This is an open letter of sorts. It's not going to be a cutesy write up like our other collaboration posts, this one is going to be raw and from the heart.
I grew up in Paintsville, Kentucky. I went through kindergarten to high school graduation with the same (literally) fifty kids. I played in the woods as a kid and when I was barefoot with my cousins (we don't really count first, second, or third anymore) at my papaw's funeral, one of his old horseback riding friends said "y'all have to be related to Tuck, he HATED shoes." Mamaw made chicken and dumplins for Christmas dinner once just because I asked for them. I am a daughter of the Appalachian mountains.
And for so long, that felt like a dirty word. When I first came to Lexington in 2014 to start at UK, I felt ashamed of being from Eastern Kentucky. People had a lot of ideas and opinions about what I sounded like and what beliefs I likely held because of where I was from. They were often wrong.
On the flip side, whenever I was home - I didn't feel like I fit in either. I wanted to go out and study Arts Administration (and no one knew what the hell that was) and work in the music business. I liked ghosts and magic and wearing all black. I didn't want to marry my high school sweetheart (not that I had one anyway) or be a nurse. My family didn't have a ton of money and I went to the school where a lot of the kids' parents were doctors and lawyers. And maybe that feeling like an outsider all of my life made me bitter for awhile after I left. I would laugh at all the jokes and try to distance myself from Appalachia because I felt like it didn't support me either.
I graduated from UK with my BA in Arts Administration in 2018. I spent a lot of days in a seat listening to my classmates from big cities talk about how people from Eastern Kentucky were 'simple' and 'didn't have any culture or art.' And it made me mad. Because here I was, one of those 'simple' people, understanding why maybe people back home didn't give a rat's ass about contemporary dance - it didn't have anything to do with the art and everything with the people performing. Sometimes I challenged their viewpoints, sometimes I just let it go because it was exhausting trying to explain how deeply engrained art is in Appalachia just in a way they didn't understand.
Since then, I've found myself yearning to reconnect with my roots. Instead of hacking away at them, I wanted to water and nourish them. There's the joke about how white people don't have culture, and maybe that's true for white people in like.... New York, or something, but I know that the Appalachian culture is so rich and unique. Appalachian people are some of the hardest working, kindest folks you'll ever have the chance to meet. Talent runs bone deep in every person I know from home.
When Tommy and I started this business, we knew that giving back was something we very much wanted to incorporate into our business model. I wanted to give back to my community; the one that raised me. I see a lot of cultural dysphoria in young Appalachians like myself who don't quite fit the mold. And I wanted to contribute to something that would empower the young people from back home.
In one of my classes long, long ago we talked about Appalshop. It always stuck with me because it was a point of pride that we were finally talking about an organization that was "from back home." When I was trying to think of an organization to partner with, Appalshop was one of the first to pop into my mind. I immediately contacted them and have been working on this project since August.
The Apple-At-Cha Collection
A two candle bundle; silver tins and wood wicks to give them that nice "back home" feel. Named Apple-At-Cha because we don't support any of that 'appa-lay-sia' nonsense. The two scents are strikingly different but pair together perfectly all the same. They're the two scents that came up most when I surveyed my fellow Appalachians.
When I made a Facebook post asking what scents people associated with "back home" I jokingly said, "and no one say pal mals and mountain dew, I already made that joke!" a lot of folks said 'okay, but tobacco is something that reminds me of home.'
My papaw on my mom's side was a tobacco farmer at one point. My mom has told me plenty of stories about her and her siblings helping out in the tobacco fields.
I wanted this scent to be really complex and tell a story. Storytelling is another one of those things that is central to the Appalachian culture, after all.
Papaw's Pipe is a blend of several different fragrance oils.
Top Notes: Bergamot, leather, whiskey
Middle Notes: Honey, amber, coriander, smoke, amyris, whiskey
Base Notes: Tonka, musk, tobacco leaves, oud, light musk, moss, smoke, oak
This candle is meant to evoke the memory of a hardworking Appalachian man - maybe your dad, grandfather, or even your husband. Leather, smoke, tobacco, and whiskey are the main notes that come through.
Honeysuckle Holler is the duo's floral, feminine counterpart. If you were a kid in Appalachia, you probably stumbled across a field of honeysuckles at least once or twice while playing in the holler. If you close your eyes you can remember the feeling of a brisk, spring breeze and smell the honeysuckle blooming in the air.
Honeysuckle Holler has the following scent profile:
Top Notes: Lemon, Ginger
Middle Notes: Jasmine, Honeysuckle
Base Notes: Wood, Violet, Amyris, Powder
Appalshop was so wonderful to work with. Jessica was our main contact, she immediately asked if they could have some samples when we first talked about the idea. "Mainly because we all love to smell candles," she said.
We sent them a sample pack and they were a big hit. So much so that they wanted to include them in their holiday bundle. We are so honored to be apart of this set. We want to give all of you a chance to directly support Appalshop this holiday season by purchasing their $45 holiday bundle. You'll receive the Apple-At-Cha set, an Appalshop t-shirt, and Wild and Free by Kentucky Wild Horse.
You may ask, why Appalshop? What's so special about them? Here's their mission statement:
Our mission is to enlist the power of education, media, theater, music, and other arts to:
● document, disseminate, and revitalize the lasting traditions and contemporary creativity of Appalachia;
● tell stories the commercial cultural industries don’t tell, challenging stereotypes with Appalachian voices and visions;
● support communities’ efforts to achieve justice and equity and solve their own problems in their own ways;
● celebrate cultural diversity as a positive social value;
● and participate in regional, national, and global dialogue toward these ends.
By supporting Appalshop, we are helping empower real Appalachian people. Our culture deserves to survive and be presented in a positive light. Our stories are worthy of being told.
You can ONLY get the Apple-At-Cha candles via Appalshop's holiday bundle for now - there are 75 sets! You will be helping an incredible organization through your purchase.
In early 2021, you'll be able to purchase the Apple-At-Cha collection here on our website. The cost will be $30 and $20 will be going directly to Appalshop in the name of their Appalachian Media Institute (the other $10 covers the cost to make them, we won't make anything from these candles). The Appalachian Media Institute has provided opportunities for young people from across Central Appalachia to explore their home communities, address local issues, and become thoughtful, engaged citizens through the process of place-based media making.
If you've made it this far, thank you. This means so much to this gal who grew up somewhere in a Holler in Eastern Kentucky. The support we have gotten so far with this business is monumental. Tommy and I want nothing more than to be able to contribute positively to our communities and causes that mean the most to us. Everything we do is With Love. Completely.
With Love Always,