You probably already know some things about Sarah Milroy from Spicy Pinecone like her luxury soaps, her wonderful vibrant attitude and now, brilliantly colored hair, but you might not know some of the insights to her creativity she reveals in this interview.
1.) What was the first bath and/or body product you created?
Oh wow, EVER? If I had to go way, WAY back… I made jars of “perfume” as a kid and sold them door to door in my neighborhood. (Along with grasshoppers on leashes because I truly believed that they made wonderful pets.) I would load up my little red wagon with jars full of water and flower petals… and sell them to people who were too nice to tell a little girl that she was selling jars of gross, stinky water. However, my first real foray into the world of bath and body began when, as a baby, my son had horrible diaper rash. I had heard that handmade soap was best for sensitive bums, but I was too nervous to start with cold process so I found a melt and pour kit at a hobby store as a little test run. I made a simple, single-color molded melt and pour soap that was plain as plain could be, and from there, I wanted to learn everything I could about making soap.
2.) Was there a moment you knew soap making was for you?
The moment that I cut my first completed batch of cold process soap, I was hooked 100%. Like many first-time cold process soapers, I geared up for that first batch like I was working with the world’s deadliest virus… in a construction zone, and there MIGHT be a chance of a fire. I wore every piece of protective gear known to man and I had read so many books and done so much research, yet I still felt terrified that I was going to blow up the house. Once the batch was made, I must have checked it at least a hundred times that day (no exaggeration). When it was finally time to cut it, I sliced it and this amazing feeling came over me while I looked at those short, dumpy bars of soap. I had made this. I had made it from scratch. That’s when the soap bug bit me and I wanted to make a million more batches right then and there.
3.) Were there creative endeavors in your past that you can see contributed to discovering soap making? What do you see, in hindsight, that prepared you for your soap endeavors?
I have always been a creative person who likes to learn new hobbies. I bake, sew, crochet, paint, sculpt, dabble in glass blowing and woodworking, you-name-it. I’ve always had an interest in how things are made and love being able to express myself through different creative mediums. I am a very hands-on person who refuses to pay for something if I think that I can do it myself. Even if it costs me more to make something, I see the value in making it myself… in understanding the process behind it, and having the
ability to tweak things and put my own creative spin on them. I believe that being exposed to my various hobbies allowed me to give myself the freedom to try new things in my soap making process. I’m not afraid of loud, fun colors, obscene amounts of sparkle, and/or trying a new technique.
4.) Are there any aspects of soap making that others may not know about you?
When I make a batch of soap, I like to keep design planning to a minimum. I plan out the recipe and fragrance, of course, but as far as design, I may have an IDEA, but I rarely plan it out 100%. I like being able to throw in a new color because I feel like it or swirling when I wasn’t originally going to. Being fluid in the design allows me to come up with ideas in the moment and keeps things fun and interesting.
5.) You attended the Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetic Guild Conference in Las Vegas this year. What were your favorite aspects?
This is actually the first time I’ve been able to make the HSCG Conference! Every other year, things have conspired to keep me away, so I was determined to make it this year. I purchased the tickets way in advance and set the trip in stone… at least as much as I possibly could. I was thrilled to get to meet so many soapers. It was a gathering of MY PEOPLE. Looking around the conference, it was a bit mind-blowing. To have that many fellow bubble nerds and soap supplies in one place was incredible. Meeting soapers in-person and making that face-to-face connection was just invaluable and was definitely my favorite part of the conference.
Along with meeting new people, the presentations were fantastic. Many of the speakers had an abundance of great information on a variety of different topics. There really was something for everyone there. Plus, once the conference was concluded for the day… you were in Vegas. Not hard to stay entertained there.
6.) If you could change something about our industry, what would that be?
I think that in the soap making industry, there is an incredible amount of information out there for new soap makers. There are amazing books, YouTube videos, and blog articles that are fantastic sources for beginning the research process prior to making bath and body items. However, with the abundance of information, I also believe it’s easy for a new soaper to find themselves following a recipe or trying a technique that may not be safe. I am all for sharing knowledge and experience, but I think that when one does so, they have a moral obligation to ensure that they are presenting the best and safest method they can for the goal they are trying to accomplish. And for those that are just beginning in this industry, make sure that you have reliable information from different sources. Research, research, research.
7.) What is your favorite part of soap making?
Oh my goodness, there are so many fun things about making soap. I think if I HAD to choose, my favorite part has got to be cutting into a soap loaf. One of those soap loaves where you did a crazy, funky swirl with weird colors and you’re just dying to know what’s on the inside. You slice it, pull up a bar, and it’s like Christmas morning when you discover that you did, in fact, knock that latest batch out of the park.
8.) What makes you laugh about soap making?
I always find it funny when something goes crazily, horribly awry. It could be that you have a fragrance that is SUPPOSED to be well-behaved, but it decided to turn Cujo on you and you’re left scrambling to create
something that may be salvageable. I used to get upset about soap gremlins but you have to realize that if you make soap long enough and/or try new things… sometimes you’re going to have a batch that goes nuts. It’s easier to laugh about it and know that you’ve learned from it, than to regret it and pine for the soap that never was.
9.) Is there something not many know about you?
Something that people may not know is how much of a role that music plays in my soap making. When I make YouTube videos, I don’t allow the music to play in the video (hello, copyright!), but the vast majority of the time, once everything is measured… I pull up my playlist and let the music play. It helps loosen me up and get me in a creative mindset. I make some of my best batches with music to support me… and my lab doesn’t care if I sing out of tune.
For those who have read this far… Here is your reward!