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An Interview with Britt Buntain of Picot Collective

An Interview with Britt Buntain of Picot Collective

Britt Buntain is the founder and entrepreneur behind Victoria-based Picot, a line of honey tobacco scented candles, fragrance rollers, body butter and mists.

What do you love about living in Victoria? 

The people, and the ability to contribute to and be a part of a community. Most people want to help and support each other with whatever endeavours they have, and I feel lucky to have that experience. I also love that Victoria is a city, but with a small-town feel to it. Because the city is small, the quality of life is higher—I feel time-rich. I don’t commute much; I’m a five- to fifteen-minute bike ride from everything I do.

What first brought you out here? 

Funny enough, it was cheap rent and being close to the beach. “Cheap rent” tells you how long ago this was. But, honestly, I was running away. I needed to get out of Calgary—I needed a place to restart. In July of 2007, I was bartending during the Calgary Stampede with a woman who I’d just met. She was only there for the week. That following September, we were talking and she said, “I have an entire house that is five minutes from the ocean and five minutes from downtown. It’s $760 a month and I think I might find a roommate.” I didn’t even hesitate when I told her, “Great. I’ll drive out for October.” 

How did Picot come together?

I was teaching a yoga retreat in Sayulita, Mexico, in 2014. There were about 20 people there; one was a rocket scientist, some were architects and surgeons…people who’d devoted a lot of time, energy and investment to their professions and what they were doing. One of the questions we asked at the beginning of the retreat was, “If money and time didn’t matter and you could do anything at all, what would you do or what would you change?” 

Every person responded with something that was creative. “I never would have quit the band,” or “I never would have quit painting,” or “I would start that clothing line that I’ve been dreaming up in my back room.” I think that’s when I began ruminating on how easy it is for many of us to undervalue our own creativity. 

Later on in the trip, I discovered a shop called Evoke the Spirit. It was a beautiful curation of mostly handmade home goods; a collaboration between the Canadian expat owner and local artisans. At the time, we had nothing like that in Victoria—a lot of vintage and clothing stores, but no shops that included the pottery and textiles of our community. 

So it was this perfect little storm of inspiration for me.

The fact that Picot even happened is miraculous to me. I found a space on the corner in Fernwood Square, where I was living at the time, and the lease was month to month. The risk felt really low so I decided to go with it. My strategy was to put my all into it, as long as it made sense, and if it comes to a point where it doesn’t make sense any more, I’m okay to let it go. I don’t need Picot to look the same way for its entire existence. And it has pivoted. It’s four years into the business and what I’m doing now looks very different from what I originally set out to create.

Growing up, I always stole my brother’s cologne. I loved the way it smelled and I was always more drawn to the masculine scent—nothing floral or classically feminine.

Right. Picot is now online, but you had a brick and mortar shop in the beginning?

It started with my shop; I had goods from people in town, across Canada and a few international brands as well. But I wanted a product of my own, so I developed a fragrance that I call Honey Tobacco. It was originally for a candle. 

The candle expanded into the personal fragrance line, which grew to be the biggest seller. But being tied so closely to the shop led me to my decision to close the store in 2017. So I ended up shifting and taking that product line and expanding it to wholesale, offering it to other shops across Canada and the U.S. 

And now you’re hosting markets. Tell us more about Picot Markets. 

We host seasonal markets at Sea Cider [in Sidney] and in Fernwood [the next market will be the Harvest Market at Sea Cider in September]. I still get to curate a selection of handmade goods, build community, and gather people and businesses together—but through the markets.

What inspired you to create Honey Tobacco?

Growing up, I always stole my brother’s cologne. I loved the way it smelled and I was always more drawn to the masculine scent—nothing floral or classically feminine. I knew I wanted something that would not be easily identified as masculine or feminine. Something that anyone could feel like it’s for them. 

At first, there were a few different blends. I kept them in my shop and, as I would have conversations with people in my store, I would ask if they minded smelling them. I eventually narrowed it down to two; I picked one and had it made into a candle. It still blows my mind that people love it so much. 

How do you find balance as a business owner? 

It can be difficult to separate from your work. I came into some limiting health issues around the time I was opening my store. I lost the vision in my right eye suddenly, and had to go through multiple surgeries to try and repair my eyesight—I was completely blind in one eye overnight. There are so many puns, and I don’t even intend them, but it really altered my perspective on the way that I work and live. At the time I couldn’t see—I mean, I literally couldn’t see—what the silver lining was. Now I strike a good balance for my health. If I am overwhelmed or overworked or stressed, I put it down. I don’t answer emails after 5 p.m. I don’t work on weekends. I have really good boundaries.

What’s next for Picot?

I’m currently collaborating with a well-known brand in the U.S., and people keep asking me about creating another scent. So I have a few pots on the stove right now that are all teaching me patience.

Lastly, where does the name Picot come from?

Picot is my grandmother’s maiden name. It’s also a way of finishing something woven, knitted or crocheted with a loop at the end. To me, it represents a familiarity, an honouring, and a way of coming together again.

A few things Britt is loving

Island spot outside of Victoria: Tribune Bay and Helliwell Provincial Park [on Hornby Island].

Someone you’re inspired by locally: Lauren Mycroft, a painter and visual artist based in Victoria.

A ritual: Morning pages (daily journaling).

Favourite way to spend your downtime: Reading, swimming in the Gorge off Banfield Park, having friends over for meals, and sitting on my patio and getting cozy with the fire, string lights, wine and good friends. 

Check out Picot Collective online. Follow Picot on Instagram.

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