I became a beekeeper in my late 40's. I was moved by the sudden death of two inspiring female artists in Hastings; Angie Biltcliffe-Beekeeper and Selina De Girolamo. I was transitioning into my 50’s, and have always been fascinated with the cycles of life and death and wanted to continue working through natures seasons and patterns. Coming to the end of my own fertility, I felt so in awe of a queen bees’ capability to lay 2000 honeybee eggs a day, with every bee working in unity. The collective identity of the hive being female.
I had been an environmental therapeutic educator for 12 years working with disadvantaged children and young people. Learning about bees was a natural progression and an extension of my work.
Seven years ago, I was working at the time in Hackney Wick, London, in a little woodland with a great group of tough inner-city teenagers. We got talking to a beekeeper at adjacent community garden. The beekeeper was a quiet man, so incredibly quiet and we all hung on his every honeyed word. He talked about bees with such value and respect.
Value and respect are almost a mantra for me and are at the heart of my beekeeping and educational projects. The aim also is that the wonderful Bee Potions I make and sell harness the properties from our hives and are also made with value and respect.
Honeybee’s have been on earth for 10 million years which I find reassuring. At the same time as an environmentalist I question industrialised and mainstream methods of beekeeping and try and develop ethical methods of bee keeping at the heart of my practice. I have created a bee apiary with different types of hives at our beautiful woodland nestled in the foothills of Hastings Country Park. It is this very site that I am now developing as an educational retreat for children in need with the marvellous educational company Egg Tooth, who I partner with.
So going back some twenty years of making my own natural homemade skincare and health remedies, when I became a beekeeper I decided to harness the goodness of the bee ingredients (pollen, propolis, honey and beeswax) in small amounts and blend with nourishing nut and flower oils also pollinated by bees. I was inspired by the history of the bee ingredients and how through time they have been used for their beauty and health benefits. That’s where Bee Potion was born 4 years ago. I thought how fantastic it would be if a customer could buy our all-natural skincare range which reflected their ethical values by supporting the work I do in nature with bees and children.
The Bee Potion products are multipurpose too which also mirrors the bees and our ability to multitask and ultimately means less packaging.
I am enormously proud that Bee Potion has become a Community Interest Company. This means any profit we make goes straight back into our woodland apiary and therapeutic nature projects. We call it Fern Bank. It also means we can fund-raise for projects linked to bees, well-being, community, and ecology.
From the Hives of Hastings is one of my buzz (excuse the pun) phrases. The hive is a symbol of unity and bees symbolise love and diligence. The people who have helped me create the Bee Potion brand are part of the Hastings hive. I work with young people who support the manufacturing of our apothecary products marketing, creative direction, and mentoring.
It has been so wonderful sharing the goodness of our products with boutique shop owners and directly with customers at artisan fairs. Thanks to the Sunday Times magazine feature on us we are becoming a little more widely known as a brand and have customers all over the British Isles and Europe.
The future? Well I hope we can continue meeting face to face more wonderful customers who share similar ethics to ours. In the meantime we rely on sales from our online shop to keep the Brand alive.
Our educational woodland well-being site is going from strength to strength. The apiary is strong. A traditional Coppiced chestnut hurdle fence now surrounds it, whilst the bees in our tree hive fly above it and in other hives they stream out of their hives above the Buddlier tree into the country park. Last year we built a compost loo. This year before lock down we planted 3 very special fruit trees (in memory of students family members who had died). We are now creating an outdoor kitchen where we can teach young people fireside cuisine. Fern Bank will become an essential service and a haven for some of our most vulnerable young people in Hastings. They will learn about the bees, plant trees, sit and eat delicious woodland cooked food, learn land craft skills and just simply Bee…
The carefully balanced apothecary skincare products are a blend of such good quality organic ingredients. I hope you feel our cause is worth supporting through the purchase of a beautiful balm or cleansing/toning mask, or a bee inspired soap or Honey dog pet balm that will nurture your skin and support the work we do with bees, ecology and young people.
Nourishing your everyday needs.
Supporting our planet's ecology and helping us educate for the future.
Thank you for reading, Katharine X
I would love your shop but PROPOLIS – where did it take by bee from? Are the Bees safe or unharmful?