The Block Island Times

New on Chapel Street: Island Mist

By Judy Tierney | Jun 17, 2013
Photo by: Judy Tierney Island Mist has an uncluttered atmosphere ideal for browsing.

Misty summer mornings on Block Island are cool and refreshing, so it is only fitting that the atmosphere of a brand new shop on Chapel Street named Island Mist should be similarly cool and refreshing.

Stepping through the open door on a recent Friday morning, I was immediately surrounded with the faint scent of candles and soaps, and soft light reflected off melon- and lime-painted walls. Island Mist is both cool and refreshing.

Shopkeeper Johanna Ross already has a loyal customer base for her all natural, organic bath and body lotions that she has built up over the 16 years she has been selling her handmade products at the Block Island Farmers Market and through her website for her Island Mist Natural Bath & Body Products. Now she has expanded her merchandise line into other areas, featuring art and crafts from artisans throughout Rhode Island.

“I love the Farmers Market, but you are not allowed to sell anything you don’t make there and I wanted to expand,” she says. “I wanted to give an outlet to all the beautiful handmade work I’ve seen in Rhode Island over the years.”

Wooden bowls and lamps by Corwin Butterworth of Narragansett, watercolor prints by Leah Robinson, painted wooden boxes by Elisa Brunn, quilted wall hangings by Ross’s cousin Judy Ross, whimsical glass nightlights by Marylee Schwarzer and paintings by Lydia Mott share the space with Ross’s own photographs, poetry and children’s books.

Then there are the natural body products. Ross reminds me that our skin is our body’s largest organ. “What do you use on your face?” she asks. I reply with the name of the supermarket quality soap I buy. “Oh, that’s detergent,” she says softly and sadly, slightly shaking her head. She walks me to the case where her Island Mist lotions are shelved, peppermint body scrubs, lavender salt scrub, soothing lavender mist and invigorating face mist to name just a few. Nearby are products she buys from other companies, all natural and organic as well, including an SPF 30 sunscreen. I look at the ingredient list. It includes glycerine, palm oil aloe and a natural, of course, sunscreening mineral.

According to Ross, products she sells contain no preservatives or dyes and no petrochemicals. Commercial sunscreens can be tar-based, petroleum- and formaldehyde-based, she says. Her products are not. On her to-do list for the future are workshops in which people can bring in their sunscreens and she will demystify the complex ingredient lists for them.

Ross’s formal education was as a teacher. She holds a master’s degree in that area, but she is also a certified herbalist and aroma therapist, having studied with Susan Clemens at Herb Wyfe Holistic Center in Wickford, R.I. for three years.

She cites two crucial life events that led her into her current calling. The first was a visit to a doctor in New York City who used alternative treatments. Ross had suffered from allergies, asthma and bronchitis since she was a child. She had undergone the series of allergy shots usually prescribed, and been treated with six or seven sprays and medicines. The physician in New York treated her with acupuncture, herbs and a change of diet. “Within six months I was off all meds,” she said.

The second major influence on her life was knowing the late Emily Reeves, who, among other achievements, ran a children’s theater workshop on Block Island. “She had the attitude, ‘just do what you want to do. Try it. Live your life the way you want,’” Ross says.

Now Ross has authored several books, created a line of skin care products, and delved into the medicinal qualities of herbs. Her products and her knowledge are all available at Island Mist, or she can still be found with a few of her products at the Block Island Farmers Market.

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