Remembering Bunty Petersen

How our brand got started

February 25th marks 10 years since my Mother, Bunty Petersen, passed from cancer. She was an incredible woman and the inspiration for our brand. Today, we look at who she was, how she taught everyone she met how to be a better person, and why she continues to be a guiding light to all who knew her.

Elizabeth (“Bunty”) to friends and loved ones, was from Ayr, Scotland. She was only 4’10” at her tallest and shortened from that as she aged. But when she entered a room, everyone felt her energy and vitality.

I come from a long line of feisty females. The strongest and most long-lived of them all, my maternal Grandmother, (“Gran”, as we called her) lived alone until she was 96 years old. She slipped and fell in the bathroom, hit her head, and experienced stroke-like symptoms. She lived in a nursing home after that until she passed away at age 99. I know she was hanging on for 100. If you reach 100 in the UK, the Queen sends you a letter.

Because my Gran was so long-lived, and my Mom was always so energetic, we all expected her to do the same thing.

My mom raised us to eat everything organic. She taught my brother and I to read every ingredient list as she bought things. She tried to eat healthily, was relatively active as a travel agent, and was mentally as sharp as a tack, so it came as a complete shock to us when she was diagnosed with cancer. I mirrored what she had taught me, and she came to live with us. I took care of her, and we went through the journey together--but the part I would like to share with you is how she inspired me every day.

Organic Living

When I was a child, my Dad had an expansive organic garden - long before it became trendy. I worked in the garden with him, and loved every minute of it. His job finished when the produce was brought inside, and that is when my Mom took over. She was a brilliant home cook, and particularly had the Scottish light touch when it came to baking. Everything looked beautiful when we ate, as she would artfully garnish the plates.

My Dad, who was a gifted artist himself, appreciated her little touches and would compliment her eye for color as he ate his dinner. Because my Dad was also diabetic from the age of 7, we all learned early on how to watch his blood sugar, and how to cook and feed him balanced foods. My mom was like a mother to my Dad, but he didn’t mind it too much. I think he knew it was her way of showing love. From this example, I learned to put others first, and about color, and about making things beautiful and healthy.

In Scotland, at least in my mother’s generation, parents did not say “I love you”. They just gave you clean clothing, made sure you got something to eat, and sent you off with polished shoes to school. As a result, my mom didn’t say that to us either. But her ways of showing it involved teaching us things, and “doing” rather than saying. From the time I was a small child, I had serious skin allergies, and my mother had to wash my clothes in the most gentle detergent that she could find, and then do a double rinse with white vinegar to try to get the synthetic perfume smell off of the clothing. If she didn’t, I’d break out in hives. When I think back on how much work I put her through, I realize that through this extra work, I learned what it was to have children and to take care of them. I also learned to read ingredient labels and what synthetic colors and fragrances were.

California Spirit

Even though my family is Scottish, and I ended up marrying a Scot as well, we were brought up very “half breed” in tradition, but deeply patriotic and true lovers of California. My mom would describe how she came from the dark, cold, grey stone houses of winter in Scotland, to arrive in California for the very first time. She was surrounded by sunshine, palm trees, and it was the fashion in the late 1950s to paint the beach houses here in pale pink, blue, or yellow. Everything was bright and cheerful. People smiled and were genuinely happy to wish you a good day. My mom loved the positive attitude, the fact that you could be lower class or upper class here, and no one could tell by looking at you. It was up to you as an individual to make your own story. She encouraged us to stay in school, to read when we were very small, and to travel and explore the world in any way we could.

We Are One

My mother traveled to over 43 countries around the world during her life, many of them over and over again. Her favorite place in the world was Africa. She explained it as many others do--it just felt like it was the place where all life started. There was a resonance to her spirit there. I was inspired by her travels, and eventually became part of an organization that built schools in Africa. It became important to me to give back, even to people that we do not know because, in our hearts, we are all connected.

My mom taught me to see all people as equal. I learned that there are areas of the world where people don’t do as well as we do, and that we should help when we could. I really got into learning about Fair Trade, and sustainable plants, which formed my basic ideas of the kind of organic skincare line I wished to create.

Ayr Skin Care

Even though my Mom never lived to see me start my formal education and eventually launch my own line, she was here in the early years. Around 2001 when I began making laundry detergent and hand salves and other beauty products around the house, she was privy to my early successes and failures. She was there for the great “panda adventure” when I tried to make my own mascara, and also for the success of the anti-itching balm that I made for my own use. I could take it when I traveled, to use if I got hives.

I know very deeply that my Mom knows how well we have continued on. She knows that her friends and family credit much of what they learned in life to this very opinionated, feisty Scottish mom. I try every day to honor her. It’s in the way we try to make our package opening experience beautiful, or in the way that we are inclusive in our thinking and photography. We are very active in Fair Trade and will continue to grow in that area.

Thanks, mom for your love of California, all things organic, and for teaching me about how to help people and put others first, no matter where they are in the world.

Bye for now,

Kirsten, xx

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