18 Mar March Meet The Maker
I’ve seen lots of makers and small business owners participating in “March Meet The Maker”, and really enjoyed seeing the faces behind the names. Since I’m home and isolating, I decided this would be a great time to introduce myself to all of our new followers, and re-introduce myself to those of you who have been loyal followers of Alchemy & Ashes.
My name is Shawnee Kircher, also known as “The Madame” – creator, founder, director, designer, manager, bill-payer, purveyor of the mystical, and sole proprietor of Alchemy & Ashes. I’m a lifelong resident of Land O’ Lakes, growing up on a dirt road with a swamp behind the house, outside and barefoot, making potions out of powdered down limestone rocks, poisonous potato vines, acorns, and chinaberries. I don’t know how anyone could be surprised that I’m a witch!
I create many of the items you see at the shop: Soaps, Perfumes and Oils, Unguentum Sabatti Flying Ointment, Sanctus Aqueum and Sanctus Oleum, Conjure Powders, Jezebel’s Spell Amulets and Hecate’s Rosaries, Folk Charm Bags, Magickal Mystery Boxes and various other herbal and folk magic items. I always have a running list of creative ideas that I’ll never catch up with. My job, my hobbies, and my spirituality are all intertwined – there’s really not much separation. Creativity has always been a driving force in my life, and the way I keep my mental and emotional health in check.
Prior to my role as The Madame, I was a hairstylist for 13 years, and then a stay-at-home mom (the hardest job of all!). In the late 90’s, I was led to a metaphysical shop where I bought a brass pendulum and The Wiccan Mysteries by Raven Grimassi. This led me, as an agnostic of sorts at the time, to explore Pagan spirituality, and I felt like I found what I had been searching for, unknowingly, my whole life. My experiences as a child made more sense, and the fear I had about those experiences began to fade. I began apprenticing under an Italian Witch and Medicine Woman, who also happened to be a soapmaker. My world view was expanded and my spirituality grew. And while I was introduced to Paganism via Wicca, I choose not to follow a structured belief system and use “Pagan” as an umbrella term of my beliefs, and simply refer to myself as a Witch.
I had a “pipe dream” of opening a metaphysical shop in the very early 2000s, but it really wasn’t practical at the time with 2 young boys. Instead, I worked some arts and crafts festivals, and a Celtic festival or two, trying to find a way to turn my hobbies into a business. That’s always the issue for we creatives, isn’t it? You start off creating something as a hobby. And it’s so fun and feels so good that you want to do it again. Before you know it, you have an excess of creative items and art (jewelry, paintings, sculptures, or what have you), and have to find an outlet to move them. You’ve inundated your family and friends with their own collections of your works. You’ve donated it to your kid’s school fundraisers. You have an Etsy shop. And you Just.Can’t.Stop.Making.Cool.Things…
FAST FORWARD: Alchemy & Ashes started in 2012 – a cross between impulsiveness and intuition – as a handcrafted cold process soap and perfume business. I started by vending at seasonal craft markets, and gained a few wholesale accounts. I was also strolling fleamarkets and estate sales, refinishing antique and vintage furniture and upcycling during this time. I thought it would be cool to own a shop, but really didn’t think it was an option at the time. In January of 2015, I walked into a local antique store down the street from my house in a very old plaza, and saw that they were closing and their spot was available for rent. I spoke with the landlord that same day, and had signed the lease within the week. It was very impulsive, but my intuition – like a petulant child – wouldn’t be quiet. I had a vision of how I could curate a shop with all of my favorite things under one roof, though if I’m honest, I went with a soft opening with witchcraft supplies. As I said, I’m a lifelong resident and know the community pretty well. This is still the bible belt, regardless of how society in general has progressed.
Within the first month of my lease, I was notified that the plaza had been purchased by a gas corporation and all tenants were being released from their contracts. I had literally just had my grand-opening, and had to scout out a new location. As fate would have it, I found a larger location close by, and the shop was moved. We went from 1100 sq ft to 1350 sq ft. When my 3 year lease was coming up for renewal in the summer of 2018, I knew we had outgrown the location and needed more space. And again, fate interceded when I was turned down from a location because of the type of business I run (a church strong armed the landlord – true story), and a beautiful location became available. We jumped from 1350 sq ft to 2200 sq ft! It really was the best decision I could have made as a business owner. (Notice I didn’t say it was an easy decision, but it was the best decision). My crew of phenomenal psychics and staff has grown along with our customer base, as well as our local artist contributions, and as an introvert (and control freak), I never thought I would have so many people helping and supporting me along the way. There is no way I could do this on my own at this point, and I’m sincerely grateful for each of them every day. And of course, my husband of 24 years that I jokingly refer to as Mr. Madame (though he only answers to Jim), has been my solid foundation all along the way, even when I need his help and can’t communicate my vision verbally and get super frustrated, or when I’m stubborn (!) and determined one moment, and sobbing and weak the next, he’s there like the North Star to orient me back on my path. He deserves some kind of medal for dealing with all of this.
So here we are now, closed for the foreseeable future due to circumstances outside of anyone’s control, as I write this from my couch during my self-quarantine after traveling to Salem last week. I’m evaluating circumstances daily and deciding as we go what is best for my business and all the people involved. Our doors are closed to keep my employees healthy, and to limit exposure. I’m not looking past 2 weeks right now. This too shall pass. And while the time passes, I plan on allowing my creative muse to guide me further down the rabbit hole until we come out on the other side, and I encourage you to do the same. Dream big. Follow your gut. Write a poem. Paint a picture. Plant an herb. Create some light in a dark time.