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.
And then I have watched Ray Shaw and Marcus Ripley slowly, carefully and thoughtfully transform the space into the beautiful shop that it has become. They are a wonderful pair who have wrestled, in good humour, with falling walls, leaking pipes and huge planks of oak to be fixed to walls 8 ft up in the air and most of all with my ideas that have evolved in my head rather than in a pre-determined plan. They have worked days, evenings and often whole weekends, I can't thank them enough.
We could have done it faster, we could have bought fit for purpose furniture, found shelves and settled for an off the peg shop but the ethos of A.S APOTHECARY has to apply to everything we do. It has to flow through every part of our business. So just as every product takes its own time determined by the plants we grow, so the shop needed to evolve, drawing on the skills of master craftsmen – experts in their field.
We commissioned Charlie Palmer and Tom Wunsch to make our counter and an Apothecary Unit known affectionately as Martha. Numerous visits, drawings, mock ups followed by standing around with tape measures imagining the size. We knew we wanted to use oak and copper and long lasting dovetail joints. I was also keen to treat the copper surface so that it became gentle on the eye and inviting to touch. I asked Charlie to patinate it, which is where copper is exposed to fine wood chips soaked in various acids. We saved the planed oak chips from our shelves and Charlie used those to patinate the work surface. It has blues, greens and even dark maroon interspersed across the copper. As the sun hits it, I can’t take my eyes off it – the changing colour and texture are mesmeric.
The unit also had to serve several purposes, to store all our products to keep the shelves uncluttered but also to be able to extend to 3m for workshops and display. Charlie and Tom devised folding wings which, when down, rest flush with the sides of the piece and when deployed (Tom’s word) extend out to make the most beautiful flowing surface. We seem to spend a lot of time inviting each other to ‘deploy the wings’ just to see the beautiful mechanism.
Charlie also made our oak display boxes and card holders which are on every shelf, these are open boxes with a patinated copper front and small oak blocks with a copper plate to hold information cards – they offer a slightly different colour palette to Martha but also create a flow of design and colour throughout the shop. I love them.
We commissioned Fern Middleton to screen print the curtains in the therapy room and hall. Fern has been volunteering at the farm for the last year travelling down from London on her days off. She is a textile designer and quite wonderful. For our curtains, we wanted a subtle design so Fern took some of our Hypericum and used it as inspiration. When you’re lying on the couch having a massage or a facial you’ll see the light filtering through the curtains and the subtle Hypericum design. It’s beautiful. Fern has also been working on a limited edition (only 10) waxed canvas and leather bag with Grace Gordon and Emily Webzell – more on this later…
As the next few weeks progress you’ll see the fruits of numerous collaborations arriving in the shop – we are so excited to share these with you. The shop is more than our skincare, although that is the mainstay of the space, it’s also about bringing together artists and makers who share our ethos, people who work with or are inspired by plants and have become part of the ASAPOTH family.
We are open Wednesday to Saturday 10am to 5pm at 31 Western Road, Lewes, BN7 1RL. We’re the first shop on the left as you enter the town. Come and see what we’re up to…and sit in our perfect chair (we did find it although Steve Luker had to rebuild and reupholster it)
Ray Shaw our builder can be contacted on 07580 648059
Marcus Ripley our amazing painter and organiser of perfect line and harmony can be reached on 07765 973341
Charlie Palmer can be contacted on 07973 725125 and Tom Wunsch's number is 07981 800895
Steve Luker upholsterer's number is 01273 480572