There is increasing concern that parabens cause breast cancer. 
  • Parabens mimic estrogen. Alone this is not good, however since some estrogens are known to drive the growth of tumors , it make their link to breast cancer all the more troubling.
  • The parabens  methylparaben, has been shown to react with UVB when applied on skin increasing aging and DNA damage.

So lets got back to what they do.  They preserve.  Oh yeah…. I don’t want my face cream getting rancid.  No, you don't.  However, if stored in normal conditions (i.e. your medicine cabinet) your skin care products should last 6 months.  Also, there are plenty of  natural preservatives that can extend shelf life.  Are they as effective as parabens?  No.  In my estimation, do they need to be?  No.  But that is just me.  Frankly,  I would rather replace my skin care products ever 6 months than replace my breasts.  

Sometimes, it is not a question of, "Is this okay?"  It has to start being  a question of, "Is this really the best ingredient for caring for our bodies."  For me, hands down, the answer is, "NO!"  

Made with love (and no parabens),

Sweet Cheeks All Natural 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Is Men's Skin Different?

Believe it or not, facial hair aside, men and women’s skin is different.  How you ask…
  • Men have thicker skin
  • Men produce more oil
  • Men have larger pores
  • Men are less prone to hyper pigmentation

So what does this mean for HOW men care for their skin?  First, one thing we know is men are far less likely to use sunscreen on their face daily then women.  This makes them more likely to prematurely age.  So men, please  try a daily sunscreen like this one  Badger has.
Since men have thicker skin, they can exfoliate daily unlike women.  This is especially useful for men that get ingrown beard hair.  Starting exfoliating, will greatly reduce or eliminate these in grown hairs.

Since men’s skin produce more oil and they have larger pores they are more prone to black heads.  This is tricky.  It is essential to remove dirt and residue from skin without stripping the skin (which will just induce more oil production).  

Since most men I know are of the simpler is better ilk, I would recommend doing and exfoliating cleanser.   This knocks out two steps with one.  I would do a 50/50 mix of sugar and baking soda.  Baking soda is an ideal cleanser for skin and is PH correct.   After exfoliating follow up with an aftershave balm like one of ours to knock out another two steps at once.  It contains tea tree oil and coconut oil to help sooth post shave and prevent razor burn, and is and excellent moisturizer. 

Pretty simple.  Us ladies might even give you a little slack on weekends J

Made with love,

Sweet Cheeks All Natural

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Why Men Suck and Typically Should Be Ignored

(Disclaimer:  despite the title there are actually a handful a men that are  not TOO bad :) )

As most of you know, I have my own business.  I started it 3 years ago.  It was a slow start.  That is for sure.  However, I have been amazingly lucky to have the support of the most amazing people. 

About 6 months ago, I was really frustrated with the lack of profitability for my business. A friend, one of the few guys that might be worth listening to, encouraged me to revamp my business strategy.  I have not looked back and have never been so busy. 

Realizing that my business is starting to grow rapidly and knowing there was this great organization (name omitted) that help businesses with advice, I decided I would be stupid not to utilize this free resource.  So I made an appointment to learn what I needed to know to keep my sanity as things take off.

So I met with this guy, a retired executive, we will call him Bob.  I was excited to see what wisdom I could glean from this meeting.  He was a gentile and affable sort.  After telling me a bit about himself and his career highlights, he said, “Now let’s talk about you.”   Let’s, I thought.  I was ready to tell him about my business and the direction it was going.  I knew Bob was going to be a wealth of information.

However, instead of practical information, encouragement or constructive criticism, I got asked how old my children were.  What?  I tell him.  He smiled so kindly and warmly that I was totally unprepared for what came out of his mouth next.   What he said to me was, “Oh, I see.  At the ages they are now, they [my children] still require a lot of time.  Running a business is a serious commitment.  It is unlikely for you to balance the demands of home and what it realistically takes to run a real business.  While you might make more money doing this, perhaps getting a job that pays $15/hour might be a better fit.  Yes, it is less money, but you are not working so hard for it.” 

Then he gave me a lovely smile as if to say, “I bet your husband thinks you’re a pip.”  I thanked him for his time.  Made it to my car and burst into tears.  In 30 minutes this man erased 3 years of confidence I had built in my business.  In 30 minutes this guy made me feel my worth did not extend past the doors my house.  But as opposed to being outraged, I was now full of doubt.  He had made me feel like an utter fraud.  In 30 minutes. 

Now,  after some contemplation, I am not sure what I am more angry about.  At this man, trying to put me into some antiquated box HE created for me… or for me letting him. 

So I picked myself up and stopped whimpering and reminded myself, in three short years I have:

A business that is running in the black, most businesses do not make it this far
Sweet Cheeks has been sold in goodness knows how many states and six countries
Sweet Cheeks was in the celebrity swag bags for a VH-1 event
I was approached by a company in France about doing a private label
I have been taking on meetings with stores left and right (Whole Foods among them)
I have an amazing base of really loyal customers that have put up with me raising prices.

And I did all of this, while being a mom, AND until 2 weeks ago… homeschooling.

And this old fart wants to tell me what I can and cannot handle.  This man who went to work and came home to a wife (that I am sure handled the kids, the cooking and the cleaning) to bourbon – neat poured for him and slippers waiting in the library. This man wants to tell me about work life balance.  WTH?

I wash the clothes and clean the house.  I am the primary parent and I was, until recently, a homeschooler to boot.  I garden, make my own cleaners and do all the cooking.  And guess what, I pour my own damn bourbon and get my own slippers.  And… AND… I run a business. 

I get you don’t understand, Bob.  You can’t.  Because you are not a woman.  You have no idea that on your best day, on you very, very best day…you could have never kept up with me.  Ever. 

So watch out.  Here I come, and hundreds of thousands others like us Bob. Oh… and the glasses are on the shelf.  You can get you own bourbon.   Just sit and look pretty Bob, us women… yeah we got it from here. 

 So thank you… thank you every one of you that has helped me.  Encouraged me.  Told me what I could do, NOT what I could not.  Those of you that, taught me.  Those of you that set examples for me.  Those of you that paved the way.  Those of you that never thought I needed a box. Thank you.  Raise a glass… Bob’s pourin’.