Melissa France is a farmer by nature, with a long lineage of farmers in her family. She is inspired by nature and dedicated to regenerative agriculture. She grows as many of the herbs and botanicals she uses in her products as she can. If she doesn’t grow it herself, she takes the time and effort to ensure that it’s ethically sourced.
How long have you been making bath and body products, and how did you get started? How long have you been selling your products?
I’ve been making one thing or another most of my life but I got into making soap in 2016 after I left my teaching job in pursuit of something more creative. I have a background in sculpture and art education but teaching art was not as fulfilling for me as I expected it to be. I had made some bath and body products at different times for gifts but after I quit my job, I started seeing more and more soapmakers that I really admired on social media and soapmaking seemed like a logical next path for me – something I could combine my passion for art, science, and plants into.
I got a cold process soap making kit from Bramble Berry for Christmas in 2015 and was so nervous when I made it. Using lye still seemed a bit much for me so to get a little more comfortable I started making melt and pour soaps. I began selling melt and pour soaps in 2016 and a year or so later transitioned back to cold process soap, which I had always been drawn to. I decided that I could get over my fear of using lye because the freedom and creativity behind cold process soapmaking was what I always wanted out of this creative endeavor.
What do you love most about making bath and body products?
I love that I can be creative and explore topics that interest me through my work. I also like that I can control what ingredients I use. For example, I only use essential oils in my body products and colors that come from nature like plants, seeds, clays, etc. I have tried to stay away from artificial ingredients because that’s what I prefer to use personally.
What inspires you to create?
I am inspired by plants first and foremost and how they can be used in bath and body products. History and folklore also play a big part in my creative process. I really enjoy making collections that are inspired by periods in history, folklore, or mythology while utilizing the plants that are historically associated with them. I love to do research so when I’m preparing for a collection I scour as many books as I can.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to get started?
Find out what you’re passionate about and go with it! Make what you love, not what you think other people will love or what you think will be popular. When you work from the heart your passion will show and you will find your people, your customers, and your own authentic style. And if you’re not business savvy, consider seeking out someone to help you on the business end. Being creative and being in business for yourself are two very different things.
Who’s another maker you admire? What do you love about their work?
I really admire Simi of Muddy Mint. She is really inspiring and I love her use of plant-based ingredients. She’s also such a sweet person who has been so helpful in answering questions for me from time to time and has been really supportive over the years. I also admire Christine of Sunny Bunny Gardens. Her soap is so beautiful and I just love her whole aesthetic! Both of these ladies make beautiful products and you can feel the authenticity in their work.
Have you experienced a failure? How did you work through it, and what did you learn?
I think failure is just part of the process of being a creative person and being in business. I know I’ve had many failures over the years- soap not turning out right, candles being wicked incorrectly, products melting during shipping, etc. Failure is a great teacher- it’s how I learn to be a better maker, a better artist, and a better business owner.
What plans do you have for your business moving forward?
I’m pretty happy with where my business is right now. I’m trying to lean into a slower and more meaningful way of living so I’m not really trying to do anything more than what I’m doing at this moment. Being creative and exploring my ideas are my top priority. I truly believe that if you do what you love, everything else will fall into place. It might not be the place you’re expecting, but it might be the place you need to be.
What are your 4 must-have Bramble Berry products? Why are they your favorite?
"Natural Indigo Powder for various shades of blue. it's tricky to work with but I love it!"
"Cedarwood Essential Oil - perfect for woodsy blends but also for sneaking into floral blends"
"Heather Flowers - its the perfect subtle topping to add texture and variety."
And of course, one of her favorite tools is the Easy Pour Mixing and Measuring Container.
What’s your favorite Bramble Berry project/What’s the first project you tried?
I think my favorite project will always be the Natural Soap Kit for Beginners in Relaxing Lavender. It was the first project I tried from Bramble Berry and the first time I made cold process soap and it will always have a special place in my heart.