“Tasmania has tamed the gypsy in me,” says Anna Thomason as her gaze comes to rest on her garden. “I love it here. I love the climate, the changes of the seasons and the absolute quiet. It’s simply divine.”
Anna’s childhood was spent on the move. The family travelled extensively in support of her father’s work as a farm manager. “I was born in Canterbury in England,” starts Anna. “But we moved to Queensland when I was just three years old. To start with here in Australia it was mum, dad, four kids, two cats and a dog all in the one caravan. Cosy!”
Anna explains her father always had itchy feet. “He loved to travel and we were always moving all over the country…lots of different farms…but his greatest joy was deer farms. Dad had to chase the work so I grew up somewhat nomadic and on the land.” She pauses as she considers the impact, “I’m sure it shaped who I am today.”
After marrying husband Paul and settling to the north of Brisbane in the Mary Valley region, Anna became a mum to two beautiful young girls. “We were happy enough in Queensland but I had an urge to move. I was sick of the heat and humidity and just wanted a change.” She talks animatedly as she recalls how life has unfolded, “A friend suggested we see Tassie as he was convinced I’d love it.” Anna grins and offers a bright giggle, “He was right.”
“I fell in love with the place straight away, but it took another few years for me to convince Paul that we should move. It was a big step for him to move away from family. It also meant we had to finish renovating our house in order to sell it…so it was a big ask all round.” Anna recalls her own feelings at the time, “At this stage all my family were in Queensland too, but the thought of moving didn’t really scare me as I’d always done it. Having said that, I did miss them a lot. When we landed in Tassie, we didn’t know anyone here at all…we made a pact that if we didn’t want to stay we could move on somewhere else while the girls were still quite little.”
After landing in the island state, finding their feet took a little while. “Following a questionable rental property and then a block of land, we finally found this place,” says Anna, motioning her hand around her cosy lounge room laden with precious family treasures and an uncanny knack for classic country styling. “It’s still a work in progress but we love it here in this little town. We had our third beautiful daughter here and our family now feels complete.”
Founded in 1821, and home to Australia’s oldest bridge, picturesque Richmond is now firmly home to this busy family of five. Nestled in the heart of the wine producing Coal River Valley, Richmond is a mecca for tourists who flock to enjoy its colonial history and interesting mix of tea rooms, antique shops, galleries and boutiques.
“It’s my little slice of England,” says Anna. “Maybe it’s my heritage coming through…but I love the close knit community and being out of the rat race. But it’s also super convenient. We can be at the airport, in the city, at the beach, or out horse riding in the bush in the blink of an eye. It’s hard to compete with all that.”
Surveying her 1960s weatherboard home, Anna says, “We’ve done a lot of work to this place, but it’s still a long way from finished. We’ve been planning the renovation for a while and doing bits and pieces of it as we are able. My style is comfy and easy I guess…for me it’s all about family and being outside. I like things to be simple.”
After a hunt for simple skin care solutions to suit her own country lifestyle, Anna started Salamanca Skincare Co. “It started as a means to create simple, natural and beautifully fragranced products,” she explains. “If I think back three years ago, I would never have imagined I’d be where I am today,” she says. “It’s taken a lot of hard work to get things to where they are now but I’m in a good place and I’m very happy.”
“I quickly came to realise that a lot of other people share the same values that I do, so the decision to pour my heart into producing something that resonates with others came pretty naturally,” says Anna. “I’ve tried to create a really unique range of skin care and homeware products that are inspired by nature, by Tasmania’s natural beauty and by just keeping things simple.” A concentrated effort, lots late nights and a huge amount of family support have combined to bolster this family business built on a passion for quality. “Quality over quantity remains a driving factor too,” says Anna.
“My twin sister Claire is one of my biggest supporters,” smiles Anna. “She’s my sounding board and voice of reason in those moments when I’m doubting myself. If it wasn’t for Claire encouraging me at the low points, then the business wouldn’t be where it is today. I’m hopeful that there may be an opportunity for Claire to join me in the business at some point in the future.”
The bond between Anna and Claire is clearly evident. Whilst sharing warm smiles, open minds and the love of a good giggle, they continually finish each other’s sentences and are more than content to spend autumn afternoons walking their dogs and clearing fallen leaves in Anna’s garden. Both women wear their hearts on their sleeves. “We’re not that complicated,” laughs Claire. “Family is important, we love country life and we just believe in living gently and sustainably. Anna and I have always shared dreams of rolling country properties…horses…dogs…vegie patches…we love that lifestyle.”
Claire explains how her own family ended up following Anna to Tasmania. “Damien and I honeymooned here and loved the slower pace of life. Although I was content enough to be away from my twin sister, Tassie quickly won us over and it wasn’t long before we made the move as well. Anna and Paul certainly have a lot to answer for. The whole family is here now!”
Anna’s offering includes a luxurious skin care range that she makes by hand in small batches. “Salamanca Skincare Co is all about natural products that are easy to use. I’d rather be outdoors enjoying life, and most of my customers would too. These are beautiful products…face creams, lip butters, oils, hand and body custards, serums…that are easy to use and made with quality products. It’s about supporting the kind of lifestyle we have here in Tasmania.”
Anna also has a genuine drive to collaborate with other local artisans, “While I try to make as much as I can, I can’t do everything…I love to collaborate with other local artisans to create unique pieces. Our aromatherapy bracelets and pendants are both great examples. I’ve branched out into homewares too. I find people are always looking to bring the essence of Tasmania’s beauty indoors with them. Candles, Tasmanian lavender and wheat filled heat packs, loofahs…it’s about offering an easy way to exhale, relax and nourish ourselves without any fuss.”
“The name reflects where our initial trade came from and is also a nod to the beautiful Georgian architecture you’ll find when you visit us at the markets. It steals my heart every time I see it,” says Anna when explaining how her business took the name of Tasmania’s most famous market. “Hobart is so beautiful. The sandstone buildings, the people, the trees…and the locals themselves. It’s hard to find people anywhere else who are so genuine and friendly.”
“I’ve had a lot of interesting jobs in my life but I’ve always wanted to be my own boss,” states Anna decisively. “It has been a blessing for me to be able to work this around my family and now we’re at the point where the girls help me out too. They often join me at Salamanca of a Saturday and they’ve gotten to know our all regular customers which is pretty special.”
“I think you’ll see the influence of my family and nature in my products. I hope I’ve created something warm and homely…boutique…simple. That’s me all over.”
Anna’s passion for creativity is clearly evident in her work. “I really enjoy the styling and the design aspect,” she says. “I think people who meet me at the market might be surprised to learn I’m not all about skin care. I’m happiest at home in the garden in my jeans and blunnies. I love getting my hands dirty and my brand is about simple and natural solutions for people just like me.”
“Having the studio is such a blessing,” says Anna of her new purpose built space tucked in the back garden. “It’s my little hideaway and time just melts away when I’m in there pouring candles or mixing the creams. It’s peaceful and relaxed. For the past two years all this happened in the middle of my kitchen, on the dining table. I think Paul and the girls are relieved to finally have their space back too,” grins Anna.
Anna can’t go far without Willow, her loyal Weimaraner, glued to her side. “She’s my shadow, a true gentle giant who wouldn’t hurt a fly,” she explains, gently stroking Willow’s long velvety ears. “While Willow is a calming influence, I’m now running around after our new puppy, Andy. He’s a gorgeous little Coonhound cross with a life all of his own…I think he’s about to make my days a whole lot more interesting!”
Visit Anna and her girls at Salamanca Market most Saturday mornings, or shop the full range online at www.salamancaskincare.com.au