Do you believe in the healing power of nature? I recently asked that question in an Instagram story and more than simple votes were cast— I heard from many friends and readers that their answer of yes was laden with personal experience. So for those of you who are, like myself, strengthened when you feel most connected to nature, I’m pleased to introduce you to the woman behind a brand of which you may already be a fan, Alauna Whelan. From her stunning, handcrafted work with natural crystals and silver to her divine poured candles and element-guided ritual mists, there’s a reason Alauna’s namesake line is on so many wish lists (including my own) as the holiday shopping season draws near. As she prepares for Third + Bird this weekend not to mention Modern Home Maker, Flock and Gather, and the long-running Sundog, Alauna’s market schedule is packed… so I feel especially honoured that she shared her time with me recently. Today, a very personal Q&A. Please get comfy, open your heart, and take in the complex, creative, and lovely soul of mother and maker, Alauna Whelan.
S&L: Your work in both jewelry and scents is guided by nature and astrology. Is that connection something you’ve always felt or was there someone or something that shaped that path for you?
The birth of my first son over 10 years ago left me with debilitating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from obstetrical violence. My attempts at advocating and navigating our healthcare system left me with no support, diagnosis, or answers. This resulted in me seeking out alternative healing modalities alongside the countless hours of therapy.
My son was extremely colicky having suffered his own traumatic entrance into the world. I would use a tiny amount of diluted lavender oil on his blanket in an attempt to calm him. I found that it actually worked. After that, I was hooked. 10 years later, my son still uses essential oils when he isn’t feeling well.
As someone who has always been sensitive to synthetic fragrance, working with botanical products from nature has been an exceptionally healing and grounding process for me. When I was first pregnant I began making my own cold process soap, lotions, herbal infusions, and healing salves. I love to wild forage at the lake each summer, still make my own soap, and adore the comfort and peace that plant medicine provides.
I started noticing the cycles of the moon back when I worked in retail after graduating high school. After the birth of my oldest, I was fascinated by how he seemed fussier during the full moon. I follow the feminine path which is ruled by the moon. The moon controls the tides of the oceans, it’s that ebb and flow, that rhythmic cycle, the waxing and waning.
Astrology is actually very academic and technical but I find myself drawn to its patterns and myths the most. To connect with the wisdom of nature’s seasons and cycles, to witness the periods of darkness and lightness, and in that reflection gain a sense of peace and understanding within myself.
S&L: Calmness and centredness in the chaos of the everyday is something everyone strives for. What practices or elements do you personally find grounding? And, what element did you relate most to?
I like to keep things simple. If something requires a lot of input or management, I never stick with it! Ritual is key, as it cultivates predictability and settles my nervous system which is important when living with PTSD. Waking up early before my kiddos, making coffee, lighting a candle, and reading a book or meditating is how I like to start most days. I love walking my boys to school, taking in the landscape, noticing the change of the seasons, the morning light, and breathing in deeply. The smell of each season is so different and so delicious. Dessert dates with besties and tarot cards are always a treat!
I actually love using my element products intentionally. If I am journaling on some ideas for a new collection and want that spark of inspiration, I will light a Fire candle. If I need clarity on a challenge, I will reach for the Air element mist. When I struggle to make space for my feelings to be felt, I will gravitate towards Water.
With that said, the theme for the last couple of years for me has been Earth. Taking things day by day, step by step, practicing patience and persistence have all been very strong themes that tie into the Earth element for me. Also, my sun is in Virgo, which is an Earth sign.
S&L: Your quiz led me to the water element which isn’t technically where my birth sign lies (I’m a Libra) and yet the personality description felt so familiar and accurate—I even felt drawn to the scent! Do you find that’s common? And do you think the elements we most identify with change throughout our lives?
The foundation of astrology is built upon is the four elements: earth, fire, water, and air. The fifth element, ether, is the thread that weaves and connects them all.
We might have a dominant element or gravitate towards one because we need what it represents in our lives at that moment. It’s important to remember that as individuals we hold the energy of all four elements in our own astrological charts. Yes, one can be more prevalent but they are all connected, important, and necessary.
We live in a time where women’s work and contributions are not valued in the ways they need to be, as such, I notice that the earth and water elements tend to resonate more strongly. They carry the wisdom we need to hear and embrace.
Earth and Water are the two feminine elements, and by feminine, I mean inwardly focused. Air and Fire are more masculine, in that their energy is outward-focused.
S&L: I’m always interested in the creative process because people go about it so differently. From inception to fruition, will you give me your Cole’s Notes of how a piece comes to be for you?
For the element collection, I wanted to harness nature’s elements into something tangible that could be used for reflection and support. It was birthed from a guided meditation I used to do back when I offered workshops and women’s circles. I started all of my events with the same meditation where we would connect with each element and light a candle in honor of its guidance.
From there, I knew what I wanted each element to represent and chose plant botanicals that would support the intention behind each one. Weaving in the crystals added another layer.
Plants and crystals have such a deep history of lore and mysticism attached to them. If you read any Farmer’s Almanac it will tell you what moon cycle to plant with. And a quick google search of metaphysical properties of stones can lead anyone down a rabbit hole of never-ending info. This is probably where the years I spent looking for anything that would alleviate the PTSD symptoms comes in handy. I’ve read a lot of books, studied cranial sacral therapy, reiki, crystals, worked with essential oils, journaled, and practiced affirmations and mindfulness. Before PTSD, I used to work in the mining industry in the lab. I love melding and alchemizing different layers within my creations.
As an example, amethyst is often referred to as the stone of sobriety. In ancient times, people would drink out of goblets carved from amethyst believing it would keep them sober. Amethyst is also a spiritual stone, the color of purple resonating with the crown chakra and connecting one to higher guidance. I use Amethyst in my Ether products and pair it with precious oils that were used in ancient times for special ceremonies. Like frankincense, cypress, and myrrh.
For my one-of-a-kind crystal pieces, it all starts with the stone. I prefer to source from women lapidary artists primarily in Canada but I also work with a few small local and international suppliers. Having a connection and developing a relationship with the people I source my supplies from is so important.
For these pieces, I will only make them when I am inspired and in a good head space. Typically I won’t make pieces for a few months and then inspiration will strike and I won’t be able to stop!
Spending so many hours creating each pendant means I really get to know each one. They have their own story to tell and I try to capture that when I name them.
S&L: I know you are now stocking at one of my favourite retailers, Green Tree Beauty, and your own website is absolutely gorgeous. What do you envision for the Alauna Whelan collection from here?
I absolutely love hearing that the products that have been created through me are having a positive impact on someone’s life. I have experienced some exceptional hardship and trauma in my life, I remember how dark it can be. Mother nature, crystals, and essential oils were my steadfast companions during my intense years of initiation into motherhood and throughout my ongoing healing journey.
I want to keep creating new collections that carve out the feminine path, that assist us in connecting to something greater, help us to remember what’s important, and how valued our contributions as women are.
I would love to partner with more amazing women, like our incredible Jennilee of Green Tree Beauty, to build supportive thriving female-owned businesses. I love that we have more options that are eco-conscious and botanically based. I am currently working on developing a line of botanical perfumes that will be available in 2020.
My big dream right now is to have my own studio space. I know I don’t have the stamina to own a storefront but would love to offer that in-person shopping experience a few times a month. To be able to connect face to face with people, to hear their stories, and to develop those important heartfelt connections that are so easily lost in today’s fast paced digital world.
Thank-you to the lovely Alauna Whelan for sharing her thoughts with me. You can meet her and see her beautiful hand-crafted wares during her busy market season or you can shop her collection at Green Tree Beauty, Joyne, Handmade House, Nocturnus Arts, Novo Esthetics, and SaskMade Marketplace in Saskatoon. In Edmonton, find her pieces at Wild Heart Wise and in Burlington, Ontario you can purchase at Anise Modern Apothecary. Or, from wherever you may be, peruse and purchase her beautiful works online at AlaunaWhelan.com.