A conversation with muse Phoebe Hunter-McIlveen


We spent a hazy Summer's afternoon on the rugged south Cornish coast with Pheobe Hunter-McIlveen; apprentice shepherdess and co-founder of sustainable underwear brand Pico. She spoke with us about seeking solace, inspiration and freedom within nature, and the importance of opening up to the beauty that can be found all around us. 

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Do you know your skin type? Has it changed in your adult life and if so how? 

I'm not hundred percent certain, I think I have quite a combination - porey skin around the eyes and then can get a little oily around the chin (which is where I tend to get a few spots every month - around the chin and mouth)


Do you have a creative discipline or passion which you dedicate your time to? How does it impact your health and wellbeing ? 

Iso (Isobel Williams-Ellis) and I run Project - Pico - producing organic cotton underwear, working directly with producers and sharing their stories. Iso and I have worked on this for so many years now and learnt so much, we are constantly being challenged but I feel we have created a product that we feel is very special and people are so kind and encouraging about it. I am so proud of all Isobel's design skills and of our friendship and strength together over these sometimes quite challenging times. We have shared so much, during our trips to India visiting our supply chain and researching and in creating Pico. I am passionate about learning about farming and encouraging respect for their work and skills and producing good quality products. I am currently working as an apprentice shepherdess on a farm that breed sheep for wool as well as for meat and are pioneers of British wool. I love working with animals but also growing and touching soil and learning from the land and from people. 

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When do you feel your most radiant self? 

When I am with people, old and new friends, creating together - be it food or conversation or projects, cooking on fires and chewing the fat. I love bringing people together. When I am in the sea or laying in a field - when my body is physically tired from working outside or exerting myself and I get in a river or the sea and wash off all the soil and dirt - I never feel cleaner. I think I also feel the best me when I have helped someone (sounds a bit cliche) but be it a stranger or a friend - it means the world to see that a small action or a listening ear can make a difference. (Also) When I am learning and being challenged and being supported.
Dancing - I love to dance - be it with my parents in the living room, on my own, round a fire, listening to live Irish jigs - I can loose myself for hours and it feels so great. 


4. Do you have any self-care rituals that ground, nourish or energise you? 

I starting transcendental meditation last year and it slipped away a bit but recently I started to re engage with it again and the power of switching off your mind. Cooking and baking is always a recipe for nourishment for me, I also make kombucha every week and water kefir and this weekly ritual of growing and nurturing a culture that also heals you also really soothes me. I also love sharing it with people. I also go see my Papy for some acupuncture and advice when I need some R & R. 

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What is beauty to you? 

Beauty is softness and realness and to be natural and comfortable. Beauty is a smile, a giggle and a great big belly laugh between friends, family and strangers. Beauty is friendship. Beauty is giving and receiving and an openness and connection and when people care and share. Beauty is in everyone and everything, in the detail in nature. Beauty is in the small things - you just have to be open to them - the rosy cheeks of a small child, a reassuring glance between a couple, a young boy helping an old lady with her shopping, an old couple dancing in the evening light, the way the sun dapples through leaves, the tones and richness of colour in a fleece of an animal, the way water ripples when you drop a stone in it..endless beauty


How do you reconnect when you're feeling out of touch with yourself? 


Whenever I feel like it is all too much I have headed to the sea, a river or green pasture or heights - climbing towers or cliffs. There has been countless situations where things have felt overwhelming and I have run (usually with someone dear to me) at speed up or down a hill - sometimes making a noise - trying to go as fast as I can until I am so out of breath and have to lie down - makes you feel so much and your heart is pounding. Nature is completely grounding and really helps me feel like my worries do not need the weight I might hold on them. 

Just walking and thinking of nothing but what is around me and lying down in the field - that letting go has really helped me. 

I also write a diary from time to time and speak to an old friend who can put everything in perspective and help me root myself. I also write a happy book and write down three things I am grateful for. 


Is there a location in Cornwall which is special to you, and if so why?


Rinsey is really special to me - I would often go there of an evening last summer (after nannying) and sit in the tower on my own and meditate and then go for a swim. I was more often than not on my own and I would swim alone and feel like a mermaid. I went there once with my ex partner and had such a fun evening - the sea was so stormy and it looked like white horses coming in. As the waves thrashed around we jumped from rock to rock.

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How do you embrace your own sense of womanhood? 

I have always been so interested in our bodies and soul, growing up with an acupuncturist and tai chi teacher father and mother who has always been very interested in naturopathics and health it was always topic of conversation at dinner. 

I recently started to read a book called Wild Power - which is all about our menstrual cycles and how we are effected on specific days and giving ourselves tools to understand what could be happening. I am also reading Moon time which talks about the different days of the month and where the moon is and what star sign it is passing that day and the potential effect it could be having on our bodies.

I feel like whether I remember it all or not this pursuit of knowledge makes me feel more connected to myself and I love to share what i have learnt with my friends. I find it completely fascinating and makes so much sense to me.  I think being open and not being shy to talk about all these things is really important and exciting - you can find solidarity with other women and it is so comforting. Also I feel I have come to accept that sometimes you will be challenged but you just have to do what feels right.

I am currently moving around a lot and hopping from place and in search of something to help me feel more rooted. I would like to incorporate more of a meditation and yoga routine into my day to day so that I always have this to ground me wherever I am. 

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Is there an inspiring or empowering poem or quote that you could share with us? 

There is a few that I really like and I find very meaningful and important to me: 

Below is a sanskript mantra we learnt out in India whilst staying on Dr Vandana's biodiversity farm, we were taught them by Satish Kumar, an amazing man who once walked around the world with not a penny in his pocket all in aid of nucleur disarmament - he went to parliament and the Whitehouse and offered tea as a sign of peace.  Our time on the farm feels like one of the most pivitol and thought provoking times of my life. As Iso and I and Alberto travelled round farmers co-ops and factories we would do these mantras. Also on the eve of my friends wedding when stress was mounting we ran into the the garden and I said repeat after me and we did the following mantras- I think it was freeing and nourishing and memorable.  

Om Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah
Sarve Santu Nir-Aamayaah |
Sarve Bhadraanni Pashyantu
Maa Kashcid-Duhkha-Bhaag-Bhavet |
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||

Om, May All become Happy,
May All be Free from Illness.
May All See what is good,
May no one be subject to misery,
inner peace, outer peace, cosmic peace

Another one we use to do every morning before doing our daily service on the farm: 

I walk in beauty before me (as you step forward)
I walk in beauty behind me (as you step back)
I walk in beauty around me (as you spin) 
The whole world is beautiful
The whole world is beautiful
The whole world is beautiful 

(then you form an O shape and make an OH sound)

These are a few I found recently and resonated with me: 

"Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm"

"Never regret anything because at one time it was exactly what you wanted" (one a dear friend sent me recently and I found really comforting) 

"No one can save everyone, but everyone can save someone"

Also these are two that are on the wall in the Pico stock room and I love: 

'We can't direct the wind but we can adjust the sails' 

'Us, Friends, Always' (on a card I gave Isobel years ago) 




Phoebe uses our Balancing everyday face oil to give some stability to her combination skin type. You can find out more about Project Pico here.