Linda Mays likes to joke that she is a rich woman trapped in a poor woman’s life. Linda’s mother always told her she had a ‘rich man’s taste on a poor man’s budget’ and Linda says that’s pretty accurate. She loves and appreciates the finer things in life, like gourmet food and exotic travel destinations. But she’s a woman on a budget so she sometimes ends up with only Ramen noodles and trips to Walmart. What else does Linda do? Well, she makes soAp. She said she capitalizes the ‘A’ because soap-making is such an obscure hobby that people often misread the word and mistakenly think she makes soup. Get to know Linda, owner of the Enchanted Bath and our WV Artist on Display.
1. How do you describe your palette?
I make different types of soap and bath products from a workshop in my home. There are three main types of soap-making methods; cold process, hot process and something referred to as ‘melt & pour’. The type of soap I make most often is cold process soap. It’s made by mixing things like olive oil, coconut oil, sustainable palm oil and castor oil.
This cold process method does not produce a harsh soap like our great-grandma’s used to make; it creates a gentle and luxurious soap that contains little or no chemicals or preservatives. The soap we buy in stores these days is not really even soap; it’s detergent. Even the brands that claim to be extra gentle are still just bars of detergent. I make the real thing; good, clean, pure soap. People with sensitive skin or dry skin are especially big fans of this cold process method of soap-making.
2. What’s your greatest accomplishment?
I have to give you two answers here. These are two very different things but I am equally proud of them both when it comes to my soap-making.
The first accomplishment that I am proud of, is being juried into
Tamarak; The Best of West Virginia. Tamarak is located near Beckley, West Virginia and it is a facility that showcases various artisans from all over the state. It’s a multi-step screening process, and I was thrilled to make it through and be approved as a Tamarack artisan. Tamarack now carries a selection of some of my soaps.
The second accomplishment that I am most proud of was the time I had a shopper pick up one of my soaps, examine it, sniff it and then ask me the price. When I told her, she said, “You charge $6 for a bar of soap? That’s too much”.
This shopper walked away, carrying a free sample-size bar I had given her earlier. Two weeks later, after using her sample every day, this same woman came looking for me and bought 10 bars of soap – and gladly paid the $6 per bar. I will never forget that sense of accomplishment. I thought to myself, “I’ve made a believer out of this person. Now she appreciates the difference in store-bought soap and handmade.”
3. What obstacles do you need to overcome to find your creative space/muse?
The biggest obstacle for me in my soap-making is lack of time. There are so many new products and designs that I want to try, but I work full time, and I love to cook, read, write and work in my flower garden. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do. So it’s often very difficult to find time to make a new batch of soap.
4. How do you find your inspiration?
I find soap-making inspiration in a variety of places. I love Pinterest so I go on there and browse through the work of expert soap-makers from all over the world. Many of these artists have been making soap for decades. I look at the photos of soap they have made and I decide if I would like to try some of their ideas myself. Or sometimes their soap photos spark an idea in my mind of a totally different design. Sometimes my design experiments work, and sometimes they fail miserably, LOL!
Soap that looks like cupcakes or other food is popular right now, especially with kids, teens and tweens. So cooking and baking are another source of inspiration for me. There are a lot of kitchen talents that can be carried over into soap-making. For instance, I use cake decorating bags and tools to pipe soap onto the top of soap cupcakes. And since I like to garden, I also find inspiration in flowers. I love using dried flower petals to decorate soap.
5. What advice do you have for other artists?
My advice to anyone who has an interest in soap-making is to look for beginner tutorials on the internet, especially on YouTube. These tutorials take you through the process step-by-step and make the whole thing less intimidating. Read books on soap-making and join some soap-making groups on Facebook or other sites. I find these groups especially helpful because you can share recipes, ideas and troubleshooting advice with soap-makers from all over the world.
You can see/purchase Linda’s soaps at TheEnchantedBath.com, Tamarak, and on social media @TheEnchantedBath
– LBSPY #61. January 2015.