My name is Kelly Harland. I am a natural perfumer, the owner of Crosby Elements. I create products that center around fragrance for yourself and your space. my primary focus is using natural materials and more of a unisex lens to experience fragrance with.
Prior to moving to Portland, I lived in London for several years. I moved there after I graduated from art school. My mom is from Liverpool, England. I applied for British citizenship and had no idea what I was getting myself into, moving to another country by myself. I was maybe 22 at the time, maybe 20, yeah, 22. that that experience in itself was probably my biggest period of growth that I've ever had because I was… London is this insane melting pot of many different cultures. I mean, it's insane. It's a huge city. I knew nobody, I thought that I would move there and get an internship at some, like, a small design studio, and I thought I was going to be this cool girl from California, the surfer girl, and of course, they're going to want to hire me. that got cut the biggest slice of humble pie when I moved there. no one wanted to talk to me because I didn't go to Central Saint Martin's or Royal College of the Arts. I realized quickly that the design community, especially in Europe, is cliquey. You have to know someone, or you have to have been taught under this specific professor and all this stuff.
I would say that for me, impacted the way that I see life, in general, is because I've never felt vulnerable at, you know, at a young age. I always enjoyed traveling. I used to backpack through South America when I was 19 for two months and traveled a ton, as much as I could, my mom. I said it's from England, we used to go back and forth when we have the time growing up to see my family over there. It was important for her that I get to know them. She used to be a flight attendant, she was always like, "Let's hop a plane over to France or to Switzerland." being exposed to different cultures and different ways of life is important. If you don't have the means to travel, that's also perhaps something you could do by exposing yourself to material that you can learn from or different music or different art or, you know, different parts of your community, whether or not it's a congregation more will have people from India like, go eat at that restaurant that has amazing Indian food. Exposing yourself, to me, to different cultures and ways of life is important. That's stuck with me through now where, I mean, I will obviously travel for any excuse. It's important because it keeps you open-minded. It's what life is all about, and experiencing those things and the way that you can translate that into your work, you know, everything and everyone has a story to tell. Being open-minded and curious about people's lives and what makes them who they are, and traditions and rituals. I mean, it's all to me, interesting.
With our connection now, with all this technology, and we have all these tools at our fingertips to be able to connect with someone or be able to see something that is coming from the other side of the world, it is magical. I have a love-hate relationship with technology, as I'm sure most people do, but for that reason, it's beautiful. for the future, I hope that people can remember that there's much beauty in this world, there are many interesting things to learn and experience and to keep open minded about it and to be curious. , you know, it's hard to not judge. I mean, it's all in us. It's hard to not judge anything, but to keep that door open to learn new things, even if it's completely contrasted to who you are because it's important for the future. That'll all keep us much reminded that we are the same, we are still flesh and blood.
My background in design: I worked in advertising and small design shops in London, San Diego, and Portland, and worked for big brands work for some small brands. after 15 years of doing art direction and creative direction, I knew in my gut that I wanted to continue to story-tell but maybe not visually anymore. I would say the one thing I struggled with the most in this past career and being creative and getting paid for it, and having that be your career, is being a woman in that environment. Most of the time, I was the only female creative in my group. I have the sense of humor of a 12-year-old boy like I can hang, like, nothing can offend me—until you mess with my pay. Then it's like, "Okay, no."
when that happened, that that was the straw that broke the camel's back for me, my heart wasn't super connected anymore. then when stuff that started to happen, I was this is, you know, I thought maybe the creative world was the safe space. That didn't happen there. I didn't plan to get into fragrance. It wasn't something that I always had—it wasn't a side thing or a hobby or anything. It started because my mother is an interior designer. she had moved to Portland because my sister was pregnant, and of course, that makes the grandparents flock to wherever the babies are. I had left the full-time design routine and was freelance. If you've ever been freelance, you know you're either super busy or you have nothing to do. during the times of 'nothing to do,' I was like, "I want to go hang out with my mom," like, they're new in town, she and my dad are getting settled. my mom was like, "Let's figure out how to make candles," and I was like, "Oh, sure, okay," because before it was like, "Let's make jewelry, let's make bracelets," and you know, I enjoyed spending time with her, and it was a good excuse to create while we spend time together.
so, we started making the candles, and that was a beautiful way for us to connect, and that's literally what started Crosby; it came out of nowhere. I guess I completely have my mom to thank for this whole new path I'm on, this fragrance. now that I'm in it, and as I started to make the sensor candles and the hair perfume, I became obsessed with like, "Oh my god, this is how I can story-tell now, like, I don't have to make pretty things, I can make pretty, smelling things and what is nice smelling, not what I've always been known to be, like, what I'm supposed to like."
it opened up this whole new coloring box for me to play it. it was interesting. then that is where I tie my past with this deep, deep respect for the earth and my love for simple natural products. I was like, "I can't… that's all I want to work with." they're beautiful and unique themselves in their raw form before I get a hold of them and start blending them with other things, and it's alchemy, and it's chemistry, and it makes you feel things. That what's been fun for me and impactful is that when I make something and then someone says "Oh, this makes me…This takes me way back to my grandparents' house out in Eastern Oregon," or something, and, "Oh, my god, I have the best memories there." they had bought Earthly Dwellings, which is literally the candle I created to contain that beautiful smell of Eastern Oregon where the sagebrush meets all the rolling grasslands and it's leathery and wet and smoky and but fresh.
It's cool to hear how fragrance can be this little escape, or click the memory and trigger emotions quickly, as you would if you saw this beautiful painting. Or maybe it's not beautiful to you, it makes you feel something. I feel fragrance can take you on a journey, and it can take you to places you want to go to.
I grew up in San Diego, and I have pretty much surfed for my entire life. I was into sports. My dad wanted me to be a son, I played all the sports, and when I injured myself during gymnastics, I learned how to surf. from about junior high, I literally spent the majority of my free time in the ocean. That influenced me as a person. I relate to our natural environment, what I consider to be important in life, in art, and storytelling. It's influenced much of who I am as a person today. with my business, Crosby, how I incorporate the materials that I do, everything is drawn from that childhood of spending much time in the ocean and much respect for nature, how powerful she is, how humbling she is, the great escape she allows you to have when you're in the ocean and hiking or camping or whatever it is you choose to do, but it's impacted my life in many ways with creativity and with business.
Being a teenager in the 90s, there was not the beautiful, bountiful immense options we have right now of perfume and small batch indie, you know, bespoke, all this stuff that we're used to seeing now. In the 90s, it was literally, like, where I grew up, it was whatever is at the strip mall, that was pretty much Bath and Body Works and Victoria's Secret, and then the god awful fragrance counter at Nordstrom or something, which was a nightmare. I was never into cosmetics and perfume, even though I had a mother who would not even answer the front door without a full face of makeup on. I don't know where that disconnect happened, but it was not something I was interested in.
When I began Crosby. I had a specific point of view on fragrance and how it can impact someone's life, as far as what are you presenting to the world when you wear something? from what my mom always wore, what I remember when I was a child, she used to wear Clinique aromatics. to me, and I hate saying this now because I'm almost to be an old lady like I'm almost 40, but I associated perfume with, "That smells an old lady." You know, when I was a kid, that's all I could associate that with and the perfume that my mom wore.
As I began to travel more to other countries and experience beautiful raw materials in different formats, it became something that I was super drawn to and interested in. Being someone who's respectful of nature, and I've never had the tolerance for synthetic fragrances, never been one to use, I guess commercialized products hair products, shampoo, lotions, all that stuff. That doesn't sit with me well; it usually gives me a headache and things that.
That when I started Crosby, it happened out of nowhere. But the one thing that I was interested in is something that now is known as a hair perfume, and I feel that's probably the one product that people would know me by. It's my best-selling product. Specifically, Emerald is, which is my birth stone. The hair perfume thing came from surfing essentially, because I would never wash my hair. I've always had long, thick hair, and I don't do anything with it. Now that it's trendy to not wash your hair as much, which is amazing because we're saving on water and resources. It's amazing that it's trendy right now, and I hope that that trend sticks around. It's healthier for your scalp and all of that stuff.
I remember asking myself, why isn't there a natural hair perfume like something to hold you over in between washing, and you know, dry shampoo is great, but there needs to be that extra step. It's not offensive, it's not overpowering. That's where hair perfume came around to be known. That maybe that connected with many other people.
I have all genders that buy hair perfume. It's not necessarily made for your hair. It can be worn on your skin, on your clothes, you can use it as aroma therapy. Yeah, that was inspired by necessity.
I have four cents of hair perfume: emeralds, opal, garnet, and topaz. I created emerald first because that was my birthstone. I wanted to put all the things, all the notes that I connect with in it, and make it for me, and then the rest of them were inspired by the stones themselves and my interpretation of what that stone embodies. I use that as the concept for creating the actual scent profile from it.
I would say a hair perfume is probably my most well-known product. then I would say candles are probably second to that, which are great, but obviously, candles already exist, and I'm excited that people have connected with my candles and other things because I do try and break a lot of what's expected of like, women to and men to like because I think that's a bunch of bull and, you know, things that like, we're taught at a young age like, if you're a girl then you're supposed to be a princess and wear pink; and if you're a boy, you have to play baseball and wear blue and smell a tree, and then girls are supposed to smell flowers and vanilla. Like, I don't know, cotton candy or something.
When I create anything in my line, I draw from what do I personally like? Without seeing any sort of gender or anything that's been sort of shoved down our throats our entire life, what do I connect with? what sort of story can I tell with that fragrance? How will someone else experience that? What sort of state of mind will it make them go to? Will it be calming? Will it be energizing? Will it make them sit and want to like, stare at the sky and dream or be sensual or anything. It's cool that these beautiful natural materials can make people feel a certain way. you can have control over how you want to feel using fragrance.
Emerald hair perfume, that one is my best seller across any line, any product. Why this one connects with many people is that again, there's no sort of assigned smell gender or anything. I have plenty of men that buy hair perfume, which is awesome. But what connects well with people is that it touches in this maybe humanistic ancestry or ancestral part of ourselves. There's a lot of tree resins and sacred tools or sacred plants that are used in it from different cultures; obviously, there's Palo Santo, there's Sage patchouli, balsam, copaiba balsam, which is a beautiful oil from Brazil, super healing. Just incredible. I'm obsessed with that right now. You can take it internally too, which is amazing for other reasons. Cypress, vetiver, to me, it has all the most amazing things that nature offers. Maybe it's because it's grounding and at the same time refreshing, that there's a little bit of lime in there too and spruce, and that mixed with the Palo Santo, which is getting more of like, a bright citrus woody note, can be refreshing. I don't know, maybe that's why it's the best seller taps on to all those different categories for people.
The product that I love right now, especially during this time of staying inside much is my water fragrance. It's called Ama. I created that because I'm a huge fan of multipurpose products. I fully believe that we do not need to buy as many things as we buy, especially if some of those things we buy concern multiple purposes. With the hair perfume, you can still use that as a room spray. You can use that as an all over body spray as you know, you can open the bottle and sniff it if you need a hit of a good mood or something. It could serve other purposes. But with a water fragrance, I use that because I'm energetically sensitive and being an empath, I can take on a lot, and I was finding myself smudging, clearing, doing all these things every morning, that I enjoy the ritual of it. I'm ritualistic by nature, but I wanted a change and something different.
So, I love using diffusers. I have a nebulizing diffuser that uses air to disperse the oil, which is great because it's keeping the potency of the oils. I was like, I wanted to create an oil that can be dispersed that energetically would be clearing, that is a good way to start the day. It's uplifting and energizing at the same time. But also, I love taking baths. I want that oil to also be able to be used in bath water to nourish my skin, give me that same sort of feeling of grounding and calm, and all the things. That is why Ama exists, but that also has…My two products have Palo Santo, Ama, and Emerald, has Palo Santo, cedar, Palma Ross, balsam, frankincense, cypress, lavender, probably missing a couple notes there, but every note is specifically chosen for specific reasons between energetic properties and also skin healing properties.
While we're staying inside much, it's important to keep your air healthy, your mind healthy, your body healthy. I've definitely seen a spike in sales of the Ama for that reason. That's amazing. Like, I'm happy that it's a tool that can provide people some benefits, both mind and body.
The last year starting in spring, through summer, I began to work on the residency collection, which was my first line of Eau de Parfums. this was all inspired by the idea of artists' residencies. I spent a lot of time traveling, and that is how I gain inspiration, a lot of artists do. It's incredible to feel all the feels and see all the things and experiences that are outside of your normal environment.
I was talking to a friend who owns a hotel out in Eastern Oregon, and he had mentioned to me like, "Oh, I love having artists come here and do artists residencies, and we've never had a perfumer before, you should come out and do one, and that conversation sparked the concept for the new collection. I knew I wanted to come out with a line of Eau de Parfums, but I wasn't sure what the concept was yet. Being a designer by trade, my background is 15 years of doing design. I work from concept; that's how my brain functions. I was like, "There's my concept. That's it. I'm going to go do these artists residencies, and it's an excuse to travel, get out of town, be uncomfortable, go by myself and see the things and talk to the community and have a lot of time to think and experience and take notes and photos and explore flora and fauna and all this stuff and take it all in, and then base that scent off of that experience."
It's not necessarily a literal translation of Joseph Oregon or Joshua Tree or Tofino; it's through the lens of my experience, it's conceptual. That was an incredible experience to have and also to be able to create something an artist would, you know, paint something or a songwriter or anything that. It's just, I now have this physical manifestation of my experience.
That line has three different scents in it natural. I use beautiful organic grape alcohol as the base. Again, they're unisex. The three locations were Tofino, BC, and that was much inspired by the ancientness of that area of Vancouver Island. It's remote and rugged, and I surfed while I was there, which was super fun, and the warmth of the people there influenced that sun, even though it was prehistoric visually. Moved from there to Joshua Tree. That was the one place I had been multiple times, but not using the lens that I was using to make the perfume, and had a very, intense, insane spiritual experience there that was unexpected. that influenced the fragrance to be a lot more on a spiritual side, it's nurturing. I use a lot of sacred resins that are traditionally used in ceremony, and that one feels a cocoon-like. It's warm and spicy and nurturing.
Finally, Joseph, Oregon — which is honestly, beautiful mountainous and prairie and ranching and all this sort of small-town and friendly people, American, but also creative community there, too. that one's green and touched by the history of that like, Chief Joseph and that whole story, I stopped at his gravesite for an hour by myself. It was beautiful and sad. I was like, "Oh, gosh, there's much beauty here. But there's much sadness and repression," all this stuff. that all came out in the fragrance, too, because it felt right. It felt good to express it that way.
I hope that there is more transparency in the years to come. I hope that businesses and politicians and anyone that is influencing other people will be transparent. It's important for us to align ourselves with people who live openly and are honest about, whether it's what they put in their products or their point of view, it's important that we have the information that we need in order to make informed decisions about how we live our lives, and where we spend our money, and who we support.
2020 seems almost overwhelming for small businesses or musicians, artists, creators of all kinds. We need those people around, and what we're all offering the world is important. We need support from the rest of the community to hold other people accountable for that. We can't let the struggling artist thing be a thing of the future. It's as important as the person that's the financial advisor. To me, it's what makes this world a beautiful place. It's what makes things worth it in the end because it's important. I hope that we can continue to build a strong, supportive, creative community by, I don't know, continuing to open the door for the conversation to have more events that talk about that more creative support.
One thing that I find super helpful is connecting with other people that appreciate creativity and appreciate creative minds, and they have more of the left side, and they can give that support by like, you know, "You're an amazing artist or creative, let me help you show you how to get your business going. Let me show you how to structure things that you can actually make money from what you're doing," which we all need. It doesn't make you less of an artist or less of a creative if you're being paid for it properly.
Aligning with people that can help balance out that creativity with the money side of things, because it's really difficult. At least for me in my story. It's I never knew my worth. That's hard to find out, I guess, or do that on your own, because most people don't think of creativity is something that you can profit from or like, build a life off of. I hope that our community continues to provide resources for creatives.
This whole idea of trading, whether that be a physical item or your time, your knowledge is what people used to do before money was this currency. People had a skill and a trade, and they traded that for what they needed. There's much…I feel this more now that I'm in the small business community, especially with a ton of other women who are using, you know, their skills and their creativity to also have a small business is, it feels a sisterhood, or it feels a family. We all want each other to succeed. we all want each other to enjoy what they're doing every day and spread whatever they're bringing to this world to give each other the support.
Crosby is now three and a half years old. Just in the last three years, my community has expanded exponentially. It's like, it's crazy, in the most amazing way. I do see now this supportive network, and there are many times where I've met dear friends of mine through my product that connected us, which is cool. They have something I'm interested in. let's trade our things, and we also share much in common, and it's just, you know, we can help each other out when we need it. That's what's beautiful is you have this deep bond with people, and you can sympathize with what they're going through and, you know, be the rock when they need it and vice versa. Whatever it is that you're offering to the world, it's important to have the support of your community, whatever that community is for you. That's the key too, it's everyone has their own version of what that community is.
I identify with being a right-brainer. I am creative, I'm organized, but I'm also creative, and I can bounce around, and I can get obsessed with the creative process and how it looks and how it smells and how it feels and all the things, and the experience of it. But then, as a business, that's what I do to live off of, that's where I struggled, and I went to art school, and I don't remember ever learning anything of like, "Okay, now here's how you can actually be an artist and be creative but also support yourself." I wish that someone had given me more of the tools needed to apply that to doing your own thing and having your own business. It was easy when I worked in designs, I was always working for someone, I always had a paycheck coming in, and the days that I didn't feel that creative and I wasn't turning out great stuff, it was like, "Whatever, I'm still collecting my pay and stuff, and I didn't have a creative day today."
When it's applied to freelance, if you're doing anything off commissions or whatever, it's, you're only going to be as good as your hustle is and then your network. My biggest advice is to align yourself with people who can support you on the actual business side of things. I wish someone would have told me that like, the day I thought that I could actually turn my newfound love of fragrance into a business, I wish someone would have said, "I know you don't have any money right now, but tap your friend who's actually good at business stuff or financial advice or whatever it is, whoever that is in your life, and even if you don't have money to pay them, offer a trade, like, trade. Be like, 'Can you help me organize my accounts? Can you give me some advice on how to structure things I'm not in debt or I'm not bleeding money out, and I can't pay my rent," or whatever? "I know I can't pay you your hourly rate, or I can't afford your fee, but what if I create something for you I will give you no all the hair perfume you've ever desired and some candles, and let's trade you know my time for your time."
I wish I would have known that back then because that is your biggest ally and your tool, and this is to allow you to be creative but also feel you have the support to still make a living and still survive because that's obviously as important as creating. Being able to use your resources that you have, like, you know, contact your cousin, if that's what they do or whomever it is and ask like, there's no harm in asking, the worst they're going to say is no.
It's important for everyone, especially creative people, to have something that grounds them and quiet their mind in order for the space in your brain and like, the channel from whatever it is you believe in or don't believe in, to be able to be open to get that information. Maybe that's my belief, is that what we're sharing artistically with the world isn't coming from ourselves, it's coming from our ancestors, it's coming from whatever is beyond, alien, whatever it is that you connect with or that you believe in, that works, it's much more, it's like, we're much deeper than what our physical bodies are.
That's something I've leaned on much in creating, because I don't sit down and then say to myself, "Okay, I need to create a new perfume, and I'm going to start pulling my supplies out and start messing around," like, I have to have an intention going into it. Sometimes that intention might be strong, sometimes that intention might be a little not that strong, and then maybe my materials will start to speak to me, and then it becomes strong. But one thing that I personally have been able to lean on for that, sort of quieting my mind and letting that idea come through because that's how I work, I need to have a concept, I need to have that idea, is I do a tea practice. It's connecting again, with nature with beautiful, high vibrational, high-quality tea leaves, and I have a whole ceremony, and it's my form of meditation. It's my form of connecting with myself with spirit with nature. It's all in one. It teaches me patience, and it teaches me to sort of settle in and be more of a vessel to let these leaves speak to me and open up my heart and my mind to receive whatever sort of creative pings I'm getting. That's happened countless times like it's memory, it's experiences, but in order to actually sit down and work and be mind frame, tea much helps me get there and get prepared to start to create.
The pandemic has influenced maybe, from my point of view, the community to rally around each other. I feel it's been super supportive. I feel the community has come through, maybe in this bubble of Portland or some…and I'm hoping it's not that bubble, but my immediate community of Portland and all the other business owner females, all this stuff. It's every I feel wrapped around and then supported, and that… I can only hope that that's the case for other people that they do feel supported and people are dealing with many different variables of trying to get through this and of still maintaining some sort of normalcy, whether that be with their family, their mental health, their physical health, their financial well-being, and it's much as uncertain right now that the community is crucial at this point, this is the time where our community needs to show up for one another, whether that's buying that takeout from the restaurant you don't want to see closed, because they're the sweetest owners and you want them to stay open. Or buying products from someone in your community because that's the money going back into, you know, your local economy. This has been a great time for people to see the string in numbers that we're collectively trying to do the best thing for people's health by staying inside wearing a mask, being mindful of the things we're close to, and touch, and things that. It's forced us to strength in numbers.
The thing that's come up for me the most during this time is how apparent light and dark is, that we've all been forced into seeing this whole thing that's happening right now, the darkness of many things, the lives lost, illnesses, the lack of organization and support from our government and people losing their jobs and hardships. But on the flip side, there's all this light that has come from it, and I mean, that is just—I could go on and about all the light that I personally see in it, but it's become apparent to me that there is no time that the present and that without dark there is no light and vice versa. It's apparent to me right now. It's raw and important to acknowledge that and be okay with it, and/or try and find some sort of peace in that and comfort in it, that everything has this balance to it. Perhaps this will be the time where the most incredible advancements for humankind will come out. The most incredible music will come out of this, and the most incredible art and poetry and novels, and all of this stuff will come out of this time.
Historically, when there's something awful that happens, something amazing will follow. I wholeheartedly believe that there will be more good than bad that comes out from this pandemic.