Interview with Zahida Map from Handmade in Florida
If you’ve done a Google search for handmade soaps you have probably seen Zahida’s specialty soaps from Handmade in Florida.
If you are anything like me Zahida’s soaps – their elegance, the fine photography – made your breath catch. It’s easy to see the impression Zahida’s signature Feather swirl and Butterfly swirl have made on many soap makers psyche, our community. Zahida, as a person, like her work, to have a quiet elegance; because her soap works have made such an impact, let’s get to know her a little more through her soaping work.
What piqued your interest about soap?
It’s said that “necessity is the mother of invention”, and this rings so true with my soap making journey. I started making soap shortly after my son was born (almost 10 years ago). My hands were painfully dry and cracked with all the excessive hand washing that comes along with being a new parent. I went through every “sensitive” commercial soap on the market and nothing eased the sting. Finally, my husband remembered making soap in his high school chemistry class and suggested we give it a go. Although the internet was obviously around back then, there wasn’t this plethora of readily available information on cold process soap making. We managed to get our hands on a few books, then supplies (the basics) and went to town making our very first batch of cold process soap with lavender essential oil. It was not the prettiest soap, but it sure was the best I had ever tried at that point. No more painfully dry skin.
Describe the moment when you knew soap making was for you: That very first batch. Watching and waiting for that first batch of soap to cure was agonizing. I didn’t want to
make any more until I knew whether or not this experiment was successful. And of course, I was too paranoid to cheat and try a sliver before it was fully cured. It was worth the wait and I cherished that soap and the relief that it brought along with it
What is your favorite part(s) of making soap and why?
I love everything about making soap. It’s my passion. A labor of love. From selecting the oils and butters, formulating the recipe, watching the transformation of oils, stirring the rich, creamy batter, pouring raw soap into molds, putting them to rest, un-molding, cutting… Everything… I even enjoy lining my wooden molds.
Do you do other hand crafts?
Yes, I’ve always enjoyed arts and crafts and dabble in as much as time permits. I paint, bake, sew etc. One thing’s for sure, I’m never bored (unless physically stuck somewhere and unable to create).
How did you create your signature style soaps, your soaps are so well designed.
Thank you I think when you do something… Anything repeatedly, you naturally find your groove. What feels right and comfortable to you. I’ve doodled those designs and swirls on the corners of my school work, napkins, notes etc., for as long as I can remember I love looking at soap and immediately knowing who made it based upon their signature design.
What makes you happy to get out of bed regarding soap making?
My son. He’s almost 10 now and is a connoisseur of everything soap lol! He knows all the swirls and can also identify a maker based upon a soap he sees! Probably most impressive, is his ability to pick out any scent accurately! We have a game we play, where I hand him a bar of soap and say “what does this smell like”? He’ll think for a moment then say “mmm, it smells like lavender, peppermint, spearmint and a hint of rosemary”. Seriously blows my mind! I ask my husband the exact same question and he laughs then says, “mmm, it smells like something fresh, like clean laundry?” After getting my son off to school in the morning, I go to my studio. Even if I’m not actually creating something that day, I just enjoy being there. If I have some nice batches of soap waiting to be cut, that’s a bonus.
What do you do that supports your soap making, creatively? Are there other things you do that support your love of soap making?
Yes, pretty much everything supports my love of soap making. Inspiration is everywhere and it can be so random…morning tea/coffee, colors of the sky, the smell of freshly cut grass, rain, food, people, places etc. If I’m in a creative rut (we all have them from time to time), I usually reorganize my studio. At some point along the way, I’ll either come across a fragrance I MUST soap that very second or decide it’s more fun to go make something instead of organizing.
What were your hopes for your soap business?
I started making soap out of necessity, I continue out of love. I am blessed and grateful that people enjoy my soap as much as I enjoy making it.
Do you have concerns and/or hopes for the soap industry? I’m thrilled with the progress we’ve made within the soap industry over the last decade. The sharing, friendship and mutual respect in this community has made soap making more accessible than ever. If we take pride in our work and maintain high standards of safety and ethics, then we’re good, otherwise, we’re regulated.
What do you want people to know about your work?
I take pride in my work and have set some pretty high standards for myself. If I don’t love it, chances are, you’ll never see it lol.
What are your favorite parts to making soap?
I love it all. I love how scent can conjure up memories, I love getting creative with colors, I love experimenting with exotic oils, butters, clays and waxes. Yet, even if you take away the colors, scents, exotic oils, butters, clays and waxes, I still love the creamy texture of raw soap batter, that distinct scent of pure soap. I love it all.
What makes you laugh about making soap?
My soapy friends make me laugh. It’s not every day that you find a group of like minded people who obsess over soap as much as you do!
What do you want readers to know about you or your soap making business i.e. other products, ingredients, research… Anything you’d like to mention here.
I’m known for my Butterfly swirls and delicately sculpted tops, but first and foremost, I’m known for good soap. I don’t skimp on ingredients. I make soap that I enjoy using. It’s an affordable luxury and functional indulgence. My goal isn’t to make the cheapest soap with the highest profit margin, my goal is to make the best soap.
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