Interview: Marie Rayma of Humblebee & Me
Meet Marie Rayma, creator of Humblebee & Me. I met this fabulously talented lady in person last Fall, and from the moment we were introduced, it was nonstop talk about cosmetics and everything related until the wee hours of the morning.
Apart from being charming (and cute as a button), Marie has an impressive CV. Her website and YouTube channel have thousands of followers. Her book, Make it Up, is hugely popular and sold worldwide. She teaches classes about making cosmetics and speaks about cosmetic formulation at events across North America.
With a list of accomplishments like that, one would expect a person of more age, but Marie is the picture of youth.
I (finally) persuaded her to share a bit about herself and her cosmetics-creating methodology in this exclusive interview, so please join me in welcoming this multi-talented formulator and fellow blogger who is celebrating her 8 year blog-a-versary this month.
Welcome Marie. Let's begin with Humblebee & Me and your iconic slogan 'Stubbornly DIY'. How did it all start?I launched Humblebee & Me shortly after graduating from university, knowing I’d need something to keep me accountable to myself—something to make me keep doing the things I loved—otherwise I’d just end up working far too much. I really didn’t have any hobbies while I was in uni due to a serious lack of both time and money, so once I graduated I wanted to make sure I prioritized doing things I loved and creating a good work-life balance.
Humblebee & Me was that accountability “thing”. I’d been building and running websites since I was 12, so it seemed like the obvious option. I never expected anyone to read it or care, and for the first 18 months or so, nobody really did. I made all kinds of things (books, cakes, curries, lotions, lip balms—you name it!) and put ‘em on my website, and that was about it for the first year or two. The earliest posts on Humblebee & Me now function as a reminder of how far I’ve come and how much I’ve learned since I started.
As for the 'Stubbornly DIY' slogan, I really like figuring stuff out, and I can be pretty dang stubborn about it. I spent years figuring out how Rose’s Dinner Dress from Titanic was put together so I could make myself one!
You’ve got so many talents: graphic design, writing, photography, authoring books, public speaking, sewing, and what we’re going to focus on today: formulating and making cosmetics. What inspires you and what keeps you going?I’ve always been very creative—I don’t remember a time before I loved making things! Closely tied to my love of creating things is my love of figuring things out and understanding how things work.
One of my favorite “highs” or thrills is when I learn something new and my brain kicks into high gear dreaming up all the different ways I could use that new knowledge to create something novel! I remember when I was learning bookbinding; I could barely sleep the first night after I learned how to bind a hardcover book. My brain was just running amok, dreaming up all kinds of books I could create with different covers, folding patterns, etc. Or with sewing—I’d learn how to customize a pattern piece or learn a new technique, and then spend ages dreaming up new applications for that knowledge and applying it.
It’s the same with formulating—I remember the first time I used Emulsifying Wax NF after starting with traditional beeswax/borax emulsions. Oh, the excitement! It allowed for the creation of significantly lighter emulsions than beeswax & borax, and that immediately had me thinking about applications for hair care and skin care and all kinds of fun things.
I shared my first-ever hair serum formulation in March of 2012, and then six weeks later shared new and improved, lighter version using emulsifying wax NF to allow for a smaller oil phase.
Looking back, it’s not a very good formula, but it’s rewarding to see how far I’ve come since, and I am so glad I have recorded so much of my learning process on my blog.
I recently shared a newer emulsified hair serum/leave-in conditioner that is definitely better than the one from April 2012, but you can still see how it was an educational stepping stone.
These days, I continue to work on learning new things—techniques, ingredient profiles, etc.—and then abstracting that information so I can fuse it into new and (hopefully!) wonderful things. That fusion often results in further study and then the whole thing just keeps going! I’m always chasing that thrill (or high) of discovery and creation.
You work on both sides of the ‘green’ fence with your formulations. Do you perceive a lot of difference and do you lean more towards one or the other side? Or perhaps you don’t even see sides?I got my start in a realm I’d probably call Pinterest-green; a funny mash-up of natural-ish ingredients and things most people already have in their homes, like borax and baking soda. I find that’s a really common starting point for a lot of makers, and I think it’s because it has a very appealing combination of feeling familiar and being really accessible. Unfortunately, that’s a pretty limiting set of ingredients!
Over the years I’ve broadened my ingredient horizons, adding things like emulsifiers, solubilizers, hydrolyzed proteins, synthesized mineral pigments, silicones, and surfactants.
I definitely don’t limit myself to “Pinterest” type ingredients by any stretch of the imagination, but I do try to keep in mind ingredient cost and availability. I know how frustrating it can be to need an ingredient you can’t get, and with readers all over the world, I try to make sure there’s something for everyone fairly regularly while still trying new things.
Speaking of something for everyone, your blog offers up a rich diversity of posts – from lotion-making and pressing eye shadows to doing comparative tests on individual ingredients. What part of creating and producing cosmetics do you like best? Developing the formulas? Discovering new methods?One of my favorite things is learning about a new ingredient—discovering what it brings to formulations—and then working out all the different sorts of formulations I could use it in. A new ingredient can open all kinds of doors and really get my imagination going!
All ingredients have strengths and weaknesses—jobs they’re better suited to and jobs that could be better done by something else—and I think it’s best to be aware of those strengths and weaknesses. I love natural/green ingredients for some things, and synthetics for others. I love blending, playing, and experimenting.
I also enjoy working within a set of self defined parameters, be it anhydrous, natural, hydrous, etc. I find I need some limitations to really get the ideas flowing—being told to just create “something” is too overwhelming!
In graphic design, we start with a “brief”—a list of requirements for a project—what it needs to communicate, budget, target market, etc. I enjoy formulating with similar self-created briefs, so sometimes I’ll aim to create something green/natural just ‘cause, while other times I might want to work with a new ingredient or try a new technique, and I’ll create a brief/project around that.
Many products will have a “brief” of their own as well; a face cream, for instance, would have different requirements than a foot cream, while a leave-in hair conditioner will have different requirements than a wash-out hair mask. Combining product requirements with some more marketing-style requirements (natural-ness, target customer, any problems the product might be trying to solve, etc.) gives me a great starting point for creating my cosmetics!
You recently moved to a new location—what’s your new space like?I did! It was an unexpected move, but definitely for the best. My new space is fabulous—still fairly central in my city, but with lots of tall trees and a beautiful balcony. I love working out on the balcony, listening to the birds sing and the leaves rustling! I’ll really miss that in the winter. BUT—I also have a fireplace and a dry cedar sauna (!), and I have a feeling I’ll be using those a lot one those sub-zero temperatures set in.
Moving my studio is possibly one of my least favorite things ever, mostly due to the marble table I film everything on. It is absurdly heavy! Fortunately I was able to recruit some strong friends to help. The studio move did give me the chance/forced me to go through all my ingredients, equipment, and packaging, which was a bit… overwhelming. I ended up getting rid of a lot of old, expired ingredients, which definitely hurt my heart a bit! It was a good lesson in being more prudent with my purchases.
Finally, please share with my readers how you got to be cute as a buttonWould you believe me if I told you both my parents are buttons? :P
Thank you Marie for sharing with my readers and here's wishing Humblebee & Me continued success and growth.
More Marie & HumblebeeHumblebee & Me
Marie's book: Make it Up (this page has links to where you can buy the book around the globe)
Marie's YouTube channel
Humblebee on Instagram