This month I’m writing something different and it’s rather long. It’s not about products or musings, it’s about life, business and change. Many of you will know that earlier in the year I moved to the Isle of Harris, a small island off the north west coast of Scotland. A group of islands known as the Western Isles. It was a radical move. A change on every level.
What is less clear to many is why I did it. So today I thought I’d write about that.
People often come into the shop and ask us, if we were to recommend a few of our products, what would they be – are there one or two products that cover all bases?
Because our products are replete with fresh plant ingredients that work on multiple levels, our answer is always, yes.
Be it a toner that also hydrates or a moisturiser that also balances hormones and reduces anxiety – A.S.APOTHECARY has been well ahead of the game when it comes to designing plant rich skincare products with numerous uses.
I’ve had a delightful two days. After late nights and early mornings listening to the news, it was with some relief that I went to meet three Frenchmen who were over visiting the Isle of Harris Distillery. They were making a short film including a bit of cocktail mixing en plein air, which involved a walk out onto the machair meadow with a little table, a bag of bottles, glasses, spoons and a handful of herbs. The flowers were still blooming, the turquoise sea formed the backdrop and Ceapabhal hill rose rather majestically in the background – it is a glorious spot. I met them the evening before the shoot and showed them a few of the things I’ve been working on. We tasted, chatted and then the photographer asked if he could take some photos of me talking with Max the mixologist.
The gnarled and sculptural Hawthorn tree proliferates along the stubbly corridors of our Sussex holloways. Its ancient silhouette decorates our thickets and woodlands and edges the farmland, the arable meadows and the sheep grazed pastures. At this time of year the glossy red berries are easy to find. On a recent walk cross-country to Firle, I was delighted to discover an abundance of the blood red fruit, jewelling a tapestry of hedgerow which lined the bridleway. I filled my canvas bag, and escaped with only a few pricks and scratches, pouring them out onto my kitchen table to dry, ready for use. I’m not normally one for making potions at home, my plant knowledge is limited, but after reading about how beneficial the berries are for heart conditions I began to take a keener interest. I’m hoping their powers for cardiovascular healing might help to protect against the heart failure that is in my family, calm my occasional palpitations and lower my slightly high blood pressure.
A few months ago I had a meeting, it was very interesting. As is my way I arrived with a rucksack of bottles and various twigs, leaves, resins and petals. I always find meetings go well when I surround myself with the tools of my trade, they somehow offer an explanation of what I do far better than a document or even a verbal description. I lay them out on the table and as I start to talk, picking each up in turn, I feel the connection, as if I am a bridge between the client and the landscape. Without them, I feel hopelessly lost.
The A.S.APOTHECARY Distilling Garden at Ashurst Organics in Plumpton is beautiful at this time of year. All of the plants are in flower and the heady scent of dry grasses, soil and floral abundance is redolent of english summertime reaching its final peak before Autumn’s decline. August is a month of intense activity at the farm as plants are maintained and petals are gathered for use in our products. Tara Gould went to visit Head Gardener Miranda Beith and Gardening Assistant and Maker Fern Middleton to discuss the highs and lows of managing a working garden sustainably.
I’m having a moment. I’m looking at the weather forecast in Lewes, East Sussex today and its 26C meanwhile here on Harris it’s a cool 13C. Thus far this Summer on this beautiful island, I’ve taken my vest off twice, immersed myself, in frankly icy water, twice and broken out my sandals three times. Last night I lit the fire and today I’m itching to light it again. This is a tale of two parts, south coast and far north, warm and chilly, over populated and scarcely inhabited.
As visitors to our Lewes shop will know, we have a therapy room. It’s a small and perfectly intimate space for a treatment. We painted the walls a rich pinky terracotta and the ceiling copper. The heating is good, the bed comfortable and the towels fluffy and soft. The walls are decorated with a tryptic of our plants which Julia White painted and adorned sparingly with gold leaf to bring out the opulence of the plants. It is different and it is bespoke, along with everything in the shop.
So I began to think of our offering in that space and how every therapy we offer should be as carefully thought through as the products that are applied. I wanted something that really reflected what we do – the minutiae, the essence and the philosophy.
I want to write about moving to Harris (oh yes I have) but I’ve decided instead to write about ingredients and sneakily talk about the Isle of Harris by way of an example. This month we’re highlighting the Wild Beauty Balm – in part because it is such a brilliant product and I would never travel, even down the road without it in my bag, but also because it illustrates a wonderful truth about our ingredients.
Fern Middleton works at the A.S.APOTHECARY distilling garden and is a textile and print designer. This month we asked her to write a piece exploring her relationship with plants and how that informs her stunning textile designs. In this blog post she beautifully captures this special connection..
I’m sitting under a tree, on a bench, looking across the valley – drinking in the colours, the ochres, umbers, greens and browns of mountain, tree and plant. It’s a view I love, a deep valley rising on the far side to gentle peaks. The shape of the distant mountains resembles a sleeping giant and when the kids were small I’d tell them stories about the giant and when he might one day get up from his slumbers. I painted and drew that view repeatedly, never managing to capture it – the largeness of the landscape somehow escaping my feeble attempts. I think now that I should not have tried to paint the landscape but rather to have made the marks that capture its essence.
We are launching our A.S.APOTHECARY Raw Honey to complement and enhance some of the most popular products in our skincare range. Used in tandem with the A.S.APOTHECARY Wild Beauty Balm or the Bio Mineral Powder it creates a deeply cleansing and nourishing skin treatment. The result is a wonderful blend of botanical and bioactive molecules that naturally and powerfully feed, heal and protect the skin.
People sometimes ask us how they should use our aromatic waters (hydrosols). Flower waters are seen by some as too subtle and gentle to be really effective, or simply as a superfluous indulgence in our daily skincare ritual. Our response is that it depends which hydrosol you are using. Our own aromatic waters are, in fact, equally as powerfully moisturising and healing as our face cream for the skin, and offer many other uses besides.
The dust has settled, weeks have gone by and we have mostly forgotten about Yann Moix’s comments – except me. I’ve thought about them a lot and in this run up to International Women’s Day on the 8th March, I thought I’d write about them.
To help you in your search for the ideal gift for your Valentine, we thought we’d look at some of our favourite archetypal romantic literary characters and the A.S.APOTHECARY products they are so clearly in need of.
I’ve been thinking about love. At this point in the year, we sit down as a team and talk about our thoughts for the year; what we want to do, what we think is important, what should be our focus each month. February is always a struggle because of Valentine’s Day. I loathe it. I always have. It’s not about love. A hastily purchased card, a gift, a bunch of flowers, an expensive dinner is not about enduring love. It’s about an expectation that on a particular pre-named day each year we will receive something that validates us as worthy of love and the absence of it marks us out as not belonging to the tribe of real lovers. It’s nonsense and yet we are made to feel it so keenly. I think Valentine’s Day represents the ‘fast food’ of love - it’s so easy but real love is not. It’s hard.
In summer, when the days are long, our metabolisms and energy levels amp up, but in winter our energy levels reduce and the brain produces more melatonin because of the lack of sunlight, which makes us sleepy. For most of us though, productivity remains the same all year round, and from season to season we make no real distinction and our output levels stay pretty consistent. Perhaps this is the problem?
I love builder’s tea - the familiar dark orange brew, strong enough to stand a spoon up - i have fond memories of my grandmother asking my grandfather to ‘mash the tea’ and mashed it was, not for the fainthearted tea drinker. Tea, along with coffee, serves as the backdrop to my daily life. For many years I’ve tried to like herbal tea, picking up box after box of beautifully packaged teas to add to a cupboard full of once drunk, not repeated brews. The scent is often reasonable but the flavour is dull, the attention to taste minimal. The contents of the teabags resembling the dust of harvests long passed, of grey plants tired and lacking in vitality.
Linda Felcey is a fine artist whose paintings and prints explore an intimate and shifting connection with environment, nature and the impact of the seasons on a rural Sussex landscape. Linda’s exhibition ‘Deluge’ will be showing in the A.S.APOTHECARY shop in Lewes from 30th November until 28th February. Tara Gould visited Linda in her studio, a shepherd’s hut at the foot of the South Down, to find out more about her work process.
Part of our ethos at A.S.APOTHECARY is to support and champion the work of our friends and colleagues in the local community, especially women. Here, Tara Gould interviews the wonderful Cammie Toloui – mother, artist, altruist, cat lover, therapist and American living in Lewes. Cammie enjoyed a stint with our all female Asapoth team in Lewes and we loved her soulful, fun and open hearted presence. To this end, we wanted to celebrate her amazing work and colourful career to date in this blog post.
The Maiyet Collective launched its first event in the Conduit Club, Mayfair last month and will continue to curate monthly events to showcase positive impact luxury brands with a passionate focus on sustainability. This immersive eco retail space includes ready-to-wear, fine jewellery, beauty, home and lifestyle products and regular events include bespoke talks and demos from makers and creators, workshops and storytelling. We were thrilled to have been chosen to showcase our A.S.APOTHECARY skincare.
We admit that we are biased, influenced by our daily contact with this splendid flower, but our love affair with the rose here at A.S.APOTHECARY shows no signs of fading. And to celebrate this Queen of flowers in November is a case in point. The harvest this year was abundant and unusually long, with the extended summer and hot days stretching all the way into mid October, so we found ourselves still in the fields with our baskets until only a few weeks ago.
In 2017 Amber and Adrian Baillie founded Lydhurst Cottages, a hospitality business with luxury holiday cottages on a private country estate on the edge of the Sussex Downs. In this article Amber Baillie reflects on her connection to this Area of Outstanding Beauty and why supporting sustainable local brands and celebrating Sussex are so important to her.
The skin on your lips is thinner than other places on your body, only three layers compared to 16 on your face, which is why it is so crucially important that they are cared for, protected and not covered with noxious substances. In this article, Tara Gould looks at how your trusted lip balm could be a danger to your health.
Some years ago I was approached by a very popular women’s magazine, it was a title I had read with interest from time to time, and I was pleased to be talking to a very pleasant young woman about my work. She was very enthusiastic about what we do, the fact that our team are all women, the provenance of the products etc. It was going well. She explained that this was exactly the kind of story they wanted. As the chat drew to a close she said to me ‘oh I forgot to ask, one last question, how old are you?’ Without a moment’s hesitation I said I was 49. The silence that followed was deafening. Within a minute she made her excuses and rang off and I didn’t hear from them again.
As many self-employed/small business people know, taking time away is a challenge, both logistically and practically. For most businesses though, there is a moment in the year when things quieten down sufficiently to allow a couple of weeks of R&R to be inked indelibly onto the calendar.
While it’s true that the holiday starts at the airport and that a big part of the fun and anticipation is in the journey, any long haul stretch of travelling will have its impact on your system. Skin dehydration, fatigue, jet lag, swollen joints, stiffness, stress and anxiety are just some of the challenges many of us face, whether confined to a car, train or plane for hours on end. Green beauty expert Ellie Gill and A.S.APOTHECARY’s Tara Gould offer their top tips for a restful and enjoyable journey.