I come from a family who loves to cook and loves to eat. My mom still spends the majority of each day in her kitchen; she was a horticulture major who took her knowlege from the soil to the stove. All of my siblings and I know how to cook and bake and we grew up contributing to family meals. We learned in our kitchen next to mom and enjoyed food, whether prepared by us or out at a restaurant, together. Most of our family traditions revolve around food.
Years ago, when I lived in Houston, I watched the first season of Chef's Table after a Sunday lunch of Tex-Mex. Dan Barber was the chef featured in this episode as well as his restaurants Blue Hill in Greenwich Village and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in the Hudson Valley. Dan and his team have a ground-up approach to the food that comes out of their kitchen. They develop and grow new varieties of fruits and vegetables, breed and farm their own meat, work with local farmers year round, and are always on the cutting edge of innovation with how to futher recycle and utilize every aspect of the food that goes in and out of their kitchens.
Dan is electric to watch. That energy stuck with me.
I made a promise to myself that I would eat there one day.
Fast forward. I moved to New York City and had just gotten a job in film industry as a Production Assistant on a TV show about two chefs. I was working in the Art Department and one of the first conversations I had with the Art Director was about Blue Hill. He had eaten at both of their locations, multiple times, and my mouth watered as he told me about the experience. We both appreciated the art of food. As research for the show I spent hours sourcing and printing photos of food - many were dishes created by Dan Barber. A piece of each of my paychecks went to my, "future dinner at Blue Hill" fund, and after a few months of saving I called to make a reservation which would be available a couple months later (Obama had just eaten there and a Saturday night reservation was impossible to get). It was a wonderful meal.
Fast-forward again. I live in Los Angeles and start a nail polish brand called Death Valley Nails. Aside from our regular line of polish I created the Dust To Dust collection which is polish that is made up of foraged earth pigments. My dad, who is a geologist, helped me develop the concept. I wanted to see and feel actual pieces of wild nature in a bottle of nail polish. To be able to wear a place. The beauty in making our polish by hand is that we have the opportunity to break down unique types of pigment and experiment with new ideas.
The idea for Bone hit me like a bolt after reading about the grass-fed bone china that Gregg Moore was developing for Stone Barns. I immediately set out to experiment.
What is our bone polish? We source cattle bones from small farms who are committed to raising grass-fed and finished cattle. The bones that we use would otherwise be discarded. We view this as a way to work with a local farm, highlight the work that they are doing, and recycle a natural material in to a beauty product within an industry full of waste.
We break the bones down in to a pigment form very similar to the way that ceramics are fired: high heat over a long period of time. The charred bones are then ground by hand using a mortal and pestle until they become a fine pigment. The end product is a polish with an earthy-textured topper which creates the perfect speckled look on top of another polish or worn by itself. A couple answers to common questions: It does not smell like bones, it smells like nail polish. It is not unsanitary, the bones have been charred for so long that they turn in to dust.
Where do we get these bones?
Our first batch of this polish was created using bones from West Roots Farm in Leona Valley, CA. We just completed our second batch of bone polish and the bones were sourced from ranch near us in the Austin-area!
Watterson Ranch in Bastrop County is a family business who has been raising cattle for six generations. Their cows are grass-fed and finished with no fillers or additives. You can read more about the ranch here
, as well as place an order through their website if you would like to support their farm!
Food has directly influenced who I am as much as the people around me have. I could tell you how chopping and rolling and peeling and sautéing taught me how multitask with my hands while being quick on my feet. Or, how the communal farm we used to work on as a family gave me an appreciation for the orgin of things and what those things develop in to over time. Or, how being the sole cook and dishwasher at a restaurant in college taught me how to shoulder responsibility and practice patience under stress. The sum of all these parts (and more) has equaled a head full of curiocity and the hands ready to put in the work.
We aren't a Blue Hill, but we are trying to find creative ways to use what comes in and out of our studio for the good of each other and for the earth. So much of my life has changed over the past few years. I still find inspiration through food, both in the bread I am breaking and the person I break it with. Thanks, Dan.
Read more about Bone polish here.