Over the last year, I’ve come to notice that there are two types of soapers. Many, if not most, make soap for the sake of creating a natural product to clean the skin. Their primary goal is the function of making and using a quality product with fewer chemicals than commercial body bars. Artistry may be nice, but is not a highest priority. Many prefer natural colorants and essential oils over synthetic fragrance oils and FD&C colorants. Let’s call these Functional Soapers. On the other hand, there are Soap Artists who are drawn to the craft to make fragrant, elegant, colorful swirls and as a creative outlet.
When I started soaping, I didn’t care one thing about the “natural” allure of handmade soap. I was drawn in by the creativity. I’ve always been a little bit crafty. Over the last few years, I’ve been sewing, crocheting, making kimekomi ball ornaments, etc. In college, I majored in interior design, so color theory and artistic design are always a part of my thought process. I took a lot of art classes; drawing, painting, fiber arts, ceramics, art history, etc. When I started making soap, my Inner Artist was calling out for the challenge of a new creative medium. Then I discovered the fluid pouring techniques of soap making. Wow! Learning to “control” liquids to create art… what a concept! And unlike cake decorating, there are no calories. How can you beat that?
Now then if I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it with quality. So, I pledged to never use “cheap” ingredients. I’ve never soaped with shortening and rarely use grocery store oils. I did get drawn in to wanting to try every quality oil and butter available. Now that I’ve tried most of the readily available ones, I can say with certainty that while I will still continue to use many of them, I can just as easily create a quality soap with just Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Castor Oil and, I like Hemp Seed Oil… a LOT.
But, for me, it still all comes back to the creativity. However, I also have to recognize that there is a very large segment of the consumer population who prefers “functional” soap over creative soap. While my soaps are intended to be used (really, I’m tempted to get a stamp that says “USE ME, PLEASE!”), I’ve often heard people comment that a soap is “too pretty to use.” Oh heck people, I know where you can get more! LOL. But, back to the Functional Soap buyer… fewer colorants, more simplicity equates to a more natural and gentle product in their mind. As a soap seller, I have to acknowledge this. So, while I love all of my uber-colorful swirlies, I must acknowledge that I would be more productive as a business to keep the bulk of my soap product less artistic and more functional.