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.
Today I was at the farm, it was a bright and beautiful day. The ground was muddy from days of rain, the sheep over in the field opposite the barn were munching on grass, heavy with lambs. In the beds by the door the daffodils were up, the fennel fronds emerging and the sage looking in need of a Mediterranean break after a long, damp winter.
At the farm we do all our plant work and distilling, it is a very special place. Even without racks of flowers enveloping the place in a rich scent, it is still lovely. We went today to make an order for the Isle of Harris Distillery. We produce an Aromatic Water from Sugar Kelp for them. During the distillations the barn smells of the sea – it was described today as the scent of a fresh sea breeze – and so it is.
One of our wonderful resident therapists, green beauty and make-up expert Ellie Gill is passionate about a holistic approach to skincare and beauty. Here she shares her secrets and explains how you can create your own custom made make-up at home by combining it with A.S APOTHECARY products.
I am 53, my eldest son is 31, my youngest daughter 16, my mother is 83 and my father 86. 5 months ago I became a grandmother. I occupy a space so familiar to women of my age and generation. I am a daughter, mother, sister, wife and grandmother – I am all of these women every day.
Each of these roles carries responsibility, each requires time and thought, most demand attention and action, sometimes with the benefit of time to prepare but more often in haste. For women like me (and there are so many of us) the years fly by in a flurry of activity, with work and family taking up every minute of every day. Time, which seemed to go on for ever as a child suddenly compresses. Christmas – the marker of the year as the zenith of activity both work and family appears to come round ever faster.
Pivotal to the plan for the A.S APOTHECARY shop was the decision to bring therapists to the space who would offer our clients the opportunity to both experience our products through massage and facials and also to have access to excellent wellbeing therapists who could improve health.
To this end we are delighted to introduce you to each of them:
It’s cold and rainy, I’m sitting at my desk in the shop looking at the grey, Tupperware sky and leafless trees. On Western Road cars slowly roll past with headlights on and windscreen wipers flicking back and forth. Outside it is less than lovely. It is the point in the year that is neither Winter nor Spring. After the leaves and before the riot of bulbs erupt to welcome colour back into the garden. Before the Daphne odora aureomarginata opens her perfect flowers to release a scent that captivates the senses and needs only one tiny sprig to scent an entire room.
"When talking to other people about my blog, I am commonly asked how I got in to blogging and more specifically how I got in to beauty. For as long as I can remember, I have been interested in beauty products, the scents, the feel, the packaging and most importantly how they make us feel. As a teenager most of my pocket money would be spent on make up and skincare, I read glossy magazines, followed the trends with interest and coveted products I couldn’t afford.
In my twenties something happened that changed my outlook on beauty and my life forever. At the age of twenty five I had my first child, whilst pregnant I started to check the ingredients lists in my beauty products, previous favourites were discarded and I made fundamental changes to every aspect of my life. Although I wanted to minimise the chemicals my baby and I were exposed to, I wasn’t quite ready to give up my love affair with beauty and so my journey with natural, organic and artisan produced products began.
I’ve been reading a lot of commentaries recently on flower waters and how fantastic they are for the skin. Many beauty bloggers advocate their use and rightly so, a great flower water is a magical ingredient. They are used by themselves as spritzers, toners and subtle perfumes and added to food and drinks for unusual and interesting flavours. They are also incorporated into any number of mists and cosmetics as significant ingredients. However, as an artisanal distiller I wanted to write a little about some of the differences between flower waters because they are certainly not all equal and many are not quite what they seem.
We have completed our first week at the shop. It has been great. And what a journey.
From pencil sketches on the back of envelopes to work out storage with Catherine Cridland, deciding on what kind of oak for shelving and how to hang it without any visible fixings (huge metal pins and resin for your information) the hunt for the perfect chair with my sister, bashing up flowers to get pigments so that any colour applied in the shop would directly link back to our plants followed by the utterly joyful commissioning of pieces to use in the space.
At this time of year we are normally sitting back to draw breath before the Christmas orders start arriving, but this year is slightly different. With our first A.S APOTHECARY shop about to open in Lewes we are clearing, sorting, painting, packing and making. It is rather more full on than we are used to, but the end and the beginning are within sight.
Many months ago, I approached Galina Atchkasova-Portianoi and asked her to write a piece for the Journal - I had met Galina several times and was struck by her enquiring mind, clear thinking and dedication to her work. She sent the words you see below and I am very grateful to her for patiently waiting for its publication to coincide with an update of our website. Thank you Galina...
"When Amanda approached me about writing a guest blog post, the subject that she suggested seemed a little surprising initially, but the more I thought about it, the more I realised how she 'hit' the nerve, as the subject has been inately on my mind for the last few months.
We are opening a shop. Soon. And a therapy room. By the end of October our door will be flung open and you can really enter our world; feel our products, smell our oils, touch some of our plants and talk to us about what you need for your skin. You can have facials and massages with our little team of wonderful women as often as you like and if you want something really special we’ll be creating truly bespoke products by appointment.