I first met Ray at the Renegade Craft Fair in Austin, a few months before I launched Bon Vivant. I was there seeking out unique, small-batch makers and I hit the jackpot. There were so many amazing makers and products, I thought I'd never leave. Ray had a booth where he was showcasing his all-natural skincare + fragrance line made in Austin, Fortitude Provisions. I had the pleasure of meeting him and trying some of these provisions, and let me just encourage you to check them out because they're amazing! Ray is insanely artistic and it shines through in his work. From the unbelievable blends of scents he creates, to the all-natural ingredients, branding and aesthetics, he does NOT cut corners. I'm thrilled that our paths crossed and honored to feature Fortitude Provisions in our gift boxes.
When did you start your business and why?
I come from a family that uses natural remedies for everything - from honey for burns, to lemongrass tea for stomach aches - so I have always seen nature as a source of healing and fascination. After college, while I was looking for a job (think lots of free time) I bought a book on natural perfumery and started buying all sorts of essential oils and botanicals. The process was fascinating to me, and I haven't stopped ever since!
What/who are your major influences?
I look up to people who have the tenacity to be bold and make work that comes from a very particular point of view. A few people I admire are George Nakashima (furniture maker), Adolf Loos (architect and artist), Luis Barragan (architect), Serge Lutens (perfumer), and Marlene Dumas (artist) to name a few.
Do you have a favorite piece or product that you've done?
I'm working on a custom room fragrance for the Heywood Hotel, which I'm super excited about. The prompt was to create a fragrance based on Mexican Lime oil, which was a bit challenging since it's such a sharp note. Nonetheless, I'm really pleased with where it's going, so keep an eye out for it!
What's the best part of owning your own business?
I love the freedom to experiment and do anything I find interesting. While it is a lot of work to develop and expand a brand, having creative freedom (at least for me as a designer) is the most rewarding element.
What is a typical "work" day like for you?
I have a full-time job as a designer, so every second outside of work is spent either making products, corresponding with vendors and customers, or catching up with life. It's a sacrifice, but it's worth it because I know I'm working towards something bigger.
What does the process of making a piece or product consist of?
When I'm working on a body care product, my first step is researching existing (or historical) formulas to understand the basic ingredients and ratios. I then tweak elements and percentages to my liking and do lots and lots of testing
When I'm working on a fragrance, I begin by narrowing down the top, middle, and base notes. This is done by memory rather than smelling, since the human nose gets fatigued very easily. I have over 200+ essential oils and isolates to work from, so memorizing their "character" is very important.
After I have my top contestants selected, I start working on "accords", which are groups of 2-6 materials that create something new and pleasant (just like a chord in music). For a final fragrance, you need at least 1 accord for the top, middle, and base notes. Top notes are what evaporate faster (like citrus) and base notes are the longest-lasting (like resins and woody notes). It takes lots of experimenting to get something you're pleased with, but I find the process to be very interesting!
What are your favorite ways to unwind when you aren't working?
My partner and I have a small cacti/succulent collection, which I find very relaxing to work on. Something about the challenges of taming nature, working with it, and caring after it are very rewarding.
Other than that, I love trying new restaurants, learning about wine and beer, and going on runs around Lady Bird Lake.
To learn more about Ray and Fortitude Provisions, please visit their website here.