Written by SOBDL co-founder, Erica Campbell
I wanted to share with you the wonderful Mikael Walter-Campbell. I met Mikael a couple years ago- I believe we were connected through our mutual friend Matt Gibson (formally of Nickelbrook and Royal Canadian Mead). Mikael was just getting going on her handmade goods company – Sage & Thistle– and was inquiring about being an artisan vendor at our upcoming Lady Beer Fest.
I had a booth space left for her, so we signed her up and the rest is history. We now sell her Sage & Thistle soaps (made of beer, naturally!) at our on-line merch shop (cheap plug: shop.ladiesdrinkbeer.com), feature her soap as part of our Holiday Swag Pack Bundle and have had her soaps in 2 / 3 Beer Squad Mystery Boxes so far. She makes EXCELLENT natural products that smell OUT OF THIS WORLD. Everything feels so honest and pure, made with a ton of love. Also, can we talk about how she manages to make and sell her goods while mama-ing not 1, not 2, but 3 kiddies!? I’ll never forget our 6th Year Birthday Bevy back in February 2020 (aka the last event we’ve done pre-COVID *tear*). I visited our Artisan Market area during the middle of the event and there was Mikael: hawking her wares to hundreds of beer drinking ladies with her weeks-old little baby wrapped in a sling and blanket against her chest. Now a mama myself, I am even more in awe of this unstoppable work ethic and total dedication to both her job and baby at the same time.
And so, here’s my Q&A with Mikael. Seeing as we haven’t seen each other in a while – because, ya know pandemic- I wanted to check in and see how everything is going! Enjoy getting to know this magical human:
Tell me about the name ‘Sage & Thistle.’ How did you come up with the name?
Sage & Thistle was an idea a dear friend and I had, pre-kids, back in Brooklyn NY as we were thinking about names for a fantasy coffee shop/whiskey bar! When it came time for my husband and I to name our fledgling body care company in 2018, we used that name because a) the whiskey bar seemed unrealistic at that point, lol, and b) it was the perfect fit: Sage is my favorite plant, and Thistle honours my husband’s Scottish heritage, so it was a great representation of each of us. It became Sage & Thistle Handmade Goods because I wanted folks to immediately know that each & every product is thoughtfully made by hand.
How/when did you get your started?
I’ve always been a crafty DIYer, but I made my first foray into skin care products with organic diaper cream & a cloth wipe solution when I was pregnant with my first child in 2016. I didn’t want to use ingredients I didn’t know, or any harsh chemicals on my new baby, so I did lots of research and made my own using entirely natural ingredients, and soon after that I was hooked: I began making bath salts, body scrubs, and eventually soaps with my husband, using real ingredients & plants from my organic urban garden, to give to family & friends as gifts. They got so popular that we were asked to do our first market (at Nickel Brook Brewery: we had our newborn & 21 month-old with us, lol), & we realized pretty quickly that this could be more than just a hobby. I was a full-time stay at home parent at that point, and having Sage & Thistle became my outlet, my me-time, my first really creative work since moving to Canada in 2015. I started expanding our product line and making new, more creative & ambitious soaps, and I eventually took over all production & design. I officially registered my Sole Proprietorship in 2019, and my small business has been growing ever since.
What’s the best part about being an Artisan Maker?
What I love most about my work is how creative I get to be with my products: I have an arts background & take inspiration from so many sources, including my own urban garden, walks through the woods, good food (no joke!); I love that I get to create products that are not only beautiful, but helpful, healthy, and practical! I also get to choose each of my ingredients carefully, which means I get the privilege of sourcing from lots of local, ethically-practicing farms, producers, & small businesses.
What are you most proud of with S&T?
I am naturally self-deprecating so this is a hard one, BUT, I’ve had to learn so much through owning my own business over the last two years, so many things that used to terrify me, like book-keeping, graphic design (computer work in general); balancing parenting & work has been difficult, but ultimately Sage & Thistle has been incredibly fulfilling, and those challenges have totally changed my perspective about the skills I have & what I am capable of doing in a really positive way. 5 years ago I couldn’t have imagined owning my own business, and now I plan to continue Sage & Thistle for the long term. It’s a little scary, but really exciting and affirming.
Has Co-VID19 changed your business? If so, how?
COVID hit right as I was excitedly booking markets and coming up with new product ideas; it also meant that I had all three of my kids home while I was trying to work on a long list of big projects, and I, like so many working parents, was unsure if I would .actually be able to make it through each day stuck in our tiny apartment, let alone stay creative & excited while my plans were cancelled one after another. I actually planned to temporarily shutter Sage & Thistle, but an interesting thing happened: Toronto as a whole rallied around small businesses, and the surge of support I received from my community, from fellow small-business retailers, other makers & organizations (like SOBDL) kept my business growing, and continues to blow me away; I have no choice but to keep working & creating, and for that I am so grateful.
What do you LOVE to make? Anything you dread making?
It’s hard to choose (I love all my children the same, after all, lol), but making my artisanal soaps allows me to be the most creative: I use only natural ingredients & colourants, so finding ways to make certain designs is a really fun challenge, and if I could spend an uninterrupted week straight making every soap I have in my mind, I think I would continue to be inspired & want to create more, new soaps. On the flip side, I dread making bath bombs because I do them by hand & they’re so finicky, but this time of year especially they are so popular that I have to learn to love them!
What’s on the horizon for Sage & Thistle? Any big 2021 dreams/goals?
Sage & Thistle has grown by leaps and bounds over the last 10 months, and with it my goals for the future: my plans for the New Year are to create more retail partnerships with other creative small businesses, expand my custom & private product creation collaborations, and get a combination studio & retail space — my own brick & mortar — so I can have the space to create all of the handmade goods I’m dreaming of.