For the third installment of our series on craftsmanship, we spoke with Durham artist and maker Lizzie Chadbourne who runs her own natural cosmetics business.
Scrolling through her website on her phone in order to show off some of the artwork from local North Carolina artists she uses in her product packaging, Durham craftsperson Lizzie Chadbourne shook her head.
“I have way too many products,” she said. It’s true her company, Lo & Behold, features plenty of all-natural balms, salves, soaps, sprays and scrubs.
When she started making natural moisturizers for herself, her friends and her family, she thought of it as a hobby. Then in 2014, Chadbourne started selling her bath and body products at markets and independently owned stores.
A variety of places find a need for the products from Lo & Behold. Chadbourne said she supplies her all-natural products to places that perform bikini waxes as well as family gardening stores, meaning in a single day delivering products she might leave a store full of sex toys to go to a store full of gnomes.
“I never thought I’d work with such a wide clientele,” she said.
She also works with a wide range of local artists and artisans, including the women who design the packaging for her products. Suzy Porterfield of Davie Paper Co. works on digital art for the products and marketing materials, while illustrator Amy Richards uses watercolors to create unique pieces of art for Lo & Behold.
“My mom said I came out of the womb making things,” Richards said. “I think when you are an artist you can’t not make art, whatever it is.” Her collaboration with Lo & Behold allows her to flex her artistic muscles and at the same time contribute to a product she cares about.
Richards uses — and loves — the products that Chadbourne creates.
“As an illustrator, you may often like your work, but being able to love how your art is used by a client is really an added bonus,” she said about making art for Chadbourne’s products.
The two exemplify the kind of communities and bonds that form within groups of makers and artists.
“I have so much respect for what she does,” Chadbourne said about Richards. The two met at a local market and became friends and fans of each other.
Chadbourne likes featuring art from local artists. It helps her foster a sense of community and camaraderie, and she gets to share some of her favorite pieces of art with her customers.
“When I started using that art, everything changed for me,” Chadbourne said. Now she bases some of her products on Richards’ art. It’s a collaborative process.
“We consider ourselves makers,” Richards said.
Lo & Behold connects seamlessly to the community around Durham, the Triangle and North Carolina. From local art to local farmers markets, Chadbourne finds comfort and inspiration in her home state.
“North Carolina inspired me to start this,” she said.
When she started creating new products, Chadbourne attended herbal health classes and taught herself how to make lotion using the internet. Since then, she’s branched out by experimenting and learning what works best.
For Chadbourne, it’s important that her products use only natural ingredients. She said many products claim to be all-natural but actually use synthetic ingredients. Chadbourne prefers to work with nature.
“Simple things work much better,” Chadbourne explained. It’s a challenge, but she sticks to her mission to make natural moisturizers and soaps, using essential oils for scents.
“I’m proud and passionate about scenting,” she said, talking about the difficulties in marketing when it comes to scents. There’s a lot of perfuming language to learn, and it’s hard to describe a smell using only words.
Developing new products is one of Chadbourne’s favorite parts of the process because she gets to interact with customers and clients. Chadbourne goes wild, tossing in ingredients and trying new formulas like a trendy, modern-day apothecary. Without hindering her creative process, she manages to be precise and careful, never cross-contaminating equipment or using common allergens.
Before creating Lo & Behold, Chadbourne worked as a teacher, but quit because she disliked the administrative process. She liked working with youth, though, and fortunately she didn’t have to give that up when she started her company.
Chadbourne works with Partners for Youth Opportunity, a nonprofit in Durham that matches up young interns with people. She’s interviewing interns right now for the third summer in a row to help her with labeling and bottling.
“If you’re willing to work hard, you can hand-make and sell anything,” Chadbourne said. Her success with Lo & Behold is due to a lot more than just good timing and nice-smelling lotion. Chadbourne works hard, staying up late into the night making salves and scrubs.
“People will come up to me like, ‘Oh, you’re so lucky,’” she said. “And I tell them, ‘No, I work hard.’”
That hard work keeps her selling products at markets, online and through almost 30 independently owned stores, many run by women. She said her busiest time — and the busiest time for most entrepreneurs — is Christmas.
“But it’s starting to feel like nothing ever slows down,” she added.
What began with homemade organic moisturizer expanded into a huge assortment including lip balm, cuticle cream, bath soap, body scrubs and, for the past two years, bug spray. She had to go through the paperwork to get her bug spray certified.
While Chadbourne likes the spiritual, natural side of her company, she can’t ignore all the bookkeeping and business skills that go into working for herself. She juggles quarterly taxes and payroll and learns marketing along the way.
Making your own business and your own products puts Chadbourne in what she describes as a vulnerable position.
Small business owners need to be daring to put themselves and their hard work out into the world.
“You have to be brave and passionate,” she said.