Margaret of Sweet Soft Skin Handmade Soaps creates gorgeous soap that is full of color and personality. Her signature style are bars with plenty of layers, soap frosting, embeds and glitter. The result is showstopping! Read on to learn more about Margaret, including what inspires her color palettes and her number one soaping tip! -A.M.
How long have you been soaping for and how did you get started?
I started soaping two and a half years ago. I was gifted some nice soap from my brother-in-law for my birthday and looked up how soap was made. It sounded like a cool process and something that would be fun to do with my homeschooled children to illustrate the usefulness and marvels of chemistry. We all made a batch as a family (my husband helped too) and I was hooked!
What sort of advice would you give to those soapers just starting their businesses?
I think the most important thing when you are starting to turn your soaping into a business is to be patient and set small goals for yourself. I already had some experience with a (failed) etsy store before, so I was under no illusions that it would be easy. My first goal was just to get some of the soap out of my house so that I would have room to make more! The Soap Queen blog helped me think about further goals and motivated me to keep taking small steps towards turning my interest in making soap into a little business. Each time you meet a goal is a good opportunity to chart where you want to go next.
What is your favorite type of product to make?
Cold Process soap is my one true love! I’ve made bubble bars, lip balms, and even bath bombs as well; but nothing beats the satisfaction of pouring a loaf of cold process soap. I make lip balms because it is really simple and why not make it when it is something you need, but everything else while neat to try seems like work and soaping is like play.
Margaret’s Lemon Verbena Soap Bars. Her stamp looks phenomenal!
What inspires you to create?
My sister-in-law Rosie is my inspiration. She taught me to quilt, she made costumes for my daughters so they could be whatever they wanted every Halloween, and she was the first fan of my soap. I had made soaps to be Christmas presents for family when I first started making soap. When it became clear that the cancer we thought she was beating was going to claim her before then she got her soap early and how much she loved it really meant a lot to me. I think of her every time I do anything creative. She was a sparkling, happy, creative person who is my inspiration in all things handmade. The peacock in my logo is for her. The peacock is a symbol of the resurrection.
How did you come up with the name for your business?
Oh gosh, names are the worst! I’ve always liked to write and compose stories to myself in my head, but any time I put pen to paper I always get stuck on the names. My mind totally blanks and nothing sounds right. It’s total agony. I bounced many ideas around in my head (and wrote them out) for days. I wanted something that rolled off the tongue but was not too goofy. Sweet Soft Skin was the first thing I came up with that didn’t make me unhappy so I chose it and stuck with it glad to have the naming challenge behind me.
You have such vibrant and colorful soaps. Where do you find inspiration for your color palettes?
Back when I was first married I really like quilting. Going into a fabric store and seeing all the colors, choosing a bunch and coming home and making something bright and cheerful so I could feel surrounded by beauty really made me happy. A quilt takes many hours of work to make, however, and after a few years my linen cupboards where full and there was not as much time available to me. I missed all the vibrance of those colors and when I found soaping it all came back to me. I can whip together a gorgeous soap in 1 to 2 hours and in addition to gorgeous colors I get aromatherapy from working with various scents and get to keep and use something that is beautiful and useful afterwards. What is not to love?
The top of your soap often features fun frosting, embeds and sparkle. What’s your favorite soapy topping?
My favorite embeds are the seasonal shapes like snowflakes, pumpkins, butterflies, and seashells. It is really fun to get psyched for the upcoming season and bringing to mind all the things you love about it. I am also inspired by the pastry arts. My mom would let us play with frosting as kids. She’d give us a piping bag and cookie sheets and let us try out making different shapes and designs. Blending these different things together is just fun and I love them all!
Sweet Soft Skin Handmade Soap’s beautiful Berry Mango Cold Process Soap.
What is your favorite Bramble Berry product and why?
Do I have to pick just one? There are so many! Your Cherry Almond Fragrance is a bestseller for me. The Champagne Fragrance Oil is my favorite blender. It goes with anything and really brightens it up. I love your 5 lb mold and liners, your spatulas, so many things! You guys offer a great variety of wonderful items and then there is also the Soap Queen blog which is such a source of support and inspiration.
Tell us something unusual or unique about yourself!
I have red hair and freckles, but I am one quarter Mexican. I speak fluent Spanish because I grew up in Puerto Rico and my schooling from pre K through High School was all in that language. I always get a kick out of the reactions I get when I speak to people and they are shocked by that. I grew up in a Hispanic culture and really feel like a part of it even though I don’t look it at all.
What are some of your other hobbies and interests?
I am an avid reader. I read all kinds of books and get through 5-8 in a month unless I get caught up in something like “Brother’s Karamazov.” I also like to make beeswax candles for myself and family members, quilting, and baking.
What is your number one soaping tip?
Start out with small batches so that you can make lots of soap without it taking up all your space! This way you can try those new techniques and fragrances you just have to try without all the guilt. A good scale is very important when working with smaller batches though, so make sure you have one. A big part of learning your art is to practice, and you don’t want to sell soap until you have a real grasp on how it all works, so small batches let you practice, practice, practice.
Have you ever experienced a horrible soapy fail? How did you work through it, and what did you learn?
I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t experience a soapy fail at one time or another. I find that for me it usually happens when I am feeling confident, but rushed. When I think I can handle and accelerating fragrance, or don’t look up a new fragrance because I think I remember how the reviewers said it behaves, that is when my small carelessness causes problems. The important thing is to stay calm! Small disasters like soap on a stick or acceleration that means your design won’t happen are distressing, but if you don’t panic you can improvise and even plop and glop soaps are perfectly useable even if they don’t embody your original vision.
What do you love most about creating bath and body products?
I love that you end up with beautiful, great smelling, and extremely useful things at the end of the process. The combination of use and beauty delights me. Getting to use beautiful things is so pampering, a small every day luxury that is accessible to anyone! Plus they are so fun to create.