Interview with Lisa Cunningham from I Dream In Soap
This week is a soap maker that amazes, delights and fascinates me. She has been pushing the perceived limits with soap making from the beginning. Not only does her mind work in extraordinary ways, but she shares what she has learned on her YouTube channel... I would like to introduce, Lisa Cunningham from I Dream In Soap.
Business name: I Dream In Soap
Personal name: Lisa Cunningham
Social media links https://www.instagram.com/idreaminsoap/
YouTube channel http://www.youtube.com/c/IDreamInSoap
1. What prompted your interest in soap making?
I’ve always been a ‘crafty’ person. One day I saw a YouTube video by Safiya Nygaard where she tried to make soap, it looked fun, so I researched a bit (well actually a lot) and had a go. I was completely hooked from the very first bar I made.
2. Did you have knowledge of soap making before you began
No, not at all. In fact, it seemed a rather weird hobby. Even today I’m still fascinated by how addictive it is. No-one I know (well ignoring my soapy friends who I have acquired since starting) make soap and if I ever mention what I do to anyone I get a very quizzical look. So nowadays if it does come up in conversation I start with ‘I know it’s weird but I make soap……’
3. How did you arrive at the name of your business?
I can get quite obsessed about soap; making it, researching it, trying to come up with new ideas. I have a very analytical mind and I have never been someone who will do something without understanding why. The way soap works fascinates me, from how it reacts to the things you do to it (temperature, blending, recipe etc) to the desire to make it do what I want. If I’m ever trying a technique, I want to understand why it works the way it does and more often than not I wonder how certain changes will affect it.
I have frequently been unable to get to sleep because I’m trying to solve a soapy conundrum, or I will wake up in the night with an idea, or a realization of how I can make a soapy plan a reality.
So ‘I Dream In Soap’ seemed a good fit.
4. What makes you happy to get out of bed regarding soap making?
Anything really, and as you saw in my previous answer it can often be the thing that wakes me up and gets me out of bed. I’ve always been an early morning person, stemming from years of owning my beautiful horse ‘Solo’ when I would be up at 4 am to get him ridden and tended to before work.
I have been known on more than one occasion to be ‘stealth blending’ (trying to stick blend really quietly) soap at about 3 am in the morning, because I’ve woken up all excited about something.
5. What is your favorite way to connect with other soap makers.
I love talking soap, so do chat a lot on Facebook, but other passions of mine are learning and teaching. I am by no means an expert in all aspects of soap making and I don’t pretend to be, hence the desire to keep learning, but I do think I have a good understanding and I love to share that with others.
I want everyone to be proud of the soaps they make, you know that feeling when you keep going in to look at a soap on the curing rack because you love it so much, or that feeling you get when you cut a loaf and you’re so excited that you do a little happy dance.
Everyone should have that and if I can give some hints and tips and help people achieve their personal soap goals then that makes me happy.
6. How do you design your soaps? Do you choose scent first or colors or… ?
Quite a few of my soaps are entries for the Soap Challenge Club, so the technique is chosen for me. Often the technique will dictate the type of fragrance oil to use, so the behaviour of the fragrance oil can be the reason it’s chosen. Typically, I will try to put some sort of spin on my design to stand out from the other entries, but that's not an easy thing to do as so many fantastically talented soapers all try to do the same.
Otherwise, my soaps are typically driven by a technique I want to do or something new I want to try out. If I’m making a swirl type soap then I do try to match colours and fragrance, otherwise with something like a landscape or other scenic type soap the picture I’m trying to create dictates the colours and I try to match it with a sensible fragrance choice.
8. Are there things in your environment that aid in your creativity?
I see soap everywhere or certainly things that could be soap, but I do think that most of my creativity comes from my desire to try new things or work out how I can do things better.
9. What is your favorite part of soap making?
100% the pour, the actual build of the soap itself to me is what it’s all about. I quite often get comments on my soaps such as ‘Ooh that’s a lot of work’ but I don’t see it like that.
I don’t get to make soap as often as I’d like as I have to fit it around a full-time job. So for me, if I’m spending time planning, measuring and then washing up afterwards I don’t want the actual pour to be over in 5 minutes and then have to wait a week until I can make another one.
10. What do you do that is not soap related, but aids in your creative thinking?
I love cooking and baking, also sewing, but I don’t really have time for that nowadays. I’ve done quite a bit of molecular gastronomy, Heston Blumenthal is my favourite chef and I quite regularly embark on one of his mammoth recipes.
11. What soaps, fragrances oils, colorants etc. have you created or used that surprised you?
Being an excessive planner, I tend not to get surprised. Also as I’m based in the UK playing around with colours and fragrances is very tricky. Our regulations here are so tight, if you want to make a soap that you can sell, it has to be assessed and that means once you have submitted your recipe, fragrance and colours you can’t change anything at all (even if you stick to the same things but alter %s) should you even swap one colour you have to pay for another assessment.
So, I tend to try to work with what I’ve got and make those things work for me. I have more flexibility for soap I’m not going to sell, but you can only make so many of those.
13. What makes you laugh about making soap?
I’m still constantly surprised how addictive it is and whilst it may not be laughter it’s certainly a lot of joy that this wonderful craft brings to a lot of people.
One thing that always makes me smile is when someone posts a picture of a disaster soap (one that they’ve actually called a disaster) now in some cases it’s just the maker being overly critical, but sometimes, unfortunately, they are right. You can guarantee when you read the comments that no-one (well I’ve very rarely seen it) will agree and say something like ‘Yep, you mucked that right up didn’t you’ instead the comments are full of positive remarks, with my particular favourite being #soapgoals, I always scroll through to see if I can find it and when I do it’s like a little mini prize. Soapy people you are so lovely and supportive, keep on just as you are.