We launched Essence & Alchemy last week, our first aromatherapy wall full of fresh flowers, calming scents and pure essential oils.
We take a look behind the scenes and ask Lesley, founder of Essence & Alchemy a few questions about how she set up her business.
Why & how did you start your business?
We’ve been renovating our home, a run down 1860s detached stone house with a 70s extension since August 2012. I started making candles not long after we moved in. I’m not sure why or how it came about but once I started I couldn’t stop. I became obsessed with creating the best eco-friendly and natural candle that I could make. I’ve always loved the use of aromatherapy and how it can heal different emotional and physical states. I’ve been blending essential oils since I was young, whether it was a potion for the oil burner to help me work or aromatherapy bath/body oils. I’m not a big fan of artificial lighting so being able to combine my love of aromatherapy with natural candle-light is my perfect alchemy!
Starting out was quite difficult as we didn’t have any heating and a very basic kitchen with no worktops and an ancient gas cooker. I used to melt the wax on the stove in a make-shift bain-marie, blend my essential oils on the kitchen table and then pour the candles and pop them in the oven on low so they wouldn’t set too quickly in the cold. It took lots of experimenting. I came up with Flowers, Roses and Hibernate, Unwind followed with Purify and Tranquility. I started selling at fairs and a few shops via Instagram and the business has grown organically from there.
We love your designs and the packaging is beautiful too, can you tell us a little bit about your inspirations for not only the fragrances but the branding too?
Thank you! I receive a lot of positive comments about my branding which is so rewarding because it’s so personal to me. I’m from an environmental science background and my initials are LAB so it made sense to start from there. I wanted the brand to reflect me, who I am and my passions. The packaging all had to be reusable and the card board tubes made from recycled card. The design was inspired by retro laboratory glass ware and embossed labelling. ‘Essence’ because I use natural essences and ‘Alchemy’ because I combine natural materials and transform them into beautiful products. Each candle has a triangle on the label, which is the alchemical symbol for fire and the atmosphere mists have the symbol for air, so everything links in.
Inspiration for the fragrances comes in different forms, either a scent, a memory, a favourite essential oil or the effect I’d like to achieve. ‘Roses’ was created because we live at Rose Cottage and our garden is full of beautiful ancient roses and their natural perfume is incredible. I would love to use rose absolute essential oil but it’s too expensive and precious to burn. I combined 3 rose oils so ‘Roses’ was quite an easy name to come up with! Similarly ‘Flowers’, as it contains ylang-ylang which is known as the Flower of Flowers.
How did you find making your Supermarket Sarah wall?
It was great fun making the wall. I knew what style of wall I wanted to create and I was so pleased that my friend and talented photographer Helena Fletcher was there to help. Helena has a great eye for detail and always gets me and what I want to achieve.
We used the bedroom in the 70s part of the house, which has the exposed stone end wall from the old house. I knew I wanted to use this room for the wall, so it was all systems go leading up to the day of the shoot. The room was re-plastered and then we painted it white and the oak strip flooring was reclaimed from the dining room and relaid up there by my husband Dan.
All the product shots have been taken by Helena during different stages of the renovation, which I love because they are a reminder of our journey. Most of the props in the wall shot are salvaged, borrowed or made from reclaimed wood and the flowers were from the garden.
Which product is your favourite on the wall and why?
Oh that’s always a difficult one and changes depending what mood I am but I would have to say the large Purify candle, I love the scent and it clears my head and helps me focus. I’m pretty busy at the moment so it’s helping me a lot right now.
What are your future plans for Essence and Alchemy?
I’m always designing and testing and there are some new Essence + Alchemy products coming soon. I love collaborating with other makers or organisations for limited editions or bespoke projects. The limited edition Festive candle will be released in November and I’m working on a few other winter and spring products. I’m moving into a larger workshop in November so I’m very excitedly planning the new laboratory!