A decision to move to the Wairarapa for a more self-sufficient life saw Jan and her partner Stuart found Lavender Abbey, growing lavender for essential oils and beauty products. We asked Jan to share her natural cosmetics journey, including some of the challenges and highlights along the way.
Hi Jan! Tell us a bit about yourself: where do you live, and what do you do for a day job?
A city girl born in Wellington, turned country girl. In 2008, Stuart and I decided to relocate from Wellington to Wairarapa for a lifestyle change. We wanted to become more self-sufficient growing our own food. Since late last year, Lavender Abbey has become my full-time day job and I love it.
What led you to making your own lavender essential oil? Did you have experience in it at all, or did you learn on the job?When looking at properties, the one that took my fancy immediately was a property in Carterton, which had a newly planted lavender crop. The owners planted it and decided to move on not long after, so we really lucked in there.
Knowing absolutely nothing about lavender, it was really a dream coming to fruition. I wanted to be a florist in my younger years but stuck to the tried and true office accounting work. I have always felt I was missing a creative outlet.
I wanted to be a florist in my younger years but stuck to the tried and true office accounting work. I have always felt I was missing a creative outlet.
There was a huge lavender learning curve and we are still learning after 10 years. However, we are doing something right as we have won awards for our ‘Grosso’ lavender essential oil for two years. We are also growing an English ‘Violet Intrigue” lavender which smells amazing. The English lavenders do not produce as much oil as the French, so I do not use the English oil in my products, we only sell it by the 10ml bottle, it is special.
What are some of the products you make, and where do you sell them?
We produce lavender essential oil, balms, butters, lotions, soap, wood polish, sleeping solutions, women’s hormonal range, also culinary lavender and wedding confetti. Our product range is ever increasing; ideas pop in to my head all the time. We have exciting new products coming soon.
From September-April we attend markets in Wairarapa, Wellington and the lower North Island. Our website has a list of dates and locations of where we will be each weekend. We also sell our products on our website. Currently our products are also for sale at Martinborough Wine Merchants, Carterton Paua World and Carterton’s No. 23 Art Gallery.
When did you discover Go Native/natural beauty?
A couple of years after growing lavender, we thought we had better produce products with our oil as it was starting to accumulate. For the past seven years, we have been producing our own Lavender Abbey range. I have been purchasing from Go Native ever since, I can buy anything I need for my products at one place and know I am going to receive it promptly.
Soap-making in action.
Have you had any mishaps in the process of making your own products, or indeed on the lavender growing side of things?
When I first started making soap, it used to freak me out a bit. At first it was quite a pressured exercise due to the reactions of the soaping process and me not having the confidence when I started. Now I can pretty much make soap with my eyes closed (not literally). I am more calm and collected now, must be all the lavender oil I am sniffing.
After 10 years harvesting lavender and having been stung by bees a few times, this year there was a mishap! I got stung loading the vat when we were distilling. I had a mild anaphylactic shock and had to go to the 24hr doctors’ surgery, they gave me an adrenaline shock in the butt and some prednisone tablets. I now have an epi-pen, just in case.
Now I can pretty much make soap with my eyes closed (not literally). I am more calm and collected now, must be all the lavender oil I am sniffing.
What's the coolest thing you've learned in the process of running your business and making your own products?
Coming from an accounting background, I can deal with that side of the business easily. Starting the markets was a little more difficult as I was not used to “being out there” in front of people. I was an office worker, stuck behind four walls. Being at the markets now is second nature and having a good product range that people return for, makes it all worthwhile. I love their feedback and enthusiasm of our products.
What natural beauty products or ingredients do you find yourself recommending most often?
Our essential oil and our magnesium sleep lotion fly out the door. We make a luscious massage oil with lemongrass and lavender essential oil, along with a scrumptious hand cream that people love. We even make a pet balm, with healing frankincense and our lavender essential oil for calming; it is great for hot spots, cracked paws, sunburnt noses and even calming your new puppy.
I enjoy blending our lavender essential oils with other essential oils and creating natural balms and lotions. Our new hot flush balm and calm my mind are popular and assist with hormonal changes and the stress of our busy lives these days.
Who are your favourite social media follows for inspiration?
I mostly follow overseas lavender farms and Pinterest for ideas for something different.
Where can people follow you to find out more about Lavender Abbey?
Our website talks about us, what we do at Lavender Abbey – from making products to our “famous” Pick-your-own Lavender event. Our lavender field is open selected weekends in January for picking. Check out our website or Facebook page for the dates closer to the time, come and experience our Little Provence in Carterton, Wairarapa.