Interview with Rachel Martin of The Handcrafters Lair
Many soap makers do more than one hand craft. What got my attention about Rachel was how she answered a post on our Facebook group, Sorcery Creations. I realized she did much more than just make soap. Here is a spotlight on kind-hearted and resourceful, Rachel Martin of the Handcrafter's Lair.
Is soap all you make by hand?
-Nope, not by a long shot. Our business is one based upon how handcrafted artisan products can work together to create a magical whole that brings to life through sensory experiences memories and imagination. So we’ve broken things down such that my husband works wonders with jewelry (primarily chainmaille with some wire-wrapping, lace, and other techniques added) and works inventory and soapy blends; our partner turns wood, plays alchemist, knits, and helps create scent blends; and I design all of our crochet patterns/products, play office monkey, work the wood burner, and also create several of our scent blends as well as our soap creations. (Can you tell that we all love to take turns with mixing our scent blends?)
When did you know soap making was for you?
-Several years ago, my aunt and uncle began making their own soaps. I was fascinated with the idea, and promised myself that I would learn someday. Then a few years ago, I learned some of the basics from a colleague at the farmer’s market where I had begun selling crochet products. I brought the techniques home that I had been taught after also asking for advice from my family, and my husband and I began to experiment to find a natural moisturizing soap that would help while keeping clean skin in extreme conditions while still being a rich, thick, bubbly lather. Then when we were trying to name our first “I love this scent sooo much!” soap with an eye toward selling it, we hit on the idea of creating scent blends that would bring favorite memories and books that we loved to life (we are both hard-core bibliophiles) and from there...we were hooked! It was heaven, being able to read a book or watch a fantastic movie in the name of product research and then bring your own imagination to life with practical products and using as many senses as possible and then feeling that silky bar in your hands.
How did you create your signature style soaps?
-When we first started experimenting on soaps, there was one in particular that was made by the woman showing me the soap tracing technique that reminded me of something similar my aunt had made. It was visually extremely appealing, but the scent just irritated me. So I set a goal for myself to find a way to make a natural bar that would surpass that. First we started experimenting on different oil blends, and then went a bit further with the botanicals included. From that we learned so much that we have stuck to blending and layering different essential oils and botanicals and finding all the magic combinations that bubble up.
What makes you happy to get out of bed regarding soap making?
-There is an incredible satisfaction in being able to look at a beautiful finished product that is beneficial and healthy for those using it. That is especially so when it is something that you have created or made, and even more so when it is regularly used. When you add to it the gift of being able to create scenes or memories or even characters through multiple senses (something that comes from being able to use multiple techniques and materials so that it is more than only through vision or scent) then your imagination gives each experiment and design a thrill that is a powerful gift and motivation even during dark times.
What were your hopes for creating your soap business?
-Having grown up with a deep love of books ranging from the historic, mysterious, romantic, and fantastic, my husband and I have a deep love of imagination. So when I started designing crochet products, it was with a love of those to inspire me whether it was with toys, hats, or fashion. When I had the opportunity to add the practical luxury of handcrafted soaps that would carry the senses even further, I was just thrilled at the idea and have been inspired by it ever since!
What are your favorite parts of soap making?
-Honestly...the way the soaps make my workshop and house smell. I love the way the soaps feel on my skin but when you have 5 kids, 2 cats, a dog and a lot of family & friends coming and going plus a husband who was a professional cook for 20 years and is a current master gardener, there are a lot of smells that can take over your life. While room scents and such are delightful, there is nothing like the clean smells that come whenever we make our soaps or bath bombs to keep things so much more pleasing. :)
Do you have concerns and/or hopes for the soap industry?
-I hope that as we work through and overcome protective fears, we will all begin to reach a point where we will understand the power of the artisan communities and how incredibly important the work we do is for our communities, as well as the value we each have in working alongside our industry colleagues in helping people make educated choices and inspire both our colleagues and customers.
What do you want people to know about your work?
-Most especially, I suppose, how much we are hoping that the love poured into each of the products we make will be a gift and blessing to all those who try out and use our products regardless of whether it is a crocheted character being snuggled, a beautiful piece of chainmaille jewelry highlighting the wearer, or bubbling up soapy inspirations.
What makes you laugh about making soap?
-The reactions that come from people stopping to smell/feel the soaps as they guess what scents are within them... especially children. The way my kids react to some of our soapy experiments is also frequently quite hilarious.
What do you want readers to know about you or your soap making business?
-How much magic you can bring to your life when you let imagination and inspiration lift you and share that with all those around you. I would never presume to claim we are *the* source for such, but we strive with each item that we bring out to provide an avenue for that with daily use of the luxurious and practical. (Ok, so that sounds like a marketing pitch but in truth I can’t find a better way to phrase it...hahaha)
The Handcrafter’s Lair is a business that is just getting a foothold in baby-steps so while we'd love to see you on Etsy at www.handcrafterslair.etsy.com , the best ways to come and play or just find out what new products and designs we’re rolling out is to come follow us via Instagram (id handcrafterslair), Twitter (id @handcrafterlair), and especially Facebook ( www.facebook.com/handcraftersl