Alysia Mazzella is a beeswax candlemaker and beekeeper at Backland, an educational apiary and garden in upstate New York.
What is your work about? How did you find your way to this work?
I think my life and my work orbits the relationship between the old world and the new world. Humans have been in relationship with the Honey bee since hunter-gatherer days. My candles root in traditional forms, meaning the ones that have been around for hundreds of years, or, regarding tapers, thousands of years. I arrived at candle-making because I was using tapers on my devotional altar, which was inside an electric-less shed in the woods. I felt in my body that there was something about lighting a candle as routine. It reminded me that I'm human. And there's so much that orbits around this: slowing down, being intentional, the repetitive candle-making techniques. I like the meeting place of beeswax and candles. Making them and burning them creates a simpler time.
What is your morning routine?
Lighting an incense. Putting on some music. Something hot to drink. Prayer. Eating around the table with family.
What gives you the most pleasure in life?
Just feeling at home in my body. How I get there is always changing. But sitting in intentional silence always helps me to figure it out. Writing my thoughts, writing poetry, drawing. Feeding the people I love feels pleasurable too. Cleaning. I like cleaning after others. I feel most pleasantly luxurious when I am being spontaneous. Just by going out and finding something to do outside. Or randomly going to the bakery for a bite of sweets and a hot drink.
Describe your perfect day.Wow. Waking up to a house full of people. Going to the beach with a cooler full of fruit and tuna and soft bread. Sitting in the sun, playing in the sand. Crawling around the shallow water like a crab. Then getting clean and moisturized and driving home on the back roads.
What is your grocery shopping routine like? Any staples?
Our local Amish grocer is pretty great. The owner greets us with a big smile when we walk in. They have a healthy selection of produce and local meat. Right now, our cart is mostly fruits and vegetables, with bars of salted dark chocolate caramel, mustard pretzels, spices, raw milk, so. much. butter., dry beans, and jasmine rice.
What are your top 3 favorite cookbooks/books?
I'm mostly a cooking show type of person. I get inspired by watching people cook, then I usually search for a recipe to riff off. I like looking at what's in the fridge to get inspired too. I've been watching Gordan Ramsey's Ultimate Home Cooking which has influenced lots of my meals lately. I roast vegetables basically everyday. I'm also a Ramen head. Nothing compares to that homemade bone broth, which you actually got me on when you gifted me that book "The First Forty Days".
Describe for me your perfect picnic spread.
I recently went swimming at the river with friends and our spread was: grape soda, local-made baguette, goat cheese and fig spread, fruit salad with hemp seeds, and cheesy popcorn chips.
How do you support yourself using plants?I use plants for prevention, medicine and spirit work. Your Fat of the Land digestive bitters have been a game-changer for me. I drink tea at night to help with digestion, brewing dried or fresh herbs from the garden. Herbal salves for boo boos. I like to keep a selection of small-batch plant-infused oils on hand. Shea butter for my hair and body. I use fall-pruned lavender to make a batch of burning bundles for the next year. Also, I've been collecting and pressing different flowers that grow on the land, so I can remind myself of the colorful outdoors in the Winter.
Any upcoming projects you want to share? Things you’re currently looking forward to?
I'm looking forward to what the annual harvest will look like this Summer and Fall. We're new to the land where we live so I'm looking forward to witnessing the perennial plants grow, too. It'll be our second year here. It's such a long-term process, developing gardens and building structures. It challenges the instant gratification part of my being human. That's something I'm looking forward to.