Who was the Red Sunset?
My great-grandmother was born in a small town in Central Italy, at the edge of the Abruzzo Mountains. She was an herbalist/healer and cunning business woman. She immigrated to the US with her husband when she was 19 years old. In 1918, when she was only 25, and a year before women had the right to vote in the US, she opened the Aro-Stoma Tonic Company. By the age of 35, she already had at least 5 patented and trademarked herbal products used “for stomach pains”, “for rheumatism”, “for weak or acid blood”, and “for the nerves”. During prohibition, my great-grandmother was granted special permission by the government to use and sell alcohol for her ‘Patent Medicines’ and ‘Medicinal Preparations’. Along with running a business and supporting her family, she raised six daughters, one son, and many of her grandchildren, including my father.
Her given name was Carmina Tramontozzi, Red Sunset.
'Carminio’ in Italian is the red/scarlet natural dye from cochineal and ‘tramonto’ translates to sunset.
I feel a deep connection to my great-grandmother. She is one of my guides and ancestor-healers. And though some of us can trace back to healers and spiritual guides in our families, I also believe that we carry this knowledge within ourselves because we are a part of this earth and there is an ancient connection with the earth around us. We just have to open ourselves up to it. We are all children of this earth and we can call on that wisdom when needed.
I was born in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, but my family moved to Miami, Florida when I was just a toddler. This is where my love of nature began. My father surrounded our house with fruit trees and edibles. Any time of year you could go outside and pick something to eat. Peaches, tangerines, avocados, lemons, hibiscus… I remember coming home from school and finishing my homework as quickly as possible so that I could go outside and climb trees or play with the lizards. It was a little paradise in the middle of the big city.
We moved to the mountains of North Carolina when I was 13 and I was in awe! The mountains made me feel so secure and supported. They called to me. I sensed their ancient spirits. When I went into the woods it was as if a weight was lifted from my chest.
Then Came Herbalism
In college, I studied to become a Nurse-Midwife but I fell in love with herbal medicine. One month before starting my masters degree in midwifery at Emory in Atlanta, I packed it all up and headed back home to Asheville to study Herbalism instead. Over the past 25+ years, I have worked in hospitals and doctors offices, produced my own herbal products, taught in herbal schools, written for herbal publications, and ran my own clinic and apothecary.
My love of natural dyeing and ecoprinting developed organically through herbalism and my knitting hobby. I observed the scarlet red that extracted from the yellow St. John’s Wort flowers, and the golden yellow oil created from Calendula flowers and wondered what colors I could produce on yarn.
My trip down this rabbit hole was swift and deep! I quickly found myself working as an herbalist and fiber artist combining my love of plants with color and medicine.
I live on 25 acres in the mountains of NC with my husband, two kids, and three cats in a house we built with our own hands. We are surrounded by many gardens and lush woods.