Charlene & Rin Blackwell’s COAST AND CLEARING is this month’s Business Spotlight: a series interviewing makers and designers who use and enjoy our products.
Just visiting C&C’s Etsy shop is a soothing experience – which makes sense because their hand-crafted skincare is all about health and harmony. After visually savoring images of all the enticing soaps, salts, scrubs and more, we were excited to try them for ourselves.
Ahhh! They really are as fresh and wholesome as they look. You can definitely sense the care and intention that goes into each product. We love the natural aromatherapy scents and how wonderful the soap makes our skin feel. A big thank you to Charlene for supplying us with samples and for sharing what inspired her to create Coast and Clearing.
What motivated you to start a bath and skincare company?
C&C has been an exciting evolution, and the base motivations that helped create it have been with me since childhood. I was a very creative kid; quiet and painfully-shy socially, but wildly expressive in other ways. I remember wanting to be an artist and a farmer when I grew up. The adults in my life tried to temper me with some realism, as often happens, so I discovered other “more practical” talents, such as business (particularly sales— thank you, Girl Scouts!). During my junior year of high school, I became something of a Candy Bar Kingpin when I started selling chocolates that had been pulled from school vending machines district-wide. I was in a marketing class that same year, which talked about ‘identifying needs and filling them’ as an effective way to craft a business. If you provide something that people want, it sells itself– and I ended up financing half of a 2-week Europe trip by the end of the school year, from candy that I was purchasing wholesale from Costco and reselling at a 60-cent profit per bar. I still have the Spongebob notebook that I kept my accounting tallies in. The next year, I medaled in local and regional DECA competitions, and competed in nationals for marketing and advertising. I was thrilled to find something practical that I was so good at, and was hooked on the idea that I could have this career as an adult– but I wanted to do it in a more creative way. Something was still missing. I spent my time in college honing my business, art, and communication skills, and tried to find ways to fuse them together. It wasn’t until I started a corporate accounting position in 2012 that I needed a deeply-restorative weekly activity to offset my job stress, and Coast & Clearing started to form. I previously took on overwhelming amounts of work with no downtime and lived from burnout to burnout, so finding my way to boundaries and self-care was crucial in me striking balance in my life. I fell in love with long salt baths + Netflix– and when I DIYed my first bath bomb and started posting about it, interest grew and the idea snowballed. I had found the missing piece –the thing to sell, and the motivation behind using it– in my self-employment equation. I incubated C&C for about 2 more years while maintaining that accounting position, working 12-14 hour days in December to meet the seasonal demands of both. And by 2015, I needed to make a choice about which to throw my whole self into– and with the support of my partner (& now soapmaker) Rin, I was ready. We only grew as I was able to put my entire focus into manifesting this idea, and have gone even further because of Rin’s involvement and insight. I’m nothing but proud of our partnership, in business and in life. People ask us when we’re having kids— and I laugh and say that Coast & Clearing is 6 years old!
We’re curious about your process for developing products. Is it a combination of research and experimentation to decide what goes into each one?
When I first started C&C, it was mostly scrubs, face masks, and salt soaks; stuff I was making for myself. We expanded in products and scent pairings over time, but it wasn’t until we were approached by a client who’d had a product request for eczema that we really found our way. The treatment products we crafted have helped her and others greatly– the reviews truly blow us away. I love being able to do custom work for clients! We’ve expanded our line of ailment-based products to help with things like anxiety, rosacea, and troubled sleep. Being able to improve someone’s quality of life is something I take great pride in, and has expanded the mission and purpose of this company. It involves a ton of research (and client feedback) to ensure that we›re using the properties of our ingredients in the most effective way. If not, we tweak it until it does. Sometimes, it’s more straightforward: we start with a scent profile we enjoy, and build a product from it. With perfumes, I build scents similar to painting a canvas; with foundational base notes, mid-tones, and highlights. I try to keep as much art in this part of the business as possible– this is where others can skimp on ingredients or product effectiveness due to cost, or in exchange for profits. I always want our work (and prices) to be able to speak for themselves.
photo courtesy of Coast & Clearing
Your product descriptions have a strong focus on the health benefits along with scent and sensory information. Is the health aspect a large part of your inspiration for creating certain offerings?
It certainly is. During college, I struggled with undiagnosed endometriosis and ovarian cysts; some days, the pain was so intense I couldn’t walk to class. My aspirations and GPA were suddenly side-tackled by chronic pain and emergency room visits; doctors initially shrugged and wanted to prescribe opioids– I wanted answers and effective treatment. The advocating that I had to do for myself was tireless, but it was the only way I moved the process forward. My empathy levels have always been high– but nothing gives you compassion quite like enduring your own struggles. Thankfully my condition went into remission a few years ago with a vigorous multifaceted approach, but I remember feeling helpless, and needing to do much of my own research on my condition and natural treatments in order to feel better. Many of my friends have chronic pain, or other conditions. I try to hold that same space and enthusiasm in wanting to help ease someone else›s pain. So much of our suffering goes unresolved in many ways. I try to provide as much information as I can to help clients find what works for them.
What are your favorite products and what makes them most appealing?
My favorite product to use is the Lagoon Clay Mask; with French green clay and spirulina, it›s such a lovely deep green when applied. I named it after the swamp-monster vibes it gave off. Pro-tip: use our Rosewater as the liquid component in any of our masks, and you’ll have noticeably softer skin after the first application. You’ll have to resist touching your face!
Our Bettering Balm makes notable improvements to damaged skin (including cracks, sunburns, or dryness) and scars, old or new. We’ve been really pleased with these results over the years, and give most of the credit to its ingredients. Scan the label of a commercial lotion sometime– how many items on it can you pronounce? How many of them weren’t made in a lab? If you need moisturizing, get back to basics with shea butter or coconut oil. Your skin will thank you.
It would be really difficult for me to say which of Rin’s soaps I like best– but how soft and moisturized I immediately feel after rinsing off has converted me away from commercially-made soaps forever! He’s been experimenting with more complex recipes lately and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with! (My current favorites are the Charcoal Face Bar, and the Grapefruit & Lemongrass soap in the shower.)
photo courtesy of Coast & Clearing
We love that your natural pumice stones are hand-harvested from Mt. Shasta by stewards of the mountain. In your details of stone gathering, you mention “Ikigai” – a Japanese concept that means “reason for being.” That’s intriguing… Can you talk about how it influences your decisions for Coast & Clearing?
Ikigai is the culmination of passion, mission, vocation, and profession (though this is very summarized; I encourage you to do more reading on this concept!). When any part of that is missing or inauthentic, there is imbalance and dissatisfaction. I think we all are trying to reach a state of harmony, and once this concept was explained to me, I feel like it helped with blind-spots that were difficult to address previously. Coast & Clearing hits on all of these points, and makes me feel so fulfilled. I ultimately wanted (and have found) the way to contribute my most authentic self for the betterment of my community. A baseline motive for me has always been “to help.” Identifying your motives is crucial to achieving a goal, or enjoying the process of achieving them. I aim to work with and amplify people who embody this kind of greater good, and use their work as a vehicle to do that. I see it as reinforcing a positive feedback loop, which helps us all.
photo courtesy of Coast & Clearing
The images on your Etsy pages are very artfully composed.
Do you do your own styling and photography?
Yes, thank you! Rin and I both have artistic foundations; his influences are from vapor wave and naturalism, and mine are from Art Nouveau & Deco, and what the internet refers to as “moody botanical.” Rin is our creative director for our booth set-up at markets –which I’m super grateful for– and I have my visual focus on the website. I’ve spent most of my life with a camera nearby, but before minoring in Studio Art for my degree, never really took shots inside. Crafting a shot in a studio environment is much different from capturing an authentic moment, but you ultimately want them to have the same type of energy. Something that draws you in, and communicates more about your brand. I like to do that with deliberate contrast, muted light, and a lot of shadow. It makes photos seem more intimate than being shot on a white background in a light-box, which to me seems almost clinical.
photo courtesy of Coast & Clearing
What do you like about your labels and business cards from Evermine?
There are quite a few things! Your website is organized well and it’s easy to find coordinating items that I need for our products. Graphic designers review each order and offer suggestions if you need to modify the design, as well as provide proofs before orders are printed. I really appreciate that you have a quality guarantee and that you stand behind it. The varieties of paper and label finishes are great; they give each product something distinctive, while being unified in theme and color. Particularly the pearl finish for the business cards– it makes our design really pop! Managing expenses is important in any business, so I’m happy that you have a business section of the website where I can place high-volume orders. I can’t wait to try your custom-shape roll labels!
Thanks for reading! Take $5 off your order when you use the code EVERMINE at CoastandClearing.com!
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