Irina Adam, of Phoenix Botanicals, lived the first 12 years of her life in Bucharest, Romania. She spent her summers and a few winters in the mountains at Tusnad, roaming the woods and meadows, getting lost at dusk among the pine trees, scaring herself with the shadows, and eventually finding her way back home.
Her childhood wilderness adventures created a lifelong bond with the natural world. It is a bond that sustained her through the transition to Bloomington, Indiana as a teenager seeking solace in the forest near her new home, as a college student obsessed with art and botany, and as a crafter of small batch earth-friendly natural care products.
As an environmental and animal activist, Irina practices what she preaches. She consciously and sustainably harvests the plants from wild locations in the northeast. Mentored by herbalist Robin Rose Bennett, with whom she apprenticed over 3 years in New York, Irina uses local plants as the base of her herbal products and she loves taking the time to let people know about the abundance of local wild, therapeutic plants -- sometimes also called weeds -- just outside our doors if you know what to look for.
Enthusiastic and always willing to be inspired, Irina believes deeply in the infinite ways to see the world offers us through plants, animals, weather, and all of nature. All one has to do is listen, watch, and pay attention.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Making a batch of Wild Rose Balm, with Phoenix the cockatiel on my shoulder! Then, swimming in the ocean with wild dolphins, eating organic chocolate and...
What is your greatest fear?
Fear! For real.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
The female figurines often decorated with spirals, found all over the world. Her-story!
Which living person do you most admire?
Amma is quite amazing.
Do you have a theme song, and what is it?
Africa by John Coltrane.
What is the trait you most like in yourself?
Easy laughing - I think other parts of me like too, as it makes me/them feel good.
What is the trait you most like in others?
I like it when people empower others by what they do, say or make.
What is your greatest extravagance?
When and where were you happiest?
When and wherever I'm with someone interesting, sweet and attractive, in a beautiful landscape. All these times make together a high plateau of happiness.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Id start with a cute haircut. Nah, I'd be a billionaire and still be myself. That would take care of the haircut too.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
The times I inspired someone, even a little. To see something new, to make something, to laugh, to value an animal more, to recycle, to appreciate something in nature. Last summer I led some herb walks in Montauk. A little boy came who loved eating clover flowers. Every time I saw him after, he was identifying plants to his family and showing off his collections of rose hips.
If you were to be reincarnated as a person, animal, or thing, what do you think you would be?
A sea wind, a bird, a flying elf, an old Sonic Youth t-shirt?
What is your most treasured possession?
A picture of the Sea Goddess, Yemaya.
Which talent or skill would you most like to have?
Today, writing very good, and fast. And preferably, without desiring snacks every 10 minutes.
Who are your heroes in real life?
As a true-blue Pisces I had to Google 'real life'. Did you know, some people call it 'meatspace,' as opposed to cyberspace? In New York I've had great teachers - herbalists Robin Rose Bennett, Lata Kennedy, mycologist Gary Lincoff, Qigong instructor Masahiro Ouchi, break-dancer Tiny, animal activist Karen Davis, to name a few. So many awesome people. And of course my mom and Phoenix.
What is it the one thing you dislike the most?
That empty look.
What is your motto?
Live and let die. That's it lately.
Who are your favorite artists?
Lots! In the past week the music of Amanda Palmer, the paintings of Barnett Newman and Rothko at MOMA inspired me. My friends at Poykpac make great funny videos.
Is there any invention you wish you had thought of?
Plastic. I would then destroy the evidence and hope no one will invent it again. Can hardly eat a piece of candy without having to throw away plastic these days! On the other hand I am glad that the info is finally out about how plastic ends up in sea animals' bellies, in the water in our water bottles, in our blood. I am excited about the new lip balm paper tubes I've been using and aim to reduce all plastic in my packaging.
What's the first thing you remember making?
A mess. But I thought it made itself.
In addition to her Etsy shop, Phoenix Botanicals can also be found at a number of local stores in New York. Check out her website, phoenixbotanicals.com, or her facebook page, for information about current classes and events.
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