For a small town Lewes boasts a wealth of unique and superb independent traders and businesses, making for a rich and inspiring Christmas shopping experience. Sustainability sits hand in hand with supporting community and championing local business, values that have always been central to our philosophy here at A.S.APOTHECARY. To this end, we wanted to showcase the wonderful work of some of our favourite local traders and makers...
“I found three things: a silver mirror, a silk handkerchief, and a glass flask of ointment. These items will help you on your journey, use them when need be. If you ever lose faith in yourself, the mirror will show your inner beauty. In case your reputation is stained, the handkerchief will remind you of how pure your heart is. As for the balm, it will heal your wounds, both inside and outside.” Elif Shafak 40 Rules of Love.
Our shop has been open for almost a year and it seems a good moment to reflect on what we have learned and where we are heading, what drives us forward and what obstacles have threatened to trip us up. Those moments when I’ve needed the mirror, the handkerchief and definitely the balm.
The process of creating a new skincare product is a fine art, it takes a plant expert with a deep and thorough understanding of botanicals and their therapeutics to design an exceptional, natural product that is both effective and beautifully scented.
Last night I listened to a talk by Elif Shafak on the revolutionary power of diverse thought. She is a Turkish writer, a Sufi, a feminist and a most beautiful weaver of stories. She is reviled by the conservative right in Turkey and to some extent dismissed by the left, but for me she speaks a truth that resonates with many of my own thoughts. She talked about a world increasingly polarised, fractured, tribal, nationalist and fearful. She discussed the prevalence of simplistic duality of discussion, the ‘with us or against us’ mentality, the loss of ambiguity, complexity and nuance...
Our recent community event was a huge success and we’d like to thank everyone who came along and everyone who was involved, particularly our wonderful therapists, Wendy, Sarah, Charlie, and Bel, who gave so much love and care and energy, offering mini treatments to our guests for the entire evening.
Sarah Lomax and Rachel Skinner have been making hats for over 20 years since serving their apprenticeships together with Frederick Fox, the Queen’s milliner. Their Lewes based bespoke millinery continues to thrive, and the recent publication of their beautiful book, published by GMC is a fitting milestone in their careers. Here, Tara Gould talks to them about their love of hats.
In our window this month are four large glass jars filled with liquid, which on close inspection are tinged ruby red; we are infusing Hypericum perforatum in oil, a powerful therapeutic that will be used in many of our products. The skill of the Apothecary is not just to know which plant is therapeutic and which part yields the healing properties but when is the moment to collect it
Autumn is here. My nightly need for fresh air with windows flung open, suddenly tempered by the realisation last night that I was not cool but cold. It’s curious the small cues that mark the seasonal change long before the leaves are turning and the plants begin their full on retreat back into the earth for a season or two of hibernation and regeneration. It starts with the air. A change in the scent and an almost perceptible thickening of its texture so apparent at dawn.
Lewes Priory promises to be a fitting setting for the sale of traditionally distilled spirits, created using an apothecary's art, and it is here that A.S. Apothecary’s Sussex Rose & Blue Spruce Tonic will make its debut
Although nettles are often regarded as an annoyance and something to root out in your garden, they have multiple benefits both for you and for the environment. Nettles are a magnet for wildlife, and according to the RSPB, attract 40 kinds of insects. Certain moths and butterflies such as Peacock, Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Comma and Painted Lady lay their eggs under the stinging leaves – a natural protection from grazing animals.
In a world where rampant competition and the relentless pursuit of profit seem to predominate, we like to think that we do things a little more gently. A.S Apothecary is a venture with collaboration and sharing at its heart. We don’t have investors or commercially borrowed capital because we are fiercely independent and we want to do business on our own terms, in our own way.
There is a wealth of talent in Lewes, and we love to support and promote the exceptional work of local artists and makers that we feel sit well with our own brand in terms of aesthetics and values. It is such a pleasure to offer these pieces for sale in the shop, alongside our own skincare and other beautiful and useful products that Amanda picks up on her travels. Here you can see the full list of our collaborators:
It’s dawn at the cottage, in the Highlands of Scotland it gently glides into morning, light slowly emerging – much as everything here it works on its own timetable – Scottish time, Highland time and finally Island time, the slowest of all.
Last night the sun finally went down at 10pm after a three hour dusk where the sky gradually darkened casting tones of inky blue across loch, hill and tree. I love both ends of the day here – it is so unlike our home in Sussex where the day seems to begin quickly, urgently and closes after a brief but beautiful flurry of colour.
It is small wonder that Chloris, the nymph of Spring, and goddess of flowers, named the rose the Queen of Flowers. In touch, fragrance and aesthetic its floral qualities are unmatched. On a warm Summer’s day, who hasn’t plunged their face into the silken, cool layered petals for an airy draught of sweet-scented bliss, so sensual, refreshing and beguiling no words can do it justice.
For one week, starting at 7am on Monday July 17th we are thrilled to be supporting the important Makers 4 Refugees Week, raising funds for refugees around the world by selling A.S.APOTHECARY products and gift in an open auction each day on Instagram.
Every year a team of willing volunteers helps us with the rose picking. This year we spent a hot July day in amongst the fragrant roses, surrounded by the insects, the birds and the fields and rolling hills of rural East Sussex. We are hugely grateful for everyone's involvement, their hard work and positive, helpful presence makes the whole experience such a joyful communal activity, full of laughter and connection. We asked each of our rose pickers why for them this is such a special event.
Unexpectedly I find myself sitting – this is unheard of through the Summer when the flowers are reaching their peak and the distilling, drying and plant work flows like an unstoppable tide of greenery to rejoice over and manage. However, having fallen over rather badly whist dashing to the farm last week, I’m now directing operations rather than doing them. It is a very strange sensation.
It is a bright sunny day here, the scent from the jasmine by our door wafts in and roses from the farm brought by Emily our guardian of the garden, offer a reminder of the sheer abundance of this time of year.
Elderflower has been referred to as the ‘medicine chest of the people,’ because of its many therapeutic benefits. The flowers contain a wealth of complex flavonoids and are replete with vitamins A and C.
It is that glorious time, the point in the year when the hedgerows are bursting with flowers and plants full of healing and taste. About a week ago the wonderful A.S Apothecary team headed out on our annual hunt for Elderflower. This has become something of a ritual for us, a moment in the year to come together and celebrate the sheer abundance of the Elder and to marvel at how it grows in the least hospitable places, often on the far side of deep ditches surrounded by thickets of the largest healthiest nettles to be found anywhere.
The barn at the farm is both sanctuary and plant space. It houses our Alembic Stills, the drying racks, shelves of jars and bottles filled with any number of experiments, flowers and herbs. It is the heart of A.S APOTHECARY. The place where ideas and ingredients come together in alchemical harmony. It is the place I retreat to when I need to think through an idea or reflect on some troubling aspect of life or business.
Communal beauty rituals are something women have performed for centuries. The shared actions of cleansing, washing, grooming and nourishing served a deeper need than vanity or personal hygiene, they were a natural vehicle for intimacy, they helped women bond with one another, improved well being and strengthened and facilitated familial and community relationships.
At A.S.APOTHECARY we are passionate about sharing the stories of brands that share our values, both in terms of sustainable processes and exceptional quality. Linenme is a Surrey based family business using the time-tested traditions of hand weaving and decorating with modern technology to produce beautiful, natural and durable linen products. Here, Content and Feature's Editor Lulah Ellender explains what it is that makes this artisanal linen brand so unique.
One of our favourite British stockists is The New Craftsman, a unique organisation that champions and represents the luxury, traditional crafts and products of over 75 exceptional British makers and artisans.
I’m sitting on a bench on the edge of a woodland. The sky is heavy with clouds in shades of grey, rain is threatening. The dandelions and daisies have curled themselves up tight – ‘refurled’ to keep cold and water at bay. In the wood there are saplings by the dozen hopefully pushing up through the soil, their first true leaves soft and green against the dark woodland floor. In stereo the birds sing an evensong from every tree, it is a harmonious dusk soundscape. Only one yellow wood anemone remains, all the others now returned to the earth for another year. The daffodils too are finished, the bright yellow flowers replaced by swollen green heads of seed.
Since its launch as a magazine Selvedge has grown into so much more than a publication, with a strong community of designers and devotees, its own store in Highgate and a vibrant programme of workshops. It has also opened its arms to brands and artisans that are not directly using textiles in their products but that share similar values of integrity, traditional processes and craftsmanship. We are big fans of Selvedge and, it seems, they are of us! We were thrilled to be featured in their magazine recently and we'll also be getting involved in their Craft Spa Day at The Art Worker's Guild in Bloomsbury on May 5th. Here, features Editor Niamh McCoohey talks more about this exciting event:
We like to think of our aromatic waters as ‘the perfect plant elixir’, and for good reason. The therapeutic and beauty benefits of these wonderful aromatics are manifold, they are powerfully healing, yet gentle enough to use on the most sensitive skin. Using them is a sensual delight.
A.S.APOTHECARY flower waters are special. They are a world apart from commercial equivalents because we distil using time honoured methods, and we are fastidious about ingredients and quality. As an artisanal distillery our processes differ hugely from large commercial distilleries, whose focus is on profit and quantity, over quality and purity.
It’s 5.45am. I’m sitting in a little wooden hut looking out at a dawn breaking over miles of pristine golden sand with only the sound of the sea gently lapping at the shore. The cabin is basic but ideal for a couple of nights break at the end of a week of constant picking and distilling with my sister. It is my guilty pleasure. It is as far as one can travel on this island and one of the last places to remain truly unspoilt. Donkeys with extra big ears mosey along, birds chirrup joyfully, there is no traffic, no noise beyond the natural and, at this magical time of year, an abundance of endemic cyclamen strongly scented of honey and lily of the valley and wild flowers as far as the eye can see. Tourists have yet to arrive, the sea being cold and the temperature only around 22C. I love it. It makes me feel free.
On the farm in March and April, apart from the seasonal spring-cleaning of the barn, we begin to plant the calendula seeds, pushing them into trays of rich organic compost. Later, when the seedlings are robust enough we pot them on.We grow calendula between other plants. It's a fast growing annual so it grows, flowers and self-seeds in one year. We love it between the roses, the orange and reds look so beautiful together and we feel that it supports the other plants around it.
We think about new products for months before we start making – we don’t believe in producing for the sake of it nor to create an unnecessary need. As women we have enough product bombardment to cover every crease, patch and line of our bodies – in contrast we are about simplifying, creating rituals that require a few key products that can perform several different functions. We harness the pure power of plants.