ARTIST INTERVIEW: Megan Bre Camp of Summer Solace Tallow
Company: Summer Solace Tallow
Artist: Megan Bre Camp
She calls it her Slow Body Care Movement, and we can’t get the products of Megan Bre Camp’s Summer Solace Tallow fast enough. We’re so excited to have them on offer for the first time this season.
Summer Solace Tallow is an artisan line of ethical, sustainable, organic and deeply nourishing tallow-based balms, soaps, and candles handcrafted in Oakland, California with local ingredients from Northern California. Established in May 2014 by Megan Bre Camp, Summer Solace Tallow is actively reviving the nourishing traditions of using local grass-fed and pasture raised animal fat to moisturize effectively and soothe skin irritations.
Their tallow-based products contain unique and harmonious blends of organic, wildcrafted Absolutes and essential oils, local extra-virgin olive oil and local tallow from family farms, which are rendered and combined in small batches.
How does being a part of the EPCF community inspire you?
This will be my first time at the EPCF and I must tell you that I am extremely excited and truly honored to have the opportunity to work amongst such a dynamic and creative community of strong, talented women from diverse backgrounds. This not only inspires me to continue to create the best work that I can offer, but it also empowers me to grow, embrace transformation, and be fearless and open to constantly learning. We, as female entrepreneurs, can overcome the obstacles in our way if we come together to support and encourage one another in a non-competitive way in and in a joyous, safe, and uplifting environment.
Are there other communities that have been instrumental in the development of your creative work?
Local Farmers’ Markets Farmers will forever be instrumental in the development of my work. Working with local farmers for their organic and seasonal ingredients are the soul of my business; keeping traditional ways alive is the Heart. I find inspiration from the seasons, landscape and the hard-working hands of people who work on the land of my local area. I source from organic farmers and purveyors, I create my products from their materials, and in turn, I provide high-quality skin care and home goods products to give back to the local community. I am an Artisan vendor and member at three Farmers Markets in the San Francisco Bay Area and Marin County, where I am also on the Board with the Agricultural Institute of Marin, a non-profit Farmers Market Institute.
People come to be together and celebrate the abundance of Seasonal produce, flowers, and goods and I enjoy sharing my tallow-based, “food for the skin” products with them.
Well-curated art, design, and maker events are another community that I love working with because I get to engage with another audience and demographic that maybe I won’t see at the Farmers Markets. These venues inspire me to have integrity and stay relevant in my work as an Art form.
Besides the Farmers’ Markets, the Northern California Fibershed community that I am a producer/member of is by far the most influential for me and my business. Fibershed is a non-profit organization that is developing regenerative textile systems that are based on carbon farming and regional manufacturing of textiles like organic cotton, natural dyes, climate beneficial wool, flax and hopefully Hemp. The Fibershed group inspires me in ways that make me look at natural fibers and textiles in a whole new way. I participate with Fibershed not only as a member and producer, but I also curate and manage a booth at my local Farmers’ Market in North Oakland, where I sell local wool goods, handwoven and naturally dyed garments and blankets, and also locally grown, vegetable-tanned sheepskins.
What techniques do you use to produce your designs? What is the history behind those techniques and how does that inform you how to use them?
Whether preparing seasonally and locally grown foods, or sourcing ingredients from local farmers and fellow artisans, I am dedicated to reviving traditional techniques in all facets of my work. I call my work a Slow Body Care Movement. I practice zero-waste and sustainable living by using all parts of the pasture-raised animal, using locally sourced and organic ingredients at all times, celebrating my region’s seasons, and choosing natural over expediency.
I am a former chef turned-passionate skincare maker and I work with an old-world ingredient which is grass-fed beef tallow to create my modern line of moisturizing balms, cold-process soaps, and tallow and beeswax candles. My family and I are avid organic gardeners and urban beekeepers.
The techniques that I practice are very traditional, sustainable and spiritual. I render suet fat from local, pasture-raised cows from Northern California, using clay pots from local potters in Berkeley. This method is low and slow, taking about 3 hours to yield a gorgeous, pleasantly scented tallow. I take this golden tallow and infuse it with organic calendula grown in Sonoma County by a group of herbalists, herb growers, and medicine makers. This is my healing base for all of my products.
I then add a high-quality extra-virgin olive oil grown by the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation a few hours North of my home. This adds spreadability to the tallow balm. My husband and I harvest beeswax and also live next to a Master Beekeeper, originally from Yemen, to add to the holistic tallow and beeswax candles.
When I produce my work, I am conscientious of the details. Workspaces must be clean and organized. Tools are simple, yet very effective. I use Clay Pots, metal strainers, ceramic bowls, glass pitchers and a measuring scale.
When I first founded Summer Solace, almost 5 years ago, not many people have heard of using grass-fed beef tallow on their skin and still today the beauty industry trend is predominately plant-oil based products. It was revelatory to me to create a line of profound tallow balms with gorgeous scent profiles because this is an ingredient that people and cultures have used on their skin as a moisturizer, as fat for soap, and as heat and light in candles for thousands of years.
Using grass-fed fat and natural, pure essences are as close to nature as you can get.
The ethics of production are on our minds recently- questions about sustainability, fair labor, location, and artistic integrity. How do these concepts come in to play in your craft and your business? What choices do you make that take into account these ideas?
As a Bay Area cook and organic gardener born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska, I am passionate about sustainable living. My family comes from an indigenous background; they are native to the Central Highlands of Vietnam and the countryside in the Philippines. They instilled in me a deep closeness with nature, respect for animals and the environment and the love of cooking.
Sustainable and ethical practices are the embodiment of my lifestyle and the driving force of Summer Solace Tallow and the Slow Body Care Movement. My mission is to revive the art of using a highly nutrient-dense ingredient from healthy cows that, in modern times, would otherwise be thrown away. This is my practice of recycling, up-cycling, and zero-waste. I source locally, from farms less than 150 miles away, in Sonoma and Marin County.
I patronize local businesses in California for all of my ingredients, supplies, and essential oils. The glass jars are recyclable and are from a bottle supply company in Oakland. I accept used jars from my customers to turn into tea light candles. I use a local, eco printer for my labels, and organic eco wicks for my candles come from a business in Northern California. My soap making ingredients, like mineral-rich clay and California sea salt, come from Monterey. Bladderwrack seaweed is sustainably harvested under a new moon or a full moon when the tide is low, in Mendocino.
My production space is in my kitchen and studio in my family’s live/workspace. All of the work that I do is handmade, from rendering the fat, to pouring the scented tallow into jars, hand wrapping my soaps with Japanese Sumi paper, labeling, and selling my work at the Farmers markets and other events.
What impact do you hope your creative work will have on your community?
Tallow sourced from organic, pasture-raised cows is deeply nourishing for the body and the environment. Biologically, it is very much like our skin, allowing it to be readily absorbed without a greasy or sticky feel. Grass-fed beef tallow is nutrient-dense, rich in vitamins and minerals A, D, K, E and B12 that most plant oils do not possess. It helps to heal skin irritations like dry skin, eczema, psoriasis, sunburns and bug bites by creating a moisture seal over the skin, penetrating and healing it.
It is shelf stable indefinitely, meaning that it does not require any preservatives, and our tallow balms are non-toxic and chemical free. It is inclusive, healing skin care for the entire family. It feels amazing, you see and feel the difference, it is essentially edible and most importantly it’s sustainable.
Working with this hyper-local, exquisite fat makes me feel like I am reviving a lost art, a language that is slowly being forgotten. The fat is seasonal, changing in texture, color, and scent and I embrace and honor its metamorphosis.
I am transported back to a time where people lived close to the land, they were connected with and respected nature and animals. There was a ritual, value, purpose, and no waste in daily life.
The impact that I hope Summer Solace will make on my community is for people to be open to learning about sustainable, seasonal, and traditional foods to take them further into acceptance and understanding that the Earth’s systems function necessarily with animals, and that we can incorporate well-cared-for, pasture-raised animal foods and fats in our diets and lifestyle in a holistic way.