“I grow all kinds of stuff—I grow rose, I grow yarrow, mint, lemon balm, camomile, calendula,” Melissa Condotta says. “And then of course I get cedar and pine and stuff from all over the property or around Northumberland… With roses it’s the care that goes into growing them and just seeing how versatile they are and the different varieties of them. There’s a lot of satisfaction to working with roses.”
Listening to her speak, you’d never guess Condotta came to the study of gardening and herbalism mid-career. Her Warkworth-based business, Sunday’s Company, creates herbal body products focused on extracting the healthful properties of each plant. The majority of the ingredients in her lineup of salves, balms, oils, and face care products are locally grown, and many of them were raised by Condotta herself. She cites the move to Northumberland County as the catalyst for starting her on the path as a maker.
“It was something I had zero interest in, or didn’t know I had an interest in before. I was a city girl!” she says, laughing. However, in 2013 the desire for a slower, less hurried pace led her and her partner to relocate from Toronto to Warkworth. In an effort to get to know the area better she signed up for a workshop in foraging for wild medicinals, and awakened a powerful interest in plantlife. “I was sitting in the middle of a field picking weeds and it just kind of came to me. I was like, wow—I love this. Then I started taking some courses and experimenting and doing a lot of research and stuff, and here I am.”
Gardening has since become a meditative act for Condotta, which she hopes is reflected in the quality and consistency of her product. These days making botanical preparations is a year-round practice. “I’m picking and harvesting throughout the year, and then I have to dry it. So whether it’s being hung or laid out, it’s going to dry for probably a couple of weeks to make sure there’s no moisture left in it. And then a lot of it I store for the year, and then when I’m actually using it to infuse I’ll use big gallon jars.” She selects her ingredients based on the specific properties and scents she’s seeking, then steeps her infusions for a minimum of four weeks in olive, jojoba, or sunflower oil. Each batch is shaken regularly and allowed to warm in the natural heat of the sun. When the extraction is complete, Condotta strains the oil and, depending on what she’s making, adds beeswax and additional essential oils. The range includes products like rose and yarrow body butter, hops and pine body oil, and lavender lemongrass bath soak.
Her infusions have proved so popular Condotta has opened a shop at brick and mortar 31 Main St. in Warkworth. An extension of her studio, she maintains the shop in addition to an online storefront while also supplying products for select spas and hotels. Many of the orders she receives are gift boxes, tailored to a client’s unique requests.
When Condotta isn’t using ingredients she grew on her own five acres, she’s careful not to overharvest or disturb natural growth patterns. In the same spirit of community, she occasionally offers workshops on how to make your own plant-based herbal products, though COVID-19 restrictions have limited those prospects recently. She hopes to return to the idea when the time is right, and is happy to have reopened her Main St. storefront after a brief closure. While many of us are still dealing with complications caused by the pandemic, it’s comforting to know that soothing, natural, local body products have never been more available.
Are you enjoying our Meet the Makers series? Please consider supporting the small businesses in your community this winter, as they rely on our support now more than ever. Reinvesting in our communities allows our hard-working artisans continue doing what they love – and allows us to continue enjoying the beauty they create.