San Antonio atelier Cultus Artem elevates handcrafted, small-batch fragrance and skincare to a fine art.
There is nothing more intimate than the scents we wear on our skin—and the same can be said of crafting these products for a select few. “The sensuality of that experience to me is the art form,” explained Cultus Artem founder Holly Tupper, whose passion for her craft is deeply personal and drives her dedication to oversee every stage of her in-house production.
The philosophy behind the brand can be summed up by its name: “Cultus” is Latin for the practice of adornment and “Artem”—the root word for art—is the conscious arrangement of elements to affect the senses and emotions. “I wanted to create a name that really spoke to the complete essence of what I am about, why I am doing what I do, and how I am doing it,” said Tupper, who has over 30 years of global experience in the art, skincare, and fragrance industries.
Launched in 2015, the aptly named beauty brand is now carried by major retail partners like Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Beautyhabit, and Tokyo’s Ron Herman, but Tupper is keeping the artisanal aspect of her business front and center. All Cultus Artem products, including skincare, fragrance, and jewelry, are made by hand in small batches in a historic San Antonio atelier that’s also home to unique artifacts like a 19th century copper bathtub.
Focusing on all-natural, clean ingredients that stimulate all five senses, Cultus Artem merges old-world methods with modern approaches. “I use natural ingredients,” Tupper said. “I don’t use synthetic scent molecules.” The forward-thinking founder emphasizes that mindful sourcing must extend beyond the dining table. “I think we are what we eat,” she says. “What we put on our skin is also important.”
From touch to scent to everything in between, Cultus Artem products are crafted to be savored. Blending creativity with science-backed formulas to create botanically derived, cruelty-free, vegan products, Tupper’s collections are, at their core, works of art.
Tupper, who studied the science of fragrance in France and Thailand, sees similarities between fragrance-making and sculpting. “You are working with different elements, and you compose them into a unified entity with different, disparate bits,” she explained. “So, it’s a combination of the ingredients to create the sensation. And that, to me, is an art.”
Just like any great artist, Tupper is diligent about every step of the process. Items are made to order and every step—from a product’s inception to manufacturing and packing for shipping—takes place in-house at the atelier.
This gives Tupper the ability to shape the Cultus Artem experience from beginning to end, as well as focus on waste mitigation. For example, Cultus Artem product boxes are made to be reused, the skin care and fragrance bottles are made of glass, and the brand uses one pump atomizer for all skincare pumps, which cuts down on plastic consumption.
As the brand expands, Tupper continues to come up with ways to elevate the products. Later this year, Cultus Artem will launch a refill program for its skincare products, as well as offer them in travel-size options. Tupper also has an incense line in the works, collaborating with other artists to create the vessels. No matter what is to come, fans of Cultus Artem can expect Tupper to stay true to what her brand has always represented.
“The products really stand up to what they say they are,” she said. “They really are natural. They really have a low footprint. They are exquisite smelling and they really do feel amazing. We are creating something of great elegance.”