We would love to find out more about how you started Vilda Vaxter?
We officially created Vilda Vaxter in the fall of 2014. Before then we have been obsessed with infusing and tincturing plants to see what fragrances and natural colors we could extract. When we made our first pine salve we were captivated by the fragrance. It smelled wild and fresh, like stepping into a forest wilderness. From that moment on, we began experimenting with Swedish wildflowers and berries like mullein, red clover and yarrow, juniper and lingon, to make balms for friends and family. With such positive responses, we were inspired to make wildcrafted bar soaps and eventually perfumes and colognes.
You collect raw materials from the Swedish mountains and forests – could you tell us a little more about wildcrafting?
We didn't know what it was called when we first started doing it. The wilderness here in Sweden is lush with plants, trees and in some parts a thick blanket of moss that covers the forest floor. Wearing rain boots on morning hikes through the forest we find dense patches of trees with pine pitch oozing from the bark. From sitting on each other's shoulders harvesting hard-to-reach pine resin to crawling on the ground through three foot deep moss pillows, we realize wildharvesting, or wildcrafting, is closest to giving a name to what we do. We love being in the wilderness.
What first made you interested in making your own balms and perfumes?
Our inspiration comes from the fresh fragrances of plants and how we can transport them in a bottle, jar or bar of soap. The challenge of capturing these fragrances and the reward of being able to recall a place in the wilderness no matter where you are; I think that rests at the core of why we do what we do. Not to mention that most generic soaps, lotions and salves smell synthetic and stuffy. We wanted something real and fresh and we used our do-it-yourself ethic to get it done. Everything we do from designing our hand-drawn labels and logos to creating recipes from wildharvested plants, is done from the heart.
Did you teach yourselves or have a mentor to learn the techniques of creating scents and balms from wild plants?
As hikers and backpackers we are self-taught in the ways of wilderness exploration. Crushing cypress shoots in between our fingers and breathing in that citrusy, sweet fragrance; those things come naturally to us. The soapmaking required remembering a little high school chemistry and some trial and error to get it right. A lot of what we do is about experimentation at first: we are constantly creating new recipes and building on the best of what came before that.
What are your favourite areas for sourcing ingredients?
During the peak of summer you will find us wildharvesting in the mountains of Jämtland. Nature in the north is rugged and wildlife such as elk, lynx and bears roam free. The forests and mountains here are more isolated and untouched. We live in a modest 100-year-old log house overlooking glacial lakes and pine trees. In Jämtland we have the space and enough raw plant material to experiment with small-batch steam distillation and on-site tincturing and infusing of more delicate fragrances. In Skåne (the south of Sweden) the climate is warmer and spring comes earlier. Here we harvest spring birch leaves for soap and wildharvested tea. In Västra Götaland (outside Gothenburg), we harvest kåda (pine pitch) and a cornucopia of pine shoots, wildflowers, mushrooms and berries. The whole Scandinavian peninsula is our playground!
What did you both do before you decided to wild harvest full time?
Kerstin Wennberg is a certified Shiatsu therapist and Pax Chmara travelled the world working odd jobs. We never thought it was possible to make wildharvesting a full time business. In fact it is very early days still and we can't believe we're doing it! Without the support of intuitive and independent thinkers such as you all at The Future Kept, it just wouldn't be possible. Thank you!
View the full Vilda Växter collection here.