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2304 East Burnside Street
Portland, OR, 97214
United States




In a Land Long Ago I was a Painter

Khrys Viaches

From an early age I enjoyed color, putting it to paper, watching it blend and bleed together. I was enrolled in art classes as a kid. I sought out classes through my early education and into high school. Some of this I could blame on my older sister. She has some mad-skills herself. She also had a head start with our high school art teacher and so I knew what to expect when I entered the classroom. Not only did I bask in the art glow of Mr. Durand’s classroom I learned so much more. A deeper understanding of my Irish heritage (I was in an Irish Catholic school btw), exposure to Celtic knotwork, incredible music, and a level of creative freedom I hadn’t experienced before. I ran with it. I worked on personal pieces. I learned drawing, shading, perspective, painting, clay work. I worked on set pieces for the school plays. I created fonts and calligraphy for fun.

Around me I had good friends who were also creative. We shared work, gave each other feedback and encouraged each other.

At one point I thought about making my livelihood from painting. When I enrolled in college I enrolled as a Painting major. I was allowed into painting classes my freshman year when that was normally not allowed. I focused on drawing, camouflage (one of my favorite projects), 3-D work and so on. I enjoyed criticism of my work. It encouraged me to work harder, to try new things, to do things differently.

Then it stopped. I became dismayed with “fine art”. “Things to hang on walls” I thought. How boring. I attempted to paint furniture, but that felt tacky. The work went unfinished. My interests drifted to food. A realization and craving “to stir” I figured cooking must be my destiny. Soon thereafter I moved across the country to the PNW and began this new life.

I cooked. I lived, breathed, researched, tried things and burnt things. I worked my fingers to the bone. All of this as a mere prep-cook. One day I overheard my certified executive chef boss and her partner claim to a patron after praise for the great food, “Oh we’re so exhausted by the end of the night we hit the drive-thru on the way home. We don’t eat this way at home!” I realized then that this wasn’t for me.

In a mysterious way herbs became my life. No real flag flew to show me my destiny. Somehow wellness, support for the bodies innate ability to heal itself, recognizing patterns and helping others became my focus. Making things is still important for me – hence the products I make and share here, but it goes beyond this. To make items custom for individual people is where it’s at.

While herbs began to take over I occasionally would draw them, paint them. Quick things. Some detail with an abstract twist. When my son was born I drew more things. Simple things to entertain him. Requests. It was odd stretching my fingers back into old patterns. I enjoyed it. I went through fazes of more and less drawing. I planned a babies herbal to teach the alphabet using illustrations of plants (it’s unfinished). I drew with my son to occupy the time. I occasionally draw something to show him how to draw something. None of this has been constant. Still we draw together, a beautiful blend of styles, colors and requests.

A few months ago it came back to me. It drifted in on a light breeze. I want to paint. How to find time? Where can I make a mess? A million excuses churned up to discourage this hint. I was stressed out. I wanted sunshine and peace and to let go. I saw a flash – the small watercolor kit I bought when I was 18. I held onto it for all these years. Over 20 years. With this a small watercolor pad and a travel water bottle from another travel kit I could have this in my bag at all times. It has its own pocket. On my lunch breaks I sit in the healing herb garden next to my 9 – 5 and paint. Free hand, pencil doodles, fine detail, abstract weirdness – it doesn’t matter. I’m painting again and I love it. Watching the colors blend and bleed together. So simple, so grounding.

I have bigger canvases. A new kit of acrylics and old kit of oils you can clean up with water. One of these days I’ll broaden to the larger realm (I did paint 4’ x 5’ oils back in the day). But right now this is just right.

Plants and I: A History

Khrys Viaches

Many years ago as a young girl in the South my sister and I would play outdoors in the shade of our backyard. My Mom had many gardens on the acre we called home. My sister and I would play for hours with the wild onions and wild strawberries and coo over the violets that spread about the backyard early in spring. We nibbled on those wild onions while attempting to make our own strawberry lip balm. We would delight in the fresh spearmint my Mom would add to our pitchers of sweet tea (to this day I prefer no sweet tea better) and marvel at how garden sage smelled like sausage.  We would help my Mom pick cherry tomatoes and summer squash, and inspect her new experiments in the garden. One year it was growing watermelons another year habaneros. So much goodness came out of those gardens.

When in high school, as a disenchanted Catholic and newbie Wiccan, I began my studies on the magical properties of plants. My Mom let me have a small garden to grow some of the herbs I was working with – namely rue, yarrow, and rosemary from what I remember. But I didn’t give them the attention they needed, being an unruly teenager, and so their care fell back to my Mom. I often envied my Mom’s way with plants. There didn’t seem to be anything she couldn’t grow. Sure the spearmint and sage got out of hand and the watermelon had issues, but she was never afraid to pick up something new and give it a try. Just before I headed to college she embarked on registering our yard and gardens in the Backyard Habitat program from the Audubon Society. I was so proud of her when she received the certificate!

When I moved out to the Pacific Northwest in the late 90’s I was amazed by all the green surrounding me. So many tall trees, rhododendrons taller than I’d ever seen and everyone seemed to have yards brimming over with colors and textures I didn’t know existed. I was inspired! In my studio apartment I grew my first culinary herbs from seed in small terra cotta pots near my window. I was amazed that they grew! I then moved into a large house with roommates to save money and those poor plants withered on my sunny front porch for lack of water. It was so sad, but I couldn’t give up. My love of plants grew and grew. I used fresh herbs in my cooking and in the food service jobs I held. I again tried to grow plants in pots while I awaited a yard of my own (I’ve since learned it’s much easier to grow plants in the ground).

In my late teens and early twenties I aspired to become a chef and to focus my energies on preparing fresh food with an eye for good nutrition and great flavor. After many years working in various food service jobs my back just couldn’t take it anymore. With the pain and discomfort I looked to natural remedies to help. I’d had previous health issues with anxiety and digestive problems and herbal remedies had helped significantly. Not only do herbs have magical attributes and taste good in your cooking, but they can help you feel better too. Again I was inspired. This is what began more research on herbal medicine, collecting herbals to look through and my day dream about growing my own medicine. After years of self-study I wanted to know more. I took the plunge in 2002 and enrolled at The Australasian College of Herbal Studies (now American College of Healthcare Sciences) in the distance learning Master Herbalist program. It was a 2 year program with in-depth information on anatomy and physiology, how plants and other therapies could be used for a variety of conditions, active constituents present in plants, current studies on efficacy, growing, harvesting and medicine making were covered too. While this program taught me much I wanted more. Luckily at the time my husband and I were living in a house with a yard and so I could experiment with growing a variety of plants in order to spend time with the plants and see their preferences and learn how they grow.

I too decided to enroll at Portland State University to finish my Bachelor’s degree. With much back and forth I decided to double major in Community Health Education and School Health Education. I was surprised and excited by the amount of integrative medicine topics offered or at least discussed within the core classes. I sought these classes out and relished the opportunity to discuss the nuances with my Professors and classmates. While completing my degree I searched for a job that would help me utilize these skills I had learned. I applied all over town at every place I thought would fit – nurseries, grocery stores, natural health clinics and it was a no go until I applied for an on-call position at the National College of Natural Medicine (now NUNM) in their Medicinary. I’ve worked their now for over 12 years and love the opportunities I have to work with bulk herbs, tinctures, essential oils, flower essences and homeopathics.

This too wasn’t enough. While embarking on self-study and completing the Master Herbalist program I made as many things as I could. I experimented with making infusions, decoctions, tinctures, syrups, poultices, fomentations, liniments, powders, encapsulation and so much more. I made soaps, mud masks, seed scrubs, candles and about anything else you could use for self-care. I would spend my time reading herbals, working with dried and fresh herbs, raising plants from seed to harvest, investigating all the methods of use and still more. I would sit for hours and brainstorm combinations of plants for various purposes. I would make test batches and try them out. I would make larger batches and give them away as gifts. With many compliments and enjoyment from those I gave my goodies too I decided I could make my offerings and share them on a larger scale. Don’t get me wrong. It is still just me – working on recipes, determining batch sizes, working in the garden to plant and harvest what to use in my herbal formulas, procuring packaging, making labels, and selling my wares online and at street fairs and other arts and crafts events. Now I just make things more often and in a little larger quantity. This is how Silver Willow Herb & Stone was born.  

I do absolutely love research and still continue to study as much as I can. Lately I’ve come full circle back to the magical attributes I studied when I was 15. I’ve been working on the Botanical Constellations program and Elemental Herbalism program through the School of Evolutionary Herbalism and attending local plant medicine conferences that focus on the energetics of plants and plant communication. So many wonderful teachers and great information to be found – including the plants themselves of course!

All along the way I think about my Mom’s gardens when I was a kid. We talk often about what we’re planting. She now has more of an affinity for growing flowers and shade gardening while I focus mostly on medicinal, culinary and aromatic herbs. Still so much love in the garden!

Stay tuned for more journal entries on my gardens, what I’m planting, harvesting, and making along with various topics including using herbs with children and pets, immune health and so much more!

In the Beginning... Stones

Khrys Viaches

Purple has always been one of my favorite colors. Perhaps that is what led me to pick out my first amethyst cluster in my tweens. I carried it with me everywhere. I still have it now. Even before that I have been drawn to rocks and crystals, both in their natural state and as polished stones. The way they are made within the earth fascinated me too and was one of my favorite topics in science class as a kid. I remember sitting in my driveway for ages looking through the pebbles to find any stones with remarkable color or shape. I was thrilled when I found out my grandfather had a rock tumbler. I could make my own polished stones! Little did I realize how loud those are and our experiments didn’t last long.

Perhaps it was the color, the sparkle or waxy appearance, the inclusions (minerals and other properties present during the stones birth that create streaks, bubbles and colors within the stone), structure, texture, heft, or energy of the stones that first drew me in, but honestly I love all this about those hard substances we know as rocks, crystals and gemstones.

When in my teens and studying the magical properties of plants I also came across information on crystals concerning their beneficial properties and their use in healing. Now I know many folks consider this to be a bunch of hullabaloo, but I remember clearly when I first felt a crystals vibration. I was in a crystal shop in my hometown and picked up a small rose quartz sphere and held it in the palm of my “receiving” hand (this would be your non-dominant hand – the hand you do not write with). I felt a distinct tingling in my palm. I chose to buy that stone and I have it still. I have used it often to help with self-esteem issues and to open my heart to love.

Much of the energetic information on crystals has to do with what minerals make up the stone, what earth processes occur to make the stone, and what vibration the stone has. This has much to do with the make-up of the stone and how its energy can be used for healing. Take obsidian for example. This is a stone created during lava flows. It cools very fast giving it no time to form crystals and is a form of volcanic glass. While it comes in many colors the most common is black or dark brown. Black stones in general resonate with the Root Chakra and are very grounding. Obsidian in particular is protective and is useful for helping to deal with negative behaviors and emotional blockages. The stone works fast though and should be used with awareness of this so that proper support is present.

I work with crystals in many ways. I study them in books of course, I collect them when I feel drawn to particular stones, I gather – when permissible – when out in nature, and I use them in healing and energetic work. I meditate with my collection of stones. I often choose a specific stone and spend some time with it alone rather than working with all the stones I have together. I use them in crystal sun catchers, allowing the lead glass prism to focus the energy into beneficial rainbows that you can stand in. I’m also beginning my studies in lithotherapy. These are prepared similar to flower essences, but are made with gemstones and crystals. As I have continued to study and work with stones I have created a line of Stone Essences. These are now available individually and are included with many herbal products as well. Each of my Energetic Room Sprays include a Stone Essence and Flower Essence along with essential oils to direct and support the healing properties.

Stay tuned for more information on the crystals I have and work with as well as the products I have that utilize their beneficial properties.