Ellie of by Ellie is known for her beautiful and sophisticated cold process soap. She lives in Portugal where she works as an illustrator, designer, and motionographer. Her keen eye for design is apparent in everything she creates from soap to sugar scrubs. Learn more about Ellie in the interview below.
Ellie’s best-selling cold process soap, By the Sea.
How long have you been soaping for and how did you get started?
I’ve been soaping for almost two years. It seems I started yesterday but at the same time, a countless amount of soaps ago. I have learned so much and am still learning.
I started to make soap actually because of my boyfriend. He has oily skin and was always bathing with a “sabão azul” (translated from Portuguese, it means “Blue Soap”). In Portugal, Blue Soap is a traditional soap mostly known for washing clothes by hand. My grandma and mother used to do it and are still doing it.
I didn’t understand anything about soaps at the time, however it seemed that Blue Soap was too harsh for the skin. A few weeks after, I discovered that the Blue Soap has a pH of 11! I was right. With that said, I wanted to buy a good soap for him and I started investigating online. After some days, instead of buying one, I made one myself because I came across Soap Queen’s blog! Since then, I have never stopped.
What advice would you give to those soapers just starting their businesses?
To make a soap exactly the same as you want it to be is quite an achievement. It can be hard and frustrating at the beginning and you’ll make some or many mistakes. But keep trying, next time it will be better. Failures are never just failures, they are lessons too.
For those who are starting their business: always plan ahead. Before starting my business, my boyfriend helped me to make an Excel page where I could note quantities, prices of materials, amount of time to make each batch, packaging prices, etc., to check if the soap I’ll be making was worth the investment. Starting a business is an investment and you’ll need to spend money to make money. Spend it wisely.
What is your favorite type of product to make?
The answer is easy: cold process soap! My favorites to make are for my family with 80% olive oil as we have very dry and sensitive skin. For my mother, I scent with cinnamon fragrance oil, for me I use lavender and bergamot essential oil, and for my sister lemon essential oil. 🙂
What inspires you to create?
So many things…I don’t know where to start. It can be the texture of a tree, a combination of colors in a flower, a painting of Monet, fashion design…
My bestseller By the Sea was inspired by a cake. I have an another soap I called Grandma’s Lemon because of my grandma who always brings me fresh lemons from her fields on Sunday mornings. I love to put a little bit of a story in every soap I make!
How did you come up with the name for your business?
That was the most tricky part for me and it took weeks to figure it out. I wanted the name for my business to reflect the care and love I put into my work. My name Aurelie is French and it has a difficult pronunciation for everybody except for the French. I thought about a nickname and I came up with Ellie. By Ellie. I wanted it to express the “handmade” part of the process, so the logo turned out to be my handwriting.
The photos of your products are gorgeous. What photography tips do you have for those wanting to improve their product photos?
Thank you! Photography is so important nowadays, especially if you sell online. I am still trying to figure out which style/type of photography I want. 🙂
I would advise beginners to take a workshop to understand the basics like product compositions, styling, and what you can accomplish with a certain lens. I will not lie, a good camera is essential. Daylight is always welcome and keep it simple.
One essential rule I think is important: keep your soap clean. That’s why we need soap essentially, to keep us clean. In a photography, the soap should express that.
Ellie photographing several batches of her cold process soap.
What is your favorite Bramble Berry product and why?
There are quiet a few, but there is one that stands out: I absolutely love your Black Tea Fragrance Oil. I love the smokiness of it. Oh goodness I love it so much!
I am a professional illustrator, designer and motionographer full time. I illustrate school books and authors books (most of it for children). I work on special effects and video mapping for big events such as concerts and conventions. I love to create images and movement. Like my mother always said, “I am a forever unsatisfied person, I need to create always something new.”
Avoid wastes: when you have leftover batter, put it into little molds. It can be for your personal use. You can give them to your friends and family – it will bring happiness! It’s always worth it. 🙂 You can put them together in a little bag and sell them at markets and fairs, or give them as samples!
Have you ever experienced a horrible soapy fail? How did you work through it, and what did you learn?
Yes of course, countless of them! My biggest failure was making this batch of 4Kg (about 8 pounds) of soap with expensive essential oil and I forgot to measure and add one oil to my formula. I realized it when my mold wasn’t filled up. I gave it to my mom for her to wash clothes. I remember I was so frustrated and upset. What did I learn? Never make soap when you are tired.
Left to right: Lovely Lavender Soap, Dark Charcoal Soap.
What do you love most about creating bath and body products?
Cold process soap gives me the opportunity to create a skin-loving natural bar with luxurious and skin-loving ingredients, but I can also turn it into something beautiful. The colors, the shape, the texture, the ingredients are carefully chosen thinking on the relationship between design & function. That’s the beauty of it!