We had the good fortune of connecting with Andrea Rossi and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Andrea, why did you pursue a creative career?
While I don’t think I ever explicitly tried to pursue an artistic or creative career, I think that I had to continue returning to artistic and creative pursuits as a pathway towards resilience amidst hardship, which then oriented me towards this type of career.
Artistry, creativity, inspiration – these things have never felt like luxuries or ‘extras’ to me – they feel like necessities. For many moments in my life, I turned to writing poems, playing music, creating ideas, or daydreaming as ways to take something challenging I was feeling or experiencing and then try to metabolize it, alchemize it, and metamorphize it. I needed these tools to help me connect to possibility, to meaning-making, to belonging, amidst times where I didn’t feel much of any of these things.
Today, some might not see the immediate artistry and creativity in the work I do as an herbalist and nutritionist, but for me, it is the heart of my craft. I find it to be a necessity when working with the plant world, and I feel like both artistry and creativity are guiding lights towards resilience and sovereignty, which I feel are foundational parts of healing.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
My business, Dirt & Bones, offers herbal + nourishment experiences for folks that are these big-hearted, poetic humans seeking ease, joy, and resilience amidst chronic illness.
In some situations in life, we get to choose what challenges we face. For example, deciding to pursue further education, signing up for a race, or taking on a challenging project. In these instances, we often know parts of those experiences are going to be really hard. And while within these endeavors we can be confronted with forces and challenges outside of our control, the act of opting in, the sense of choice, is powerful for feeling a heightened sense of control and agency over one’s own experience.
In contrast, folks experiencing pain or challenges in their bodies don’t usually feel like they get to choose their experience. It can feel like everything is happening to you, like you are getting hit by wave after wave in the ocean and it won’t stop and you are just trying to catch your breath.
There is this really powerful quote by American Tibetan Buddhist, Pema Chödrön: “Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us.”
That end part – ‘that which is indestructible’ – really stands out to me and feels like what sets what I do at Dirt & Bones apart – we aren’t just working with plants or food as these inanimate tools. Rather, we are connecting with the heart of inspiration (from the artistry and poeticism of the natural world mostly, but also generally) to find and nurture our inner resilience, to go towards the stuff within that sustains, that which is indestructible. And we cultivate inspiration through restoration, through spaciousness, to allow the possibility for ease and joy to co-exist, right there in the thick of our hardship.
In terms of how I came to be a business owner, I think this happens to a lot of small business folks, but I didn’t really choose to be an entrepreneur, to set out as an herbalist & nutritionist. I really tried to go after a career for years – I just wasn’t very good at it. I struggled to get hired, often landed jobs that barely paid my basic expenses, and ended up in more than one toxic work environment. I also didn’t have the physical stamina to work the long days, so I got sick frequently – and, without vacation or sick days (which was the norm in most jobs I worked at), I would watch all that hard-earned money slip out the door. I was on a human-sized hamster wheel and I was desperate to get off it.
So, I always think that the entrepreneurial life chose me. Long before I decided to have my own business, I was out there hustling to drum up work for myself. The difference was that it was random, disconcerted, and unintentional, whereas now, I have a vision, direction, and purpose for what I create and offer in the world. Also, all those experiences helped me hone my craft – I was out there, burned out, exhausted, totally demoralized, and struggling with chronic health issues – and all that helped me really develop an understanding of how to support other folks dealing with the same kind of challenges. And, in many ways, it was my creativity, my artistic side, tapping into the heart of inspiration, that helped me through all that – helped me transform stuckness into possibility, helped me see the resilient inner gold that was always there, just waiting for an opportunity to peek out.
My entrepreneurial journey was never easy, and I think I could say today that it hasn’t gotten easier with time. You have to go towards fear on a regular basis, get comfortable with being seen, and stepping into your leadership. There are a lot of growing pains, and really all that can feel about as far off from easy as it gets. What I have learned, though, is that even though it is not easy, it can be easeful, this idea that we can go towards what is challenging while still cultivating rest and resilience, while still allowing relaxation, joy, and play. I can be scared out of my mind about taking a certain step or showing up in a certain way, and my joy still gets to sit in the passenger seat too. And, what I’ve learned is that even though it can be scary, even though it can feel uncomfortable, stepping into life is always more rewarding than hanging back because that joy, that delight, that inspiration – they all come right along with the scared, right along with the nervous, the insecurities. So, I think cultivating your own business can just be one element of going towards cultivating a rich, fulfilling, adventurous life – one that you can sink your teeth into, really roll around in, and just enjoy the shit out of.
I named my company Dirt & Bones because I loved basing what I was creating in that transitory cycle of death, dying, decay, and transformation – the medicine that comes from things falling apart. Because, I think when it all comes down to it, whether we want it to or not, life will come in, will ebb, will fall out, and we can’t control that. We can’t control the hard things that happen. We can’t control the weather, the seasons. We can’t control the way our body shifts through space and time. So, what does that leave us with? I think it is the ability to be present, allow, let go, and transmute – to find that which is indestructible within the falling apart.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
If I was taking my best bud on a grand tour of the city, our epic, one-day itinerary would include:
– Grabbing a quick, easy and delicious breakfast at Just Be Kitchen
– Beelining over to the Denver Botanic Gardens to have a perfect, strolling, lazy morning, making sure to bop through the Laura Smith Porter Plains Garden (prairie plants are underrated, but so starkly beautiful imo)
– Dropping by Apothecary Tinctura to peruse the herbal wares (and maybe buy a new tincture or two)
– Delight our palates with a lunch of Chicken Shawarma (or make it veggie if you prefer) from Jerusalem Restaurant: Middle Eastern Cuisine
– Take an afternoon post-lunch rest in the grass at Wash Park, while trying to decipher what type of tree is overhead (with the assistance of the Washington Park Tree Guide, a handy little book you can usually purchase at Wash Perk, a coffee shop down the street)
– Take a night out on the town enjoying art, food, and socializing at the First Friday Art Walks on Santa Fe (in this make-believe situation it is Friday…the first Friday)
– Finish off the night with a nightcap at Lakeside Amusement Park, where we don’t leave until we’ve ridden The Cyclone, Lakeside’s wooden roller coaster, at least 3 times
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Hands down Dirt & Bones wouldn’t be what it is and I wouldn’t be where I am right now without my partner, Andrew. He’s been my phone-a-friend for years now, offering perspective and direction that has set the tone for how I engage today, while also gently challenging me so that I don’t let my unconscious habits or fearful insecurities get in the way of the body of work I want to create and bring to community and culture.
Sierra Voss – all digital photos; Andrea Rossi – all film photos