Meagan of Avery Grey Soapery is known for both sophisticated and whimsical cold process designs. Her love of movies, books, and music often inspire her creations. Learn more about how Meagan got started making soap and what she learned along the way.
How long have you been making soap and how did you get started?
I’ve been soaping for a little over 6 years now. I’ve had a love for handcrafted things ever since I can remember. I once made my grandparents sit and wait for me while I watched a man make moccasins completely by hand, start to finish, from leather that he tanned himself.
So, almost 10 years ago I found a tutorial on soap making in a book that my grandfather had. It was full of other hand crafting tutorials, but something about soap making interested me. I spent years researching because I was so intimidated at the thought of using lye! I wanted to have all the information I could possibly find before I made my first batch, and once I finally took the leap, I fell in love.
What advice would you give to those makers just starting their businesses?
I would say to not be afraid of starting small or starting slow. You don’t have to come out of the gate with huge product lines and numerous scents. Have a vision of what you want your business to be in 5 years, in 10 years. Think about your full potential. Keep your vision in mind and work towards it. Start with one product, don’t overwhelm yourself immediately.
Do your research on your products, get opinions from friends and family, and test everything. And remember, it’s ok to take a break! It’s easy to get a little burned out, especially after the holidays, so don’t be afraid to take time off every now and then to rest and regroup. You’ll be better for it, and your business will too.
What is your favorite type of product to make?
Soap is absolutely my favorite product to make. I enjoy bath bombs, body scrubs, and other products, but soap is my love. Every batch turns out different, even when I try to make them as similar as I can, it’s always a mystery. I’m always so excited to cut into a new loaf. What will the inside look like? Will it turn out like I planned, or maybe be something even better? It’s a fun surprise each time.
What inspires you to create?
So many different things! Sometimes it comes from books or movies like my Mad Hatter and Maleficent soaps. I have a huge list of concepts waiting to be made that were inspired by some of my favorite book characters. I pull inspiration from photos, from sunsets, from music. I have so many photos saved because the colors in them make me want to recreate them in soap.
Music makes me want to make things. A friend and I were discussing our favorite music from high school, and it resulted in my 80s Baby Soap! Sometimes I have no clear plan when I order a fragrance, but the first time I smell it I immediately know what I want to make and what it should look like. Recently I pulled from my heritage and let Mardi Gras inspire me, and Voodoo Woman and Mardi Gras soaps were created.
How did you come up with the name for your business?
I wrestled with a name for the longest time! Nothing I came up with sounded right, and nothing my friends and family came up with sounded right either. So, I finally decided to name it after my children. My husband and I could only agree on a first name for our oldest, and we ended up letting my mother choose his middle name, so he’s Hayden Avery. When our daughter came along we found ourselves in the exact same position, agreeing on a first name but not being able to come to a compromise on a middle name. So again, we let my mother choose, and we have Adeline Grey.
Using their names was a way for me to bring 3 generations into one. My mother is a huge supporter, so it felt right to use the names she chose for my kids to name my business. I do this for me, but I also do this for my children. To set an example for them so that they know they can accomplish what they put their mind to. And naming something so important after the most important people in my life seemed a perfect start.
What is your favorite Bramble Berry product and why?
I absolutely adore the Cactus Flower Fragrance Oil. It’s a little sweet and floral without being overpowering. It’s one of those fragrances that makes you stop and smell it every time you pass it on the curing rack. My husband and son asked to keep the whole batch I made with it! I’m normally not a big fan of floral fragrances, but this one won me over as soon as I twisted the lid open.
Tell us something unusual or unique about yourself!
I am an extremely forgetful person. I have reminders, calendars, sticky notes, and notebooks to remind myself of everything I need to do. And yet, I can remember every book I have ever read, and the words to any song I’ve heard more than 5 or 6 times. I have to wait years to re-read a book so that I forget enough of the details to find it interesting again. I also read extremely fast, and my average number of books I read a year is about 250. And when it comes to music, my sister and my son like to play a game where they play songs they know and see if I know the words. I always win!
What are some of your other hobbies and interests?
Well, you know I love reading and music. I also like to quilt, knit and paint. I’m a bit of a craft-a-holic, I pick up hobbies left and right! History is another interest. I love to learn, especially about other cultures and ancient civilizations. I love to travel, and I’ve been to almost 40 states and 4 other countries. Montana is my favorite place (besides home), and I hope to one day travel to Greece where I can combine my love of history with my love of travel.
What is your number one soaping tip?
Have a backup plan! Sometimes things happen, our batter thickens up more than we’d like, a fragrance accelerates, or a color morphs. Have a back up plan just in case so you can move seamlessly (more or less) from one plan to another. And don’t be disappointed when you don’t get to execute your original design. Sometimes a soapy design fail can be one of the most beautiful soaps you’ve ever made!
Have you ever experienced a horrible soapy fail? How did you work through it, and what did you learn?
I definitely have had a few horrible fails. For one of them, I had grand plans for a sea fragrance that I was madly in love with. I was going to have some complicated swirls, a textured top, oh! It was going to be gorgeous. Ha! The reality was that as soon as I added that divine fragrance I ended up with soap on a stick. Or several sticks really, as I had already separated my batter into 4 different colors. In the end I smooshed all four colors together in the bowl and crammed it into the mold. I’m pretty sure I could have won an “Ugliest Soap” contest with that one. But, I learned to always, always pay attention to the fragrance description and reviews. If I had, I could have had a successful, albeit plainer, soap.
Another fail I had was because of a fragrance. I had a customer request a custom loaf in unicorn colors. I grabbed a fragrance that I felt went with a unicorn theme and went to work. Well. It really helps to check and make sure your fragrance doesn’t discolor when you make a soap with pastel colors. After a few days the bars looked like I had made them with a camouflage theme. Definitely not the delicate unicorn colors I started with, haha!
If you were to give one of your products to a stranger, what would you choose and why?
If I could give one of my products to a stranger, I would probably choose one of my latest. Right now, I’d pick Voodoo Woman. The fragrance is one of my current favorites, and the colors are beautiful. It’s Mardi Gras, but a little dark and mysterious. I always think the last soap I make is my favorite. Then I make another and I think to myself, oh, this is definitely my favorite. So far, Voodoo Woman is holding out as a top favorite!
What do you love most about creating bath and body products?
I love making people feel good, about themselves and just in general. Especially moms. I hope that when someone uses my products it brings them joy. That it helps them find a little peace in a day that may not have had any, or has had very little. I also love the complexity of creating new products. I have a notebook that is absolutely filled with recipes, ideas and concepts for one product or another. Putting together a concept from beginning to end, from the recipe, to the fragrance, to the colors and design is so much fun. And seeing it come to life is amazing. When someone loves something that I created, it makes me so happy!