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q&a with Seán Maxwell from Fir Beard and Body

It is wonderful to welcome environmentalist and founder of Fir Beard and Body Seán Maxwell to the Salt and Sparkle q&a.  Fir Beard and Body is Ireland's first eco-centric men's grooming brand - these products smell beautiful, I particularly like Driftwood which feels to me like a comforting hug in a bottle.  I was introduced to Seán by Sara O'Neill.  Seán's passion for nature and our environment is infectious, and delightful, not to mention inspiring. He believes in organic, local and sustainable.  A visionary and leader in his field, Seán's creativity and synesthesia is exciting, his artistic ability to blend scents and oils into products is wonderful.  He believes deeply in the conservation of our landscape.  You can follow Fir Beard and Body on FacebookTwitter and Instagram, and purchase their products, and follow Seán on Twitter and Instagram.


Who are you, what’s it like being you ...

Seán Maxwell, 34. Nature lover, wilderness explorer and budding entrepreneur. Younger brother to a bunch of misfits and son to two very ‘young at heart’ parents.  Being me is pretty tiring, I’m a handful - ask anyone. I’m in a constant state of exploration and I really like getting my hands dirty (and I don’t just mean metaphorically). 

Where are you from, where are you based …

I’m from the fair city of Armagh. As small a metropolis as it may be it’s a great place to call home although I’ve lived more years in other people’s backyards than I have in my own it never turns me away and having recently returned from a short stint in Europe via the Pacific coast of America I am already feeling like a son of the city again.

Talk about your work ...

Up until a year ago I was heavily entrenched in the corporate world, then without very little warning along came a perfect storm of change which gave me the inspiration to ditch the workstations and the conference rooms for something more.

Scent and more specifically, how a scent plays a huge part in memory has always fascinated me so my work is very much based around that.

Right now I’m cataloguing a portfolio of scents and aromas that are from and/or evocative of this great island we live on and along the way trying to incorporate these into various products, keeping the heart of it clean and organic.

Just a few months ago I launched Fir Beard and Body – an alternative men’s grooming brand, they always say ‘start with what you know’ and having had a beard aka face forest since I was old enough to shave I thought that was a good enough place to start. I like to consider my work as a bit of nature therapy for men.

As well as Fir I am working on other products behind the scenes on a daily basis; mixing, testing, batching, looking for the perfect blends not just for beard care products but for a whole other range of everyday items. Earlier today I was pouring a batch of candles which are now happily curing and smelling intensely autumnal.

As well as being an entrepreneur I am also a student of environmental management and policy and a regular conservation volunteer for Ring of Gullion Landscape Partnership andMourne Heritage. These areas of outstanding natural beauty rely on the work of volunteers to maintain and protect the wildlife and landscape.

What are your future plans ... 

Branching out into different areas bringing evocative scents to different people.

My own grand vision for the future is to have a national park to manage and a small batch organic kitchen to experiment in. Simple really ;)

How do you find inspiration, who you are inspired by ...  

I don’t have to look far for inspiration, this land is steeped in history, myth and legend and not just from stories of people, nature has a huge part to play. I’m lucky enough to live within a few hours drive of some of the most spectacular vistas, coastlines and forests in the world.

I get to meet inspiring people all the time in my volunteer work, people whose passion greets you like an old friend and who are committed to conservation and education so that future generations can be just as inspired.

An amazing community group that inspires me is ROGHA who have the creative talent to channel their passion into craft and art and each of the artists and craftsperson’s work has its own unique take on the landscape that surrounds them and the history it is steeped in.

Describe your space ... 

That depends on what I’m doing. Research is done amongst trees and old stone all year round in the rain and in the sun, there is always something new to see and to experience so I’m outside a lot.

Blend trials and batch production is done in my converted attic with plenty of light and large windows, fresh air and natural light are really important to me wherever I am.

It’s a little clinical but the worktops have some occasional knickknacks - driftwood art I whittled during moments of procrastination with study, unusual rocks and stones I’ve found on my travels.

Old NI tourist board ads that I’ve picked up in craft fairs and landscape photography that I particularly love adorn the “study” section of room. 

How are you feeling today ... 

Organised with a little hint of crazy.  Planning Christmas this far in advance is not something I’m used to but with a number of new items ready for release and a new term of study just around the corner there is a lot to do and I’m yearning to go for a walk in the rain.

A non-negotiable in your life is ...

Nature. I have found that when my access to green things and having a clear sight of the sky is restricted I don’t function well at all. 

Most encouraging words you have ever heard ... 

Don’t learn to be happy, put your time into finding happiness instead.

Your work life philosophy is ...

Put in the effort and you’ll get it back ten-fold.

What is your favourite smell ...  

Wow that’s a loaded question for me it could be any number of things at any given time but my all-time favourite smell is hawthorn blossom. The intense aromatic woods aroma that you get in those few short weeks of annual bloom is incredible, perhaps it is because it is such a fleeting scent that it is so captivating to me.

Who do you like to listen to, what’s playing just now ... 

Murmuring in the background at the moment is the Nature podcast, but just an hour ago I was listening to some Joni Mitchell. My music tastes are varied but I always gravitate to songs with meaning. Artists like Nina Simone, John Martyn and Eurythmics are regulars in my home.

Best meal and your favourite three ingredients ... 

By far my favourite meal is my mum’s coddle, if you don’t know what that is I implore you to find a recipe and give it a try, its a pretty traditional irish dish so there is nothing fancy to it at all but you cannot beat it on a cold Autumn evening when the nights are drawing in.

Tomatoes, peppercorns and cinnamon – if I’m cooking or baking something that doesn’t have at least one of these things in it I’m doing so under duress. 

Three things or products that have changed your life... 

Solar powered portable battery charger, it’s a literal life saver.

Backpack reservoirs

Downloadable OS maps 

How do you relax ... 

Gardening and spending time outdoors on a trek or camping. Time well spent with friends and family.

What makes you happy, where’s your happy place ... 

Finding incredible vistas or scrambling through tree lines are my definitive happy place. When I can’t access these I take a mental journey to the shores of Llyn Idwal, a lake high up in the Glyderau mountains in Wales. 

What is your favourite journey, where in the world would you like to visit ...  

I love getting out and about in Ireland and the UK, I really think there are few places in the world that offer such diversity as our own plot of land, the landscapes, the wildlife and the people are all incredibly different and it’s something I embrace.

What do you most value in your friends ...  

Honesty and a sense of humour. Everything else is negotiable. 

What are your favourite words, what are you reading, just now ... 

“The mountains are calling, and I must go.” – a quote from John Muir, Scottish born American conservationist.

Currently I am re-reading a collection of poems from Robert Frost.  My favourite piece being The Road Not Takenthe last verse reads - 

‘’I shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I – I took the one less travelled by and that has made all the difference”

Share some words of wisdom ...

If you don’t try, you’ll never know.


Seán it was great to have you at our place, thank you for taking part in the Salt and Sparkle Q&A.

That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

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