Voyager Journal
  • Maker Profile: Portland General Store!
Maker Profile: Portland General Store!

Lisa makes beautiful hand made cosmetics under the label Portland General Store. She was so kind to spend some time discussing her craft with Revolver

Walk us through the history of Portland General?
Portland General Store was founded by me, Lisa, and my partner Troy Tyler. I'm the more public face of PGS and its "nose". Troy is our marketing and strategy guru. On each of our business cards it merely says, "Proprietor". 

Years ago, we became very interested in sustainable living. As a part of that discovery process, I happened upon some vintage soap and perfume recipe books and a collection of antique, Czechoslovakian pharmacy bottles. These were my creative inspiration! My experimentation began with creams and bath salts and led, eventually, to today's line of products, made from simple, natural ingredients using time-tested methods. We take no shortcuts and don't use the fragrance oils and chemical additives which are commonly found today. Our products and their packaging have an earnest quality which comes from their hand-crafted nature and the "authenticity" we seek in our lives and what we do. 

Are you trained formally in apothecary? 
I have a BFA in Illustration and worked in advertising in NYC before staring Portland General Store. If you told me in art school that I'd be the producer of a skincare line, I probably would've laughed! I do like to say that creating perfume is like making art with your nose. But mostly, my interest in sustainable living is what inspired me to make my own things -- heck, I even considered getting an Alpaca at one point! 

We love Maine - do you find your products focused in a feeling, time, location - in the culture of Maine? 
Our products in many respects reflect the culture of Maine -- we're surrounded by fishermen, beautiful coastline, a patchwork of islands, and a great old industrial city. We live very close to downtown and the water, and I take long runs a few times a week, which helps me to clear my mind. It is often during these times that I'll think up a new scent  -- Smoke was inspired by the smell of burning pine that traveled across the waters from the Canadian border. And our Tobacco scented sea mineral aftershave is reminiscent of an ol' sailer smoking away on his beloved pipe while out to sea. 

Many of your products feature tobacco, whiskey - non traditional additives - could you walk us through these? 
I like to tell the story of how Whiskey came to be. Have you ever heard of "single barrel single malt" whiskey? This is whiskey drawn from a single barrel of a single batch -- the choice of the discriminating drinker! These are small batches, crafted by hand, bottled with a handwritten label: For us at PGS, each object like this is a muse. When I blended the fragrance that became whiskey, I wasn't trying to recreate the smell of whiskey, I was aiming for a complex, grounded smell. A friend described the result: "… starts off on the earthy side, but settles into a nice smoky scent ... sort of reminds me of the scent in a Catholic Church .... that smoky lantern they used on certain religious occasions (dare I say it, one of those "occasions" being funerals)." This description, and the smell of this yet-unnamed scent, reminded me of some of my favorite small batch whiskeys. Hence, the name, "Whiskey".

What are some of your inspirations, and sources for the line?
I'm especially inspired by the pre-Industrial Revolution, when great care and attention to detail was put into the production of goods. I love the idea of a custom made shoe, or tailored suit, silk handmade hosiery -- we've gotten away from that in the last century with cheap mass production and outsourcing, so it's nice to see American heritage brands sprouting across the country. While world trade offers many luxuries, I strongly believe in local trade and job creation within a country. I hope this trend continues.

What is your favorite product and why?
Well there are a few that I use myself and can't live without: Face Bomb, a natural, Rhassoul mud cleansing ball, Thick shampoo, and a new anti-aging facial serum with SPF 15 that will soon be available in our men's shoppe!

What's next for Portland General? 
We will be redesigning our packaging in the Fall, which is very exciting. We are continually brainstorming and working to improve PGS while maintaining its authenticity and hand-crafted nature. Eventually we plan to have a showroom/studio where we can entertain guests, and I'd love to teach classes on perfumery. 

Portland General Store products are available @ Revolver


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