You make soap? Like from scratch? Wait…what is soap made from; how is it made? This is the reaction I get whenever I tell someone I make soap. And I don’t mind, in fact I love that people are so interested. Soap making is such a fascinating yet bizarre process that I become giddy when I get to tell someone about it! Fundamentally making soap is simple; mix fat with a chemical (sodium hydroxide) and you have a product that allows insoluble particles to become soluble in water – you know, it cleans stuff. From its ancient history to the unending quest to create the perfect recipe, soap making is anything but simple. But how did I fall into this peculiar passion?
Spending time as a child on my grandparent’s northern Ohio farm cultivated a passion in me for nature and for all things handmade. Watching things grow from seed & dirt to food and back to dirt captured my attention from a young age and something deep in me can’t let go!
I should mention that my grandparents made soap too. They actually called it lye soap – redundant for a soap maker, but anyone with a farming heritage will know what kind of soap I’m referring to; the burnt orange chunks that were pulled out when you had a run in with poison ivy or some other dermatitis threat. The PH levels of these bars were so harsh it could burn off your skin with prolonged use… or at least that’s what we were led to believe. Looking back, with the soap knowledge I have now, lye soap was just regular old soap. Usually made with an animal fat and probably obtained its dark orange color from over-cooking or from using water with lots minerals in it. I still wonder what was in those magical chunks that made everyone believe in its wonders.
Unfortunately I didn’t pick up my soap making knowledge from them, although I wish that was the story I could tell. This isn’t a romantic story about generations of soap making skills being passed down throughout the ages; it’s a story of missed opportunity. Just as many other crafts and artistries have been lost to advancement, so did the family recipe.
Eventually I learned how to make soap from an amazing woman in central Ohio who makes and sells soap and offers the occasional workshop to newbies like myself. Fortunately soap makers are a generous breed and want to share the craft! What I was waiting for, I’m not sure. After making my first batch I was hooked from there it snowballed into Blue Bubble Soaps.
What I’ve learned from, what I hope is the very beginning of this journey, is to say yes. Yes to new pursuits, yes to the breaks we’re handed, and yes to the unknown. No matter where this (ad)venture lands me, I hope to say not one more opportunity was missed.