Interview with an Australian Soap Witch - Miss B
Miss B, Belinda Vandyk appeared on my radar a few years back. After taking an online tarot reading with her, I fell in love immediately! Miss B's soaps are clever, insightful and highly skilled. May I introduce a wonderful Soap Witch who embodies all things magical about soap making.
Did you arrive at the name of your business?
Some years ago folks just began calling me Miss B and it just caught on. It’s curious, I have no idea why but I just went with it. These days everything I do for my business is under the umbrella of Miss B therefore my soap range became “Miss B’s Handmade Soap.”
How long have you been making soaps?
I made my first soap around 13 years ago, like many people I began with MP. I used white grandfather sage essential oil to fragrance it. At the time, I could not find any white sage soaps for sale anywhere and I really liked the idea of a “shower smudge.” Over time I abandoned MP and began to make simple cold process plain Janes. My CP sage soap has evolved to include my own home grown white grandfather sage. I’m actually really proud of that because the climate in Melbourne (Australia) is not necessarily ideal for growing sage and I am a pretty terrible gardener. So it’s kind of a miracle. To this day it is probably one of the most popular products in my range.
Did you have knowledge of soap making before you began?
When I very first started, I literally had no idea what I was doing. I had very little knowledge but very quickly I became obsessed with soap making. Then, I received a generous gift of a bunch of soap making supplies including all kinds of colors and micas from one of my clients who is an ex-soap maker. Shortly after that I discovered soap making forums on the internet, instead of just making plain Janes, a whole world of possibilities opened up. I researched, experimented and learned so much. I began to experiment more with colors, designs and soap dough, thanks Bee! I tried, HP, liquid soap, dual lye shaving soap and just recently I revisited MP. However, this time around I am making it from scratch using a Hot Process Hybrid method (so satisfying).
What makes you happy to get out of bed regarding soap making?
When I have a new design idea stuck in my head I’m always impatient to get going and move it out of my mind and into reality. Sometimes I even dream about making soap.
How did you choose your packaging / labeling for your soaps?
My packaging has evolved organically over time. I really like the simplicity of natural kraft paper and I want to convey that homemade with love feel in my packaging. When I received a painting done by one of my dearest and super talented friends I just knew I had to use that image in my label design! Her painting was inspired by the hermit card from one of my favourite tarot decks but she has a twist! This hermit is all inked up, sporting the exact same tattoos as my inky self. One of the lessons of the hermit is about spending quality time in your own company for self care. I think having a nice relaxing bath with a homemade soap is a wonderful way to honour the energy of the hermit. Therefore I think the image is very fitting for my brand.
How do you come up with your color designs?
I have an interest in color symbology, the chakra system and the aura. I try to use color to create a mood in my designs. I’m also fascinated with witchery and the shadow side. My favorite colors are red and black (it might be a Scorpio thing) so that tends to be a bit of an ongoing theme in my soap designs.
Where do you find your inspiration for your soaps?
Everywhere! In all the places! I think that’s why my soap range is so eclectic. I’m inspired by travel, music, conversation, television, books, landscapes, people, dreams, the moon, witchcraft, work, events, tarot, the occult, metaphysics. Inspiration can be found everywhere, in every moment. After a visit to the USA one time, I couldn’t wait to get home and commemorate my time in the beautiful desert landscape with a Tucson inspired soap.
What is your favorite part of soap making?
I have so many favourite parts! I love the “ping” of the wire cutter as it slices through a fresh soap. I enjoy the finishing touches such as beveling and planning just as much as the designing and making. I think one of my favourite parts is probably the simple act of tucking a freshly made batch in and putting it to bed. I insulate most of my soaps, I prefer to gel them, I think it helps to make the colors pop but also in my opinion, it’s much easier to encourage a full gel than it is to avoid a partial gel. Like all other soap makers, my least favorite part is the clean up and the dishes.
What do you do that is not soap related, but aids in your creative thinking?
My day job is Tarot Reading /Teaching and Aura Photography. Along with that I have an interest in witchery and Candle Making. In combination, I think this helps me to think outside the square a little.
What soaps have you created that surprised you?
I still have the same sense of wonder that I had at the very beginning of my soap making career. More often than not, when I complete a design the thought occurs to me that this loaf was just ingredients sitting in my cupboard a minute ago. It’s a reoccurring thought but it still catches me by surprise.
What soaps have you made that got a reaction you did not expect?
I am delighted by how well received my witchy soaps are. I did not expect the response and the support that I have been blessed to receive. Naturally there has been one or two haters but that was less surprising than the overwhelmingly positive response I have received from other soap makers and customers alike.
What makes you laugh about soap making?
Whenever I am being inauthentic, for example making something pretty, pink and frou frou, purely for commercial appeal (and against my usual asthenic) it tends to fail or I experience problems. Happens every single time. I honestly believe it’s the soap gods reminding me to stay true to myself and telling me to stay in my own lane. The other thing about soap making that makes me laugh is the customers that have my soaps sitting in their bathroom purely for decoration. Life is short. Use the fancy soap!