Elizabeth Jones, owner of Soap & Sunshine Apothecary, has been making cold process soaps and other beauty products for about four years. Running a family-owned business, Jones offers fair-trade products in addition to her handmade soaps. Soap & Sunshine just celebrated their grand opening on Black Friday in downtown Alexandria.
What piqued your initial interest in designing your product(s)? My initial interest began when my daughter was born. I began to research natural skin care after she was diagnosed with eczema and peanut/tree nut allergies. This led me into the vast world of handmade skin care, and I became intrigued with reading labels, researching ingredients, and discovering the methods used to make handmade cold process soaps and other skin care products. I fell in love not only with the products and the benefits, but also the artistry involved in creating a beautiful bar of handcrafted soap.
What principles do you use when designing? When designing/formulating a new product I take into consideration the combination of ingredients and what benefits they offer as well as how I want it to appear. The colors I use, design of the soap, and the packaging are all considered.
I fell in love … with the artistry involved in creating a beautiful bar of handcrafted soap.
Who and/or what influence your design style? How would you describe your design aesthetics and values? I am influenced a great deal by nature. I am always inspired by herbs and plants and new combinations of scents that could be used in my products. I also am drawn to classic, vintage packaging and design aesthetics which are visible in the shop and in how I display the products. I design all of the graphics and labels myself, and I try to keep my overall brand in mind so I don’t get too far off track.
What comes first for you, the design materials or the design concept? In my case it often varies, but many times I find a particular ingredient that I want to focus on for a line of products. I will find a way to best incorporate that ingredient into the products that expand that line. For instance, I have a display in our shop that is very feminine and is inspired by roses. I created a facial soap that features rose kaolin clay as well as a facial moisturizer incorporating rose water and few other products of that type.
Could you describe the process of creating a piece – from conception to finish? The creative process as well as material selection and labor process, too? I keep a list of ideas for new products that I would like to make eventually. Some are things that others have mentioned to me, but most are just products that I personally think would be interesting and appeal to my customers. I try to keep in mind gaps in my product line. I research formulations, buy ingredients and packaging that I might not have on hand and start to test recipes. Some turn out perfectly the first time, but more often than not they need a lot of adjustment and testing. When creating large batches as I do these days, the labor process can be quite a lot. I typically set aside a few days a week for actual production, and other days I focus on marketing, packaging, reordering supplies, and other administrative tasks.
What is your favorite tool, and why? My favorite tool would probably be my handmade soap molds and soap cutter. My husband is an amazing woodworker and custom made them for me when I first started my business. They are practical and beautiful at the same time.
Describe a piece you’ve created that you are most proud of. What was special about it? I am most proud of the first soap I created, there is a lot of prep work and research that goes into making cold-process soap. To have that first soap turn out perfectly was so rewarding and only made me more excited to try as many new ideas as I could.
Describe the commissioning process. What are the best and worst aspects about doing commissions? I often take special orders for wedding favors, bridal, and baby showers. It is really interesting and challenging to take the concepts and colors for the event and turn them into a product that my clients love. I love custom orders and designing the perfect product and packaging that fits their event. The worst part is probably the extra time that goes into them.
What advice you would give to aspiring makers like yourself? As a maker, my best advice would be to allow yourself to be inspired by others but also keep in mind the design and aesthetics that you value the most. As a creative person, I am drawn to so many different styles and brands, but it is really overwhelming and stifling creatively to constantly compare yourself to others. Value your own style and personality and try to stay focused on what you can bring to the creative community. One way that I have found helps me to do this is to find inspiration in industries other than my own.
What is one thing that the creative/design community can do in Indianapolis to help grow an audience for custom or handcrafted work? Support others like yourself. Encourage other makers and designers by purchasing and supporting their creative pursuits. Network with other artists and collaborate as much as possible.
What makes your work different from anyone else’s? My work and products are different because they have a little bit of my personality and preferences in them. As many artists are, I feel pretty strongly about sticking with creating the things that I like. If I don’t like a particular scent or product, I don’t make it. That may go against some popular advice, but it just doesn’t feel right to me. There are products that I make that I may not prefer as much as others, but there is nothing that I create that I do not love and use myself or on my family. You cannot be everything to everyone.
What’s your most rewarding memory in your business? I have several rewarding memories. They keep me going when I don’t feel inspired or I am simply worn out. My most rewarding memory is probably when I got my first sale from someone I didn’t know personally. It was also extremely rewarding when we opened the shop and received so much support from the community of Alexandria, Indiana. My four-year-old daughter is a passionate crafter/maker, and she loves testing my products and making her own potions with broken bath bombs and bits of soap in the tub. To show her that you can make your dreams become a reality if you work hard and are passionate about them is the most rewarding aspect of owning my own business.
…there is nothing that I create that I do not love and use myself or on my family. You cannot be everything to everyone.