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Smoke Stories: Milagros

Photo by Shoog McDaniel

It's hard to tell if Milagros is everywhere or if the energy of their work is so exuberant that it radiates beyond their projects into the city itself. I first encountered Milagros through their work in textiles and have since discovered that only scratches the surface of all they do, from public spaces to small objects, their style is both iconic and spontaneously ever-evolving. Above all, I'm inspired by their approach, founded in the belief that trust, respect, and collaboration are integral to creative freedom.

I am honored to have the opportunity to collaborate with Milagros. Our new Eau de Parfum caps are the product of a dialogue in color. I have always loved the natural colors that botanical ingredients produce, and Milagros helped me to celebrate in a way that feels fresh, playful, and right.

1. Tell us a little bit about Milagros, your work, and where we can find you?

We are an art duo most well known for our murals and installations. We frequently collaborate with other artists, institutions, musicians, etc. Our artistic practice is rooted in drawing and painting, but we often experiment with translating that into a myriad of forms and surfaces. Our work is kind of all over the place, but mainly in The South. You can find it on the exterior of the New Orleans Public
Library's main branch, and we are currently one of the artists in residence at Canal Place in the French Quarter until the end of October. We're also on the social channels search for @milagrosyall

2. How do you stay creatively motivated and true to your artistic values while growing a business?
We like to view everything holistically, and the business element is just another way for us to flex our creativity in a different way. We do an unglamorous amount of paper work, but we always work time in to make something, or draw, or make sketches, or experiment. It's all kind of an extension of the same core. We've been working really hard to push ourselves to put our work out to new audiences, seek out new opportunities, new collaborators, and different projects to work on. We just want to do as many things and go as many places as we can.

3. What is an early or favorite scent memory you have? What comes to mind when you imagine your favorite scent?
Joey: My earliest scent memory is really liking the smell of the freezers at the grocery store. I would inhale the frozen air as deeply as I could until my nose burned and I couldn't stand it anymore.
Felici: My favorite scent memory is a giant honeysuckle bush that was in my childhood house. It was so big that we made a fort inside of it.

4. Tell us about your self-care practice and how you maintain a work life balance? What is one non-negotiable self-care ritual that you try to regularly attend to?
Self-care for us is kind of different than most folks think of; we stay home and say no to things when we are feeling tired or need to get a little more work done. We also spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Our work life balance is kind of intense because sometimes we are gone painting murals for months, and other times we're home filling out applications and hustling. We walk our dog Pepe every day and taking care of him  is a big part of our self-care.

5. Where do you derive inspiration?
A lot of our inspiration comes from people, conversations, and collaborations. We're always watching people, especially here in New Orleans because so many people have really interesting personal fashion or stories or vibes. We also get a lot of inspiration from experimenting with new materials and processes. We find that learning how a new material works, or finding alternative ways to use a material we understand opens our minds to the new possibilities and concepts.

6. What excites you most about this project and collaboration with Smoke?
It's been really awesome to collaborate with Kathleen and have a dialog about color. Figuring out a new process and doing something different is always really impactful on our creative process.

 

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NYC: the ReCAP

This summer, Smoke traveled to NYC for Shoppe Object with our friends CAP Beauty (the clean beauty queens supplying the world with coconut butter by the gallon). We found new friends in fellow women founders from across the country and met with new retailers, who will be bringing Smoke to Denver, Austin, and the Hamptons.


After a whirlwind weekend, we wanted to share a quickie guide to the places and people we loved getting to know in NYC:

 

Heal

Eat


Brands

  • Dame Products* - we vibe with this woman-founded sex toy company
  • DConstruct* - playful, architectural jewelry in ecoresin and concrete
  • Karu* - the soft textiles of our dreams, we got the overalls in midnight blue
  • Palermo Body* - natural skincare to swear by, we love the detox scrub
  • Wooden Spoon Herbs* - herbal remedies sourced from Appalachia 
  • SIN ceramics & home* - squiggle vases to steal your heart

* = POC, woman, or queer-owned


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    Smoke Stories / Seher Sikandar

    Tell us a little bit about yourself, your work, and where we can find you?

    I am a photographer, writer, community facilitator, creative strategist, and speaker. I was born in the San Francisco bay area to Pakistani immigrant parents and raised between the east and west coasts. I have an incredible brother who is five years younger than me and a sage—we are quite close.

    I had my start in corporate marketing, which was a traumatic entry into adult working life, but also needed in order to propel me onto my current, much less predictable path. I became very interested in entrepreneurship at about six years old, when I’d ask my dad questions about "what he wanted to be when he grew up" while we all lived in graduate student housing during his MBA study. Though creativity and entrepreneurship have always been a strong pull, the specifics have felt hazy.

    My path since that 9-to-5 job has been fairly windy, and I’m still figuring a lot out. These are some things I do know, but as anything and everything, are always subject to change:

    • My work and purpose live at the intersection of art, culture, media, healing, and social change
    • I’m meant to be a multi-hyphenate—I need to be regularly exercising different parts of my brain and ability
    • I endeavor to live at least a few distinct “lifetimes” of careers within this lifetime
    • My work won’t be able to be neatly categorized and will likely be paradigm-shifting
    • My work will evolve along with my own personal evolution
    • The themes of my work are tied to my ancestral healing and how these themes play out in the greater collective

      You can get to know me and my work on instagram (instagram.com/seher), on my website (seher.co), and occasionally on twitter (twitter.com/rehes).

      Where were you in life ten years ago, and did you ever see yourself where you are now?

      In 2009, I was twenty five and in the throes of a deep depression— the worst of my life; I’d been on and off depressed since about fifteen but never for so long and never so hopelessly— I’d completely lost any care or desire for anything, and I felt all but dead inside. It lasted about two years.

      This was also the time I picked up photography in hopes to connect with something that inspired me; I couldn’t remember the last time I’d done something that made me feel proud or excited. I also revisited past creative interests like singing, acting, and graphic design. People seemed to really like my photography, and it began to feel like an out from my miserable job; I had no idea how I’d make that jump with no savings and had trouble wrapping my head around a real plan.

      Beginning therapy in April 2010 and getting fired in September 2010 were critical turning points in my life; from personal to professional, both these experiences forced me into a life that at one time I’d been too afraid to even dream about, let alone believe that I could actually live. I knew that photography wasn’t my life passion or purpose— a disclosure that has surprised even close friends of mine— but an entry point into a happier life and into creative entrepreneurship. I decided I would do the photography thing until I didn’t want to anymore— that my ultimate commitment was to genuine fulfillment, contentment, and the flow of life. So that is very much to say: I had no idea what was ahead of me beyond photography.

      About three years after I’d moved to New York City to start my photo career in May 2011, I began to feel discontent with photo work that should have otherwise excited me. Something told me that either photography was going to have to go altogether, or I was at least going to have to begin exploring and engaging with other work-related interests. To help support me during this time, I dove into deep body-mind healing with an energy worker. She helped me to begin claiming my purpose as a leader, paradigm-shifter, compassionate seer, and bridge. I still meet weekly with this mentor to explore my constant unfolding, which has accelerated notably over the last few years. 

      My transformative healing work over the last decade is focal to who I am today and the trajectory of my life and career. I am clearer on who I am, I understand why my life and challenges happened the way they did, I am mind-bendingly better able to be in flow, and my intuition is out here thriving. Never did I foresee this Seher, this life, or the ever-so-slowly crystallizing road ahead as my reality; it’s been eye-opening, rewarding, humbling, and requiring of exquisite patience.

      Where do you derive strength? What gives you the fortitude to keep going when the going gets tough?

      I remind myself that most things i’ve gone through aren’t going to kill me. That I am extremely fortunate to have a family to go back home to. That I’ve crossed my perceived threshold of strength and resilience over and over and over again. That things somehow always work out— even if that requires some pain and needed shedding on the way. And if death is on the table, that I endeavor to accept my fate and its purpose.

      What is an early or favorite scent memory you have? What comes to mind when you imagine your favorite scent?

      The wet bark at the playground when I lived in Cambridge on graduate student housing. We lived in low-rises formed in a circle with a playground in the middle. I got to stay out past dark to play because my mom could watch me from our balcony. I used to sing the Little Mermaid from atop the jungle gym and dream about a dreamy life. I taught myself how to ride a bike on an adult-sized bike where the tire had flattened or fallen off on one wheel— I could barely climb it, it was a horrible bike, and I was relentless. I stood up to mean boys, I figured out how to pick the locks of empty storage areas and formed secret clubs and forts, I reveled in trips to the corner store to buy snacks with loose change I’d collected. My sway in the playground economy was real; I was six or seven, curious, and everything was an adventure.

      Self-care: What is one non-negotiable self-care ritual that you try to regularly attend to?

      I have many self-care tools at my disposal, the vast majority of which cost no money. The non-negotiable part is something I’m still working on.

      Nature: We take great inspiration from travel & nature. What is the most inspiring natural place you've ever been to and why?

      Skardu, Pakistan, a remote area in the North that visited as a kid and is just idyllic. Straight out of national geographic. I have a tortured relationship with my ancestry and Pakistani culture, so something about the beauty of the land separate from the standard narratives and spaces I find myself in was comforting. Perhaps it gave me hope for reconciling that relationship one day.

      What is your favorite Smoke product?

      Hands down the cypress body oil— it’s soothing, calming, comforting, and refreshing all at once. I have a special relationship with cypress as it provided me with much needed safe haven during a time when I needed to shield myself from particularly pervasive lower-vibratory energies.

      What is your greatest hope for the future?

      Human beings fully embodying unconditional love and our innate power in harmony with each other and all other sentient beings (including nature).

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