Yvonne Perez Emerson, graphic designer turned Founder Of Luxury Beauty And Experiential Brand
Make & Mary
Make & Mary founder Yvonne Perez Emerson is a wild spirited, Latinx woman with 30 plus years of experience in design and strategy. She’s an impressive entrepreneur with a CBD beauty and experiential brand that explores cannabis via self-care, art, and design…and her sleeve tattoos say she has very personal reasons for having them — do you want to ask why? I wouldn’t. They appear to be something that whispers non-conformist, just like the motorcycle she chooses to enjoy. It’s a 950 Yamaha Bolt. That, in itself, is a massive statement to the world. It’s not like a BMW, or even something fast and sleek from Italy. It’s a big, loud bike and I think it fits her personality and speaks to the path she’s taken to bring her luxury products to the market. ‘Nuff said.
Yvonne gets it right now. You don’t have to ask why, do you?
Warren Bobrow: How does being a Latinx designer with roots in folk medicine and heritage craft making inform your perspective on the cannabis and beauty industries? How does your point of view inspire your work with Make & Mary? How’s Make & Mary changing the perception of the cannabis plant?
Today In: Lifestyle
Yvonne Perez Emerson: That’s a big question! Let’s start with being a designer. I have been in the graphic design industry for about 30 years. When medical cannabis became legal in Oregon, I was teaching storytelling and narrative at Portland State’s School of Art & Design. Our community began to see so many shops opening and the branding was pretty much all the same: big green pot leaves and green plus signs. It was bad, it bothered me, and I began talking to my students about being stewards for the industry.
Designers needed to step in and visually tell the story better. We needed to be thoughtful about each unique business, just like we do with every other brand. So I made an effort to encourage my students to include cannabis branding in their portfolio. I got some push back from some folks, but the students were totally up for the challenge!
Being a Latinx in this industry is unusual. For as much as we have roots and connection with the plant, I don’t see many Latin folks represented in the industry. I also live in Oregon, so maybe I am isolated! When I was growing up, Mota was always a part of our lives. I like to believe that it was more than just a way to make money, but also part of our medicinal cabinet.
Last year, I took some issue with many people new to the cannabis industry demanding that we only call weed by the Latin name Cannabis. I definitely call it that, but I also call it so many other things—weed, flower, and Marijuana. The word Marijuana originated in Mexican culture. I didn’t appreciate white folks telling me not to call it by that name—it’s part of the cultural idiom of our language and it’s part of our history. I should be able to call it anything I want without being shamed into calling it by its formal name. Plus, how boring would that be?
You know I have been making as long as I can remember, I have a love for plant medicine and learned to care for myself and my family through folk practices. Making natural wellness products is just what I did growing up, and as a young mother. I firmly believe in being the healer of my family, and I think that comes from having healers in my extended family. My mother was a nurse and so was her mother. My father’s mother, my Abuela, was caretaker of 10 children and used plant medicine often. For me, heritage craft making is expansive and includes everything from making tinctures to natural dying—it’s old school and primitive, in a good way.
How does my point of view inspire Make & Mary? I would say, from a 360° perspective. I have worked for myself most of my adult life, and it’s always been in service to other people. As a designer, I have been so lucky to help folks visualize their brands, from strategy to brand identity. I also ran two non-profits for art & design. In both of these ventures, I have worked behind the scenes—even though I was the president and founder of the non-profits—I never really wanted any focus on me, instead it was always about our mission to support arts education, inspire and bring the community together.
As a founder of a brand, everything about me is in it, and I have to let people in to see what I’ve created. It’s about being authentic to who I am and what my values are. I really tried to do this with Make & Mary, and unapologetically. I am the designer, the formulator, the curator, and the maker of this brand. It was inevitable that it has my view point.
When I first started Make & Mary, I made the mistake of designing “safe.” It was too lily for the person I am—it made it hard to open up about it personally. Now it’s all me: sassy, confident, stylish, feminine and rebellious. I’m tattooed, do yoga stoned, and ride a motorcycle almost year round. I believe in being a risk taker and I have a lot of energy that I choose to use creatively. I am passionate, opinionated, and confident. I think the brand reflects these views.
How’s Make & Mary changing the perception of the cannabis plant? Make and Mary is not going to go with the flow. I love the benefits of CBD and what it has done for me physically and mentally, and I respect the cannabis plant and its history and folklore. I am not going to dismiss the relationship that the two have. CBD comes from the Cannabis plant—we need to acknowledge this and celebrate it.
I love the history and the rock-n-roll attitude behind this plant. I love its medicinal benefits, the rituals, and the way it makes me feel. As a 52 year old woman, I have greatly benefited from it. I want to lift its perception as high as I can, because the benefits are so vast. Make & Mary can help change this perception through art and design and the dialogue around it.
Our packaging has our tagline printed on it—It doesn’t get you high but it sure does feel good. We love that we are able to combine this plant with natural beauty products that help people feel good, that promote wellness within beauty and support good vibes along the way.
WB: Your product line features clean organic skincare solutions and lifestyle products made with full spectrum CBD, cannabis aromatherapy, and herbal adaptogens. What inspired your new collection? What do you consider when creating products for your line? And, tell us about the other part of your business, your all-inclusive cannabis-friendly events. What can participants expect?
YPE: When I began formulating with CBD, I really made everything in this line for me. I was concerned about aging and the effects it had on my skin and my body. Inflammation was the main factor. I had suffered from chronic back pain for many years, and I wasn’t getting any younger! I wanted to be able to reap the benefits of CBD in as many ways that I could.
I had been making my own tinctures, salves, and natural beauty products for years. As a young mother, it was important for me to be the healer of my family. We didn’t have a lot of money and I didn’t trust a lot of the mainstream products, so I made as much as I could using organic ingredients I bought from my local herb shop. This was before the internet when you actually had to read books! I read a lot and studied holistic healing using folk medicine. It was perfect for me and my family.
When I started this new line, I wasn’t trying to be fancy or trendy. Instead, I relied on simple, tried and trusted ingredients. Adding full spectrum oil sun-grown from a farm I trusted was the cherry on top. Besides the quality of the product, I wanted to be super focused on what I was creating: clean, whole-plant, cruelty-free products. We try to be as sustainable as possible sourcing our ingredients local and regional and use UV bottles that protect the potency. And everything is tested by a third party.
In terms of inspiration for the brand, I wanted to stay true to my attitude. I had three muses: Versace, Stevie Nicks, and Patty Smith. For me, they represent style, the feminine and rebellious spirit. I also wanted all of the products to smell good and not just cater to women. The scents are gender neutral.
I love our CBD Face & Body Serum. It has 100ml of full spectrum oil and is light and bright. The formula supports cell rejuvenation at the skin’s deepest level and contains Carrot Seed, Geranium, Frankincense, Lavender, Rosehip, Jojoba and Hemp Seed oils. The blend has strong anti-aging properties that help to erase fine lines and prevent premature wrinkles, while strengthening and improving tone. I use it everyday as a moisturiser, but I have folks who buy it for eczema on their hands, as beard oil, and to help with rashes.
Part of my regime is to combine the face serum with our CBD Natural Wonder Wand. It has 50mg of full spectrum CBD and is a great under-eye balm to relieve puffiness. It’s also great on the lips throughout the day, or just about anywhere on the body that needs some extra relief. I’ve heard of people using it for cuts and skin irritations—from bug bites to tattoo healing!
With the relaunch and the focus on wellness within beauty we introduced two other wands: Earth Sister, a desert sunkissed tint that’s perfect for lips and cheeks and Free Spirit, a gold mica shimmer that sparkles and shines! I love to use it on my arms and chest and cheeks. It’s great for adding sparkle to your tattoos too. I am a big fan of tattoos! Our serum is really great for tattoo recover.
In terms of why these products first? I wanted something that moisturized, reduced inflammation, and made you feel good—products that supported higher vibrations, too. That’s why I used cannabis aromatherapy from the beginning (our line launched in early 2018). I really believe in the healing properties of aromatherapy and the folklores around plant based essence. Our Cannabis Inhalers are unique to the market and are made with pure cannabis essential oil and other organic essential oil blends.
We have two blends: Calm and Clarity, and they both promote a sense of calm and use the powerful properties of terpenes to ease tension. They are infused in Pink Himalayan Sea Salt—which is also a powerful stress reliever and respiratory, immune, and mood supporter. Both blends will bring you back to the ground and are non-psychoactive.
We use the cannabis essential oil in our hand-poured, soy wax candle, as well. I wanted to make a candle that used only real essential oils and no synthetic fragrances. You don’t see many of those. Our candle is called Soulshine. I wanted something that raises the vibrations in your environment. It’s kind of like a smudge stick in a candle with the predominant scents of Palo Santos, Holy Basil, and Cannabis. Cannabis essential oil is somewhat herbaceous and spicy, it doesn’t smell like weed. The scent is very warm and sultry with undertones of Cardomine, Black Pepper, Dark Patchouli, and Ylang Ylang.
Because I really care about the environment, I wanted all of our products to be easily reusable or recycled. Our candle comes in a black cut glass with an air-tight lid and is perfect to store your favorite flower or personal treasures in afterwards. Our inhalers can also be re-used to make your own blends. We’ll make kits to refill them, too.
Make & Mary started in 2016 as a place to explore the world of cannabis through art and design. We broke a few rules when I opened up my studio to merge creativity with cannabis consumption. My roots in the maker industry go back a long way. At the time, I was also the founder and president of the non-profit called WeMake. We hosted maker workshops, art shows, events, and conferences on process, with a focus on community and giving back to under-served youth—with over $165,000 raised for this cause.
When recreational cannabis use became legal in Oregon, I took that same format and added weed to it. I used the background I had in heritage craft making and invited other folks skilled in different practices to come teach. Merging plant medicine with creativity was natural for me. Whether it’s making a tincture, natural dying, or yoga, all of these practices are healing modalities for me, and they nourish the creative soul. I’m all about that. As it turns out, there is a whole community that feels the same way.
WB: Do you cook? If so, who taught you? Do you like to infuse cannabis into your culinary creations? Anything that brings a tear to your eye when you eat/drink it? Why?
YPE: YES! I love to cook. I have a big family and we have Sunday dinners, often. My mother and grandmothers taught me about cooking. We don’t use a lot of salt, instead we cook with herbs and basics: onions, garlic, pepper, cumin, and a little salt.
My grandmother on my mother’s side was a big tea and biscuit lady. She believed in afternoon tea and desserts. Her shortbread cookies always made my mouth water. I could eat a whole tin in a sitting! My Abuela made the best tortillas ever—another thing I could eat all day with just butter.
I have cooked with cannabis. Mostly I make tinctures, but also brew kombucha. I don’t drink alcohol, so booch with a little cannabis hits the spot. I am pretty experimental with it and like to infuse what is in harvest at the time. I also like to make golden milk with my tinctures. Something about drinking cannabis appeals to me more than eating it…there is a ritual there when you make a good cup of tea or chai with cannabis in it.
WB: Where do you see yourself and your company in a year? Ten years? When you were a kid, what did you want to be?
YPE: I hope to see Make & Mary across the nation in a year. In 10 years, maybe we have a few shops. I’ve always dreamed of owning a shop filled with design, herbs, and products I made—a place where people could gather and learn and experience making by hand. I have that now with my studio, but it’s off the beaten path. I‘d like to see a curated shop out in public where everyone can experience the magic.
When I was a kid, I wanted to be an artist. It took me a long while to realize I was one. Something about owning that made me uncomfortable…like an imposter. I don’t feel that way now. I am an artist of many genres—it’s about a lifestyle and I think I’ve captured it.
WB: If you could be anywhere in the world, right now, where would that be? Doing what?
YPE: Anywhere in the world? I think Portugal and Scotland—both are where my people originated. I would want to explore that history—eat a lot of food, smoke local weed, search out the healers of the towns, and make art with the locals. Sounds dreamy.