Sarah and Christina Kaur are exploring an alternative route to mental health care
By Surbhi Gogia
Every other day there is a new study released with the latest stats of how many Canadians are suffering from mental health issues. For many, even talking about mental health, or stress can be difficult. In 2018, we’re often encouraged to rise above the stigma of mental health and create an open dialogue with people we trust. However, many still struggle to find the words to communicate how they are feeling.
Two South Asian women, Sarah and Christina Kaur, are overcoming that challenge by incorporating art into their newly created venture, Vellum Wellness. The two began their wellness journey and their first Vellum collection by focusing on the mental benefits and mood enhancing properties found in essential oils, and as patrons of the arts, they commissioned LA based artist MRBBABY to hand painted illustrations for each oil.
When essential oils are extracted from plant matter (roots, stems, seeds, bark, flowers, fruits), they contain the essence of the plant. “Plants have strong aromatic qualities to help them with protection and communication, and unlike synthetic fragrances, essential oils have the ability to transform mood,” Sarah Kaur, one of the founders of Vellum, explains.
Many ancient cultures used this method of self-care through plant based oils to improve mental health. However, over the time this knowledge was lost or often now confused with just beauty and aesthetics. Vellum Wellness aims to rescue this knowledge from the four walls of feminine beauty and promote it in every section of society by discussing the benefits on mental health.
Despite mental health being greatly stigmatized in the South Asian community, essential oils have roots from all over South Asia and have been helping people in these communities for centuries. Mental health in children and teens is a top concern for adults in British Columbia and beyond, and according to Sarah, “it’s important for everyone to create a self-care process to ease stress and create a healthy outlet to release emotions so they’re not pent up and making us feel unwell.”
In an effort to make mental health care a little less complicated, Vellum Wellness created Mental Essentials, a collection of 100% pure essentials oils created to reflect a spectrum of emotions. Each oil has been transformed into a character, representing their impact on mood, and origin.
The collection of oils is sourced from all over the world, from China to Portugal and oil can be traced back to a different culture and era. Ancient Egyptians used chamomile in beautifying rituals, while the French turned to lavender for comfort.
“It was important for us to recognize and represent all of the different cultures and countries our oils have originated from. Our idea of wellness has roots from all over the world and as a way to pay homage to all the countries and places inspiring our brand, we delved into the history of each oil, and created characters to reflect those regions,” Christina says.
The idea of starting something for the wellness of mental health cropped up when these two friends were completing the Broadcast Journalism program at BCIT. During their time at BCIT, they found themselves in many stressful situations while reporting on events and happenings around the lower mainland. As part of the curriculum, students complete work experience as hands on reporters in the field. “We were reporting for the Evolution newsroom and were experiencing things first hand from shootings, to fires…it was emotionally very taxing” Christina explains.
We are living in an age where stress has become part of our lives. Everyone has a different way of managing stress. Some practice yoga, or go for regular exercise, while others indulge in massages or visit the spa. There are many who even get into drinking and smoking to de-stress their mind and relax. But for Sarah and Christina, they turned to art.
As a way to unwind, Sarah and Christina started interviewing musicians, artists and fashion designers for their blog, The Screen Girls. “Art has an amazing way to allow us to decompress and unwind, so being able to connect directly with artists was our first form of therapy”, says Sarah.
After graduating from BCIT, Sarah and Christina understood their personality types were not well suited for reporting breaking news. “It takes a very specific type of person to thrive in journalism, being surrounded by death and destruction daily isn’t easy, especially if you’re the type of person to internalize any of that”, says Christina. Upon graduation, they analyzed their own mental health and began to find natural ways to decompress and unwind from the day.
There are range of essential oils already available in the market. But what makes Vellum’s oils unique and different from others is the way they have been packaged and marketed, maintaining each oil’s single most unique mental benefit. Many of the oils have similar properties, and are often described as either uplifting or calming. Some oils are described as both uplifting and calming. Mental Essentials oils take all the confusion and guess work out, while injecting a breath of fresh air with beautifully illustrated, hand painted characters.
“The essential oil industry hasn’t changed much over the last few decades, and despite how trendy oils currently are, consumers are still confused, and at times, overwhelmed, so we wanted to make it easy for people to shop for their mental health by having this art work”, explains Sarah.
When it comes to marketing, Sarah and Christina want to take essential oils out of the confines of the spa or beauty industries and spread it across every level of society. “We want our message super loud, and super clear – wellness is for everybody. There is no ‘face of wellness’; each of our wellness journeys is unique and personal” says, Christina.
Vellum’s first collection, Mental Essentials is ten imaginative and clever characters representing a line of 100% pure essentials oils designed to explore your mood and process your emotions. A gang of oil characters reflecting a spectrum of moods and emotions, guiding and simplifying your wellness journey, each character represents an oil, a country, a culture and a mood and are dressed in clothes from around the world.
As an effort to not align themselves with the face of wellness, Sarah and Christina commissioned LA based artists MRBBABY to hand paint their portraits.
Vellum offers a made in Canada, local, vegan method of de-stressing with Mental Essentials, a range of essential oils, each one packaged with a hand painted illustration of a character personifying the oil. The products are priced differently and are available through the e-commerce website: https://vellumwellness.com/