As our collective stress levels continue to rise, the wellness industry is booming and, much like meditation, mysticism and natural beauty, aromatherapy is undergoing a makeover.
Essence + Alchemy is a Sheffield-based botanical scented goods brand creating beautiful and sustainable natural rapeseed wax candles, scented only with 100% natural essential oils, hand-poured into handblown British-made borosilicate glass vessels. With a true commitment to handcrafting sustainable collections with honesty and transparency to support natural well-being, they are true pioneers of a circular economy within the home fragrance industry.
Every component of an Essence + Alchemy candle, from raw materials to production and packaging is sourced and made responsibly, reinforcing respect for the planet and humankind. Hand-poured with plant wax derived from rapeseed, a plant grown in the UK and Europe and scented only with pure essential oils, E+A candles are natural, eco-friendly, petroleum and toxin-free.
Essence + Alchemy is like a scientific equation, a formula of combining natural scent with a little bit of magic mixed in.
Founder Lesley Bramwell started out as an Environmental Scientist working in industrial manufacturing. “Long before the ethos of Essence + Alchemy came about, aromatherapy had been part of my daily life for many years,” Lesley tells me. “I’ve always been fascinated with how essential oils work, their wonderful scents and therapeutic properties. I would blend combinations to help with my own health and well-being with positive effects, whether that was mental, hormonal, or physical. I’d reached a point in my life, the beginnings of a house renovation and a long career as an environmental consultant where I was always travelling and I felt that I needed to create a different space for myself and embark on a new journey.”
“Aromatherapy has been around for over 5000 years,” Lesley tells me. “I’m not sure that the practices have evolved, if anything we are reverting back to traditional remedies and practices like meditative rituals. Historically aromas from herbs and flowers were seen to protect us from physical diseases believed to be carried in bad smells, and today we use it as a mechanism to help our mental wellbeing. The benefits gained from using natural plants in rituals are far superior than those from artificial or synthetic imitations and more people are experiencing this, I think this is why it’s gaining more popularity.”
Of course, the current pandemic will only feed into this further. “Living through a global pandemic, economic crisis, being away from loved ones, daily news updates, the internet and social media channels, messages in inboxes on evenings and weekends, it’s very stressful and exhausting, it’s hard to switch off from the noise and quiet our minds from it all. Taking a moment for ourselves to light an aromatherapy candle or natural incense helps divert our focus and calm our thoughts,” she says.
To support natural well-being and retain the true essence and aromatherapeutic qualities of the plants, each Essence + Alchemy scent is formulated through the careful blending of steam-distilled and cold pressed pure essential oils. Each is unique, described by Lesley as “a botanical daydream, designed to take your mind on a journey while helping to calm, restore, energise and uplift.”
Lesley firmly believes sustainability and ethical values should never have to be sacrificed for luxury, and has built this philosophy into every Essence + Alchemy product. From product formulation, design and packaging all the way through to the suppliers they use, brands they partner with, and ways in which they manufacture, Essence + Alchemy ensure their goods are made with minimal impact on the earth, it’s people and it’s organisms. The best example of their commitment to reducing waste is the E+A Refills ⟲ line, launched in 2017, which encourages the reuse of containers, minimising packaging and waste for their customers.
“I’ve always had a strong connection with nature and wildlife, I’ve got so many memories of being out in nature when I was younger, playing in woodlands, gardening with my mother, running around in the countryside. Baking and cooking from picked fruits and leftovers, making do and mending. We weren’t allowed to waste things.” With this ethos already instilled from a young age, Lesley’s study of Environmental Science at Bradford University only enforced these beliefs. After graduating she went on to become an environmental consultant, helping businesses with environmental compliance and occupational hygiene. “I felt very passionate that people should be able to go to work everyday without being harmed by what they were exposed to, and that all businesses should put people and the planet above profit. This ethos was carried through when I created Essence + Alchemy.”
Transparency is key in operating an ethical and sustainable business and Lesley is diligent in ensuring she documents every step her brand takes towards Protecting the Planet on their website. All product packaging used is plastic-free, with glass and porcelain containers used for candle collections, recycled card and paper stock for refills and aluminium tins for incense cones. The Essence + Alchemy beaker glass is also very versatile for reuse, with a non-branded timeless design that lends itself to reuse as a tumbler for drinking or presentation storage.
There is very little material waste produced during the manufacturing process, due to Lesley’s accurate measuring techniques and small batch production. Any residual wax is kept for use as scented wax samples for customers, which can be used in the same way as scented wax melts. They recycle all recyclable materials locally in Sheffield, whilst non-recyclable waste is converted into energy for the city as waste to energy recovery. This type of energy production reduces the amount of waste going to landfill sites, reduction of carbon emissions and reduction of the use of fossil fuels.
Lesley has been using rapeseed wax in candles since launching in 2015. A plant which has been grown in Britain for hundreds of years as animal feed and to protect and improve soils, this natural plant wax is sustainable, GMO free, non-hazardous, biodegradable and harmless to wildlife, and because it is grown and manufactured in the UK, has a lower carbon footprint than other imported plant waxes frequently used in candle making, such as soy, coconut and palm wax. Many popular essential oils have high sustainable and ethical issues associated with them, so E+A ensure that only oils from sustainable and ethical sources are used in their products, working closely with reputable British suppliers that share their brand values. Lesley is committed to working with British manufacturing and businesses, including glass blowers, tin makers and essential oil manufacturers, not only to support the local economy but also to reduce their carbon footprint. “I don’t travel all over the world myself,” she says, “I haven’t been on an aeroplane for nearly three years!”
“The business has grown slowly, which I like, as it gives me time to consider processes and develop products properly and consciously,” she says. “I enjoy the freedom of not being too structured; opportunities arise all the time and lead me in unexpected directions. My ambitions really are to continue, to keep learning and creating products that help the E+A community, with minimal impact on people and the planet.”
All photography © Essence + Alchemy, used with permission.