Encouraging Health, Creativity, and Community Through Handmade Soap

I love to teach and I love to learn, which may explain why I am always so full of questions. Let’s address some of the WHY’s of handmade soap, and explain a little bit about what it means to encourage health, creativity, and community along our journey.

When you choose handmade soap, you are encouraging health. To legally be called “soap” in the United States, the product must meet the following requirements, as defined by the FDA:

  • The bulk of the non-volatile matter in the product consists of an alkali salt of fatty acids and the product’s detergent properties are due to the alkali-fatty acid compounds, and
  • the product is labeled, sold, and represented solely as soap [21 CFR 701.20].
  • the only claim made is that it cleans.

Basically, this means that your “soap” must actually be SOAP, not a “detergent”, “beauty bar”, “body wash”, etc. I challenge you to check out the products at the store and see which ones can’t legally call themselves “soap” on the label. You might be surprised. There are very few true soaps on the market. Most body cleansers, both liquid and solid, are actually synthetic detergent products.

Chemistry teaches us that when a fat and alkali (yes folks, I’m talking LYE) react, an endothermic reaction (saponification) takes place and a new product, soap, is made. It’s a simple process, but the results can vary drastically, depending on the amount and type of fat and alkali you start with. This is one of the reasons that many soapmakers focus so heavily on the ingredients they use and their ability to replicate the process. A good soapmaker will approach the process through the scientific method; setting a goal, formulating, experimenting, taking notes, and making adjustments as needed. Consumers can be made aware of what ingredients are used to create the final product, and have a personal choice over ingredient exposure.

The definition of a soap also eliminates the use of medical or cosmetic claims, whether true or not. Soap can only claim to wash. Handmade soapmakers, like myself, may formulate their soap based on ingredient properties, but that formulation cannot translate to a claim. Soap is a wash off, topical product and the only guarantee a soapmaker can make, without their product being regulated as a “drug” or “cosmetic”, is that their soap will clean.

Choosing handmade soap encourages creativity. Artists create with color, texture, and fragrance to elicit a reaction to their designs, and every bar is unique. Micas and fragrance can be used for almost any effect the artist desires. Shaped and molded soaps visually stand out from the standard bars. Botanical and essential oil based soap find their beauty in the way the natural ingredients accent and change within a bar of soap. Artisan soapmakers are formulating, designing, and pouring these soaps with a goal in mind. The lye, oil, and additives are the tools of their creation.

The choice of handmade soap over mass produced soap encourages community. Artisan soapmakers are small businesses and their profit goes directly to supporting their family and their craft. You can choose soaps made in your country, in your state, or even your city. Soapmakers are everywhere and, as one of my soapy sisters, Chris King of Pampered Sisters, says, “There are enough dirty people to go around.” Artisan soapmakers thrive to create clients, rather than customers. We are creating for YOU! Shop small, shop local, and support community.

Consider the lesson learned and explore your options. With your next soap purchase, whether for yourself or as a gift, will you choose handmade soap? Remember that this one small choice has the power to encourage health, encourage creativity, and encourage community.

By Andrea Orr-Gilroy  December 14, 2019

Interview with Liya Brown, Yemi Jars

I got to have fun chatting, eating whiskey cake, and smelling soap with Liya Brown of Yemi Jars. She is a local artisan food business out of Arlington, Texas. I absolutely adore her and I adore her yummy treats!

What inspired you to start Yemi Jars and Do It on Purpose?

Liya: My first inspiration is my mother. I grew up watching her use food as medicine and making delicious, healthy meals. I think that was my first inspiration to enter the health and fitness field. As a dance fitness instructor , over the years, I noticed that people’s main struggle was not exercise and fitness, but actually nutrition.  I decided that healthy food doesn’t have to be bland or boring, you don’t have to eat the same things over and over. So I came up with some options where you can have healthy, you can have colorful, and delicious food. I actually named Yemi Jars after my mother, because Yemi means “happiness”.  It’s a play on words, “happiness in a jar”, because the other special, unique thing about my business is that everything is in a jar. If you go to DoItOnPurpose.org, you’ll be able to see pictures of the salads in a jar that I’ve created, as well as some of the Indulgence line that we are featuring today.

How are you encouraging our local community to be healthy?

Liya: Honestly, I had to start by working on myself and sharing my journey, being transparent about my struggles. I think we all, pretty much, have the same struggles. Honestly, I don’t enjoy cooking. I enjoy good food, but I don’t enjoy the time that I spend in the kitchen. I really don’t like bland food either. So, I think that’s where I started. How can I work on myself and encourage other people in the process?

How is your creativity reflected in Yemi Jars?

Liya: You know, they say we eat with our eyes first. Right? So, when I’m looking to create a jar, I look at it as a painting. I look at the color combinations.  I look at the composition of the jar. I break it up to where I may put red, yellows, greens in there and make it inviting to eat. I think that’s where my creativity comes in.

When I go on her website and see her salads in a jar, they are very colorful. I am a huge proponent of color when you’re eating. I run a produce co-op and one of the biggest things I say is, “Eat the rainbow,” because otherwise you’re not getting all the nutrition. So I appreciate that about Yemi Jars.

Liya: And it makes it simple, to just eat the rainbow. You don’t have to count calories. You just eat as many colorful things as you can.

How do you want Yemi Jars to contribute to our local community?

Liya: I love being accessible. I try to use as many organic and local produce and products as I can. I want to be an asset to our community, so you don’t have to order from across the country. I’m right here and it’s a nice touch to be able to have that local person. We all bring our different talents and skills together for our own community.

Those of you who know me, know that I love bringing the local community together. I love networking. Not necessarily because it boosts your business, which it does, but because you get to know people. You get to know people on a more intimate level, to where I can say, “I recommend so and so because…” I know who they are. I know that they are going to stand behind their product and the name that they have put out there for you, and that’s very important to me.

Watch the video for the Whole Orrdeal and Yemi Jar cross promotion, collaborative reveal.

What do you find to be the biggest advantage to social media for a local artisan business?

Liya: I love that I can market my products and myself for next to nothing, and reach so many more people than if I had a shop and I waited for people to come to me.  Where the location would matter. There would be more overhead costs. I love that, even right now, we’re accessible. That you guys can be in a relaxed setting and watch us wherever you are.

At the end of the day, sometimes it’s just not fun. There are days we are trudging through life and we need a pick me up. What are three things that keep you going, when it gets tough?

Liya: First and foremost, God.  He placed this purpose on my heart, so I’m determined to not die without fulfilling that.

Second, my husband. He truly supports and sacrifices so much to make sure that  I can follow my dreams.  I just love that.  My kids, they have to make sacrifices too, when I’m cooking and doing things, and having to go to events and shows.  Just being understanding and supportive.

Finally, my friends. My community. All the people who order from me, and come back,  and give me such encouraging advice. and tell me how good it is. That just makes me want to do more and serve my community.

Thank you Liya, for your time and willingness to be a part of the Whole Orrdeal’s mission to encourage health, creativity, and community.