Hudson River Exchange interviews the maker Toni Hacker of Beacon Mercantile currently showcased at the Handmade Pop Up Shop at 514 Warren Street from May 17th to June 16th.
HRE: What’s your creative process? What’s your favorite part? How do you maintain your creative stamina? What do you do when you’re stuck?
TONI: Living in the Hudson Valley is a dream and the true inspiration behind my work. I draw a lot of my perfumery and candle inspiration from favorite, magical places in the area. For my skincare and beauty, I am continually inspired by the women and people that I know who are looking for a more natural, clean, simple, and creative way to live and work as we navigate modern life while maintaining balance with the environment.
My favorite part of my work is dreaming up new scents to inspire and enrich our lives…to me, fragrance is a journey and an experience. It’s incredible how hardwired memory and emotion is to scent! Perfumery is a beautiful art that’s sort of like golf…you can practice your entire life and never fully master it. It’s endlessly intriguing. There is always new knowledge to explore and materials to experiment with. I stay creatively inspired by visiting favorite places for hikes, reading about the art and history of perfumery, and I get really excited when a new formula that I make works as well, or better than, a commercial formula that’s full of unnecessary ingredients.
I am a minimalist-maximalist and believe in luxe simplicity…when you use my products, I want you to feel the love, joy, and dedication that went into its creation and making. For skincare, I believe in using the fewest ingredients with the highest quality for maximum results.
Our skin just wants to be loved and it wants to be fed…plants and nutrient-rich botanicals are definitely the best way to find that balance. When I get stuck creatively, a quick hike along the river or reading up on the healing properties of plants usually gets me out of it. There are so many fantastic plants and essential oils to work with, that it’s impossible to not come away with a new idea or feel inspired to create something of use.
HRE: What materials do you work with? How did you start working with these materials and why do you enjoy working with these materials?
TONI: I love working with natural materials – soy wax, plant essences, extracts, absolutes, and essential oils. I started my journey by making one simple candle and one great lip balm for myself…and then I decided that I wanted to learn how to perfume a candle, so I tinkered and studied to learn how to properly do so. I was hooked immediately. I decided to leave my career of 20 years in fashion design and follow my dream to create natural candles, home goods, beauty, and skincare.
HRE: We believe creativity loves company because there’s so much we can share and learn from each other. What’s the best advice you’ve gotten about creative practice, business, or in life?
TONI: The best business advice I’ve ever received was when I was in fashion. I was doing a trunk show with an older, well-known, and very established designer and we hit it off from the start. He looked at me and said ‘I want you to know one rule about being a creative and a business owner…always pay yourself’. It took years for the true meaning and wisdom of his words to sink in, but it is gold. Always make sure that you pay yourself for the work that you do. You honor yourself and your work when you do so. It is often tough for creatives to have financial discussions and plan financially, but always do so. Ideas are not free…there is real, tangible value in what you do. Own that.
HRE: What is a goal that you set for your business this year?
TONI: My goal this year is to open up to more wholesale and to find a larger group of like-minded retailers and stores to work with. I adore the local retailers that I work with now and they are incredibly supportive of what I do. I aim for slow, steady, and mindful growth. The quality of my products and the fact that I make everything by hand is very important to me.
HRE: Can you share a challenge and a benefit about being a creative in the Hudson Valley?
TONI: A growing challenge working in the Beacon area is finding affordable studio space. It’s tough. I am lucky that what I do allows me to work out of my home, but I’m already thinking ahead to what I’m going to do if I need to expand. That’s going to be a definite hurdle. The major benefit to working in the Hudson Valley is that you’re surrounded by so many fellow creatives, makers, artists, and people who just ‘get it’ when it comes to being eco-minded and wanting to create work that uplifts and inspires.
UPDATE: Since the pop up started, Toni’s made a step of growth. She happened upon the vacancy of a space she’d had her eye on and made the leap. Beacon Mercantile now has a dreamy studio + shop space at 493 Main Street, Beacon. Make sure to stop in when you’re in the area to experience Beacon Mercantile products and a curated selection of handmade goods.
— Beacon Mercantile was born from my quest to create quality candles, perfumes, and apothecary items from fantastic natural ingredients and materials. All products are lovingly handcrafted in small batches to ensure the highest level of quality and freshness. There’s a lot of love and passion behind every single item that I formulate and make, and in all orders that ship from my hands to yours.
My small batch candles are hand poured and made with clean burning US grown soy wax, cotton and paper eco-friendly wicks, and richly scented with our custom perfume blends. All candles are 100% phthalate, paragon, zinc, dye, and lead free so you can enjoy the relaxing glow of a flickering flame and keep your home healthy.
The perfumes are my handcrafted memories to share with you. Some real. Some imagined. — Toni Hacker