HOLY SMOKES! An Interview. (Bri Tejeda + Celina Meza)
Holy Smokes is a very different approach to your favorite vice, and that is something that is apparent from the start. Packaged inconspicuously with magical metallic emblem and simplicity in design that would make anyone want to see whats inside - only to affirm again - this is not your grandfathers cigarette.
In fact, Holy Smokes is ran by two health and body conscious entrepreneurs with knack for adding a bit of earth based luxury into our lives. Founded by Siena Perez del Campo & Gabriel Vicente, Together they make up a creative dream team in a full circle partnership, bringing you a smoke that can calm the soul, awaken the mind, soothe the spirit and so much more.
We had the pleasure of interviewing this dynamic duo and testing out a bit of their product in the midst of the process. Not only are they fascinating and lovely individuals - but their product is something you'd imagine in the social structure set up for a perfectly dreamy scene - where the aforementioned is sipping their wine inconspicuously surrounded by floral scents and puffing on mind lifting herbs. The experience starts with the tube, and ends with the feeling. The in-between is just as powerful. Again, this is not your every day smoke, and nothing starts conversation better than things that are as extraordinary as they are intentional.
An Interview with Siena Perez del Campo & Gabriel Vicente, FOUNDERS of MMM + HOLY.SMOKES.
For those that are new to the concept of Holy Smokes, could you tell us more about what it is and how it transpired towards a creative business for the two of you?
HOLY.SMOKES is an herbal smoking blend that is an organic alternative to tobacco. The very first batch was a loose leaf version of the DREAM.TIME blend, created for a dear friend who wanted to wean himself off of tobacco. He shared it with a friend, who shared it with a friend, & so on & so forth, until it finally blossomed into what it is today. For the first year I simply gave away little cotton bags of blend to people in my community through word of mouth. I was honored to provide local plants to people, & then one day it became clear to me that in order to complete the cycle of giving, I had to start receiving. So I began to accept donations, which later transformed into a fixed cost. I found that every time I shared HOLY.SMOKES with someone, I was rolling one up on the spot in order for them to experience it. This led to the onset of ‘Holy Roller’ parties, where friends would come over for pizza & roll smokes with me.
Gabriel was by my side from the very beginning, encouraging me to pursue MOON MINDED MEDICINE // HOLY.SMOKES further & leave my day job at an acupuncture clinic. He officially joined soon after he completed a wood working course in Washington & was back in California. We still hand roll every smoke, & harvest locally on the new //full moon phase. We are dedicated to maintaining quality & intention in our products, & hope to keep our standards high as our business grows.
I love that this was a community project. I love how much time went into just allowing it to be where it was, and growing from there. From Holy Roller to beautiful displays in some of my favorite shops - your integrity shows through your experience. Could you tell us more about the reasoning behind your harvesting during the moon phases and what that means to you personally?
Harvesting during the moon phases began as a personal practice. The full/new moon was the sky’s way of reminding me to go outside & commune with nature. When I started finding plants on my walks that could be used as medicine, I would gather them & bring them home to share with friends & family.
The alignment of the moon, the earth & the sun every full/new moon pulls greatly on the waters of the planet, including the water that flows within the bodies of living beings, from leaves on plants to wombs in women. I feel that there are nuanced differences in the expression of the plants dependent upon the moon cycle on which it’s been harvested (hence ‘moon minded’). It has been my experience that blends with plants gathered on the full moon invoke a fuller expression of emotional & creative juices. The desire to share one's inner world with others is strong under the influence of our full moon smokes. Our new moon blends have a velvety effect, one of introspection & solitude.. a time for self-discovery & deep meditation. Personal rituals are encouraged with new moon smokes.
There are a number of ways to experience Holy Smokes, outside of smoking - What do some of these variations look like, and which one do you enjoy the most?
Yes, HOLY.SMOKES in loose leaf form can be had as a tea or put in the bath. We love the FOCUS.POCUS blend as an iced tea, the mint is so refreshing! The INKA.PINKA is a wonderful incense. We enjoy lighting one & smudging our studio to invite a sense of wonder & delight into our mind & heart space. The DREAM.TIME blend almost always gives us a colorful, vivid dream or two to tell each other about the next day. As a woman, I also use the DREAM.TIME’s emmenagogic properties to stimulate menstruation when I’m feeling crampy & achy in that area. I simply steep it in hot water for ten to fifteen minutes, add honey & feel my spasms melt away within half an hour or so.
Siena, with your background in herbalism in particular - was this something inherited generationally, or something you felt pulled to personally?
The practice of using plants in my family isn’t something immediately obvious, but still subtly there, as I find it is in almost every person’s life. As a child, I remember my mother making me chamomile & mint tea after dinner. She would make me take echinacea tincture in orange juice when I was starting to get sick. My mother was very influenced by Eastern philosophy (specifically zen Buddhism through Thich Nhat Hanh) for as long as I can remember & she raised my sister & me surrounded by community who abided by those belief systems. She introduced me to Ayurvedic recipes & principles, like making ghee or paying attention to how foods made my body feel after eating them. I loved making magic potions with my sister & making people try them. Experiences like these absolutely sparked my decision to pursue herbal medicine further.
Herbalism, or using plants as medicine, is a birthright given to all humans. As I delve deeper into the plant world each day, I see how nearly every person I know has a dynamic relationship with plants, whether they love to cook with a certain spice, or enjoy wearing a particular floral perfume, or just feel happy to see poppies growing on the side of the road. I have observed herbs pop up in people’s awareness through dreams, in conversations or books they’re engaged in, or growing wild in their garden. Almost always is that particular plant communicating to that person that it has medicine to give in some form or another. It’s beautiful to watch when one finally says yes & invites the medicine in so that healing can transpire.
Thats such a great approach to basic fundamentals of herbalism, to just acknowledging plant magic - and appreciating it around you. I find myself noticing things like nettle, or dandelion roots as a promising wildcrafting prospect on walks and whatnot - it makes me wonder about your wildcrafting experience - Is this something you seek out personally or through Moon Minded Medicine as an alternative approach to medicine or smokable herbs?
I find myself picking wild plants with a ‘thank you’ & nibbling on them on a regular basis. MMM has given me the capacity to harvest herbs more often, but foraging in the wild for food & medicine will always be a practice of mine. Chanterelle mushrooms grow in abundance in this area when the conditions are right..I am really looking forward to going out & looking for those golden babies.. It’s a real treasure hunt.
Siena, You and Gabriel have sought out on this adventure together - working as a team to create the over-all vision of Holy Smokes. What are some of the learning curves you’ve experienced as business partners?
Well well well… Where to begin! :) Gabriel & I are partners in nearly every aspect of our lives. We make meals together, share a bed together, travel the world together.. rolling smokes is just one of the many facets of our coexistence. We navigate MOON MINDED MEDICINE day by day. As we expand our reach & have more demand, we are finding that good communication is key. We have weekly meetings where we state our intentions specifically for the business & brainstorm how to best achieve those goals. Being together for four years has given us an innate understanding of what mood the other is in, which can be helpful to avoid certain snafus. We allow space for ourselves to experiment creatively, as well as space for self care.
"Smoking is a practice that’s been carried out for thousands of years by ancient cultures all around the globe. It’s a practice that should be regarded with respect and engaged in at times of ceremony or contemplation. Smoking in excess, like with anything else, is bound to be harmful. The sanctity gets replaced by obsession."
Gabriel, as the creative director of the pair - what has been the most rewarding part of creating a brand based on ancient herbal remedies and practices?
There’s something really rewarding and satisfying about the process of taking these ancient practices with herbs and wrapping them in beautiful and elegant packaging. Making it more alluring and palatable to our modernized culture. I don’t see it as a shame that our culture has become somewhat appearance oriented. But, I do see a responsibility to bring a certain spirit into it - maybe the packaging is a sort of trojan horse used to bring a certain ritual into the hands of those who might not otherwise find it.
I Couldn’t agree with that more - taking something beautiful and pure and giving it a packaging that it deserves — I will say that the packaging itself makes you question, or become curious about what you’re embarking on - and as you open it and see these beautifully rolled smokes, and a scent to match, and you almost feel like you stumbled upon something sacred. The Box, or tube, however is definitely the first impression - What inspired you to create the look that HOLY SMOKES has done so well?
The development of the visual aesthetic for HOLY.SMOKES was rather fortuitous. It was in late 2014 that a friend suggested we sell rolled smokes (at the time we were only offering our blends in loose-leaf). We figured that for every person who’s interested in rolling their own, there’s got to be at least a order of magnitude more people who would rather have something pre-rolled and ready to go. So we hand-rolled about twenty smokes and put them in an old business card box we had lying around. The box was white and it had this sort of purity about it. I think at that point we realized that herbal smokes could be presented in a clean, elegant way and that in doing so we’d be opening the doors to a much broader group of people who might not otherwise be drawn to our products. The point is to make our products aesthetically accessible to a lot of people, and with that we can break the popular notion that smoking herbs is kind of a hippie thing, you know?
It seems clear that smoking has been steadily shunned from our society over the course of the past few decades, largely due to the harmful effects from excessive use of chemical-laced industrial tobacco. Our notion at MMM is that this is sort throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Smoking is a practice that’s been carried out for thousands of years by ancient cultures all around the globe. It’s a practice that should be regarded with respect and engaged in at times of ceremony or contemplation. Smoking in excess, like with anything else, is bound to be harmful. The sanctity gets replaced by obsession.
So, with HOLY.SMOKES we want to remind ourselves that not only are there other plants one can smoke, but that there is also another way to smoke. More than anything else, we want to invoke this primordial spirit of smoking. And the packaging is sort of a doorway to that.
What has been a source of inspiration that keeps you going as you build your brand and business?
+ Casey Neistat & his daily vlogs
+ poetry that reminds us of the delight of being (Hafiz, ee cummings, Pablo Neruda, Mary Oliver..)
- my theatre/dance company director, Kyra & our upcoming piece, INTIMACY
What are the spiritual elements we can look forward to while using Holy Smokes?
We find that spirit is in everything, from the seemingly most mundane to the most sacred. It is up to the user to allow magic in, although the presence of the plants & the moon can help ;) One thing that surprised us about HOLY.SMOKES was the inevitability of a circle of people forming whenever one is lit. The unique scent invites people in & begins a conversation about plants, creating unexpected community in that moment.
Which blend do each of you individually enjoy the most and why?
GABRIEL: I think my favorite has to be the INKA.PINKA blend. While I do enjoy the cooling minty-ness of the FOCUS.POCUS, as well as the seducing velvety quality of DREAM.TIME, INKA.PINKA has not only a great flowery, sweet and slightly spicy flavor - but an aroma that is unlike anything I’ve ever smelled. It catches people off guard when I smoke it near a group. Instantly recognizable if you’ve had it, but for those who are new to it it’s such a delight and curiosity.
SIENA: the INKA.PINKA certainly is alluring, however, lately I have been drawn towards the DREAM.TIME blend. When I’m smoking one, I feel connected to the mugwort that we harvested in the hills, one of my favorite plants growing up. I also love the effect it has on my dreams, making them more vibrant & colorful.
"Pay attention to your dreams & see if any plants show up there. Take the subtler medicine of a flower essence of that plant or tree & see how you feel after a few weeks. A lot of the time, I find that the medicine offered by a California poppy, for example, is in its brightness of being. I simply look at the flower & it makes me feel more alive & zesty. The definition of medicine is different for everyone, but I encourage people to stop & smell the roses (as cliché as it may be) & listen to their soft whispers."
Siena, If you could guide others to keep a certain set of herbs in their home, what would they be?
Our last assignment in my herb program was to name 30 essential herbs for the home. I was teaching myself guitar at the time & I felt inspired to change the lyrics to I Can Tell That We Are Gonna Be Friends by The White Stripes for my project & make a little video. As embarrassed as I am to share it.. it feels relevant to this question, so you can watch it here. Other herbal products I recommend to always have on hand are:
- organic lavender essential oil is essential. for everything red, hot, inflamed, or itchy. (it’s like my Windex.. My Big Fat Greek Wedding anyone?)
- Any other essential oil that brings you to a happy place..just smelling frankincense or ylang ylang or cedar atlas refreshes my senses, shifting my mind state from one state to another in one simple moment.
+ echinacea tincture for boosting the immune system during cold + flu season (herb pharm makes high quality tinctures & grow a lot of what they sell)
- Any nervine or adaptogen that you feel drawn towards.. nervines are plants that calm the nervous system, adaptogens help the body adapt to stress. my favorite is fresh milky oat tops (Avena sativa, where oatmeal comes from, but not exactly the same form) blended in hot water to make a frothy oat tea. it is yummy with cinnamon, a warm, neuro trophorestorative ‘horchata-like’ drink. (Adaptogens by Winston & Maimes is a good read)
My list could go on & on, from homemade fire cider to elderberry syrup to herbal based beauty products.. the main piece of advice I can give in terms of building your herbal apothecary is to observe what is growing around you. Learn the local plants & their properties from a book, a neighbor, or a friend & chances are that the wild plant growing outside your bedroom window is there just for you. Many ‘weeds’ are nutritive tonics that can be eaten or taken as a tea. Pay attention to your dreams & see if any plants show up there. Take the subtler medicine of a flower essence of that plant or tree & see how you feel after a few weeks. A lot of the time, I find that the medicine offered by a California poppy, for example, is in its brightness of being. I simply look at the flower & it makes me feel more alive & zesty. The definition of medicine is different for everyone, but I encourage people to stop & smell the roses (as cliché as it may be) & listen to their soft whispers.
Gabriel, do you have other projects you are working on creatively outside of Moon Minded Medicine?
I do play the drums in a group called MAD HEARTS, an Electro/Soul/Pop band. Outside of music, I like to tinker with woodworking, although more recently that has also revolved around Moon Minded Medicine since we are expanding rapidly and are in regular need of building things like worktables, drying racks, etc.. But I do have a few personal projects in mind. I am looking forward to getting my hands on a laser-engraving machine very soon. If you haven’t see the GLOWFORGE you have to take a look and see for yourself! The multitude of things you can make with this thing is astounding. From prototyping packaging, to cutting fabric, leather, wood, plastic, etc. It’s like a 3D printer but with broader applications. Gotta get me one of those.
Ha, that is very nerdy and endearing of you - I love that you both are just innately yourselves and living out your passions together, while embarking on this incredible journey with Moon Minded Medicine. Where can we learn more about you two and where can we buy more HOLY SMOKES?
you can read a little bit about us here
& you can buy HOLY.SMOKES here
thank you! xx
All Photos by Wild Rosemarie.