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. Read More
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. Read More
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. Read More
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. Read More
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. Read More
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. Read More
The lovely Tara Gould writes the newsletters for A.S Apothecary – they help to tell our story, make offers, introduce therapists and new products, plants and whatever combination of subjects we are interested in. Together we make plans for general areas it might be good for me to write about in the Journal – however, given my wayward character, I seem to write whatever comes to mind; often something seasonal, or arising from a journey or a book I’ve been reading or a plant or landscape that has particularly captivated me (orange blossom distilling in Cyprus next week by the way…)
For the April Journal we discussed writing about the milestones of women’s lives, and I’ve had a week that made me really muse on Menopause so it seems a logical place to start. Read More
It has barely stopped raining for days, odd glimpses of blue amidst a skyscape of unrelenting grey. Welcome 2018. The January of my childhood in Scotland, the cold wind that pierced even the stoutest clothing, the snow and ice, chilled face with rosy cheeks is a distant memory. Replaced with the grey of climate change. I listened to the rain fall from within my snug little house, heard the pitter patter change in rhythm to a heavier drip and looked out to see a drainpipe overflowing from roof to soil.... Read More
“I found three things: a silver mirror, a silk handkerchief, and a glass flask of ointment. These items will help you on your journey, use them when need be. If you ever lose faith in yourself, the mirror will show your inner beauty. In case your reputation is stained, the handkerchief will remind you of how pure your heart is. As for the balm, it will heal your wounds, both inside and outside.” Elif Shafak 40 Rules of Love.
Our shop has been open for almost a year and it seems a good moment to reflect on what we have learned and where we are heading, what drives us forward and what obstacles have threatened to trip us up. Those moments when I’ve needed the mirror, the handkerchief and definitely the balm. Read More
Last night I listened to a talk by Elif Shafak on the revolutionary power of diverse thought. She is a Turkish writer, a Sufi, a feminist and a most beautiful weaver of stories. She is reviled by the conservative right in Turkey and to some extent dismissed by the left, but for me she speaks a truth that resonates with many of my own thoughts. She talked about a world increasingly polarised, fractured, tribal, nationalist and fearful. She discussed the prevalence of simplistic duality of discussion, the ‘with us or against us’ mentality, the loss of ambiguity, complexity and nuance... Read More
Our recent community event was a huge success and we’d like to thank everyone who came along and everyone who was involved, particularly our wonderful therapists, Wendy, Sarah, Charlie, and Bel, who gave so much love and care and energy, offering mini treatments to our guests for the entire evening. Read More
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. Read More
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. Read More
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. Read More
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. Read More
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. Read More
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. Read More
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.
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. Read More
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. Read More