The process of making an AS.AP face cream and more specifically what makes it unique is an interesting question. In time, a single face cream takes between 30 minutes and 12 months depending on how literally the question is answered but the uniqueness is a more complex issue to consider.
Deciding what to make and which oils to use is a delicate process of composing - holding each scent profile in mind, thinking about the therapeutic intention and then whether the plants will grow on the soil we have out at the workshop. We are fortunate to have greensand which is pretty forgiving and in our case unpolluted by chemicals for over 100 years. The nettles and docks are hugely vigorous as are the rabbits who graze along beds testing soft shoots with wild abandon. They rarely eat just one plant preferring to snack on as many as possible, always selecting the softest, newest growth.
Growing as much as possible is a difficult route, as is distilling, tincture, enfleurage and maceration. We could make life easy, essential oils and flower waters are available on the internet, ordered in a second, paid for instantly and in my hand a day later - but we choose not to, which leads into the second part of the question - what makes our work unique. To work with our landscape, climate and growing conditions, to select the seed from a reliable supplier, to sow it carefully in little cells, to water, weed and watch it, to transplant and nurture it and then finally to harvest it is a privilege. To hold in your hand the flower head of a Calendula with its bright orange petals and perceive its vitality is actually awesome.
Once dried and packed in oil, left in the sun for 6 weeks and then strained, squeezing every last ounce of healing oil from it, is a pleasure difficult to describe. The bright orange Calendula infused oil is so fresh and vital. It holds such promise.
We work on a human scale, there is nothing industrial about where or how we work. It's not high tech or shiny stainless steel, it's warm and gentle and it smells amazing...always. Every bowl we use has been used many times before, the oak table where I sit to work with my oils is covered in notes and bottles and my cooker is ancient but perfect for the job. The only modern piece is Val the 200litre Alembic Still but even he is true to a tradition of Stills hand beaten to the same design by coppersmiths for hundreds of years. The windowsill, stacked with herb filled bottles and jars macerating in the warmth, also displays my burgeoning collection of pebbles and treasures. It is a workshop not a factory - creative not conveyor belt.
And that is what makes it unique. Knowing the plants, capturing their essential vitality, collaborating with friends, understanding that it is the minutiae that makes the difference, suffusing each pot with positive intention and only making what we can, seasonally and on our terms. Being driven to be small in scale but huge in benefits.
There are very few jobs where the process of work is full (in equal measure) with excitement, frustration, joy, a fair amount of skipping, quite a lot of singing and occasionally whooping with delight.
The real-time process of our face cream production is years in the planning, months in the growing, weeks in the transformation and finally 30 minutes in the making. Little wonder we celebrate its arrival.