June 19, 2014
Photo Credit: Eli Dagostino
Photo Credit: Eli Dagostino
Holly Bellebuono is a 19th-year traditional and certified herbalist, professional speaker, forager, award-winning formulator, and, writer. She is the author of The Essential Herbal for Natural Health and The Authentic Herbal Healer; her third book will be released this fall: Women Healers of the World (hardcover, SkyHorse), featuring the incredible stories of 31 women from 20 countries and their contributions to more than a dozen powerful world traditions of botanical healing. Holly operates Vineyard Herbs Teas & Apothecary LLC, a retail and wholesale apothecary, where she sells original and award-winning plant-based medicines, including a line of original black, green and herbal teas. Holly also directs The Bellebuono School of Herbal Studies, providing training and certification in Western herbal medicine to students from all over the country. She teaches Soulful Apothecary™, a joyful exploration of creation with plants. Her dynamic lectures about herbal medicine, natural health and women’s empowerment are enjoyed by arboreta, universities, corporations and non-profits, as Holly has a welcoming style that combines education with inspiration. She lives on Martha’s Vineyard with her husband and two teenagers in a mini-homestead with their apothecary garden, chickens, rabbits, blacksmith forge, and soccer nets.
Consenses Interview with Sally Taylor:
Your Name: Holly Bellebuono
Where you live: Martha’s Vineyard
Where you came from: I was born and raised in Asheville, NC. After a brief stint in Atlanta, I lived in Boone, NC, for a time while attending graduate school.
Medium: plants (tea), as I am an herbalist
The name of my work: “Offering a Sip”
What made you want to participate in this project?
I was thrilled to be invited to participate in this project as it is a wonderful opportunity to blend plants with art, creativity with intuition, tea with imagery. It feels very whimsical and yet full of depth: both creative and tasty.
What was your first reaction to the art?
My first reaction to the image was (with a smile), oh that is provocative! My second thought was, I’m so glad it’s an image of a woman because there are so many herbs that resonate with the feminine—on many different levels including physical, emotional, and mythical.
What was the first thing that came to your mind when viewing the art?
I didn’t have much of a story in my mind when I looked at the image. It felt very raw and visceral and didn’t seem to need a story. If anything it makes me think of an archetype—the archetype of Lover (as opposed to mother or girl or crone). Lover is she who offers herself freely and also with all strings attached—for immediate pleasure and also for a long-term relationship. She embodies the Goddess as She Who Loves and She Who Is Loved.
Explain your process.
My process consisted of immediately “feeling” lemongrass and cardamom. These two herbs resonated clearly with the image. Then vanilla popped into my head, which would offer a soft subtlety to the pungency of lemongrass and the eroticism of cardamom. Those were the first 3 herbs that presented themselves. Later I thought of adding stinging nettle (for its smoothness) and fenugreek (for its maple-syrup scent) but when I brewed the tea, only the first 3 herbs really belonged, so I stayed with them. Much later, I looked at the image again and thought it seemed much more erotic than I had originally felt (my first impression was more sweet than erotic), and I thought perhaps I should have used black tea, but I decided to stay with my original gut feeling and use simply lemongrass, cardamom, and vanilla. The tea should reflect the image, which is simple, straightforward, and clear.
What did you title your work and why?
“Offering a Sip” is a sensual, tempting, and provocative phrase that could be applied to both the Lover and the Tea. A taste…
What part of your tea came first?
Lemongrass and cardamom came first, together.
What tools did you use to help you express your interpretation?
Normally I’m not creating from a visual; rather I try to blend my original formulas for taste and fragrance (or to remedy a particular health condition). All my teas are blended with perfumery in mind—using certain herbs as the “high notes” and “low notes” to create a blend that combines deep mellow flavors with rich vibrant flavors that are fragrant, tasty, and healthy.
Lemongrass is heady and bright, cardamom is earthy and delectable and exotic and enlivening, vanilla is soothing and sweet. Together I think these combine to express the waiting Lover reclining in her sunny boudoir. Perhaps just that the vanilla is very very subtle—just enough to balance the fire of passion with the sweetness of seduction.
Extra credit: Did you enjoy this project? More you want to say?
I did indeed enjoy this project, and I love the tea blend that resulted from it! When my husband later looked at the image, he really liked it, of course, which adds a little humor and a different perspective, since he looked at the image and saw The Seductress and my mind expanded on that archetype to see The Goddess, the Lady Nourisher. And since plants seduce us, nourish us, and give us the flavors and scent of sexuality and promise, it feels so, so appropriate to honor this image with a delicious tea!