ELEVEN SIX WOMEN | SPRING DREAMING WITH JANA BLANKENSHIP
Jana Blankenship is the founder of Captain Blankenship a woman-run natural beauty business in the Hudson Valley demanding sustainable solutions for the planet. From her time spent living on the west coast to her current home in the Hudson Valley, natures wild beauty has been her inspiration and the driving force behind her business ethos. Eleven Six visited Jana at her unique, light-infused home near New Paltz designed by eco-architect Matthew Bialecki where we explored effortless beauty, plants as allies and what it’s like to run a plant based business in the modern world.
How did the world of Captain Blankenship evolve?
It came into existence 10 years ago, which feels so wild to say. I have a lifelong sensitivity to synthetic fragrance that I developed during childhood. Synthetic fragrance is now in everything, ranging from personal care products to trash bags. I have a deep love of the scents of the natural world and appreciation for the power of smell. Smell is an integral tool for our health and wellbeing and can summon age old memories in a whiff. Captain Blankenship tapped into this passion and started with essential oil based perfumes. In time, it grew into a full line of haircare, bodycare and skincare products always made with organic, plant-based ingredients and lush, experiential essential oil based scents. From the beginning it was always about casual, effortless beauty products that are effective, easy to use and hopefully bring joy and a moment of pause to your day. The company started as a passion project in my kitchen and then grew in ways I could never anticipate. We now are in the Detox Market, Credo Beauty, Whole Foods, Target, Ulta Beauty and 1000 stores nationally and internationally.
What inspired you to write a book?
I have always loved to write and getting to work on my book Wild Beauty was such a gift. I am a passionate educator about plant-based beauty and getting to compile my research, experiences, anecdotes and DIY recipes from the past decade was important for me and so much fun. The market for clean beauty has grown so much in the past decade but has also become very confusing. Currently, there is a lot of greenwashing going by companies who want customers to believe their products are clean, even though they really aren't. I really wanted Wild Beauty to be a holistic primer to green beauty, which steeps the reader in the beauty and efficacy of plant-based ingredients, teaches some of the dangers of synthetic chemicals in conventional beauty, helps them navigate how to read product ingredients lists and inspires them to DIY products in an easy, economical but also luxurious way.
Can you share a favorite skincare DIY recipe?
This is one of my favorite recipes for an all purpose hand, lip and rough spot balm for all year round, but it is definitely a hot commodity in our house in the winter. This was a Captain Blankenship product that we no longer sell, but I keep making because I am obsessed with it.
Anchor Balm Recipe (makes 6 2oz metal tins or 2oz glass jars)
Ingredients: *I recommend using organic ingredients when possible
-1 1/4 cups carrier oil (almond, jojoba, olive, sunflower seed or mix)
-1/2 cup beeswax pellets or vegan wax
-1 tbsp unrefined shea butter
-80 drops Rose Geranium Essential Oil, 80 drops Lavender Essential Oil or 40 drops Tangerine Essential Oil
Heat up a few inches of water in a small pot, when boils lower to simmer. Add all ingredients together except essential oils in a heatproof glass measuring cup. Put measuring cup in pot and stir mixture occasionally with metal spoon until ingredients are liquid. When liquid, remove measuring cup from pot and wait a few minutes before adding essential oils. Stir with spoon to mix and pour into metal tins or glass jars.
On your website you describe nature as medicine for body and spirit, can you elaborate on this?
Nature is where I go to feel connected. Hiking in the mountains by our home in New Paltz, through the trees down to waterfalls, all year round, brings me so much joy. Learning the plants that grow outside your door, reveling in the changes in the seasons, stopping to smell the roses or mint, all of these things bring us back to our natural rhythm, calm our nerves and bring ease and wonder to our lives. Not only is the beauty and wonder of nature an energetic balm for our body and spirit, but our oldest medicines and beauty formulas came from plants. Plants are powerful allies to us in numerous ways and it so important to cultivate reverence and respect for them.
Why is ritual so important?
In these busy lives we lead, ritual makes us slow down and find joy in the small things in life. I think of rituals as the anchors that color our days. They help support us and give us pause and perspective. It could be the sweet time for daily meditation or something as mundane as putting on face oil. For me, I relish in daily rituals and one that brings me a lot of happiness is taking my Siberian Husky Vuka for a walk, run or hike daily. I relish this time to get to be free with my buddy and let my mind wander.
Do you have any advice on how to make our beauty routines more sustainable?
My advice is always less is more when it comes to beauty. Try to buy or make products that have plant-based ingredients and ones you can recognize. Choose companies that use organic, ethically sourced ingredients and paper, glass or 100% PCR packaging. Try to use more of what you already have and buy less. Products shouldn't be sitting on shelves for years, instead of collecting them, use them.
You’ve recently started working with a Womens’ Cooperative in Uganda, can you tell us more about this?
At Captain Blankenship, we have always been committed to sourcing organic, fair trade ingredients and are excited to start forming more direct relationships with farmers and cooperatives. We are so proud to to work with a cooperative supplier of organic Nilotica shea butter from Uganda through our friend Ssanyu Birigwa. Ssanyu has a personal history and vision to change the social, economic and environmental sustainability of Uganda. As an advocate for the women nut gatherers her focus is on supporting fair wages for work in harvesting this precious resource and supplying beauty companies like Captain Blankenship with luxurious, cold-pressed, organic shea butter.
What exciting projects do you have in the pipeline?
We are launching our Sea Shine Shampoo and Conditioner later this spring, which I am over the moon about. They have been a long time coming and I am so excited about these plant-based formulas. We are working on expanding our hair care line, so expect a lot more products for your locks coming soon. I am also working on ideas for a few more books and potentially a streaming series. Stay tuned!
As an entrepreneur what advise would you give someone starting their own business?
I started my business with absolutely no plan, but full of the passion to create. I think if someone had told me at that point what it would like to run a business, I would have walked away. In the end I am so glad I decided to do it, but I now deeply understand that running a business is truly all consuming. So my advice is, make sure you are 1000% committed to your idea and understand the sacrifices you are going to need to make to bring it to life. If you are ready to run, do it!
What does the Eleven Six brand mean to you and what are some of your favorite pieces from Spring 20?
Eleven Six to me is beautiful, sustainable knitwear that feels deeply aligned with my values and feels so good on my body. When I wear Eleven Six, I love to think of Catherine's journey to create these pieces, the talented artisans in Peru who make them, and I smile thinking of the alpacas. These pieces always move gracefully with my body. They make me want to dance and I feel like I’m wearing a cloud. My namesake Jana dress from Spring 20 is my favorite. I love how comfortable yet sexy it is and the dress also looks great paired with the Tara sweater. I also love the beautiful lilac color of the Layla sweater and the elegant blouson sleeves. This Spring 20 collection has me spring-dreaming!