Maker of the Month: Spruce + Bee

Photography by Christina Ramos

Britt Sanders started Spruce + Bee to make sustainable skin and body care products. For Sanders, it’s about sourcing everything locally and from nature. With a little over a year into the business and some ups and downs, her products can now be found all over the city.

PATTERN had the opportunity to talk with Sanders about what inspired her to make Spruce + Bee.

Name: Britt Sanders

Business Name: Spruce + Bee

What do you make: Sustainable skin and body care products

How long have you been doing this: A little over a year

Where can readers find you online: www.spruceandbee.com

Retail locations where people can find your product: Georgetown Market, Wildwood Market, Urban Hippie, Noble Coffee, Blooms by Wildwood

What piqued your initial interest in designing your products?
Spruce + bee was born out of a personal need to create something on my own from the ground up. It was a way to marry the creative parts of me with the practical ones. Weaving a need for products that worked into the fibers of nature and coming out on the other side with a design and products I absolutely love has been incredible.

What principles do you use when designing?
I like simple things. Things that are functionally beautiful. Put me at the most exquisite desk or give me the most radiantly packaged skin cream and if they don’t work and function in the way I want them to, forget about it. Less is all you need, it’s the principle applied to our formulations and our branding.

Who and/or what influences your design style?
How would you describe you design aesthetics and values? When I think about my design style, I can’t help but to be pulled toward nature and natural materials. It’s true for my personal style, my home and my lifestyle. My parents lived in a MCM house and I’ve always loved how the simple beauty of the home was designed to fit perfectly with the nature around it, how the furniture was so pleasing to the eye yet so functional. I’ve always been drawn to natural simplicity and it was imperative when I started Spruce + Bee that those design elements came through in my materials, process and branding.

What comes first for you, the design materials or the design concept?
Absolutely the materials. I find the ingredients and botanicals I believe in and then work on transforming them into something that I love. In my world there is nothing worse than having an idea for lets say, Cleansing Grains, a fully conceptualized product and then never being able to source non GMO oats or the right packaging and having to start over.

Could you describe the process of creating a piece – from concept to finish? The creative process as well as the material selection and labor processes, too?
Every product I design starts with the ingredients. Each one having its own unique properties and adding value to the concept. From there, I map out exactly what I hope to create and for what purpose. Am I healing dry skin or am I looking for a response to aerosol dry shampoo? I blend small batches, testing for consistency, texture, scent, etc.. until it’s perfect. I find the best packaging to serve that particular product and spend time using and testing it. My favorite moments are spent standing in the studio in front of the apothecary shelves recalling what herbs and oils are best for what ailments and getting to work blending them into something amazing. One of my favorite products to create was the dark version of our Dry Shampoo. I knew I’d stick with the arrowroot base and the lavender and tea tree oils because they are so good for the skin and scalp and the scent is incredible. The most creative aspect became, what to use to make it dark — cocoa, cinnamon, activated charcoal, clays? The list is endless and in the end I landed on cocoa because the scent fit so beautifully with what I’d already created.

What is your favorite tool and why?
When I was stocking the studio, I scoured resale shops for scoops and spoons and didn’t have a ton of luck. At that time, I was packaging samples in these small silver mylar pouches (we’ve since switched to paper, way better for the world). They were such a pain in the you-know-what to fill. Weeks later, after packaging what seemed like thousands of these damn things I found a spoon at Goodwill. It was long necked and slim like an ice tea spoon but someone had come along and squared off the top left curve. It filled the tiny pouches flawlessly, I couldn’t have designed it more perfectly for this purpose.

Describe a piece you are most proud of. What was special about it?
Tub Tea – Spruce + Bee’s response to the bath bomb. Sure, bath bombs are neat but they are messy and a lot of times full of gross chemicals. I am not a complete hater though, I do love the single use aspect as well as some of the incredible scents. So I designed a sustainable, single use bath product that smells amazing, and while it doesn’t fizz, it relaxes you and is 100% mess free. It’s unique because the salts, herbs and oils are contained in a tea bag that you allow to steep in a warm tub and when the bath is over, you just take it out and discard the remaining herbs after all the salts have dissolved. I think I hold this product so close to my heart because it was challenging to choose the signature sent and I spent so many hours playing with packaging until it was perfect. And then when it was all done, I gave our customers a chance to create their own unique scents with custom blending. It’s just an incredible product that fosters so much creativity.

Describe the commissioning process. What are the best and worst aspects of doing comississions?
Any creatively minded individual doesn’t love the idea of doing commissions. Unless someone hands them a million dollars and says “have at it.” Usually, at some point in the process the artist makes concessions. With that said, there is tremendous opportunity for growth within the commission process, if you’re lucky someone presents you with an idea and gives you the creative license to run with it. I don’t seek out commissions, but exposure is so important and when the opportunity presents itself, provided the creative license is there, I’ll take on the project if it fits within the values of the company.

What advice would you give to aspiring artists like yourself?
Drown out the noise and stop comparing yourself to others. You are exactly where you should be. Comparison is absolutely the thief of joy and if your yardstick is a designer, or a company 10 years in and you’re just starting out, you’ll fall short every time. Believe in yourself babe, you’ve got this.

What is one thing that the creative design community can do in Indianapolis to help grow an audience for custom or hand-crafted work?
Slash the Amazon van’s tires! In all seriousness though, I think talking about and promoting one another is essential. It is imperative we educate our community on the value of handmade. Companies in Indy who focus on design and fashion need to be looking to local artists to stock their shelves, fill their racks, or adorn the walls of their banks and restaurants. In the same way we talk about bringing local, craft foods to the table we should be talking about using local, hand-crafted products across most aspects of our lives.

Dream client/commission?
I had the owner of a skincare line represented in Target stores hit me with this question and give me flack for not wanting to make it big. I love making products and I don’t want to stop. I don’t want to get so big that I lose the part of Spruce + Bee that fuels my creative fire because I’m calculating payroll or meeting with the bank. I would love to have my product in VIP rooms at the JW Marriott or Conrad hotels, that would feel like making it.

What makes your work different from anyone else’s?
It seems simple, but this business is me. It is my heart and soul, born out of an unwavering passion to create something of my own, on my own terms that embodies what I need, what I love and what brings me joy. Spruce + Bee captures my design style, my lifetime love of bees and how I feel skincare should be presented to the world. This brand is unique in that it offers sustainable solutions to common skincare issues but feels luxurious.

What is your most rewarding memory in your business?
I broke both my elbows this year, at different times, which of course makes blending, packing and labeling product incredibly difficult. I operate Spruce + Bee myself and if I was going to finish out my first year in business with anything even resembling success, I was going to need help. An army of women showed up at my door, they did all the things (and they only drank half my wine). Looking over at my dining room table full of badass women unselfishly helping me fulfill my dream and asking nothing in return was the best feeling. I am in debt to them not only for the labor cost, but also because of their unwavering support of Spruce + Bee.

Is there any maker you would recommend to be highlighted for this series?
Emily Sanders of Blooms by Wildwood and Meghan McGovern of Bumble and Bird

Keep up with Spruce + Bee by checking out their website, Facebook, Instagram!

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