Jana Blankenship is the magician behind the natural beauty brand Captain Blankenship. We were so intrigued to know how her small yet blossoming business came into swing. Jana let us get a glimpse into her sweet life in the Catskills, her favorite music to listen to and what the future has in store for the Captain.
How did you get started? How did you learn to make beauty products?
I like to think I started at a very early age. I always had my nose in my mom's endless beautiful bottles of perfumes. It was there that I first found my love of smells and also developed an allergy to synthetic scents. Fast forward two decades and I discovered natural perfumery. I dove in headfirst and studied with the incredible natural perfumer, teacher and author Mandy Aftel. She is a real mentor to me. Each of my products be it perfume or lip balm is imbued with my love of scent and the rich palette of essential oils and absolutes I get to work with.
What was your life like before making beauty products?
I was a curator at the Wattis Institute in San Francisco. I loved that path too and I see myself not as a curator of scents and experiences. I also am a painter, which I still love to do.
What's the size of your business? How long have you been in operation?
It is teeny tiny. It is just me and my dear friends Sara and Amy. The ship set sail in 2009, but it wasn't really until three years ago that I dropped my full time job and poured all my energy into this. It has been so challenging, rewarding and creative to be at the helm of Captain Blankenship. Work is never boring.
What's your favorite concoction to make?
Oh, that is hard. Each product is its own adventure to make. Perfumes are so involved, they are a world in themselves, and it is fun to get lost in them. I have to say though I love making Face Oil, especially getting to rub the remaining oil from the Pyrex into my skin. It is so nourishing and rich, but easily absorbed. It just makes my skin sing!
Where do you source your materials from?
Since I started the company five years ago, I have cultivated a network of small companies domestically that I source materials from. It look a while to figure out whose Pink Grapefruit or Rose Geranium Essential Oil I liked the most. My favorites to work with are Aftelier and White Lotus Aromatics for essential oils and absolutes and Mountain Rose Herbs for carrier oils, waxes and butters.
What does your work space look like?
It is an 800 foot studio space in the bottom floor of our home in upstate New York. It has a laboratory feel with lots of steel work tables and shelving filled with glass bottles and gallons of beautiful carrier oils. My blending desk for perfumes was made by my grandfather and is filled with hundreds of vials of scent. Atop the desk sits the Blankenship. A model clipper ship my husband gave me when I started the business.
What's your personal beauty regimen?
I am pretty simple. I wash my face with my sugar scrub or a simple homemade cleanser, followed by toner and face oil. During the day, I'll mix a few drops of face oil into sunscreen and apply. My favorite face sunscreen is by Marie Veronique Organics.
What's your favorite scent?
I love Jasmine. I can't lie. I believe I moved to California partly because the first time I visited the jasmine was in bloom and it was totally intoxicating. I also love seaweed, vetiver and bitter citruses like blood orange.
What kind of music do you listen to when you work?
I love to listen to music all the time, but I actually like to work on Captain Blankenship without any on. I like the peace of getting lost and immersed in what I am doing and am happy for the silence I have in those moments. Every once in a while I'll bring sounds in and they range depending on my mood. I lately have been loving listening to my friend Eleanor Friedberger, my stepbrother's band Amen Dunes and always Neil Young.
What are 5 things you cannot live without?
My family, friends and animals (dog and cat), walks in the woods, sleep (grateful for this especially after becoming a mom), coffee, dry shampoo
What's the best advice you could give?
Don't take yourself too seriously and don't be afraid to follow your nose, even if it seems crazy.
What's next for Captain Blankenship?
Anything exciting coming up in your life? Vacations? We just bought tickets to go to Kauai in the end of January. I am joining a bunch of beautiful friends from the west coast and we are renting a house together. I am so ready to get some lazy time with friends on the beach.