STOCKMAR and WALA in conversation –
Diversity vs monoculture
Inke Kruse, STOCKMAR’s managing director and Professor Florian Stintzing, responsible for the science portfolio in the WALA management board, met for a real workshop discussion at the artists’ studio at Werkstatthaus in Stuttgart. They talked about diversity as a fundamental requirement of life and about creative powers and healing impulses.
Inke Kruse: I’m grateful for the invitation to this meeting, as diversity is something that drives me – as a cultural value, too. The diversity of colours we have at STOCKMAR is a product of substances from nature, including plant-based colours. If I have understood correctly, you’ve done some research into plant pigments, right?
Florian Stintzing: That’s correct, some time ago – before my time at WALA. The objective was to find alternatives for synthetic pigments. We looked not only at the typical beetroot pigments, but also at cactus fruits and bougainvillea – very rare pigments that hadn’t really been researched before at all. The most important thing for me were the findings. The change of perspective was tremendously helpful – why does the plant behave in a particular way? Why does it need this or that? My starting point was plant physiology, the living processes. Every living thing relies on diversity. A plant is not made from just one substance, and this multi-component make-up has an influence on its mode of action.
Inke Kruse: When you mention that multi-component make-up, you are talking about it in the context of science, research and chemistry, and those are of course approaches that we at STOCKMAR make use of. The Goethean approach you mentioned is just as important to me though – what is not quantifiable, what is qualitatively perceptible but not measurable?
Florian Stintzing: At the start you spoke of diversity as a cultural value. We at WALA would class our remedies as a cultural value – indeed, that was the original impetus when founding the company. Dr Hauschka researched natural substances and attempted to apply pharmaceutical processes and almost experimental production methods to establish which inherent effects the active ingredients had. This type of research, with the goal of understanding, no longer really has a place in the world of science. We wanted to change that, so we made research spaces available at WALA for PhD theses on these topics, at least in the area of plant biochemistry, and discovered that multi-component mixtures have reciprocal actions on each other and on humans. Every living thing that gets out of balance due to illness or other disorders can benefit from precisely these reciprocal actions of natural substances from the three natural realms in our logo: the plant, mineral and animal kingdoms. Within those, the human body can essentially find a copy of its equilibrium state and, by activating its self-healing powers – in other words, through its own independent activity – find its way back to health.
For example, an apple is a multi-component mixture, as is honey, which in contrast to sugar, a mono-constituent substance, has a wide array of healing properties. We are attempting to once again shed more light on these associations to work against the narrow-mindedness and limited research scope resulting from an increasing tendency towards mono-constituent substances.
Inke Kruse: The quality of our products relies on a selected, well-balanced recipe that employs everything the earth gives us to approximate specific requirements as closely as possible – namely, to give the child or the artist a rich, broad artistic and sensory experience. One can argue about the components involved, and indeed we do. Only paraffin is named here as an example, but it is precisely this ingredient that is a vital element for supporting a specific painting and sensory quality; this means we would be ill-advised to omit it – at least as long as there isn’t a suitable alternative. Without this holistic sensory experience, there would be some loss at an artistic, creative level. Thus, this discussion of ‘What is good? What is right?’ doesn’t really get us anywhere. The colours develop between these extremes, where diversity reigns.
Florian Stintzing: You have used the word ‘loss’, and I find that pertinent; we also see the narrowing described before as a kind of loss. This consists in being deprived of (sensory) experiences that allow me to experience a special quality and to evolve. I think that’s what this is all about – that we as people are required and invited to evolve. After all, this is precisely what makes life worth living. And that might be challenging sometimes, but it is through this that new things are created. If regulations stand in our way, that only spurs us on even more. Of course, we also look for alternatives – that is also a component of evolution. Innovations are often the result of necessity. One looks for the way out of the restrictive circumstances in which we find ourselves. Perhaps these alternatives are indeed part of the cornucopia that we would not have discovered otherwise.
Inke Kruse: I couldn’t agree more. I’ve experienced that myself plenty of times. These obstacles and disruptive factors can be frustrating or irritating, but they can also act as motivators and precipitate a positive development. In my opinion, that is an important element of diversity. Namely, to at least include the change of perspective on the supposedly opposing or attacking component. To enter into dialogue and to move and see what new things emerge.
Florian Stintzing: A successful dialogue like this is also a cognitive process that one wouldn’t have willingly submitted to otherwise, meaning that both sides learn something. I have always been of the opinion that antipathy achieves nothing. The only question is how we shed an antipathetic attitude. You can get frustrated and upset, but the much more important question is how this power, which is only wasted on antipathy, can lead to a positive development.
Inke Kruse: That restrictive moment you described – the image of inversion comes to mind. It’s like breathing in and out, it’s a movement process, and at some point, this moment comes. The question is, how I can influence the length of this moment, to the extent that it’s possible. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. Either way, I think that accepting that both constriction and expansion are a part of the development process and are necessary and indeed beneficial is extremely relevant for me as a person but also for STOCKMAR as a whole. The same is true of accepting the rhythmic nature of this creative process, really consciously accepting it and thereby also accepting the antipathy contained in it as a gift, as an opportunity to evolve. At the same time, you have to make sure that the necessary flexibility is also there so you can free yourself from this constriction.
Florian Stintzing: I believe that this desire to create is an inherent human quality. We are not born to be bored. This curiosity that is often very pronounced in children and that one tends to gradually lose as an adult if you don’t keep it alive – that is part of life, part of our biography. And it is this biographical aspect that we see in our substances. Precisely this process is what makes a difference with quality – a creative process that is challenging yet also simply identifies something new when you look closely.
Inke Kruse: For STOCKMAR, the matter of creation itself is elementary, as well as the acceptance of the creative process. From my perspective, but also from that of STOCKMAR, the child is the future that we must nurture. This prompts us to ask which form of creative possibilities we must offer our children. Our products are therefore composed so that they support the creative process and that feeling of ‘I can create!’ They achieve this in the way the colour transfers to the paper and how the pressure of the wax blocks or crayons feel.
Furthermore, when we think about who will shape this world, it is once again children. The properties of STOCKMAR products actually follow an impetus that came from the Waldorf schools in the last century, in particular with regard to supporting one’s own creative potential. If you acknowledge that as a company and see yourself as a responsible part of this world, all the planes that we open up are to be oriented towards children. And wherever opportunities exist to expand this creative space, to make proposals and simultaneously to position oneself in the world as an organisation so that this ‘I am someone’ notion can become a reality. This also includes, for example, that as a business enterprise you have to deal responsibly with the money generated for the sake of the common good. And this in turn enables social transformation processes. After all, creative power not only refers to the artistic sphere, but also to the social sphere – this is something that one can’t say too often, especially following the Beuys anniversary year. That is actually the basic gesture of STOCKMAR.
Florian Stintzing: Now we’re back to talking about cultural values.
Inke Kruse: And about healing.
Florian Stintzing: Both our companies manufacture products for people and also accommodate their basic needs. The creation that you were just talking about also takes place in that I awaken self-healing powers in people to let them experience their true selves. That is also a process of encouragement. I am often asked why we make cosmetics and medicines. Every person is born with particular gifts and characteristics and wants them to become effective. When someone is ill or doesn’t feel comfortable in their own skin, they won’t manage that. That’s why the job of these substances is to truly mirror this impulse for healing which was the inspiration for the founding of the company. Restoring the individual equilibrium of a person so that they have ‘both hands free’ to create. I always think of my daughter who takes STOCKMAR decorating wax and makes magic balls out of it and has already given them as gifts dozens of times. And then the astonished faces of those who have never held a magic ball in their hand and weren’t familiar with the wax or the concept. These experiences are very enlightening, and that certainly strengthens the immune system. But they also bring with them a flexibility that one might not have dared to engage with before.
This area between the extremes that you spoke of just now can also be found in our production of mother tinctures. Dr Hauschka found the answer to the question of how one gets the vitality of the plants into the preparations by moving between the polarities of light and dark, warm and cold and motion and rest. It is precisely from this that our special rhythmic manufacturing processes emerged, which preserve the vitality of the substances and thus give the preparation a mediating quality. This mediation has to be allowed to happen, however. The wax comes to mind again – it’s not just the texture, but also the odour that is conveyed.
Inke Kruse: That which we perceive is truly an important element when it comes to our products – selecting the wax really is a fine art. Incidentally, the warmth quality of the product is also another characteristic that needs to be considered. The wax doesn’t do anything by itself – you have to take it in your hands, which must be or become warm, but the central element is that you have to do something. You have to put in energy to be able to shape the material. There are modelling clays that are very soft and yielding and can be shaped quickly. Our wax requires the will of the creator so it can take shape. It requires effort, movement, energy, concentration, warmth and love. And that is exactly what sparks the magic. You described this magic with regard to the magic balls your daughter makes. If a grown-up had access to this material, something would also emerge quite quickly. The opportunity lies precisely in integrating artistic elements in the spirit of diversity. And to keep in mind that ‘Everybody is an artist’.
I also wanted to add to what you said about the opportunities for healing that arise from the plant components. The idea immediately makes sense to me. Everything that comes from a monoculture is on a one-way street. In an agricultural context, that becomes clear very quickly – to have a healthy whole organism, (bio)diversity is needed. This balance applies not only to an ecological situation, however, but also to economical and social contexts.
Florian Stintzing: The question of the use of resources also seems to me to be very important in this context. We create natural products and have to remove substances from nature to do that. Do we really make it poorer by doing that? We also permit ourselves to use beeswax for certain products, but we always extract it in moderation. And above all, it is useful to someone, so it is for a good cause. For me, the question of motivation is crucial when considering why I rely on natural substances and not synthetic ones. What is the intention, what is the gesture behind these actions?
Inke Kruse: Beeswax is a great example. The product is so fantastic, with so many qualities that can’t be recreated in anything else. Just the process of how beeswax is created – a product made of light, warmth and love – this is fascinating to me. And it would be a great shame if we couldn’t embrace that. That’s one side of it. From the perspective of STOCKMAR, I would always say ‘What are we doing with what the world gives us?’ This also raises the question of how I can protect this basic substance and its diversity. In general, the principle ‘As much as necessary, as little as possible’ always applies.
Florian Stintzing: That’s what connects our two companies. Our impulse to do something and the responsibility that results from that. You can’t just take, you have to give, too. Part of that is also considering forgotten, overlooked medicinal plants. Take dog’s mercury, for example, an unbelievably potent medicinal plant that can be used as a drawing salve to clean wounds and assist healing. This plant would have been permanently forgotten – out of sight, out of mind. By nurturing this plant and maintaining awareness of its healing powers, one also nurtures cultural values and ensures that this plant remains a part of our meadows.
Inke Kruse: We see this cultural maintenance as a crucial gesture at STOCKMAR. For example, we have a cooperation with a Demeter farm in the region, from which we obtain harvest shares according to the principle of solidarity farming. This ensures that the farm can cultivate as much land as possible according to Demeter principles and thus serves plant diversity. On the other hand, it is also an effort to give the people who work at STOCKMAR a connection to these very cultivation methods and thus also a connection to regionality and seasonality.
Florian Stintzing: WALA also has a small Demeter farm with a farm shop, the Sonnenhof in Bad Boll. During the pandemic in particular, it was very noticeable that suddenly people came who perhaps had no connection to it before. They wanted to experience the product quality, eat healthily and thus also take personal responsibility. This crisis also helped me ground myself and ask what I really need, what I would consciously like to do without and what I value in my living environment.
Inke Kruse: I think the pandemic has also made it much clearer that human beings have this incredible need to create, to make something. Especially when you don’t have any big distractions and are left to your own devices. But the crisis has also taught us that diversity also entails a diversity of different opinions that must be endured. Diversity is a question of attitude.
Florian Stintzing: I think that’s where the community comes in. It would be dreadful if I were dealing only with myself. The diversity of opinions, language, ways of thinking, laughter, facial expressions, gestures – all of this has great value, and communities are an expression of diversity.
Inke Kruse: The community processes are extraordinarily vital for us – we may be a small company, but we are a very diverse one. And just like in any good orchestra, it is tremendously important to be aware of others and not just play your own instrument. This is the only way that the overall sound will be truly beautiful and harmonious.