Meet the Maker: Isla Apothecary

I've been oogling over these copper products for years and I'm so glad to have them on the shop. The wonderful Kate Protopapas is a lady of my own heart, seeking out the natural answers to her problems and sharing them with others. This is her story. 

What do you make?

Mainly body care products, and some facial products, with natural and organic ingredients at their heart. 

Why do you make your products? 

I make them because I believe in them. There is an inescapable purity and intelligence in nature that inspires me, and it came as a huge relief to know that the solutions to some of my ailments were very simple, and could be found here. My disposition responds really well to a sort of ritualistic way of looking after myself with beautiful natural ingredients that I enjoy as much for their sensorial enjoyment as for their tangible benefits.

Starting to view my wellness as small steps I can take everyday, free from ineffective short cuts, has been liberating and really quite joyful. 

On a more personal level, I think choosing to go off on one's own and pursue a passion and perhaps turn it into a business is a lifestyle choice in itself. I’ve felt more satisfaction in the last few years than the previous 12 of my working life on so many levels; I relish the opportunity to create something I believe in and that I would love others to try for themselves.

When did you start your company?

I officially launched in November 2015 after a solid year of getting the business side of things ready. The stirrings to really get going with it started in 2014 after a trip around the Pacific Northwest. I still remember vividly that feeling I had amongst the incredible and vast landscapes of the region, it was visceral, and really got me to thinking that this is where I wanted to be, figuratively speaking. I felt closer to myself, and it was as if a melting away of barriers had happened and that some answers to long-standing questions had arrived. 

Previously to that, I was in my early 20’s when I started to explore alternative and holistic therapies and remedies. I ditched the regular visits to my GP and the antibiotics, found a local homeopath, and from then on made regular visits to Holland & Barrett for one thing or another, and just continued to experiment and research. It was a question of taking back control of my wellbeing, looking at the bigger picture, trying new things, creating new rituals.

Self care is experiential, or at least it has been for me anyway. 

How did you start it? How do you make your products now?

Over the years I would experiment with different ingredients, always preferring to keep it simple and minimalistic, as opposed to fostering an expensive regimen of 5-6 products in the morning and the same at night, which my skin could never handle anyway. Also, sorry but who has time for that?! (Whilst I really believe in making time to look after ourselves, layering my skin with untold amounts of synthetic product wasn’t for me). As I entered my 30’s, my skin had actually become worse despite lots of positive lifestyle changes, so I decided an overhaul of what I was putting directly on my skin was necessary. The starting point was to decide the issues I wanted to address and from there just to keep it as simple as possible. 

As to how I started with the blends that people see in the range today. Honestly, I started on my bedroom floor! I had completed a perfumery course with Karen Gilbert in 2014, which helped to increase my confidence in blending essential oils. I just have this memory of oils and smelling strips on my bedroom floor! Things have since changed :-)

Everything is made by hand, and in small batches. Supplies like packaging, labels etc are sourced from local businesses. And many of the ingredients are organic and come from all over the world- some sourced directly from an organic farm in Kerala, India. I am in the process of transitioning to an essential oil company that directly sources the most exquisite oils and where there is no middle man. It’s about ensuring the very best quality of the oils and making them available in my product range.

Where in the world are you based?

I’m based in North London, and yes, I’ve always been here. 

When I travel, I really like to take in the nature and just be outside! As much as London is home, and I love it here, I also have a yearning to be surrounded by more nature, and water specifically. That solace I found in nature, like I said, helped me to get to where I am today. I went to India earlier this year and the purpose of that trip was to understand the interdependence of the landscape and the economy, their rituals and habits of the locals for wellbeing, and how they leverage the incredible things that grow there. Witnessing the co-existence of many extremes in terms of growing and production was eye-opening and made me more determined to source the best ingredients for the range as possible. 

Do you have a morning routine? What is it?

For the past few months, 2-3 times a week, I’ve been slathering my body in organic sesame seed oil about twenty minutes before I shower. It’s taken from Ayurveda and just feels so nice! The other mornings, I either scrub with Coffee + Cinnamon Body Polish or use a dry brush to get the lymph and circulation moving. 

For my face, I cleanse with MOA’s Green Balm, I moisturise with Sukin, and I finish by massaging a few drops of Immortelle Scar + Blemish Oil from the range. 

When you were little what did you think you'd grow up to be?

A barrister! I always saw myself working in law but when it came to choosing at university, I had a crisis of confidence! Though I finally completed a Graduate Diploma in Law in 2014 but in the end I couldn’t see myself practicing law. The pull to branch off on my own was far greater. 

What do you think you'll grow up to be now?

I think if I can continue to work for myself doing what I love, believe in, and that serves a wider purpose, I will grow up to be extremely content and grateful  :-)