Home tour and apothecary visit with master herbalist Suzanne Elliott
Suzanne Elliott is a master herbalist, chef, and educator. She hand makes a beautiful line of herbal products, leads workshops on wild food foraging and cooking, and teaches a comprehensive course called Herbal Ways for Women. Suzanne is a fellow Half Moon Bay resident, and I’ve been able to join her foraging workshop and her Herbal Ways for Women course. I’ve been so inspired by her work and teachings, and was excited to learn more about her path. Enjoy!
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Kate Miller: To begin, can you give us an overview of your business and share how you got started?
Suzanne Elliott: My business consists of three categories— Handcrafted Herbal Body and Bath products, Herbal Delicacies, and Herbal Classes and Workshops.
It’s hard to say exactly how it all started. I never had a business plan or a long term vision, just a strong desire to create and a love of herbalism. I began to experiment making a variety of herbal concoctions that I shared with family and friends. In the 1980’s I managed a local heath food store and the owner encouraged me to sell my goods there. The thought of selling my wares was an exciting prospect and this motivated me to make my business official with a logo and product labels.
My teaching career began quite innocently. With the encouragement from my mentor, Rosemary Gladstar, I gained the confidence to take the leap and teach my first herbal cosmetics making class. My passion for teaching was then spurred on by others’ interests and enthusiasm to learn about herbs.
KM: How has your industry evolved? Have people’s perceptions and awareness of herbal medicine shifted?
SE: The interest in herbal medicine, wild foods, and herbal skincare has increased exponentially since I began my craft more than 3 decades ago. There appears to be revival of living simple, growing and preserving one’s own food, foraging wild foods, and reconnecting with nature. The awareness around herbal medicine has become more commonplace and mainstream. When I first began my explorations in the herbal filed it was more contained to a select group.
KM: Yes! It is exciting to witness and be part of this revival, especially as an antidote to our fast-paced, tech driven society. You’ve mentioned some of your teachers and mentors specific to herbal studies, but how did you learn to run your own business?
SE: My mother, the entrepreneur, was a huge influence in my life and I gained many practical skills under her guidance. She always said “You can do what ever you want in life as long as you put your mind to it.”
I learned how to run my business through trial and error! Being basically self taught, I have leaned on my instincts, perseverance, and common sense. My strong work ethic and focus enables me to be self employed and I love the process of seeing the tangible results of my ideas. I also draw from the many skills I have acquired from past jobs. Every experience we have in life can be used to help run a business.
KM: So true! What is the hardest part of running your own business? The best part?
SE: The most difficult aspect of running my own business is juggling all the moving parts. I wear all the hats of my business and there is always something to be done, so I end up working long hours. If I don’t work, I don’t get paid and I receive no sick leave or vacation pay.
The best part - I’m my own boss and I choose my own hours. I get to be home all day creating an array of fabulous goodies in my apothecary and tending to my herb garden. I experience the joy of doing what I love! My work is not separate from my life, it is my life.
KM: You’ve lived on the CA coast for most of your life. To you, what is so special about this place?
SE: It’s a gorgeous place to live! We have so much here, the ocean, mountains, open spaces, plant and animal life, all that is conducive to my work as an herbalist. Living here supports my livelihood as well as the quality of my life.
KM: Your home is such a thoughtfully decorated space. How would you describe your personal style?
SE: My personal style stems from my belief that our homes are sacred and should be a place that supports and nurtures the soul. My need to be connected to nature at all times and my intrigue for different cultures influences the many colors and objects I display in my home. I know it is not necessary to spend a lot of money to create a beautiful space, so I source from thrift stores and repurpose what I can. I don’t follow trends and love to decorate with items that are useful and pretty to look at which satisfies my practical and artistic nature.
KM: What do you love most about your cottage?
SE: I love the funky old style of this cute little 1940’s cottage. Something very special I first noticed when I first moved in was the crown molding in the living room. It is a 3 leaf clover which happens to be my Woodsorrel logo! I think I’m meant to be here.
KM: What is your favorite way to use plants around the home?
SE: Fresh herbs in cooking! Not only are they beautiful and smell lovely, they are completely useful. I love walking outside and grabbing fresh herbs and flowers because it completely transforms the food. I use lots of rosemary and thyme , and also enjoy adding Society Garlic to recipes. It has the garlic taste and scent without being overwhelming.
KM: Do you have a daily ritual that keeps you grounded?
SE: Getting outside everyday and connecting with nature even if it’s just sitting in my garden.
KM: Let’s shift topics a bit. Cold and flu season is here- can you share a DIY herbal remedy?
KM: You make such wonderful products. What would be your top 3 holiday gift suggestions from the Woodsorrel line?
SE: Definitely my face creams! I have 3 to choose from: Parisian Lavender, Luscious Whipped, and Triple Rose. Other great gifts would be my Wild Mustard Condiment and Elderberry Rose Cordial.
KM: If you are all wondering where you can purchase these divine treats, I encourage you to check out Suzanne’s holiday pop-up location!
Woodsorrel + Wild Woman Pottery’s 11th Annual Holiday Marketplace
WHEN: Saturdays (10-5) and Sundays (11-4), November 24-December 23
WHERE: The Camellia House- 1225 Audubon @ 5th St, Montara, CA
You can read more about Suzanne’s Woodsorrel line and upcoming events on her website, and get a daily dose of plant inspiration by following her on Instagram! Thanks so much to Suzanne for sharing a glimpse into your lovely home and your life as a master herbalist!