Soapmaking is the perfect combination of science and art. It requires a keen eye for design, and understanding of the chemical process. One soaper who consistently shows mastery in both the artistic and technical sides of soaping is Clara Lindberg of Auntie Clara’s Handcrafted Cosmetics. Clara’s soap is consistently stunning. In particular, Clara is known for her lace soaps (shown below). Clara is incredibly generous with her techniques, and shares many of them on her blog. You can find the tutorial for her silicone lace mats here, which inspired the Jasmine Lace Cold Process Tutorial. Read my interview with Clara below to learn more about her creative process, and advice for beginning soapers. -A.M.
Auntie Clara’s stunning Mexican Lace Soap, fragranced with a Black Raspberry Vanilla Fragrance Oil blend.
How long have you been soaping for, and how did you get started?
I started soaping in 2011. That’s only five years ago, but it’s also countless batches ago. I had been making creams and lotions mainly for myself for a few years before that, and in the process I had researched oils, essential oils, etc., quite extensively. In my research I often came across discussions on soaping forums, but I didn’t have any urge to start soaping until one day I was killing time in a bookstore in Helsinki. On a table of discounted books I found a book on handmade soap. Having time to spare, I leafed through the pages and decided that this looked like too much fun not to try at least once. I bought the book and walked to a coffee shop to see a friend. I showed her the book and told her; “Here’s what I’m going to be doing next.”
Over the following week I spent quite a bit of time reading up on soaping properties of oils and practicing how to calculate lye and lye discount (pen, paper, SAP chart, and calculator method), and once I felt I was on top of that I made my first batch. It was a soap I had formulated myself; it was a rush with a great sense of empowerment and I loved that first soap almost as much as I loved my newborn children. I’ve made some decent soap since, but no other soap have I been as proud of as that first one.
Left to right, clockwise: Black Block Facial Soap, three gorgeous loaves of cold process soap (Buttermilk Baby Soap, Avocado & Lemongrass Soap and Black Lace Soap), Princess Alice Soap
What sort of advice would you give to those soapers just starting their businesses?
Do your research well – and don’t make assumptions. In-depth knowledge of materials, processes, production, suppliers and the ins and outs of your market is invaluable. Of course, you will learn as you go, but when I hear people say “I can’t afford to experiment,” and “I don’t have time to read up and research,” I always wonder how you can afford NOT to experiment and research. Knowledge is a great asset and a small experiment gone south is always going to be less costly than a big commitment that doesn’t work out.