News

Craft & Caro logo and nylon strap

Evolution is the process by which a species adapts to its environment, in order to thrive. It happens in small steps. It is catalyzed by chance. Each successful variation endows a lucky creature with new or improved abilities, ensuring the strength and endurance of its line. Homo Sapiens is subject to this natural progression, of course, but there is something that sets us apart.

Woman with wings manufactured for human flight

For some time now, we have had the distinct pleasure of playing a role in our own evolution, thanks to our unique creative faculties. We call this kind of progress innovation. Innovation is the means by which we adapt the world to our needs, in order to thrive. It also happens in small steps. It is catalyzed by inspiration.

Vintage flying invention

Innovation is what sets us apart from the other evolvers. It is what makes us human. We get a chance to impart our ideas, our values, our tastes, and our aesthetics into our very existence. We get to stand back, square up the canvas in our sights, and contribute our own brushstrokes, even as we live them.

Our deeper values, what we might call spiritual aesthetics, inform how we choose to live. They are reflected in those brushstrokes — in all the subtle ways that we manifest beauty, elegance, and refinement in ourselves each day.

True style is borne by the graceful fusion of utility — dictated by the practical requirements of evolution — and beauty — that more elusive sense of what pleases the spirit. The care we put into crafting ourselves evinces the grace that resonates within each of us. It is how we share ourselves with the world, and in doing so, we uplift each other.

Closeup of Nylon strap of Craft & Caro leather ruckpack

That’s why we do what we do at Craft & Caro. We celebrate creativity. We cheer on the people who nudge us forward with each new innovation. We see style as something that is part and parcel of good design and good workmanship. We seek out the choicest fruits of the artisan world, according to our own heartfelt aesthetic, and collect them in our stockroom. The items we choose share the virtue of innovation, whether they are classic or cutting edge.

 Top front of leather bag

So far, this has been our contribution to the cause. Today, however, marks the genesis of something much bigger for us.

For once, we have had the opportunity to stand at the drafting board and determine exactly what shape inspiration will take. We are quite excited to announce Craft & Caro’s first ever collaborative product. 

LTHR Supply x Craft & Caro ruckpack in Bourbon

 

In partnership with our talented friends at LTHR Supply, we proudly present The Ruckpack.

 

We teamed up with Jeremy Szechenyi and Travis Tyler, the makers behind LTHR Supply, to collaborate on the new model, based on their classic Rucksack. After no small amount of consideration, we arrived at something that we are proud to put our names on.

The Ruckpack takes into account the practical demands of everyday use, and shines as an example of the subtle panache that has come to characterize our company. This is an everyday bag, to be sure, but a bit more distinguished — sophisticated, simple, durably built and enduringly stylish.

Side view of Craft & Caro Ruckpack rolltop

This redesign is all about the details. It is in the details that you will find those very sparks of inspiration that excite the senses.

We chose softer leather for a more luxurious feel. The edges of the rolltop are unstitched and unfinished, allowing for increased flexibility and more casual styling. Eventually, the raw leather edges will develop their own unique patina.

Backside of Craft & Caro leather Ruckpack

High-quality nylon straps, designed to stand up to long-term stress, replaced the leather ones. They feature a slide loop instead of a belt buckle system, allowing for continuous adjustment. The design does away with loose strap ends for a cleaner look and function. They’re stitched right into the bag, instead of being fastened with a lot of metal hardware.

Backside of leather ruckpack

Overall, the bag has fewer structural rivets and more stitching. The remaining rivets and fittings are made of aluminum instead of stainless steel. The result is a lighter, more comfortable pack. The bag also has an increased capacity, making it ideal for the urban commuter, the casual outdoorsman, or the thrifty vacationer. The minimalist design makes for a wonderfully simple functionality.

LTHR Supply x Craft & Caro leather patch

To commemorate the series, each bag bears a handsome, manually-stamped leather patch, featuring the respective LTHR Supply and Craft & Caro labels, as well as our collaborative tagline, “everyday goods, timeless designs.”

This first limited run comes in two colors, Bourbon and Walnut. And of course, every single component, from the full-grain steer hide and the bonded nylon stitching, to the aluminum clips and rivets, was produced in the USA. The Ruckpack was designed and assembled with pride in Boston, Massachusetts.

Leather ruckpacks by Craft & Caro

Thank you for giving us a chance to share this little moment of evolution. We will continue to step forward, to inspire and be inspired, and to champion the work of makers across the globe. Their workshops are where the magic is happening. Our collective passion for progress is what keeps them at it. Here’s to much, much more.

Vintage Jet Pack man

Check out the Ruckpack here!

Filed Under: Boston, New Products, News, Travel

News Bulletin

Art on display in Market at Casablanc

Dear friends of Craft & Caro,

We want to take a moment to share with you some of our latest accomplishments, and some exciting things to come!

After a few action-packed weeks of taking part in pop-up events, launching the Maker Profile blog series, planning for the summer, and making new friends all along the way, we find ourselves at the beginning of yet another exciting endeavor.

People walking through Market at Casablanc

Renovations are underway at Craft & Caro’s new store/showroom/lounge/gallery/event space in Market at Casablanc! We mentioned this exciting new artisan collective in the profile of Brothers Artisan Oil a few weeks ago; since then we have been invited to take a studio in the space. The entire place is coming alive before our eyes, and we’re psyched to be a part of it. We’ll be spending a lot of time in our new neighborhood over the next few weeks while we set up. Please bear with us. Decorating is hard work.

Art on the wall at Market at casablanc

By summer, you’ll be able to come visit us in the Craft & Caro Showroom! Contemplate the Boston cityscape from our lounge, browse the inspired products on our shelves, and explore the diverse studios and makers that belong to this curious new community.

Visitors in Best Bees studio

We’ll get back to you soon with more details on the store opening and other events, as well as a full-length article on Market at Casablanc.

Stay tuned for upcoming editions of our Maker Profile series, featuring engineer Ian Schon of Schon DSGN, letterpress stationers Smudge Ink, designer Jeremy Szechenyi of LTHR Supply Co and leather goods makers American Bench Craft. We’ll have to prepare the first Summer Beer Review soon, too! How time flies.

Enjoy yourselves. This is Craft & Caro, wishing you all the best in life.

See you soon!

Neon flamingo in a hall

Filed Under: Boston, Culture, Events, News
Boston Made banner hanging from chainlink fence

Two weeks ago, Craft & Caro had the opportunity to be a part of Boston’s newest craft market, Boston Made. Twenty diverse, Boston-area artisans came together in Somerville for one of the first pleasant, sunny weekends of the season.

The market was received with unanimous delight by curious patrons and vendors alike. For many on both sides of the booths, it was the first time attending such an event in Boston, despite the increasing number of active artists and makers in the city.

Marquee at Boston Made craft market

Boston Made is the brainchild of peers Kathryn Yee, founder of The Everyday Co., and Kate Kellman and Isabel Bonenfant, founders of Of Note Stationers. The three entrepreneurs came together in January to build a comprehensive database of craft markets they had each worked, to plan for the new year. They quickly saw that their combined resources held a much more valuable potential.

“We realized that wasn’t anything local in the Spring after the hustle of the holiday markets” Kathryn explains. “Between Kate, Isabel and I, we were confident that we could create a small market from all the makers we knew. So we just kicked it off and started planning,” says Kathryn.

Sign hanging from vending tent at Boston Made

In keeping with the enterprising spirit that is characteristic of the maker movement, Kathryn, Kate and Isabel saw their opportunity to create something and went for it. Over a matter of just a few weeks, they embraced a “divide and conquer” strategy and used their individual networks to build a roster of vendors, supporters and organizers.

“We started with our network of maker friends and expanded from there. Each of us spent hours reaching out to people for event promotion,” says Kate.

Crowd at Boston Made craft market

As luck would have it, friend and kindred spirit Chas Wagner offered to host Boston Made at his brand new pop-up event space, The Clubhouse. Chas, founder of the culture and apparel brand Rally Sports, recently rehabilitated the vacant Somerville Ave. garage into a bright, mural-adorned, community-oriented space for creative events just like this one.

Just down the street from Union Square and within eyesight of the Artisan’s Asylum studios, The Clubhouse sits in the heart of one of Boston’s most creative boroughs. Only New York City boasts more artists per capita than Somerville, according to the city’s official website. On-street parking, steady pedestrian traffic and high visibility made it the perfect location for the incipient market. In turn, Boston Made was a great chance to showcase the colorful new venue.

Shoppers at Boston Made craft market

Kathryn, Kate and Isabel put special attention on curating a well-rounded selection of vendors, for a robust shopping experience where every table offered something unique.

“It was important that the experience of the shopper felt cohesive and curated. We made sure that each maker would be highlighted and we didn’t have overlapping products” says Kathryn.

Spoons on display(Spoons by Annie Meyer Studio)

“Our aim was to have a well-balanced group… If we allowed any overlap in the type of goods showcased, we made sure their aesthetics differed enough so that all of the brands would compliment each other,” adds Kate.

That effort was not lost on the vendors, who agreed that the diverse selection of products really elevated the experience for everyone.

Kitchen & Kraft booth display and signage

“It’s a good group, a good variety of products,” said Tori Kendrew of Kitchen & Kraft, maker of natural kitchen and home goods, or as her slogan reads, “rad things for mindful living.”

Illustrator Shawna Koontz agreed. “This is incredibly well curated. Some of the most top-notch makers in the [Boston] craft industry are here.”

More importantly, it seemed, Boston Made provided a much needed opportunity for local makers to get out of their studios and make connections with each other, and with their customers. For some vendors, this was their first time coming face to face with other craftspeople working and creating in the very same community as them.

Jane Cuthbertson standing at her vending booth

“It’s invaluable for networking. To me that is the most important thing by far,” explained maker Jane Cuthbertson of Grey Green Goods. This was her first time vending at a live market. “Everything I do is online mostly. But there is no substitute for picking something up.”

Amy Seeburger poses at her booth

“As a weaver I’m kind of isolated,” said Amy Seeburger of Aurelian Weavers. Amy opened her website for business just one week before attending Boston Made. “Just being able to understand what the customers’ needs and wants are is huge.”

Despite the burgeoning population of Boston makers and the growing interest locally crafted goods, many voices in the industry lament the lack of regular events like Boston Made. While a few major (and more impersonal) shows like American Field come to Boston annually, and New England Open Markets is gearing up for another busy season down in the South End, many makers feel Boston is far from hitting its saturation point.

Shoppers at Boston made craft market

“A big part of this was about drawing attention to creative small businesses. There is a huge maker movement happening not only in Boston but across our country, bringing back craftsmanship. I’d love to see a change in the way people shop in Boston. Right now there isn’t a cool destination for people to shop local. Everything is sort of spread out and siloed. We see it happening in other cities but not ours,” explains Kathryn.

Designer Erica Feldman, who came out to peruse the market, was excited for that very reason. “I’m from Chicago. There’s a really big [maker] culture in Chicago. When I moved here I couldn’t find any independent brands, so it’s nice to see this.” Feldman is the owner of HausWitch, a boutique home goods store in Salem, MA, where a similar craft scene has developed.

Alaina Montuori smiles at her vending booth

“The pop-ups and markets are where customers are really meeting us,” says artist Alaina Montuori, proprietor of Extras By Alaina. “Its nice when people can discover what’s happening.”

Surely, the biggest reward for Kathryn, Kate and Isabel was the incessant inquiring by patrons about when the next Boston Made would be happening.

“We didn’t expect the overwhelming response from both vendors and attendees to this market. People kept asking if we were doing it every weekend or when the next one would be,” beams Kate.

A vendor makes a sale at her booth

“From just one show, Boston Made has created a brand for itself. We’ve been talking about keeping it small and curated, but approachable, encompassing and supportive. I think this will set our market apart from some of the larger ones.” reflects Kathryn. “The possibilities are endless.”

Kate is just as optimistic. “It’s an exciting time for the Boston maker scene. Lots of cool people are doing really cool things. And it seems, as this community is growing, so too are the opportunities for new markets.”

Pillow depicting the word "Boston"

(Pillows by Salty Oat.)

Filed Under: Boston, Culture, Events, News
Natural perfumer Jennifer Botto of Thorn & Bloom

Jennifer Botto is a pioneer in the field of all-natural luxury perfume. She creates her intoxicating blends by hand in Somerville Massachusetts. We visited Jenn in her studio to learn about the detailed process of hand-blending a fragrance. Jenn shared her inspirations with us, as well as some insightful reflections of her own. 

1. How did you come to start a natural perfume company?

I grew up on a farm in upstate New York. Working with botanical aromatics is a way for me to connect with nature, something that I’ve been missing since moving to Boston. I also grew up with many allergies and chemical sensitivities. When I made the switch to all-natural products, I was underwhelmed with the selection of natural perfume. I mostly found aromatherapy-style blends that lacked the complexity and sophistication I desired. Thorn & Bloom was meant to bridge the gap between these aromatherapy-style natural perfumes and synthetic luxury perfumes.

2. What passions inform your work?

I’m influenced by nostalgia and memory. Many of my blends have some reference points from my past and conjure strong emotions in me.

Jenn Botto of Thorn & Bloom with Paul Jackmauh of Craft & Caro3. Tell me about your product. What makes it special?

My perfumes are Eau de Perfums in a base of organic grape alcohol. Many natural perfumes come in roller-ball bottles, in an oil base, but I find the combination of an organic alcohol base, bottled in an atomizer spray bottle, is ideal. This combination works best to aerate each blend’s volatile notes, allowing the scent’s full spectrum to shine through. So much time and effort has gone into growing, harvesting, processing and blending them and I want to pay homage to those efforts.

4. Why all-natural?

The skin is the largest organ in the body, and certain substances are even more readily absorbed through the skin than our digestive system! While people are focused intently on eating organic food, they often don’t realize that they are giving themselves a daily dose of synthetic chemicals when they apply cosmetics.

The reason why synthetic perfume lasts longer on the body than natural perfume is because synthetic chemicals have a longer degradation period, both in the body and in the environment. Sometimes people tell me they don’t like natural perfumes because they fade faster than synthetics, but natural essences work more gently on your body and on the environment. The delicate tendencies of natural extracts provides a more intimate user experience. You have to get close to the wearer to fully enjoy it, and it won’t interfere with a delicious meal or cause others in a tight space to inhale an imposing odor.

Thorn & Bloom Perfumes

5. What is the story behind the name Thorn & Bloom? 

The name Thorn & Bloom refers to the notion of holistic living and consumption. Similar to the trend of ‘nose to tail’ eating (making use of the whole animal), Thorn & Bloom strives to include all the elements of a natural aromatic, ‘from thorn to bloom’.

This is in direct contrast to synthetic perfumery, which tends to artificially reconstruct only the most ‘desirable’ molecules of an aromatic, leaving out less ‘perfect’ molecules. They lack a tactile quality.

Take Jasmine, for instance, which has a high degree of naturally occurring Indole, a molecule also found in human feces. Indole is often described as ‘animalistic’ and ‘musky’. Synthetic perfumers can choose to create a Jasmine perfume with as much or as little Indole as they like, simply by adding or subtracting synthetic Indole. Natural perfumers, on the other hand, will use the whole Jasmine essence. That means they will work with the level of Indole that occurs naturally, which can vary due to the growing conditions and species of Jasmine used.

By keeping our ingredients as whole and as pure as possible, we are allowing a given aromatic’s full, natural spectrum to shine through. Sometimes, this spectrum can include unique nuances which, to some, may be an acquired taste. We see these nuances as essential elements, knowing they’ll impart depth and character to an otherwise mundane blend.

“To embrace imperfection is to embrace authenticity, something that is often lost in our modern world. I believe that imperfection can elevate beauty in surprisingly profound and spectacular ways. Thorn & Bloom’s 100% natural blends vibrate with energy and soulfulness, allowing you to fully appreciate nature’s incredibly varied palate.”

Thorn & Bloom Wild Rose scent sample under glass bell6. What are some pros and cons to working with all natural ingredients?

A major con to working in the natural products market is the ‘greenwashing’ of consumers by companies that either don’t know they are using synthetics or don’t care. The term ‘natural’ is yet unregulated by the FDA, so it is really meaningless. As a result many perfume houses will market as ‘all-natural’. It’s very frustrating trying to compete with their lower price-point and entirely different aromatic profiles. A few ways I like to tell consumers how to differentiate natural perfumes from synthetics:

  1. Color: Many natural aromatics will be (and should be) highly pigmented. This pigmentation results from the plants’ polyphenols (a.k.a. antioxidants) coming through in the extraction process. Perfume houses that have clear perfume will most likely be using questionable aromatics. I always say ‘trust your eyes and your nose’.
  2. Price: Natural aromatic extracts are pricey! This will reflect in the final cost of the perfume. For instance, an ounce of Tuberose extract can reach a price of $400. If you come across a bargain ‘natural’ perfume, it may be too good to be true.

I will often explain to my customers that natural perfume is first and foremost an agricultural product. That’s not something many people associate with perfume! For this reason, a formula will vary slightly from batch to batch, year to year. This is because the raw material used in it will be affected by local growing conditions.

Just as a vintage of Merlot grapes will vary from year to year and yield a different flavor profile, a crop of roses will vary as well and will yield a different aromatic profile. I think this is so cool! This variation is a big reason why natural perfume is not often mass-produced. Large companies are wary of these nuanced shifts in aromatic profiles. They assume customers want consistency above all.

You wouldn’t want to go out and buy a synthetic bottle of Merlot just because it tastes the same year after year! So why would you want to with perfume? In this way, botanical perfume can connect us with nature in delightfully intimate ways.

Hand holding perfume sample

7. Can you tell me a little about the basics of perfume production?

Every scent has base, middle and top notes. Each is categorized by its volatility, or how quickly it evaporates. Top notes are the most volatile, like citruses and peppers. They also tend to be the most effervescent and sharp. Middle notes are usually florals. They’re well-rounded and add body and beauty to the blend. Base notes provide staying power. They anchor the blend and include scents like vanilla, woods, musks and roots.

I don’t have a strict formula that I work with, but usually I tend to focus on a gorgeous middle note and start by building accords (made up of three or more complimentary notes) around it, then I add aromatics one by one, drop by drop to experiment. Lots of trial and error. Or I focus on a scent family (for example, green, wood, floral, or amber) and find aromatics within those categories to bring together. My blending is often fast and furious when inspiration hits.

Natural perfume extracts

8. I understand you even make some of your own tinctures to use as ingredients. What are some of those scents?

I have made raspberry, strawberry, blackberry, peach, pineapple, rooibos, basmati rice, black cardamom, rosemary, grains of paradise and coriander. Each raw material is aged in organic alcohol for a minimum of six months. Most of my tinctures are aged over two years. 

9. Who tends to buy your product and where are they?

As a new company, I mostly sell directly at the New England Open Markets and online. My stockists include Craft & Caro, the St. Germain Boutique at the Fairmont Copley Plaza, and Scent Trunk. Many customers are referred to me through popular niche perfume blogs, such as CaFleureBon, which has given Thorn & Bloom many positive reviews.

My perfumes are popular among both women & men (I offer many unisex blends) and the brand is especially well-received among customers in Dubai and Egypt. I feel this is because they are more familiar with the qualities of natural aromatics and appreciate the sophistication of my blends.

Jenn Botto holding a scent sample for Paul Jackmauh

10. What are your plans for 2016? What are your prospects for the brand?

I have three trade shows coming up this season — Elev8 NY, Indie Beauty Expo, and W.E.L.L Summit. I will be working hard to develop more scents in the fragrance line, along with body, face, and bath oils. I’d love to start bespoke services, and make custom blends for people who want their own personalized scent!

11. What has been your greatest success so far?

I’m so excited that Thorn & Bloom has recently been announced as a finalist for the prestigious 2016 Art & Olfaction Awards!  Thorn & Bloom is among nine other finalists — acclaimed artisan perfume houses from all over the world! The winner will be announced on May 7. This is especially exciting for a 100% natural perfume house like Thorn & Bloom, as blending with botanical aromatics often poses unique challenges.

12. How about your greatest challenge?

My greatest challenge is ongoing: managing limited resources. I started the company with limited funds and time and I have had to be patient with growth due to these constraints. However, it is incredibly rewarding being able to keep the company small and under my own control, which means keeping the quality at a high standard.

Jennifer Botto of Thorn & Bloom

13. What is something you’ve learned from starting your own business?

I’ve learned that finding a mentor and building up a supportive community around you is so important. After every setback or failure, it’s really great to have positive voices encouraging you to keep going. When things go well it’s also necessary to be able to share that with others, as a confirmation and celebration of your efforts. Anya McCoy has been especially helpful as a mentor during my studies at the Natural Perfumery Institute. She heads the Institute and is an amazing resource for natural perfumers all over the country.

14. What do you think of the Boston as a community for the craft/maker scene?
Boston’s craft/maker scene is thriving, thanks to institutions like New England Open Markets, which has been supporting local makers for years by offering them thriving venues at which to sell their creations.

The Artisan’s Asylum in Somerville is another wonderful entity that supports makers by offering them affordable studio and fabrication spaces and shared tools and equipment. I recently read that Somerville boasts the largest number of artists per capita outside of New York City, which is amazing! I’m proud to be a part of the movement.

Thorn & Bloom perfumes on a wooden table

15. What is your favorite Thorn & Bloom scent?

My favorite is Stranger in the Cherry Grove. Originally, it was an attempt to recreate the smell of my father’s cherry flavored pipe tobacco, but it took on a life of it’s own and turned into a blazing cherry orchard!

I love that the cherry comes across as charred and resinous, not sweet and pretty. To me, it represents a wonderful duality between innocence (cherry fruit) and danger (smoke and leather). I love that yin and yang atmosphere it conjures. I also worked so hard to create a cherry wood accord, as cherry wood is not available as a single aromatic, and I think it comes very close to the real thing. Saffron lends a wonderfully smooth, new leather note while amber pulls everything together in a sensual warmth.

Assorted bottles of botanicals extract in Thorn & Bloom studio

Filed Under: Boston, Culture, Groom, News
Owl's Brew White & Vine x Craft & Caro 2

Owl’s Brew has done it again with their latest mixer, White and Vine. A refreshing blend of white tea, pomegranate, lemon peel, and watermelon, it makes for an excellent summer cocktail. Pair it 2:1 with tequila, vodka, or gin, or 1:1 with wheat beer. Also a tasty ingredient in your own concoctions!

Check it out now in the Relax collection for a limited-time 20% off through the 29th!

Filed Under: News