Meet Our Makers: River Island Apothecary


Meet Our Makers: River Island Apothecary

Posted by Herbiary, Dec 8th 2022
Meet Our Makers: River Island Apothecary

Herbiary prides itself on sourcing all our products from ethical (and local, when possible!) farms and makers. We'd love to introduce you to some of them in our new Meet Our Makers interview series!

Meet Katie Vie, the founder of River Island Apothecary and Darkwood Mystery School. We sat down virtually with Katie to hear more about the story behind her work.

Can you tell Herbiary's community about yourself and your work?

I’m Katie Vie, founder of river island apothecary and Darkwood Mystery School. I’m pretty much a mystical girl scout leader for grown-ups. I use ritual, anointing oils, poetry, and movement to help people align with their sacred selves. I support the daily rituals, mystical rhythms, and facets of their psyche that connect them to their center, the earth, and the divine.

I live on the north side of a mountain. I’m a big fan of candlelight, kitchen dance parties, and listening to loud music in the car, crying over art, and laughing with good buddies. I’ll build a fire and sit by it all day when the world feels off, and I’d rather feel the earth instead. I prioritize my friendship with the divine wild and holy feral. I go to bed when it’s still light outside. I like the beach when it’s stormy and towns when they’re empty.

How did you create River Island Apothecary?

I started river island apothecary in 2009. I’d been a massage therapist and an aromatherapist for a long time at that point, so my first products were the things my clients always liked: massage oils, bathing salts, salves, etc.

A year after launching those body care products, I decided I wanted a set of anointing oils to use in my practice, which was on the island in Marshall, NC at the time (thus the name, river island apothecary). As a theme for the anointing oils, I thought it would be cool to work with archetypes. I’ve loved archetypes since learning about them while getting my Literature degree. so I pondered what “my” archetypes were as inspiration for creating this collection, like what archetypes mashed up and made me.

I landed upon The Girl Child, The Mermaid, The Tantrika, The Queen, The Warrior, The Priestess, and The Wisdom Keeper, and blended anointing oils for each one. I shared them with my friends and massage clients, and it turned out these archetypes are widely relatable (as archetypes always are). They overlay the wheel of the year, moon phases, chakras, astrological symbols, elements, tools, and so on.

The seven oil blends and their archetypes became dear companions and important teachers in my life.

I began producing those seven blends in small batches, which is still how I make them. They’re all based in organic jojoba and consist of organic or wild-harvested essential oils and absolutes.

About six years into the product line I realized that the anointing oils were outselling all the other products. I liked them the best anyway, so I ditched all the body care and moved forward, producing only the anointing oils.

Then, everyone who loved the oils wanted more education about the archetypes, anointing rituals, and all the magical correspondences. So I offered to teach. The first mystery school cohort formed in 2018, and I’ve been leading cohorts ever since. Darkwood Mystery School has an introductory program called The Mystical Year, and three graduate programs called The Mystical Heart, The Mystical Core, and Restorative Circle. I’m thinking about doing a mystical blending class next year. We’ll see.

So, river island apothecary is a very long labor of love consisting of anointing oils, classes, and an amazing community.

What has your journey been like working with plants? Why do you feel connected with herbalism?

All my baby pictures are in greenhouses amongst rows of poinsettias or easter lilies. My parents studied horticulture in college and my Dad ran greenhouses while I was growing up, so plants have always been prominent in my life. I was the kid bringing mums to my teachers. We’d go on walks as a family at the local botanical garden and learn to identify local plants. I planted a butterfly garden for my girl scout Gold Award project. I’d point out native plants to my groups when I was a backpacking guide out in Shining Rock.

But I’m not a gardener. It took like 15 years for me to figure that out. It was confusing to me, because I love plants and beauty and dirt so much.

I discovered aromatherapy and essential oils while in New Mexico at a massage therapy school. I fell in love with aromatics right away. That love led me to study botanical perfumery. I finally figured out that the scent of plants does it for me. It’s how I feel their most potent expression, the medium through which I find it easiest to “hear” them. My work with scent creation became a weaving of aromatic aesthetics, therapeutic themes, and morphological plant archetypes.

Essential oils are a branch of herbalism that’s conducive to working with emotions and the spirit because of the relationship of scent with the limbic brain. I’m mostly interested in working with emotions and the spirit, so using essential oils as my materia medica works.

What would you recommend for someone looking to begin working with plants more in their daily life?

Consider them friends, and hang out with them. Listen to them, get to know them. Build intimacy like you would with anybody else. Intimacy is just deep paying attention, so just pay them some attention. Have an exchange. Don’t think about them as a commodity or just what they can do for you.

If you could have a cup of tea with anyone (dead or alive) who would it be and what kind of tea?

I wanna drink whiskey with Georgia O’Keefe, an obscure red wine with MFK Fisher, champagne with Edie Sedgewick, or an unsung local brandy with a neroli harvester in Morocco in the way-back-when's. But tea? Bjork. Lapsang Souchang.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Live for your art, listen to your intuition, and remember that you’re smarter, braver, and wilder than you think.

And for fun, what's your astrological sign?

Pisces sun, Scorpio Moon, Libra rising

*Click here to check out river island apothecary's anointing oils for yourself!

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