“I have always been an herbalist and plant lover in a way,” Maria Vashakidze says. Born in Russia and surrounded by three generations of women using folk medicine to treat and heal the family, she had the opportunity to connect with nature at an early age. Throughout her youth, this interest only intensified. While studying painting in college, she began to formulate her own products and now, living in Portland, she sells handmade natural products through her business Seagrape Soap. “The company was a natural progression of my love of plants, natural medicine, and the desire to work with my hands,” Maria says. Photographer Christiann Koepke recently dropped by Maria’s studio and shop to take a look at her process. Check out the photos below + shop Maria’s work at west elm Portland!
What is it like being a maker in America right now?
It’s super exciting to be working with my hands in a time where technology has taken over. I treasure the ability and opportunity to make a living through my passion and creativity, though a lot of the work is keeping up with the technical and organizational side of it. There seems to be a move (especially in Portland) toward maker-made goods, and I’m happy to supply that demand. As more and more people realize how many chemicals are a part of our everyday items, like soap, they tend to seek alternatives. It’s an amazing experience to make pure, plant-based products and educate customers about their well-being at the same time.
Tell us about your studio space.
I work out of a work/shop space in NE Portland, where you can see my full production process, attend workshops, and shop. I love being transparent about my ingredients as well as the work that goes into it and often end up having exciting conversations with customers that had never thought about how soap was made or where essential oils come from.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
My days are pretty unpredictable, but always very busy! I spend 4-5 days a week in the studio filling wholesale and retail orders (making, labeling, packaging products), leading workshops and hosting private DIY parties. The days I have off are spent hiking, foraging, wild harvesting, farming, and gathering inspiration from our gorgeous surroundings.
Where do you seek inspiration?
Inspiration surrounds me daily! I find it planting tomatoes, visiting a hot spring, painting lavender plants and laughing with friends. Scent is intertwined with memory, so anything and everything becomes an opportunity to create.
Why do you love Portland?
Portland is the most abundant place I’ve ever lived. The community here is not only kind, but also willing to help, connect, and support each other. I love Pip’s hashtag, #communitynotcompetition—that pretty much summarizes it for me.