Interview with Ruth of PotterMade Soap
Ruth with PotterMade Soap started making cold process only 2 years ago. Since then, she’s mastered multiple techniques including layers and swirls. Customers and fellow makers love her intricate designs and beautiful photos. Learn more about how Ruth got started, what inspires her, and her soapmaking tips.
How long have you been making soap and how did you get started?
I have been soaping for just over two years. My mom, who is a china painter and quilter, turned her talents to making cold process soap. As she became more experienced, she not only offered to teach me, but also lent me the needed supplies. After my first solo batch, I was completely hooked! You know how they say that when you find your passion in life, the work is actually fun – that’s how soaping is for me! I quickly delved into learning the art by studying every tutorial on Soap Queen. Afterwards, I wanted to explore more about the design aspect of soaping so I purchased Anne-Marie’s soaping books and experimented with new, elaborate creations. I was delighted with the way my soaps turned out! The Soap Queen video tutorials, informative articles, and blog could not have been more helpful in satisfying my desire to learn more and helping me gain the necessary skills.
What advice would you give to those soapermakers just starting their businesses?
Give yourself time to explore the technique and science of soaping. It is so important to get some good experience under your belt. Soaping as a hobby and soaping as a business are two very different things. Educate yourself on the business aspect by understanding the laws and regulations in your area before diving in. Give yourself time to perfect your recipes. When you are ready, go for it and surround yourself with positive people who lift and encourage you!
What is your favorite type of product to make?
Cold process soap, hands down! I love how cold process soap is 100% customizable from the choice of oils and butters used, to the color, design, and fragrances. I love the artistry of soaping. I truly believe soap is a consumable art form. Making soap is magical to me and truly my happy place. My family can walk in the door and tell I’ve made soap just by the smile on my face and, of course, how wonderful the house smells.
What inspires you to create?
My family and friends inspire me to create. I love creating a visual representation of a fragrance. It is very rewarding to create soap that becomes a simple pleasure and an added luxury in someone’s life. Soap makes such beautiful gifts. Everyone needs and uses soap!
How did you come up with the name for your business?
Choosing a name was really difficult! It felt like such a commitment! My last name is Potter, so I thought PotterMade, like homemade, would describe my products beautifully.
Tell us something unusual or unique about yourself.
I just completed my first half marathon! I had never run more than a few miles at a time and that was way back in high school. My husband inspired me to try after he trained and completed his first marathon a year ago. It was amazing to set a goal to do something I had never dreamt of attempting. I was filled with a huge sense of accomplishment and gratitude when I crossed that finish line. I can’t wait to see what comes next!
What are some of your other hobbies and interests?
My husband and children are my whole heart! I have been married for 18 years and I have four children ages 15 to 6. I love being a wife and mother and I love every minute I can spend with my family. I also love to bake, read, run, and nap. :)
What is your favorite Bramble Berry product and why?
Oh I have so many that I love! I love using Bramble Berry’s micas to create a range of vibrant colors in my soaps. Also, Bramble Berry’s activated charcoal is my favorite of any charcoal I have purchased. It creates a beautifully smooth charcoal bar of soap.
Have you ever experienced a soapy fail? How did you work through it, and what did you learn?
Oh yes indeed! Last Christmas I was making soap to give as Christmas gifts to my friends and neighbors. I was attempting my biggest batch to date – 12 lbs. in one container. I didn’t realize that my stick blender could not reach to the bottom of the container. I poured these beautiful bars with intricate green swirls, with a gold-dusted textured top, that smelled of fresh Christmas trees. The tops were stunning and I couldn’t wait to cut it to see the swirls inside! I noticed the top had a wetness to it I was not used to, but hoped everything would fully soak in and saponify overnight.
The next evening, with my first cut, I noticed tiny lye pockets oozing from the bars. I was devastated! The bars looked beautiful, but the only way to save them was to rebatch them. I may have stomped my foot and shed a little tear, but then I figuratively rolled up my sleeves, grated up each bar then and there, and rebatched them that night. My beautifully-swirled bars were now very rustic green soaps with a rough textured top that resembled tree bark. Thankfully the rustic nature of the bars coordinated with their beautiful pine tree scent. Many people commented how they loved that the bars looked like wood and I never told them it was all because of a careless mistake. I learned how important it is to be able to roll with unexpected results and that even our mistakes can create beautiful soaps that can be enjoyed.
If you were to give one of your products to a stranger, what would you choose and why?
I would give them one of my Honey & Oats bars. It is a very gentle bar of soap with a cheerful sweet scent everyone loves. I stamp each bar with a dusted gold bee stamp and so many customers comment how much joy that little bee brings to them. I love creating products that not only benefit our skin, but also add a touch of happiness to everyday life.
What is your number one soapmaking tip?
Respect the lye. Always wear protective gloves and eyewear. Oh – and clean up right after you finish making soap. I always breathe a sigh of contentment after washing that last bowl or spatula.