by Grady Mitchell | Sarah Craig combined an international upbringing and culinary training when she founded Penny Frances Apothecary, her Vancouver company specializing in all things rejuvenating. Born in Scotland, Sarah lived in Zambia until age four. Throughout her childhood she took trips to visit her father in the various cities of the Far East where he lived, and embarked on even more worldly adventures with her stepfather, a pilot. As an adult, she attended culinary school and cooked in Australia, making it her home base as she travelled between stints at restaurants. In more recent years she relocated to Vancouver with her husband, where they’ve been raising their two young boys.
Travel, she says, endows confidence and a real-world education. It broadens horizons and encourages empathy. Throughout her extensive wanderings Sarah encountered hundreds of herbs and ointments, many of which now find their way into her concoctions. Although motherhood means she can’t travel as freely as she once did, she recruits friends and family to do reconnaissance for her. Her mom – a former model who always emphasized the importance of caring for your skin – visits France twice a year, and always comes home with an armful of ingredients. A friend recently returned from Morocco brought argan oil, and another departed for India with explicit instructions to bring back whatever she could. “I’m always asking them, ‘oh, have a look, bring me anything you can,'” Sarah says with a laugh. “I’m a woman obsessed.”
It’s easy to draw similarities between her skills as a cook and her current work: experimenting with ingredients, mixing technique and intuition. Penny Frances unofficially started when Sarah was a new mom and began making eye cream for herself. It’s slowly grown in the years since into today’s incarnation. She’s selective with suppliers (those that aren’t friends or family) sourcing organic, cold-pressed oils straight from the plant.
Once upon a time Sarah sold cosmetics; it’s a time she doesn’t remember with much fondness. She had issues with the often body-shaming tone her superiors wanted the sales pitches to take. “If a woman wants to buy an eye cream,” she recalls, “you’ve got to make her buy three other things, make her feel bad about her skin.”
Her philosophy is more about empowering. “I’m against anti-aging,” she says. “People should age and enjoy it. Enjoy your wrinkles, enjoy your freckles, drink wine, go in the sun, just have a good time.” Her products are more about caring for your skin and calming your mind, creating an intimate spa at home. “If you feel happy,” she says, “you look beautiful.”
You can find Penny Frances products at Charlie & Lee, East Vanity Parlour, Studio 126 at the pop-up shop at West Elm Market on November 14th, or directly from the website.