We’re excited to introduce a series of interviews with the Keap team. Read on to get to know the folks behind your candles!
Ashley Crawford is part of the Candle Operations Team working out of our candle-making studio in Kingston, NY. Growing up in a few different places, she’s now found a home in Kingston, NY. Talented and intelligent on many levels, you’ll often find her exploring in the woods, taking in the beauty of the Hudson Valley, or listening to live music somewhere funky. Finding solace in nature, music, and community, she’s feeling grateful for the small things that each day brings.
Ashley, basking in the abundant greenery in the back of the Keap studio.
Can you walk me through a typical day as Operations Associate at Keap?
For the first half hour of work we write the cards to Keap subscribers; it’s a relaxing way to slowly wind into the day. We then start the morning off with an all-team meeting. Everybody comes together during this time to plan for the day ahead and then we close the meeting with a long stretch. Then I’ll move into one of a few roles, pouring candles, shipping, or production. I’ve found it’s nice to switch between tasks throughout the week.
Out of all the areas you get to work in, is there one that you enjoy the most?
Right now I’m really enjoying pouring candles and working with Cougar (that’s our candle-pouring machine). It’s exciting because it requires so much focus and engagement; there is a healthy pressure in it where if you mess something up, you could have a huge mess on your hands but it is also very soothing and meditative, like you’re in a flow state. It’s a delicate balance for sure!
“When I started college I couldn't decide what I wanted to do. I thought, I don't know if I want to be a research biologist or a music teacher.”
While we're on the topic of candle making, what is your favorite Keap candle scent?
Wood Cabin was the first scent where I thought, "Ooh, yeah I like this one." (smiles) I also really enjoy Cotton Magnolia; it’s light and beautiful, perfect for the bathroom. I think Grapefruit and Yuzu and Green Market are lovely in the morning as well. I love them all for different reasons.
What were you working on before you started at Keap?
When I started college I couldn't decide what I wanted to do. I thought, "I don't know if I want to be a research biologist or a music teacher." Both very different things. (haha) I ended up choosing music education and became a high school band director.
Can you share more about your experience teaching and playing music?
I started playing piano when I was eight and then I joined a band when I was ten and flute became my primary instrument. I still play both, mostly for myself.
The work I did in education continued to expand outside of music. I went on to graduate school to study the intersection of public schools and the communities in which they're situated. I worked with a few different educational non-profits helping to bridge the gap between what kids were experiencing at home and in their communities with what they were experiencing in school.
I found that kind of work to be truly fulfilling but also quite stressful at times. It's a busy field and you're so emotionally connected to the families and the kids that you're working with. I found myself forming authentic relationships and it was challenging to try and turn them off at the end of the day, they stay with you. I finally reached the point where I thought, "Okay, I need to figure out a better balance for myself so that I can give better and not be so tapped out all the time." Now I feel like I’m in a much better place and I’m grateful to have found a balance.
I know you moved to Kingston recently, where are you from originally?
I was born in Chicago and my family moved away when I was a baby to central Pennsylvania right near Penn State. I lived there for all of grade school then moved to Groton, Connecticut in 6th grade. I’d say Connecticut is what feels most like my hometown.
Above is a photo taken near Groton on a sailing trip to view the New London Ledge Lighthouse.
How are you enjoying Kingston? Do you feel like you're making a home here?
I love Kingston and I really like being here. I knew I wanted to move somewhere with a little more going on but that was also close to the woods and trails. Kingston was just right, it’s a vibrant little city. When I first arrived I happened to stumble upon a really great housing situation. I was living with a bunch of people which gave me an instant community and helped me feel plugged in really quickly.
I know you mentioned you like to be near trails and have access to the woods. What is your favorite way to connect with nature?
I go hiking a lot and one of my favorite ways is simply getting into the world and connecting with all of the organisms that I am sharing this planet with. I really like to go out without an agenda and to give myself unlimited time to explore. I'm happy to veer off trails and then just see what comes up.
I'll usually end up finding lots of mushrooms, I do a lot of foraging and exploring in general. The thing that is most important to me is allowing myself to enjoy the experience as it is. I try to mindfully let myself be free and just go wherever. Sometimes it’s as simple as "The sunlight is hitting that rock over there, so I’ll go there and see where it takes me."
Ashley identify fungi during a team hike! (Oyster mushrooms shown above, Turkey Tail shown below).
“I tend to take a ritual-like approach to my time in the woods and even my time preparing to go.”
The past few years have prompted a lot of changes to say the least. What has this time taught you?
I’ve learned to really value, sit with, and lift up the tiny moments and little things that bring me joy. I learned that they don't have to be big and obvious. The small things can have a huge impact on my mood and the way I perceive the world.
Are there any rituals you turn to to help you connect you back to yourself or that keeps you in balance?
Taking in the incredible landscape on a couple favorite hiking spots in the Catskills and Hudson Valley.