Sunday, October 7, 2012

A weekend of markets

My honey and I spent this weekend browsing (and, yes, buying!) at a few local markets, and we had a really great time (or at least I did, and he says him too but you never know about those fellas!) It feels so good to be located in a region that is supportive of crafters and independent growers, and I am really excited about all the upcoming festivals and markets in our area this fall! I get so excited when I meet other soapers that I just ramble on and on about silk and molds and suppliers. I really was in heaven meeting other soap makers and chatting them up, so much so that most of them probably wished I would just shut up and go look at those jellies over there.  

To give them credit, most of them were at least polite in return, and in some cases actually seemed just as excited to soap-talk too. Even if they thought I was a total bumbling weirdo, they were still friendly. I happily bought soaps from those people. But I also found that there were cases too where I totally didn't agree with some of the claims being made by a soap vendor about the abilities or ingredients of their products (don't worry, I would never say so!), or I got the feeling that person saw me as an inferior soap maker not worth their time or conversation. Hmph! I did not buy soap from these people. 

Maybe in the relative newness of my soaping career I am misguided in my belief that all soapers are overcome with giddiness to meet me and hear all about how sodium lactate changed my life. Surely not though.....

I did make some purchases I am pretty excited about from some very talented Tennessee soapers, so let me share those with you! 

Our first stop early Saturday morning was Brainerd Farmer's Market in Chattanooga, which seemed a little sparsely stocked and populated. I guess that could be attributed to the season. It was also a pretty cloudy,  windy and chilly day, our first of this fall I think. Despite all of that, we were able to meet Cecilia from 423 Soaps, whose blog and Etsy store I'd stumbled across a few months back, so it was exciting to put a face to the company and my hands on her soaps. :) I bought one of her beautiful hand-sculpted soap dishes after much debate. It was so hard to pick the one I liked the most, all the details and colors were so gorgeous, I wanted to buy them all! I also snagged a bar each of her orange ginger, Indian spice and charcoal sage soaps and a super luscious sage mint cocoa butter lip balm that we are really diggin'! I love that Cecilia named her soaps for the Chattanooga phone area code, and her custom logo is really unique. I promised to bring her a sampling of silk fibers to try out in her soaps on my next visit to the market, as I have vowed to convert all soapers to "the silk side." (We also bought some yummy jelly from another vendor, squee!)

I love the little birdies!

From the farmer's market, we went up into the mountains (that is still so much fun for me to say, being from Louisiana!) to a fall-themed craft fair called Hodge-Podge. It was even colder up on the mountain (fun!), and we were really feeling it, since we'd both stupidly left home in khaki shorts and hoodies. That market was a lot of fun though, so it was worth it! We met so many friendly and knowledgeable vendors and shared a killer cup of coffee. I snagged some tea towels and an ID badge holder embroidered by a sweet little old lady, and some felting wool (for soap of course!) and hand-spun yarns that I am hoping to hang on to for Christmas gifts. We also ran into The Sugar Shop owner operating a cake stand and told him all about how we made the cereal and chocolate concoction that he was kind enough to give us the "recipe" for (see it in my previous post). 

And then we met the lovely Ms. Lolly, who grows and sells gourds, including loofah. I was so excited because the very first soaps I ever made were melt and pour loofah bars (like those Anne-Marie makes in this Soap Queen video), so that made me feel all sentimental-like. I told her about how much I'd loved those first soaps, but unfortunately Bramble Berry sold out of loofah sponges for quite a long while after that, and I was never happy with any loofah I bought from any other supplier. I always found it much too hard and abrasive compared to the first I used from BB. Ms. Lolly told me that the feel of loofah has a lot to do with the climate in which it is grown (a hotter, sunnier region might sometimes produce rougher loofah), and that the Appalachian region is almost the ideal location for growing it. Her loofah sponges were definitely the softest I have ever felt, so I am inclined to believe her, and bought a smallish long piece from her because of that, even though I knew it was priced a bit high. She was so sweet, she even took down my name and address and promised to send me some loofah seeds after she finished harvesting this fall and gave me some tips for growing my own. I'll admit this got me excited enough to come home and do some pretty extensive internet research. :) 

Ms. Lolly's super soft lofah sponges, one still in the husk!

Ms. Lolly's beeswax, calendula, herb and loofah glycerin soaps.
They look so effortlessly rustic and seriously scrubby!

Then today we made a trip back into town to visit the weekly Chattanooga Market. There were a ton of vendors, but the crowd was almost too heavy to enjoy them all. Every time I stopped to look at something I felt like I was in someone's way, and each time I turned to walk from one vendor to another I ran into someone or something because I am just that graceful. We're lucky we made it out of there without incurring you-break-it you-buy-it penalties. I did buy some more jellies and a jar of fruity salsa, which made me quite happy, and some fresh and fragrant herbs from a very nice lady selling for only fifty cents per bundle, and that made my honey the cook quite happy. (We choose dill, thyme, and yummy lemon basil.) We also met a super friendly goat's milk soaper named Jody (from Farmony Ridge) who told us about his family's farm and their almost exclusive use of Bramble Berry fragrances. You can imagine the high-pitched squee-ful reaction I had to that little tidbit of information! They actually had quite a few soaps made with BB fragrances I've not bought or smelled before, so I took the opportunity to introduce myself. (Hello, Love Spell, nice to meet you!) During our drive to a restaurant for lunch after the market, I was holding the bar of soap I bought from Jody in my lap while I fished out the business card and snuck a peek at their website on my phone. When we walked into the restaurant, a waiter  said to me "ooh, I love your perfume!" as he walked past us at the entrance. I didn't put any perfume on this morning, so that's a mighty fine compliment for that bar of soap I would say!

Love Spell soap from Farmony Ridge.
I love their little hand-stamped baggies!

I am just a hobby soap maker for the most part, but I do sometimes think that maybe one day I would like to sell at smaller markets and craft fairs. It's a scary concept to me, all the preparation and financial aspects of selling, and I don't know if I will ever be willing or able to take that step. If I do though, visiting these markets has been and will probably continue to be great opportunities to pick up advice and ideas from some experienced soapers. One funny thing that my honey pointed out, is that it looks like I would definitely have the local market cornered on glitter, colors and swirls and just overall girliness, as every soaper we met this weekend makes naturally colored soaps haha. 

Thanks for reading everyone, and I hope your weekend was as great as mine!


  1. Laura, I love those kinds of weekends! You got some wonderful stuff. Squee!!
    I really like your new blog header. :)

  2. Thanks Linda! I was afraid all the girliness might be too much, but went with it anyway cuz I liked it and spent a lot of time on it haha!

    I can't wait to come visit you at market sometime soon, and I don't wanna hear none of that it's-so-far nonsense outta yous! ;)

  3. I would love to see you at our little market, which I hope will continue through October. Depends on the weather and how much produce we have. I hope to have at least one more market day. I won't even mind listening to you tell me how SL changed you life. LOL

  4. I like the idea of growing your own loofah - good luck! Hopefully you'll have some good blog posts next spring about your loofah successes! I had no idea they grew like that. I guess I thought they grew like sponges. Learn something new every day!

  5. Such a nice way to spend a day!
    I was also fascinated with the idea to grow loofa since it was not available on our market. I somehow managed to provide loofa seeds and together with my fried, who is familiar with plant growing, started with this “loofa project” several months ago. Out of the 40 seeds only 4 plants grown up. Finally, we have couple of not so big loofa sponges. The result is not so fascinating but this was really interesting and fun experience!

  6. Oh no, so few loofahs! I hope you (and I) do better next time around! I am excited to give it a grow (hehe, I made a joke!), and hopefully share with you guys as I go.

  7. Laura! I had some extra time today so I've been reading your blog. I love this post, mostly for two reasons: I am a HUGE fan of silk in my soap, and sodium lactate changed my life, too!

    Have a great Thanksgiving! ((Big Hugs))