A couple of weeks ago I was in London for a day, it was a while since I had visited, I always find the hurly burly exhausting after the peace of the workshop. To remedy this, some time ago I decided visits to London would be infinitely more interesting if I travelled by boat and foot, drawing on the delightful experience of criss-crossing the Bosphorus in Istanbul. This slightly eccentric decision was finally made after several particularly stuffy journeys on tube trains, crushed by people and overpowered by a scent assault. I was struck on that day by the amount of different scents people use daily on their own body – deodorant, hair products, cleanser, face cream, make up, body lotion, perfume – a heady cocktail leaving an overwhelming scent trail in their wake. I love scent and perfume, handled delicately it can be utterly sublime, a salve for the soul but actually we rarely layer our scent in a conscious way to create a consistently beautiful whole. Try standing in a small room and surround yourself with all the scented products you apply daily with the lids off, you’ll be amazed by the combined effect – it can lose delicacy instead becoming a cacophony of scent noise.
I love the idea of taking a product with a scent that is really loved and making all other products ‘fit’ – this could be by using all the matching products in a range or it can be more creative, if Rose is a note in one product why not seek it out in others to complement it. Choose an unscented deodorant for example and concentrate scent in face and body products. Play. Create your own scent profile. Experiment. It is surprising how lovely an effectively layered overall scent can be. I digress…
On this particular London trip I was taking products to Harper’s Bazaar (sadly not on the river) and catching up with Imelda from Content Beauty. I really enjoy our intermittent meetings, she has a refreshing view of green beauty, fantastic product knowledge and is not afraid to criticise brands where green washing may be suspected. Good for her :)
The journey home allowed contemplative time to think about green beauty the place of A.S APOTH within it. I often talk about all the plants we grow at the workshop because they form the lifeblood of what we do, but actually there’s more to it than that – we are lucky enough to be able to grow our plants on an 80 acre organic farm in Sussex, the farm is Soil Association registered, we are not however because so many of our plants are wild harvested, albeit in mountains and meadows far from chemical contamination. It is something of an anomaly that wild gathering precludes Soil Association approval.
The plants we grow feed and sustain the myriad fauna that depend on non-toxic flower, pollen and fruits to survive. It is the symbiotic nature of organic production – we feed the creatures and they, through their daily toil, end up feeding us. A precious but precarious balance.
Over recent months, life at the workshop has been frantic, my usual gentle pace abandoned during the height of the flowering season. It has been a wonderful year for plants cultivated and foraged, Roses, Geranium, Stellaria, Nettle, Plantago, Calendula, Chamomile, Lavender and Clary Sage. These plants form the mainstay of our growing and foraging in the UK, with others beginning to appear in sufficient bulk to incorporate into our ranges – Arnica, Helichrysum, Artemesia, Yarrow, Violets and many more. The difficulty is in reigning in the constant desire to grow more plants and dangerously, we are rapidly approaching the season of the organic seed catalogue…I must clear the ‘flight of fancy’ book ready for the unstoppable flow of ideas that will appear with the turning of every page. Peter who owns Ashurst Organics reminds me that I am now a farmer, not a gardener but my inner gardener craves beds bursting with flowers and colour and I succumb every time to the gardening aesthetic. Monoculture and order are not for me. I love the chaos of natural planting, the tumble of plants, the riot of colour and the scent that naturally combines in the beds to create gorgeous unexpected combinations.
We have had many visits from interested customers, enthusiastic volunteers, talented photographers and inspiring writers – we love opening the doors to visitors, they come bright, full of thoughts and ideas, we see the workshop through their eyes, listen appreciatively to their comments and share our cunning plans. They joyfully help to pick and pluck entering into the full spirit of the place. It is this social aspect of what we do that confirms that we are on the right track. There are few things more pleasing than sitting down after an afternoon of work to share a coffee and plate of buttery shortbread. Choosing to work in this way is hard, it requires openness and an acceptance of the scrutiny of strangers but the non-monetary rewards are vast; the pleasure of the plants, the wonderful people who find their way to our door, the play, the landscape, the exchanges, the processes and the knowledge that we are creating products that are as good as we can make them, that feed the skin and care for the soul – to borrow the motto of the Harris Distillery ‘(one should) be, rather than seen to be’ – there are so many ways to spin ingredients, processes and benefits, so much calculated marketing and PR, so much hidden from open view – in a sea of noise we prefer not to shout but to whisper and quietly we hope eventually our voice will be heard.