Origin Story of the Soapmaking Kind

It is bonkers to think that I’ve been making soap for 16 years!  Back in 2000, I was looking for a craft I could make to give as Christmas gifts.  Internet research brought me to soapmaking, and that Christmas, all of my family and friends received melt-and-pour glycerin bars from me.  I had a fun time making the soap, which is crafted by melting glycerin soap cubes in the microwave and adding custom color and scent, but the science nerd in me wanted more; I wanted to learn to make pure soap the old-fashioned way, in which sodium hydroxide (lye) is used to turn water and oils into soap, a process called “saponification.”  The following Christmas, my wish list consisted of all the equipment I would need to make “cold process” soap, including my goggles and gloves, a digital scale, and a stainless steel pot.  Making my first batch of cold-process bar soap was a thrill!  There was something magical about taking three types of ingredients (oils/butters, water, lye) and turning them into something entirely new.

At that time, I was still in college, and I stored my supplies in a Rubbermaid container under my bed.  I still have my first pair of safety goggles and my first soap mold, and I still use my first heat-resistant spatula every time I make soap.

When I moved from Illinois to Brooklyn in 2002, my whole life packed into a U-Haul, I made my mom sit in the passenger seat with my precious oils and butters at her feet because I did not want to leave them to overheat in the back of the truck.

In Brooklyn, my soaping supplies lived in a corner of my studio apartment, under a shelf of books, nearly ignored while I attended law school.  But when I graduated and moved to New Jersey, soapmaking once again became a creative focus and outlet for me, and I soon took over two closets and all the space under the kitchen table.

We moved to Metuchen in 2010, where I started in the laundry room and now have my own dedicated laboratory.  We have been participating at the Metuchen Farmer’s Market since 2011, and we love being part of the community — both as residents and local business-owners — and we love the welcoming reception our community has given us.  Here’s to another 16 years of soapmaking!





August 16, 2016 by Jennifer Katehos
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