Root and branch

Re-blogged from

Welcome to The Dip Project blog – a place to record my enthusiastic experiments with handmade bath and beauty. There’ll be recipes, ideas and reflections on here. But before all this, I want to share the roots beneath The Dip Project – a project that one day may become a business.

Natural beauty is my thing; it always has been. From an early age, my parents, in particular Dad –  a watercolour artist, musician and all round creative synesthete – encouraged my love for it. I remember stargazing with him in the back garden (deck chairs, hot tea and blankets on our knees), marvelling as  he mapped out the heavens. Orion. Andromeda. Ursa Major. I remember our visits to shops along the Dorset coast, researching and building up a collection of semi-precious gemstones to fill the box my Grandpa Harold made especially. The purity of diamonds, rubies and sapphires paled in comparison to the delights of rutilated quartz, iron pyrites, hematite, amethyst or moss agate. They still do.

The heavens opened.
The heavens opened.
After the storm. Bottling rainwater in Payrac, Dordogne.
After the storm. Bottling rainwater in Payrac, Dordogne.

And I remember the moment when I first became interested in natural health, beauty and cosmetics. On a family camping trip to the Dordogne – I was perhaps twelve or thirteen years old – we got caught in a  particularly impressive thunderstorm. After digging ditches around the tent, we took cover and waited for it to pass. When we emerged, the forest was suddenly ripe with the aroma of saturated pine – sap and needle, giving up the freshest aroma I’d known. We took deep breaths. It was a magical day. But strangely, what I remember most was the softening effect the  rain water had had on our hair, and how I enlisted my sisters to help me  collect it from the trees. I wanted to bottle it.

One of my first jobs was for the now extinct Culpeper, the high street herbalist. This was where my interest became a passion. As I restocked the shops’ drawers with dried medicinal herbs – eyebright, comfrey, senna, valerian, hops – and the old wooden shelves with apothecary bottles of essential oil – neroli, vetivert, sandalwood, jasmine and bergamot, a magical, fragrant world of possibilities opened up. The line between mind and body began to blur. I dealt with a wide range of customer queries there, from people seeking natural treatments for the complexion and hair, but also for anxiety, insomnia and impotence. I dabbled with aromatherapy, made messy tomato and oatmeal face masks in the kitchen and contemplated a degree in medicinal herbalism.

And while the path I chose meant I wouldn’t make a living this way – not at this point, anyway – the seed had been well and truly sown.  The interest never faded, it just moved aside for the serious business of building a career, home and family to happen. But in recent years it has become stronger again – to the point where I feel the need to really indulge it. Explore it. And blog about it.

This is the story behind what I am calling The Dip Project. Feel free to join me as I fumble my way. Try the recipes. Send comments. I’d love to hear from you.


6 thoughts on “Root and branch”

  1. Inspirational Steph, in all the years I’ve known you I’ve never heard the full story behind your love for luscious beauty products made from all things natural. Lovely to hear / read it all in one place. I’ll be following with interest, lovely (while nicely buffed with your delectable Scrub Tropicana!) xx

  2. Lovely blog, Steph. Keep it coming – Guides love making face scrubs and all things natural beauty, so I’ll be scouring your blog for new ideas. Love your storytelling too. You are the most authentic person I know. Always true to yourself and your story. Big hugs. x

    1. Thanks for following, Sarah – I’m following you too now. Ah, yes the rambling storytelling – can’t help it. So many memories are tied up with smells, ablutions…

  3. Really lovely intro Steph. Great story, of course beautifully written and fabulous choice of picture. So loved your Scrub Tropicana…… Looking forward to this story unfolding. Much love, Hannah

    1. Thanks, Hannah. Was thinking of some form of Maybank : Matthews collaboration for the next one. Have you painted any herbs or flowers with cosmetic/ medicinal purposes of late? The new post on lip balm features marshmallow root.

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