February 11, 2015

Made in America Series: Waxing Kara

With a full range of products from honey lollipops to beeswax candles, founder of Waxing Kara, Kara Brook is creating an American made, bee-based empire raising awareness on the importance of beekeeping and how bees so greatly impact our ecosystem, all while doing what she truly loves. 

Having started drawing around the same time she began walking, Kara declared herself an artist from a very young age.  She took lessons from 4 to 17 and began her studies at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

Kara went onto pursue a very different career, opening an extremely successful web communications business with a client list that included the White House.  In 2008, after twenty years, she closed her web communications firm.  As Kara tell us, “after decades in the two-dimensional world of advertising and web development, I craved texture. So, when I walked by a Tony Scherman painting that hangs in our home and suddenly stopped to see it with new eyes, something clicked.”  Kara began painting once again.  She is an encaustic painter and therefore wax is essential to her process. One day in the studio when boiling a large vat of wax and ruining it, Kara thought, “I should make my own wax.” Then she realized that would require her to become a beekeeper, so she did, and the rest unfolded naturally.

We were lucky enough to sit down with Kara herself and chat about the art of beekeeping, the importance of domestic manufacturing and the mantra of her business.

Beekeeping seems like a precarious craft—was this a hard skill to learn?  Were you at all fearful before jumping in?
It is. I think it always will be. It’s so foreign from anything I have ever done. I find it difficult and the first couple of seasons I was nervous at the hives. I have gotten more comfortable with it over time. I am still learning. I have come to learn that beekeeping is an art form. There are many challenges and lots of room for error. There are no guarantees, and I’m learning as I go, which means that patience is my most essential skill.

How did you connect with Chesterhaven Beach Farm?
My honey (the guy) took me for a ride one day, early in our relationship and shared the farm with me. It’s his. At the time it was a field of corn. We drove through the corn maze (and got lost) before we found the waterfront. The property faces the Chester River, which is a tributary to the Chesapeake Bay. 

I was pretty much instantly connected. Who wouldn’t have been?!

The 102-acre farm is on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, on Kent Island. I started with two hives, added two the second year making the sum total four. This year I started with eighteen and we have plans for at least 30 acres of wild flowering plants with consistent blooms from May through October. The goal is to cultivate a complex, organic environment that provides essential nutrients, pollen and nectar through nature. 

Our farming choices impact the yield/outcome of the honey and wax production. In the next few years we will have a pretty incredible 40 to 50 acres of flowers, fruit trees and berry bushes, an incredible habitat all for bees (and other winged creatures). 

With such a wide range of wax and honey based products, how did you learn to make all of these variations?  Tell us about your process.
My focus for now is on the bees and harvesting honey and lavender. I collaborate with other artistan/makers on special projects based on their skills utilizing our honey, beeswax and lavender from the farm. The process usually starts with being exposed to a great product.  I then approach the maker to see if they have interest in working with us incorporating our honey, products from our hive and farm.

Where do you draw your inspiration from when creating new products?
It’s been about all the things that I love. I develop an idea for a product, go to one of our makers and collaborate to create informed products that draw on the wealth of the maker’s experience.

Where do you get your ingredients?
All over. We shop for the best ingredients at the most reasonable pricing as organic as we can afford to make it. Everything that we make is made in the USA.
Can you tell us about the importance of bees in our ecosystem?
I always knew that bees were important to our ecosystem but I never really understood what that means until I started beekeeping and studying. Bees are responsible for a third of the food we eat and while I won’t submit to “beemageddon” (the end of bees that links to the end of mankind) if they become endangered, we will enjoy far fewer fruits and vegetables. There are dozens of crops that depend on bees for pollination including: almonds, apples, melons, lima beans, most berries and lots more.

What does using locally made ingredients and manufacturing in America mean to you and your brand?
Everything. Being part of a new category of entrepreneurial-types going back to basics, means everything to me. It’s what gets me out of bed each day. 
How did you get involved with Vision Workshops and how does this impact the work that you do? 
I was the first board member. I have been involved for 11 years. I had a mentor that introduced me to the director, Kirsten Elstner. She is among my top 5 favorite people in the universe. My focus has been on fundraising in the Maryland region to bring camps to the DelMarVa communities. It’s been the most wonderful experience to watch this organization grow and it’s all the result of Kirsten’s unwavering commitment to at-risk youth in underserved communities across the world.

At Oak73, our motto is Original, American, Kind.  Do you have a motto that defines the ethos of Waxing Kara? 
Bee Inspired.

Waxing Kara has established itself as a brand with one foot rooted in a nostalgic past and the other in an adventurous future. We are a bee inspired brand with a socially-conscious message focused on the importance of bees to our sustainability. 
Our philosophy is that nature can inspire and be a healing force that allows us to grow without limits.

Our mission is to create beautiful and functional products by our own hand and by teaming with seasoned craftsman with proven experience and resources.

Are you working on any new types of product?  How do you see Waxing Kara evolving? 
Always. Always. Makers have to make. Each step along the way is a new part of the adventure. I search for new ideas that align with my own heath-based values and stay open to unexpected opportunities.
To purchase Waxing Kara product, please visit http://waxingkara.com/

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