Friday, August 23, 2013

Silk and Clay

I believe in the purity and personality of handcrafted soaps. Of course I believe them to be a much safer product to use on your skin than mass-produced commercial brands-- with all the detergents and chemicals added and moisturizing goodness extracted-- but you'll read that anywhere. And it's true!! But that's not something I like to harp on. There's nothing wrong with putting forward something definable and real to set your product apart. It feels too much like a pitch to me, albeit it a factual one. And I was never good at baseball. (zing??) 

What I really believe in is the ability of handcrafted soap to take the experience of a daily routine and enliven it with colors and patterns and smells that have the power to invoke memories and emotions, awaken your senses, uplift your spirit, and inspire you to create.

I don't think I've ever actually voiced this to anyone before now, because I was ashamed of myself. So listen read closely. When I first started making soaps over two years ago, I looked at it the wrong way, like so many new soapers do. Instead of seeing it as something of my own that I could enjoy doing, I saw it as immediate income. And while there is nothing wrong with ambition/seizing opportunities/all that jazz, I had no idea what I was doing. I tried to do so much so quickly, and I found myself one day standing over a craft fair table full of products that meant absolutely nothing to me but rushed stock and dollar signs. I sacrificed myself and the integrity of the craft for the cheap thrill of a bulging money pouch with built-in calculator functions. 

And so I stepped back. I put all those cute pink display baskets away in the hall closet indefinitely and decided to make soap making about me. I made supply purchases about me. I made blog posts about me (and you guys!!!). And I made gifts to give to people I love. I researched and experimented and grew as a soaper and as a person. I also made a promise to myself that I would never go back to that place again, unless it was for the right reasons. 

My mom is a hobby soap and candle maker as well. She's the reason I became interested in the first place after she suffered a stroke four and half years ago and she couldn't keep it up the way she had before. Now that I don't live near her anymore, I always worry and wonder about what she is up to. Sometimes I still feel the need to text her things like YOU KNOW TO ADD THE LYE TO THE WATER RIGHT?!?!  When she came to visit me here in Georgia this summer on vacation, we planned a special trip. It might seem like something boring to do or a long, pointless drive to other people, but it was meaningful to us. We drove three plus (ok, maybe closer to four) hours to Perry, Georgia to meet and shop from Michelle at Mossy Creek Soap Studio. Her shop was so beautiful and so was Michelle as a person. And of course I was so beyond thrilled to meet another soapmaker, that you can be darn sure I stood there and blubbered on like a fool about scents and recipes and probably just everything I had ever owned since I was seven years old. 

Michelle Rhoades, of Mossy Creek Soap

As I stood there while my mom lovingly paid for some ungodly amount of new goodies, eyeing shelves stocked with buckets of oils and bottles of fragrances and curing racks bursting with beautiful, glorious soaps..... I knew. This was what I wanted. Well, maybe not on such a scale just yet, or not in the sense that I wanted what someone else had. I wanted my life to be about this thing that I love. I don't want to draw blood and fetch blankets for the rest of my life. I want to do what I love. I drove all the way back on cloud nine with starry eyes and a warm heart....or at least until my left blinker went out in the middle of Atlanta rush hour traffic. That certainly jolted me back to reality quite cruelly. 

Don't get me wrong, I didn't rush home and immediately quit my job. As a matter of fact I didn't rush home and do anything. I decided to sit on it and weigh some things out, think it through like a responsible adult, and try to figure out just how in the world I was ever going to be able to do this. When an unfortunate life event lead to the opportunity for us to be able to reduce our living expenses significantly, I knew in my heart that it was time to stop whining about going in to work at 4am and start planning for a real, believable future. 

And so I started making changes. I looked at my supply orders differently, and began stashing away little things here and there. I started making an effort to take presentable photos. (not of myself obviously, as evidenced above) I got a real website. I made goals. And I changed my name. Not my name of course, but the name of this blog and my business. (that's right, I'm official now!) But I'll never really change this blog. It will always be about making soap, and all of our journeys through it, and helping and learning from others, and never about business. I changed it to reflect a love of ingredients and what represents to me a love of this craft. 

And today I made one more last honking big purchase to make it all real. 

So over the next few days I'll be submitting my applications to area craft fairs. I already have a production schedule in place and a display over halfway complete. And all my fingers and toes crossed. I'm hoping beyond hope that someone gives me a chance, but you know what....I might not get in. I might not have the sales experience they want to see. There might be too many other soap sellers. I might not have a presentable webstore up by then, or my labeling finalized to present, or a booth display photo to show them, or it might not even be smart for me to be typing all this, considering a jury is sure to find their way here through my applications. But I'm still a believer. And I'm gonna keep on doing what I love until I can finally, one day love what I do. 

On a side note, I started out writing this as an update to my empty "About Me" page .... and it's now past my bedtime. Thank you all for every comment, every word of advice, and every one of  your blog posts. Ever. I love this community, I love this craft, and I love this dream.

P.S.S. If you already subscribe to this blog or link to it, you'll need to change to the new web address to continue to receive updates and new postings. Sorry for the trouble guys, and thanks as always for reading!!


  1. Laura- You are a remarkable young woman with a BIG heart. I know YOU will do very well in the soap business--You have the passion and drive to succeed. Thank you so much for driving 4 hours to see me and I am in awe that you would drive that far to come to my little soap studio =)

  2. Thank you for your kind words Michelle, and for all that you do to inspire soapmakers and aspiring businesses. :)

  3. This is a great post. So many people wander through life without knowing what they really want to do. I'm so glad you've found something you're passionate about and are able to take steps to make it a reality! Good luck to you!! Your soaps are beautiful!

  4. I am sure that you are going to make it because you are driven by passion! I wish you big energy, strength and good luck all the way following your vision! Best regards, Gordana

  5. Good for you, Laura! I wish you all the best as you continue your soaping journey. You have a wonderful product and I know you'll do well. :)
    But, I do have to say, I really liked the name Gladheart Soaps... ;)

  6. It's heart warming to hear your journey. With your goal redirected, paired with your love and passion for what you do, I am sure you will do very well. All the best on your new plans and keep on dreaming! :-)
    P.s. I really enjoy your blog and I think your soaps are beautiful. :-)

  7. Best wishes Laura, you deserve all the success you wish for and more! What an inspiring post, I have no doubt you'll reach your goals!

  8. It's so cool that you got to visit Mossy Creek Soap and meet Michelle! And best wishes to you as you embark on your new adventure. I hope that you get into the craft shows and sell lots of soap! Looking forward to seeing your business grow as you follow your dreams!

  9. What a great post Laura. I too have evolved so much with my soaping. I am at a point where certain designs and types of soaps are more attractive to me than what it was in the beginning. I love playing with color but have also started to see the beauty of a natural soap. You have some beautiful soaps and I do not think you have nothing to worry about! You are following your dream and making it a reality, and there is nothing better than doing something you love! GOOD LUCK!!!