Interview with Annie of Arachnes Demise A Modern Apothecary
Maybe a year ago I saw a video of Annie, Arachne's Demise; A Modern Apothecary, molding soap dough where Sorcery Soap was mentioned. Her highly creative design was hindered by not have simple hand tools. I knew nothing about her, but saw she needed something that I could provide so I sent her a Sorcery Soap Dough Fondant Kit.
It seemed logical to spotlight Annie of Arachnes Demine Modern Apothecary with her fairy-like alchemy yet grounded in a warrior goddess determination.
What piqued your interest about soap?
My journey into soap making has been a long and drawn out one. I first started my Etsy shop in 2012. I had a wide, and frankly quite random, assortment of offerings. Embroidered pillows, coin purses and hair bows, but also soap, other bath and grooming products and eventually mineral makeup. All I knew at that point was that I wanted to make stuff, and if people bought the stuff, well that was a bonus. I thought the idea of making my own soap, specifically Castile soap, would be not only fun but something that would treat my skin well, too.
Describe the moment when you knew soap making was for you.
Before I made my first batch I had read every book at the library on soap making. I researched essential oils, carrier oils and butters, and various herbs and natural ingredients, but, cold process still intimidated me so I bought the Castile shreds from Bramble Berry. I decided I would make milled Super-fatted Castile soaps. I was in love with my plain looking soaps.
I finally tried cold process about a year and a half later. Of course, it was no where near as scary as I expected it to be. I altered my line up of soaps to reflect my new technique. At that point I was not selling any sewn items, but still struggled with an over extended inventory and really had not settled into where I wanted my shop to go. I was attempting to take my uncolored "boring" soap and take it to another level.
I was making cold process for over a year I finally bit the bullet and bought myself a nice tall and skinny mold with a silicone liner. I had been using mostly individual cavity molds. That was truly a game changer for me! I was able to try out new designs and techniques; most of all I was having success that I hadn't experienced in all my years of soaping and attempting different designs. I really began to enjoy the challenge of a new technique. It forced me to understand my soap on a deeper level. The more I learned, the more fun I began to have.
What is your favorite part(s) of making soap and why?
I love the challenge because it's incredibly satisfying for me to achieve something. So, when it goes well and my soap turns out just how I want it to, it makes up for all the attempts along the way. I also love that I have a functional piece of art, even with the ugly ones!
Who or what do you look to for inspiration for your unique soaps?
I can find inspiration in practically anything. Whether it's the cup of tea I'm drinking, the colorful pile of clothes hangers on the floor, or a Design Seeds color scheme, it can be as simple as that. Sometimes a soap is planned out for a year before I even attempt it and other times I am so struck with inspiration that I drop everything to make that soap. Lately I'm really inspired by Mama Bass Handmade Soaps, Euphoria Soap Works, and L3O Soaps. I find that when someone is inspired you can feed off that creative energy and come up with something all your own. All of their soaps just put me in the mood to create!
Are there any aspects of soap making that others might not know about you?
There isn't much about my soap making life that I keep private. Let's see... I'm somewhere between 150-200 batches under my belt. I didn't start making soap that was not Castile until last year. I also really enjoy making liquid soap and cream soap paste and have been doing it a lot more often lately.
How often do you make a youtube video?
I had stopped making videos there for a while, but I'm trying to get back into it again. I don't have a schedule to it, but it would probably be beneficial to implement one. Typically I make a video every time I make a soap that I feel is worthy of sharing. My goal with getting back into YouTube would be to make more tutorial style videos, actually going into my recipe creating process and hopefully teaching the viewer something new. I'm hoping I can publish at least four videos each month.
What makes you happy to get out of bed regarding soap making?
I've gotten up early to cut into fresh loaves many times; the customers that keep coming back for more, stocking up when I have sales, and constantly supporting me - those people make getting out of bed to make soap pretty awesome, too.
What do you do that supports your soap making, creatively? Are there other things you do that support your love of soap making?
Living in such a connected world, it was a combination of soap making and the internet that happened to have me cross paths with a woman in Ghana by the name of Ajike. She's the founder of a women's center in rural Savelugu, Northern Ghana where they produce unrefined Shea butter by hand. I knew I just needed this Shea butter for my soaps so I ordered 50 kg. I shared this news with my followers on Instagram, a lot of which are soap makers, and many people were interested in this Shea butter as well. I took a risk and bought another 500 kg.
Shea Queen Fuseina was in charge of my order. The Shea nuts are sun dried, crushed and roasted, then ground into a paste and boiled. The paste is then kneaded by hand for several hours adding only water to remove the bits of Shea nut from the butter. After the butter has been separated from the impurities it is heated again and strained, then stirred by hand again until it becomes creamy. Having the luxury of seeing my Shea butter created from start to finish, by hand no less, was absolutely incredible. The Shea Queens working at the center were able to purchase books, pencils, and other learning materials for the school in the village with our groups purchase, too. Every product I make with this Shea butter and every order I get from fellow soap makers and crafters helps bring it all full circle and I'm really grateful to have been a part of that.
What were your hopes for your soap business?
I did start this business with the hopes that it would create livable income... Eventually. I quit my day job in January 2014, which in hindsight was too early. While I'm certainly no millionaire, I have heat, electricity, a reliable car and a full tummy so I'm not complaining.
I will say that the majority of my income isn't even from soap. I manufacture beard products for a company called Mr. Rugged. I make a mud mask for a company called Spa's Premium. I work with the same guy for all of these
products. He came to me with a few comparable products in mind and asked if I could create something similar, but not exactly. He wanted to chose the ingredients. Mr. Rugged Bold Beard Balm was born and I've produced over 5,000 units since December 2014. I was 7 months pregnant at the time and in a serious financial dilemma. It's hard to say what this business would be today if it weren't for that opportunity that has blossomed into many others. If I had to guess I'd probably be making ten bucks an hour in a dead end job while I paid the equivalent on eight bucks an hour to a day care facility with zero time or energy to spend on Arachne's Demise. I am truly and deeply grateful for what I've been able to build this business into and my ability to do it all while staying close to my daughter!
Do you have concerns and/or hopes for the soap industry?
I hope the soap community continues to flourish and build each other up. Most (99%) of the people I've come into contact with over the internet through soaping are true gems and I'm happy to be a part of that community. I don't have a group of people like that around me in the real world.
If anything were to concern me it would be the quality and source of our ingredients. One of the many things that importing Shea butter has taught me is that I really have no idea where the rest of my ingredients come from. It's hard not to assume the worst when I find a great deal on something. I learned the hard way, it is very very expensive when done ethically and in small batches. That being said, I'm really taking a step back and reevaluating where I purchase my ingredients. I still have a budget to mind, but utilizing things like local animal tallow have made a big difference.
What do you want people to know about your work?
I'd love for people to know that by supporting me you really are making my dreams come true and quite literally helping me dig myself out of poverty. Every purchase, review, nice comment and is noticed and appreciated! It fuels me to push my boundaries and try new things.
What are your favorite parts to making soap?
I love a good fragrance oil! My favorites are the ones that just scream out a color scheme when you smell them.
I'd have to say my favorite part is planning out a specific soap. For example: every now and then I get an inquiry about a custom loaf. These are my favorite! I will immediately go down and see what I have in stock, asking what sort of scents they like, color schemes, any skin sensitivities or allergies. I absolutely love these custom batches!
What makes you laugh about making soap?
I'm at a point where I feel like every disaster has already happened, until a new disaster happens. Luckily I'm also at a point where that makes me laugh now, instead of scream.
What do you want readers to know about you or your soap making business?
I've got one potentially huge idea, and a few little ideas bouncing around my head and at least one of them is almost guaranteed to happen so stay tuned!
Instagram handles for soapers I mentioned as inspiration Mama Bass Hand Made Soap @soapgirl62 @l30soaps
More on the Ajike Shea Centre