Let’s face it – we don’t really come across a lot of natural spaces in the centre of London! It can be few and far between that we get to smell fresh flowers and herbs. Natasha Garbawi, founder of SUN.DAY, recognised this and started creating portable natural, botanical scents to remind us of places that we don’t always get to visit with a busy modern lifestyle. Natasha has translated her family’s knowledge of handpicking wild plants to make healing salves, teas and soaps, and created a range of environmentally friendly, vegan home fragrances (they’re also synthetic-, paraffin- and GMO-free, natch) that bring a sense of harmony and tranquillity to your home (or hotel room). We visited her East London studio to find out more about what goes into the process of handcrafted candles and sprays.
Tell us about your background!
My grandparents are from Macedonia and they still live there. They grow all their fruit and veg on their farm, which is something that’s taken for granted there. ‘Organic’ isn’t even a term because everything just is organic. They’ve always made these concoctions, teas and balms, and I was brought up with the idea of healing through food as second nature. It was only when I got older that I realised it’s not that common – in most households if you have a cold, you take a medicine.
Do you visit often?
I go back to Macedonia at least twice a year. I was born there, and my parents moved here shortly after to give me a better life.
How long have you been doing SUN.DAY?
SUN.DAY has officially been going for a year, but I a spent quite a bit of time doing research and development and branding before the core collection launched.
And what did you do before?
I’m a fine art painter and studied Fine Art at UCA Rochester – the paintings you can see around my house are mine!
You grew up in West London – what made you move East?
I suppose I wanted a bit of a change, I felt like I’d really experienced a lot of what West London had to offer and got into a routine of doing the same things and visiting the same places – I felt a little bit dormant creatively for some reason so moving East felt as though I was moving to a different city entirely.
Dalston used to be a bit of a creative hub but a lot of that crowd have moved further out; luckily I have a few friends that live on my road and I love my studio. When you’re freelance you don’t necessarily get to see and work with as many people as you would in a traditional office, so I’m lucky to have Bootstrap.
What is Bootstrap?
It’s a non-profit social enterprise with more affordable studio spaces than other’s in this area. They also have a fund that you can apply for. People think that it’s really hard to start your own company, but there are some great support networks. If you do something you really believe in, have your heart in the right place and aren’t just doing it for a big Instagram following, you tend to attract the right people. It’s still hard work though!
How do you find it, working on your own?
I collaborate with other designers and artists, which is how I’ve built a little network. I did one with a designer called RKM, Rebecca Matthews, and she’s become such a great friend. All of the studio residents, the locals, and lovely stockists I’ve gotten to know since starting out. I also meet so many lovely traders at the markets I do and I have an incredible support network of other makers that I’ve met through shows and events. It’s what’s been able to help keep Sun.day going. We tend to get together and give each other ideas or a bit of a pat on that back as we’re all experiencing similar ups and downs and pitfalls in growing a small business so it’s really nice to have people there to bounce ideas off of.
How often do you do a market?
I have a stand at Netil Market a couple times a month and will be at Deptford Market once a month too.
What’s your process?
I blend my own wax, from three different vegetable waxes – one of them is coconut wax, which creates a longer burn time for the candles and is more sustainable. Once blended in my industrial heater, I pour the wax into a metal jug. For each scent I blend five to seven different essential oils, so you get different components coming through as the candle burns.
How do you test a scent? Can you simply smell it, or do you test it in a candle?
Initially I blend the scent with top, middle and based notes. Once I think I’m happy with the blend, I test it in a candle and see how it translates, I usually tend to be attracted towards notes that evoke certain memories for me personally and somehow they seem to resonate in others too.
Where did you learn to do that? Did you go to a perfumery school?
I’ve been doing this for a long time – I started with skincare, making my own soaps and body creams from a young age. My grandparents had always made their own remedies, handpicking herbs from the mountains for healing teas and things like that. It’s a skill that’s been passed down through generations in my family. In the city we don’t have access to these plants and herbs, so I wanted to incorporate them into a candle that you can have wherever you are.
And your packaging is simple; it’s beautiful.
The mists come in cylindrical recycled cardboard boxes, and the candles I put in these printed calico bags. I try to use as little packaging as possible, and the packaging that I do have can be reused. I tend to go a bit too far, getting recyclable tape that ends up being super expensive!
The more we meet local makers and craftspeople, the more it becomes apparent how concerned our generation is with sustainability.
Exactly – and having everything made in the U.K. as well. My jars now are made in the U.K, not handblown but at least it’s still local. Even my bubble wrap is biodegradable!
What have you got planned for SUN.DAY next?
We’re going to be doing some collaborations with ceramicists and potters for a luxury range. One in particular is going to do a beautiful bone china container for me. I think it will be a nice touch to differentiate from just the apothecary aesthetic that our current range has. I’d also love to start making more balms, creams and all-natural personal fragrances as part of the range.
For more information and to shop the range of botanical candles, mists and diffusers visit the SUN.DAY website.