Interview with Laurel Tahon of Soaps and Seams
Laurel Tahon, from Soaps and Seams, came on the radar after a live chat about soap hosted by Sorcery Soap.
Laruel's enthusiasm for soap making, her bubbly and pleasant personality extends to her soap art. Laurel makes soap, sews, crochets, knits, cooks and is raising two delightful children in rural countryside.
Learn more about how Laurel got started, what inspires her, and her soap making tips.
When did you know soap making was for you?
After our daughter was born, I started looking for a new hobby to help with the stress of being a new parent. I was very quickly losing myself to the stress and worry and I needed something to help keep me grounded. I have always loved hearing my Grandmother's stories of how they used to make soap when she was a little girl, so I started researching soap making. I bought several books and then started buying the ingredients. I was hooked after my very first batch. My Grandmother finds it funny that I now make soap similar to how she used to! Everytime I tell her about a soap I'm making, she just keeps smiling and saying mine is a lot more colorful and smells better than their soap used to.
What are you favorite types of soap making? CP, HP, CPOP… ?
I do CP and occasionally CPOP depending on the fragrances and colorants I use. I love the look of CP and there's still so many designs I want to try. It seems like every time I turn around, there's a new design! Making a soap using HP is on my list to try along with making my own melt & pour base one day.
When did you discover you loved soap making?
I fell in love with soap making during my very first batch. One of my favorite courses in college was chemistry. Making soap reminded me of the labs with having to formulate recipes, measuring ingredients, and watching it go through its various phases. I had a blast even though I didn't have a stick blender yet and had to stir the soap by hand for over an hour! It is still one of my favorites. It was a basic bar with Lavender EO and a purple colorant, but it was amazing. I wish I would have saved one of the bars.
What are your favorite parts of soap making?
My favorite part is prepping all of the ingredients. I always premix my colorants with oil (or water) and measure out my fragrance oil and additives. I learned very quickly to stage everything I need prior to pouring the lye into the oils and to have it all within easy reach. You never know when the soap gremlins will make an appearance!
Another favorite is when someone asks "is that soap?" People (including myself) are always surprised at the different things you can do with soap. At Christmas time, I had someone tell me they couldn't buy my hot chocolate soap because they would end up trying to eat it. I always enjoy hearing people's stories because I never know what they're going to say!
What makes you happy to get out of bed regarding soap making?
I believe one of the main reasons I love making soap so much is my daughter Kate. She LOVES watching me make soap and smelling the different bars. Whenever I'm watching soap making videos, she'll come running to watch with me and a lot of times will just walk up and ask to watch soap videos. When someone gave her play-doh, she immediately said "look Mama, I'm making soap!" It's impossible not to share her excitement and enthusiasm! I hope my son Sam also finds soapmaking as exciting when he gets a little older.
What are you favorite oils, butters, micas and/or processes or other?
My favorite oil would have to be olive oil. It's amazing how it makes such a hard bar and it's so gentle. My favorite colorants are Nurture Soap's vibrance micas. I love how bright they are and a little goes a long way. My Grandmother has a large Gardenia in her front yard and I've always loved the smell. I was so excited to find a "White Gardenia" fragrance from WSP that smells so close to the real thing. It immediately became my favorite scent followed closely by lavender.
What were your hopes for creating your soap business? (To help you answer: What hopes came true, so far, for your soap business/process?
What are you still hoping for?) My hope for creating my soap business initially was to help pay for my new hobby. Once I started selling my soap and received such a positive response, I decided to start slowly scaling my business. I love attending craft fairs and being able to talk to people about handmade soap, but with 2 small kids, it's not always easy to attend events.
My ultimate dream is to open a small store front to sell my items and handmade goods from other local artisans with a space/warehouse for my soap studio in the back and a space for my husband to make soap molds among other things. I can picture us both working there with our 2 kiddos while being our own boss.
What other interests do you have when not in your soap laboratory?
It's not always easy finding time for my other interests because most of my time is devoted to my daughter who is currently 3 years old and my son who is 5 months old. I have always loved crafting. One of my greatest childhood memories is of my Mom baking and decorating our birthday cakes. It's a tradition I'm doing for my kids as well.
My Mom taught me how to crochet and knit, but I'm still very much a beginner. I apparently created a new stitch when I was trying to make a blanket using a double crochet stitch. I also inherited my Mom's love for reading. I go through spells where I'll read a lot of different books in a short amount of time, then I'll not pick up a book again for awhile. Thanks to my husband, I absolutely love watching the Pittsburgh Penguins and am completely obsessed with hockey! It's the only sport I watch now. Making a Penguins themed soap is on my list when I have time.
Do you have concerns and/or hopes for the soap industry?
My main concern for the handmade soap industry is more regulations and misinformation. I've been to a lot of events with other soapmakers both as a vendor and a customer. There's been numerous times where I've heard a soapmaker claiming their soap can cure xyz disease and making a ton of drug claims. I've also heard a soapmaker telling their customers that they don't use lye to make their soap and it's not a necessary ingredient. It worries me with how litigious society is, all it will take is one lawsuit to catch someone's eye then tougher regulations will be passed.
One of my greatest hopes for the handmade soap industry is society's growing trend to be more aware of what's in their products. I don't see this awareness as a passing trend. I've had a lot of customers quiz me on the ingredients in my soap and a lot actually check the ingredients on the label. I've even had a few asking questions about my manufacturing practices. I don't see the handmade soap "trend" ending anytime soon.
What do you want people to know about your soaps/business?
I am very proud of the soaps I've created. The research and test batches are well worth it and I never want to stop growing or limit myself. Even though I love my current recipe, I am a firm believer in always trying to improve so I'll continue tweaking my recipe in test batches. I've heard way too many horror stories so I only purchase ingredients through reputable suppliers. Another aspect important to me is reducing waste and the use of plastic. I ensure all of the glitter I use is eco-friendly, I'm moving away from shrink wrap, and I've tried to ensure I get as much use out of my tools as possible.
What makes you laugh about making soap?
Soap gremlins! I can make a batch the exact same way I've made it before but the soap gremlins start playing. I've had soap do all kinds of crazy things. I've had "well-behaved" fragrances move so fast I couldn't get the soap in the mold and soap that took forever to trace. When I was making soap favors for my sister's wedding, I normally had to wait about 10 minutes to texture the top. With one of the batches, I glanced at it a couple of minutes after I poured it into the mold and it had already hardened too much to be textured. When the soap gremlins make an appearance, you just have to go with it. Some of my gremlin batches ended up with the neatest designs!
All the ways to get your hands on Laurel's soaps and sewing!