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Tiny Bubbles: Hand-made Soaps in the Ol' Dominion
By Christine Stoddard
Making soap by hand is a natural, organic and even sensual experience—and often a multi-generational craft. It can also be fun and even serve as a narrative device, as we learned from one soap maker in Virginia.
Courtney Cascante, the Gloucester-based owner of Milk and Honey Naturals, says the public’s perception of organic soap as these “big, brown, chunky pieces” is slowly fading. Her colorful and uniquely scented soaps reflect what she describes as a “modern, trendy twist on organic.” And, she adds, each of her soaps tells a story. One example is her Secret Midnight Path, a mix of jasmine, magnolia and mandarin that evokes the smell of a meadow by an old boyfriend’s house. Cascante also cites the sights and sounds—and flora, of course—of Costa Rica and New Orleans, where she was raised, as major inspirations.
Asked why shoppers should opt for her soap over commercial soap, Cascante says, “It leaves no residue; it makes my skin creamy. I don’t have to use lotion and I can pronounce all of my soaps’ ingredients”—meaning, of course, that they are natural.
Michael Walsh, owner of Row House Soaps in Richmond, makes scores of kooky-sounding but entirely useful, natural soaps as well. A small sampling of these includes Doggie soap (to ward off fleas and ticks), Naked soap (for sensitive skin), and Buzz Off (to shoo away flies and mosquitoes). An especially unusual one, however, is Fisherman soap. The star anise flower in the soap attracts fish, masks the human scent and rids your skin of fish stench. “Fisherpeople—that’s the politically correct term—swear by it,” says Walsh, who opened his Main Street shop four years ago. One of his most popular soaps, believe it or not, is a little more elegant: Lavender Oatmeal.