Tell us how you became interested in herbs.
My first real experience with herbs was with an acupuncturist recommended by a friend of mine. Nasal and skin allergies have been a major issue for me since childhood and, tired of the same old medicines that mostly had a temporary effect while making me feel fatigued and uncomfortable in other ways, I was looking for a new approach. After just a few weeks of regular visits and an herbal regimen, I was breathing deeper, my skin was clearing up, and I was feeling better than I had in a long time. The transition and results seemed almost magical compared to allergy tests, steroids, antihistamines, and smelly medicinal baths. I have a background in fine art and was inspired to start working the idea of magical plants into my artwork, making drawings and paintings of plants and people, mostly focusing on folkloric context such as good fortune, warding off negativity, etc. It sounds ridiculous but I kind of drew my way into wanting to learn more about herbs.
What kind of herbal training do you have?
I took my first official herb class in 2002. I was walking around the Lower East Side in Manhattan and picked up a flyer for Sunday herb classes with Arcus Flynn. I decided it was worth the weekly trips, signed up, and began to use herbs simply in my daily life. I really enjoyed her class, and the way she worked social activism into her workshops was right up my alley. A few years later I started making and selling soap with a friend of mine as “Loth & Volta.” The idea of making nice, organic, skin friendly bath and body products from scratch was very appealing to me for obvious reasons. In addition to soap making, I started experimenting with infusing oils, handling and using essential oils, making salves, scrubs, and salt baths. At this point most of my education came from reading books with easy to follow preparation and safety instruction by authors such as Rosemary Gladstar and Robert Tisserand.
A friend who had a good knowledge of herbs told me about David Winston’s class and got me very excited about learning more in a more intensive class setting. She came upon a workshop with Doreen Reggiani, a former student of David’s, which we both signed up for and loved. Doreen’s sincere appreciation for using herbs for everything from first aid to cooking played a significant role in pushing me to apply for David’s program.
What was your experience training under David Winston like?
I feel like I need to start at the beginning. When I approached David to take his class, I brought a portfolio of artwork, a very short list of my previous experience with herbs, and what seems in retrospect a crazy explanation that I wanted to learn more about the medicinal function of herbs for personal use but also to give some new meaning to my artwork. David didn’t bat an eye but described the typical student in his classes—doctors, nurses, acupuncturists, practicing herbalists—and explained that I would be at a disadvantage, knowledge and experience wise, but that I was welcome to sign up for the program. He was definitely right. A lot of the information was far beyond what I ever expected or planned to do with herbs. I spent a lot of time taking notes and sketching in class, enjoying David’s hilarious way of explaining things, and sitting in awe of a person who had such a seriously deep understanding of the way herbs interact with the human body. I appreciated David’s scientific approach to teaching and the amount of information given in two short years was staggering.