In 2017, florist Katie Chirgotis and esthetician Holly Henton went to a workshop to learn about the traditional Chinese medicine practice gua sha in San Francisco. Five years later, Chirgotis now has a wellness shop in Santa Cruz called Eothen Circle where she hosts events—including a gua sha workshop taught by Henton, who runs Santa Cruz’s Illume Skin Therapy.
When the pandemic started, all of Chirgotis’ work stopped. After being busy with events for many years, her calendar was suddenly clear—and she was ready to make a shift from the busy, high-intensity world she’d been working in.
“I’d always thought that a space would make sense to continue to do flowers, but in a different way,” she says
When a spot on the Westside became available in July of 2020, she jumped on the opportunity. “It felt almost pre-aligned. It was the exact space that I had wanted to be in, and it was at the exact time that I had the time to build something out,” she says. “We opened in November of 2020, and there’s no time like a pandemic—when no one really can go inside and spend time around each other—to open a brick-and mortar. That was a little crazy.”
The shop offers a curated collection of wellness products, art and flowers. “I was really, really adamant that we source everything that we offered to customers from small artists and healers—primarily femme, queer, BIPOC makers and healers,” says Chirgotis.
Many of the products in the store come from plants, “I love plants and flowers on many different levels; not only for their beauty, their aesthetic qualities, but also how they’re so helpful and of service to us,” she says.
Chirgotis says she has tried everything in the shop, and only carries products she loves. One of her favorite things about her work is forming relationships and helping people find the perfect product. “It’s a really fun journey to go on with people when they come in and they start to talk about what it is that they’re working on or working through, and to be of service to them,” she says. “We are not licensed practitioners, doctors or nurses, we’re just people who love plants and love helping people feel well.”
The shop offers flowers by the stem and bouquets every Wednesday. All of the flowers are from within 25 miles of the shop.
Wellness is her business, but Chirgotis’ commitment to it goes much deeper; she is concerned for the wellness of the planet, and its people. Building relationships with the community and donating part of her profits are important to her.
“If we are doing well and we have a little bit extra, I always want to give it away,” she says.
“Because that is how I hope we can become a more supportive society.”
Chirgotis will oftentimes choose a product that is sold in the shop that has a connection with an issue in the world and donate a portion of the profits from that product to the cause.
Another way Eothen Circle plays a role in the community is through workshops, which Chirgotis started hosting when Covid restrictions eased last winter.
“I always wanted the space to be an opportunity for other people to use it as a platform to share their knowledge,” she says. “I hope it’s something that can catch on and we can be known as a place that offers events and workshops that are helpful and healthful for people.”
Workshops are presented by some people who sell products to the shop, as well as people in the Santa Cruz community to whom Chirgotis wants to give exposure. Each season of workshops has a theme. “This past season, we wanted to focus on the senses and that theme of touch, feel, smell, taste, so we had a natural perfume party workshop, a painting workshop, the gua sha workshop—different ways to get more tactile with the body,” she says.
Chirgotis and Henton are close friends, and support each other professionally. A few years after attending the gua sha workshop together, Chirgotis suggested Henton host a gua sha workshop at Eothen Circle. Gua sha is a technique rooted in Chinese medicine using a flat rounded stone or spoon to massage the face.
Chirgotis recalled going to the workshop with Henton and noticing a change in Henton’s use of gua sha in her practice, “She’s really expanded upon it,” she said. “She has very much her own style, she integrates it into her care in a way that feels luxurious and amazing. She’s almost always booked out two months in advance, and it’s really hard to book an appointment with her because she’s that good. When she took that workshop, she really took it to the next level.”
Henton loves the practice of gua sha and incorporated it into her own skincare routine as well as into her treatments, “I loved the way that it helped promote vitality within my clients skin,” she says.
Henton begins her workshop with a warm welcome and some deep breaths. For many people, she knows, this is their first exposure to the technique.
“Gua is to scrape, and sha is the pinkish hue that comes up—the blood that comes to the surface—so we’re bringing awareness to the skin,” she says. “It’s a way of bringing vitality to our skin, of moving stagnation underneath the surface and bringing flow back to these areas that have been inhibited.”
Henton then shows some diagrams of facial muscles and talks about lymphatic drainage, then passes around a gua sha tool made of jade to each participant, and has everyone massage a few drops of oil into their face. Next, Henton begins demonstrating how to stroke the stone along different parts of the face and neck.
Henton says she is also a fan of gua sha because of its traditional roots. “What I love about gua sha is that it was really always the peoples’ medicine,” she says. “It wasn’t something you had to receive from a professional. It was really handed down generationally from mother to daughter as a way of creating vitality within our skin.”
Chirgotis is in the process of curating a collection of classes for the fall. Classes will begin in October and one of the classes will be a gua sha workshop with Henton.
Eothen Circle, 402 Ingalls St., Ste. 15, Santa Cruz. 831-200-3006; eothencircle.com.