National Soapmaking Day

Last Sunday in September

Danielle Carlson, Featured Soapmaker for 2022

Image of Danielle Carlson, the Featured Soapmaker for National Soapmaking Day 2022.

Danielle Carlson owns The Doe & Fawn Bath Co. in Wildomar, California

What are your first memories of making soap?
My first time ever making soap was when I bought a little melt and pour kit off Amazon a few years ago. I decided, on a whim at about 3:00 AM, I was going to make the soap. Oh boy…. I microwaved the soap for too long, added too much colorant, and added too much fragrance, which led to little blocks of crazy-looking rubber that would bend and flex like those big pink erasers kids use in school. I particularly remember one I tried to make into a mint soap, but the soap came out a very intense shamrock green that would leave your sink a mess and your hands green. Also, did you know when you put lavender buds into soap, they turn brown and look exactly like mouse poop? No? I didn't either, but now you will certainly not find lavender buds embedded in my soaps. Gosh, I just laugh remembering that sad experiment. I was so genuine (and deliriously tired) in my attempt, but also so ignorant.

What inspired you to begin soapmaking?
It has been a slow process of coming into my own as a soapmaker. Back in 2010, I started to get really interested in a more sustainable, nature-focused lifestyle. I was seeing modern homesteaders on social media who live off their land and hand make a lot of what they use, and I headed in that direction. I started by reading labels and using more natural and cruelty-free products. Then it became gardening and preserving, making some of my own clothes, making some of my own body products…. It really is a slippery slope, because it eventually led me to investigate soapmaking, as products were still hurting my very sensitive skin. I met with someone in North Idaho who was making her own soap, and it was the first soap of my life that did not hurt my hands. No itching, rashes, cracking, or redness. My hands were smooth and healthy. My mind was blown. Within the next two years, I had opened my own soapmaking business.

How did you learn to make soap?
Well, first I learned through books. Then, I started taking soapmaking classes at the Soapmaking Studio with Kerri Mixon, where I learned I was doing pretty much everything wrong. Then, I started getting certified with the Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetics Guild, which also added to my knowledge. Now, I have no shame in saying my products are fantastic. Certainly better than shamrock-green rubber soap!

How do you feel when you make soap?
I feel like I am doing something that will better people's lives. I figure there are people out there like me, with very sensitive skin, who need products to cater to that. It can be hard to find companies that have a range of items, like free-and-clear or coconut-free. For a long time in my childhood and teen years, it actually created an aversion to soap. So, I make and use all my own products with that in mind. If my skin can't handle it, then other people with sensitive skin probably can't either. I want self-care to be available to everyone.

What does soapmaking mean to you?
For me, soapmaking means financial freedom, creative freedom, and the ability to promote products that are cruelty-free and sustainable. If people are buying from me, it is taking business away from companies that aren't cruelty-free or aren't environmentally conscious, which gives less money to pollution and the use of lab animals. I try to be as green as possible, from biodegradable plastic wrap to paper packaging. I am also able to work while I am currently going through graduate school, which gives me more financial freedom. It is also just plain fun to come up with my own products, although doing so much math to create my formulas isn't as fun. Lastly, soapmaking gives me the chance to give people a wider range of sensitive-skin products I wish I had years ago.

If you could describe soapmaking in one word, what would it be?

Can you compare soapmaking to anything else to help people relate to the experience?
It would be like baking. Perhaps you took some baking classes and understand the science of baking, but now it is time to make your own recipes. Sometimes those recipes don't pan out and you end up with a crazy science experiment in your oven. It takes time and practice to perfect your recipe. Then, at some point, you are making gorgeous wedding cakes.

What are your fondest memories of soapmaking?
My fondest memory of making soap is when I made some soap with my best friend and my husband. My best friend lives in Germany as an English teacher and had come out to visit during Christmas, and my husband had never made soap with me. My friend and husband picked one of my recipes and then we made the soap together. She got to take some of that soap home with her to Germany. I have to pat my back on this because her Polish husband said it was the best soap he ever used! It was really fun to see them participate in the creation of soap and see how proud they were when it was finished!

Is there a particular soapmaking experience you'd like to share from your past soapmaking history?
Oh, yes. The time I irrecoverably destroyed a batch of soap. I tried to rebatch it twice, as I had taken a rebatching class and had successfully rebatched soap before, but it was no use. It turned into this horribly ugly baby poop green-brown color, and the fragrance had morphed into what could have been the Swamp Creature's musk. I ended up tossing the whole batch. It would have made a perfect gag gift to sell…. Darn, I should have thought of that….

Is there anything else you'd like to add?
I think being cruelty-free and sustainable should be major goals of any business. The more business we can drive to cruelty-free companies that also practice sustainability, the better. Also, I think more companies should add free-and-clear and coconut-free products. There are a lot of us out there who need more gentle/sensitive offerings!

Image of Danielle Carlson's soap in her soap shop in Wildomar, California.

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