Meet the Maker: Meghan of SealPosted on 9th March 2022
Tell us a little about your business – what is it you make?
I am primarily a soap maker using traditional cold process methods. All Seal products are palm free, cruelty free and vegan.
The whole business is based around a plastic free, minimal waste ethos. I offer refills and unpackaged versions wherever possible, and give discounts for returning tins, and bottles.
As well as the soaps I have a range of natural deodorants and lip balms, with new products in development. I trade at markets all over the south west, most frequently (every other week) at Stroud Farmers Market, where you will find me with the whole Seal range and also a refill bar stocked with Bramley products.
How did you get started in your creative field?
I started Seal in 2018 after a period living and working overseas – I had previously studied Fine Art and gone onto work in Community Arts and Education. When I returned to the UK I wanted to find a new direction and had always dreamed of being my own boss.
When traveling through Asia I was shocked and appalled by the devastating pollution of the beaches, rivers and countryside, which I expected to be areas of exceptional natural beauty, but were in fact more like landfill sites. While I had some amazing times in my traveling days, seeing first hand the impact of global tourism really forced me to consider my part in the problem, and what I could do to help. It was at this time I began to think about ways that I could tackle plastic pollution.
Seal started as a platform for zero waste brands and it has since grown to include a range of my own handmade beauty products.
Talk us through your creative process…
When I’m working on a new product it often starts with conversations with customers and friends. I will then do some research online looking at similar products, and refer to a few books that I trust.
Once I’ve gathered my clues and drafted up a recipe, I just have a go at making it in a small quantity. This always involves a fair bit of trial and error but when I begin to feel I’m getting close to a result, I give samples to friends and get some feedback (all my products are tested on willing human adults.). I make amendments accordingly and after further human trials if I am happy with the results, I will send the product-to-be off for professional cosmetic approval.
What sort of space do you work in?
When I started the business I was living with friends working from the kitchen, which was not without its challenges! The soaps have to cure for a minimum of six weeks before they can be sold, so in the months leading up to Christmas (my busiest period), my stock has tended to take over.
Last year however, I got my very own flat near Stroud which has made the making process so much easier. I have dedicated cupboards for utensils and ingredients, a curing/storage room and a view of the countryside, which is always a bonus.
What are the values behind your business?
Sustainability with a strong emphasis on zero waste/ minimal waste and also in respect to using plant based ingredients from trusted suppliers.
Handmade with care. All my own products are created in small batches taking extra care to ensure quality and minimal wastage.
Simplicity. Natural ingredients using traditional methods with no unnecessary nasties.
Where do you find creative inspiration?
I grew up in a creative household. My parents were artists, and ran a small business making props and costumes for fairs and festivals. The events were great fun. Playing outside, making plant potions and getting into fancy dress, these experiences also taught me about the highs and lows of running a small creative business. My mum is an amazing seamstress and an avid gardener, she always has some wacky project on the go, her creativity has always been inspiring.
Zero Waste Path is a great small business that combines a strong plastic free/ zero waste attitude with great products. They have always been really transparent about the issues they’ve had to tackle in upholding their values, this gives me confidence when I’m faced with challenges in my own business. And lastly I love looking at Stanley Donwood‘s prints, my wavey packaging design is in part inspired by his work.
Are there themes that run through your work?
Well, I am a big fan of alliteration! If you are familiar with my products you may have noticed – Seaweed and Sage, Turmeric and Tangerine, Lavender and Lemon, Pine and Pink Grapefruit (aka Pink Pine) it’s not always possible but when I can, I do! Sometimes even, If I am wavering between scent combinations an alliteration could be the deciding factor.
What do you love most about making?
I love learning about different ingredients and their strengths and weaknesses and being able to test that out. It is great to be able to learn and understand about what is going onto your skin and into your body. It’s a really great way to be more in touch with the natural world when you appreciate the magic of plant oils, botanicals, clays, salts etc whilst also taking good care of your own body.
I also find it quite empowering to be able to make such useful stuff as soap, beauty products and I also make my own cleaning products. It gives me a sense of self sufficiency and control over my environment.
Which piece of work are you most proud of?
I am most proud of my range of soaps. Over time I have developed a varied collection of scents, each with their own beneficial properties. With 8 scent combinations to choose from there is a bar to suit all tastes and skin types, I think this is why they are my best sellers.
I will never regret the move towards creating my own range of products, it gives me a great sense of achievement knowing that I have done everything from sourcing the ingredients to designing the packaging of these lovely bars. My personal favourite is Seaweed and Sage as it feels very refreshing on my skin and has a lovely deep herbal scent.
Describe your work in three words…
Clean wavey smells.
Meghan’s shop and website is at sealstroud.co.uk