INTERVIEW | Flower Ta speaks to Oxx Simeina of Oxx Beekeeping
"Bee," Oxx said.
"What?" I replied.
Oxx points out, "I saw a bee."
That was a snippet of our conversation as we walked and talked about his line of products outside the store. He told me that he spots bees everywhere. Oxx actually works alongside bees without the protective barrier of a suit. I found this out when I proposed the idea that he wear a beekeeper suit for the profile shot. He told me that it's too hot to wear one in Florida and interestingly enough, said it was because the bees don't sting him. He said that they attack only when they feel threatened.
I first met Oxx in July. Our initial dialog consisted of what we consume and naturally segued to what we put on our body. We spoke of everything from the oldest food discovered -Ancient Egyptian honey excavated from a tomb, to target markets and even capitalism. I always get excited meeting with like-minded individuals who are creating and at the same time, are passionate about what they are doing.
The last time we spoke, Oxx gave me samples of a toothpaste that he is fine-tuning. I use his "Flu Fighter" in my pomegranate tea in the morning. I nicknamed it 'Galaxy Honey' because of the way the spices and added ingredients look suspended and semi-frozen. It's really beautiful when you hold it up to the light. Each product is handmade made by Oxx and is a reflection of him. The line is small and made with honesty and integrity. His brother designs the packaging and all the profit goes back into further developing the line. We are proud to carry it at Dechoes.
What attracted you to bees and beekeeping initially? I was born on the island of St. Lucia. We always ate raw honey growing up and used it as medicine for coughs and colds. I moved to St. Croix in the Virgin Islands in 1989. After Hurricane Hugo, a tree fell down that had a beehive in it. I remember grabbing raw honeycomb and eating it. I've been chasing that taste ever since. Growing up in New York I always looked for raw honey with the comb. When I moved to Florida, I lived in Jacksonville for a few years and found a local beekeeper and I bought the comb from him all the time. In 2013 he told me he wasn't going to carry it anymore. I asked him to mentor me in beekeeping, but he said no. I decided to learn how to keep bees from the Internet, books, and seminars. Have been beekeeping ever since.
When did you decide to start the line? What was the catalyst for creating the line of products? After I became a beekeeper in 2013 I learned about the practices of many beekeeping operations large and small. I decided to not follow their practices of the use of chemicals, antibiotics, and other unnatural treatments. While doing research I found out most of our daily use products uses bees byproducts in all of them. Beeswax, propolis, pollen, royal jelly, and honey are used in many cosmetic products to this day. The Ancient Egyptian was possibly the first to invent and wear cosmetics about 5,000 BC. That is what led me to create my own products. The first product I made was the lip balm. I moved to Florida from New York and lip balm was something that I used regularly. Reading ingredients and learning what they are, made me decided I didn't want those products on or in my body. What you put on you body for 10 seconds spends 20 seconds in your liver.
What drives you to create? Vitality is my driving force. Being able to give continuance of life in all living things gives me great pleasure and satisfaction.
What are you searching for? Can you find it through your work? My search in life is peace, true happiness, freedom, and to be able to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. I have definitely found it through working with the bees. They have taught me a lot about patience and myself as a being of this planet.
Is there an artist or designer - another whose work you admire? My first personal mentor was a woman by the name of Alice Shinkos, a beekeeper. She is a patient, caring, and loving woman. She has taught me a lot about being connected to nature and not using pesticides in anything I do.
What do you think that your line/product reflects or reveals about you? My line shows that I take a lot of care of my body and am very aware of what I put in and on my body. It reveals that I'm not the rugged exterior you see. I'm more of a gentle being that is filled with love, compassion, and admiration for others well-being.
What time of day do you work and why? I sell products during the day and make them at night and early mornings. Mainly because I'm the owner/operator and creator of my company.
Do you have any rituals or a certain way you like your workspace? I meditate often and ring my Tibetan singing bowls every morning before I start my day. A clean quiet workspace is ideal to be able to create my products.
Can you describe the perfect setting for a productive studio/work day (music, set up, what you wear)? My perfect setting for a workspace would be in a greenhouse filled with all types of exotic flowers, birds, and insects. The sounds of nature is the best music and clothing wouldn't exist but this environment wouldn't be sanitary for creating my products.
What are some of the most valuable lessons you learned? Patience and being able to connect with nature is the most valuable lesson I have learned being a keeper of the bees.
How does your product connect humans? These products were made for my family and personal use. It can be shared and used by every gender, skin type, and age -except for the bees honey and the immune booster that is honey based. Honey shouldn't be fed to infants under the age of one. Honey can contain spores of a bacterium called Clostridium Botulinum which can germinate in a baby's immature digestive system and cause infant botulism.
What are your impression of social media and how does it influence your product and work? Social media is about eye catching and giving the audience something fresh and different than their everyday life. It influences me to keep my products and work appealing to the viewers.
Oxx's line is available at the College Park store. / Image 1 courtesy of Oxx Simeina / All other images and interview by Flower Ta