Did you know that Bottega Organica, the Italian company that’s devoted to breakthrough science and organic products, has two farms? It’s true. In addition to their pristine farm in Liguria, they have an equally gorgeous and pesticide-free farm in upstate New York.
This second farm even has a large barn apothecary filled with plant infusions. It's so very upstate-NY-shabby-chic, we can't even handle it.
This is where the magical Mary Ahern handcrafts several of Bottega Organica's remarkably pure products, primarily its creams, fresh to order. The best seller of the bunch is the active botanical packed Eye Illuminate Cream, which left us awestruck. In addition to making our eyes feel soothed and (we swear) look younger, it features an outrageously creamy texture that sinks into skin with a refreshing, almost cooling, non-greasy finish. It feels like it should be impossible for those characteristics to coexist. And yet.
So we immediately asked our friends at Bottega Organica, “How do you do it? And who is this mysterious Mary? And what does the farm look like? We’re full of questions, obviously.”
Well, here you go: we asked, and Mary answered…with gorgeous photos, too. Read the whole thing, and you'll be rewarded with details about our Bottega Organica gift with purchase at the end.
AYLA: Tell us about your background in product formulation. How long have you been making products, and for whom?
MARY: I first began formulating for the public 17 years ago, when I was working with midwives in postpartum care. It was in this setting that I learned to create a formula that was capable of delivering a botanical property. To this day, I work to produce each product from that point of view.
AYLA: How did you happen to join the Bottega Organica team?
MARY: I met the Bottega Organica founders completely by chance! We began working together soon after as it was clear that we had the same natural and traditional plant extraction methods and mission to create products without artificial or synthetic ingredients.
AYLA: Bottega Organica's "farm to face" approach is intriguing. Do you grow all of the ingredients you use on the farm(s)? If not, do you aim to formulate using a certain percentage of ingredients that you can find on your own farms?
MARY: We have a large percentage of our plant material available now on our farms; for example, all of the olive oil used in our line is produced on our farm in Italy. And we're in the process of developing this further to be able to produce even more of our own ingredients. In some cases, this involved growing specific plants in New York that were previously only available in Italy. We currently formulate with the intention to organically grow and/or wild harvest the plants involved from one or both of our farms.
Below, left: Prawn sage (a mainstay of the Bottega Organica formulas) that Mary recently planted at the New York farm. Below, right: St John's Wort and Yarrow, also at the farm.
AYLA: You truly walk the "farm-to-face" talk! We'd love to learn more about how you make your creams. Since you handcraft each jar of Eye Illuminate to order, can you tell us more about that process?
MARY: We feel that the Eye Illuminate’s strengths come from our methods of production using our farm-grown ingredients. First, we carefully harvest each plant while at the height of its availability to the extraction process.
Below: Mary harvesting plants on the farm
MARY: Next, we shade-dry the plants in the upper level of the apothecary where there is proper temperature and ventilation.
Below, upper right: Coneflower used in the Eye Illuminate formula
MARY: When the drying process is complete, we weigh the amount of plant material necessary to work into either oil or glycerin. Our glycerin infusions are stored underground in a cool, dark environment, but all of our oil infusions are exposed to the sun to extract the botanical property into the oil. This process is known as solar infusing.
Below: Solar infusion at the farm
MARY: After processing in these environments, the infusions are double strained through organic cloth to remove plant parts.
All of our hydrosols and essential oils are produced by steam distillation, which incorporates botanical extracts with a sterile water element. We are currently developing the farm upstate so that we'll be able to produce all the plant material needed to make our own hydrosols and essential oils.
These ingredients I've described, along with certified organic and ethically harvested beeswax and Shea butter, are used to make all of our creams.
After that, the process of actually mixing the creams mainly involves the proper measure of materials and careful temperature control. We also use unwaxed parchment paper to fill the jars. It's not only non-toxic, but also gives great control for the flow and finish of the cream.
Below: Mary filling our jars of Eye Illuminate
Amazing, right? Try a freshly handmade-to-order (by Mary) jar of Bottega Organica’s Eye Illuminate yourself, and you’ll see what a difference it makes when a product is made with this much care and expertise. It feels every bit as deliciously frosting-like as it looks in that photo.
Oh, and one more thing. While supplies last, you'll receive a free box of Bottega Organica's rosehip-infused, glow-inducing Beauty Blossom herbal tea (normally $16) with any Bottega Organica order you place on aylabeauty.com.
Enormous thanks to Mary and Lin for giving us a peek into this fascinating process!