I'll now step aside and turn this over to Michele...
An Interview with Texas Soapmaker Amanda Griffin
Handmade soap is a subject near and dear to my heart so, it only seemed fitting that for my first artist profile I’ve selected a Texas soapmaker and teacher, Amanda Griffin. Amanda is an exceptionally talented soapmaker and innovator of interesting designs. Amanda’s blog features one of the most extensive libraries of tutorials and helpful tips http://www.lovinsoap.com/category/tangy-tutorials/ that can be found in the soaping community. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in handmade soap – whether you are new or more perhaps a more seasoned soapmaker – Amanda has great information.
Tell everyone a bit about yourself?
My name is Amanda Griffin and I'm a hobby soapmaker living in Grand Prairie, TX. I live with my super talented and creative partner in all things life, Mike, who is a hobby guitar maker and awesome soap mold constructor. We have two pups...Gooch a comically hilarious pug and his sister Daisy, a Jack Russell Terrorist.
How did you get started making soap?
I've always been a craft junky and love all things DIY! As a small kid I remember making (and selling!) all sorts of crafts including lace jewelry, tissue ghosts and other things. My Mom would make us homemade play dough, and we'd get to make melted crayon stained glass. As an adult I've dabbled in sewing, knitting, paper crafts, painting...you name it! I think soapmaking started out as just another craft to try. I started out making melt & pour soap to sell at a church craft fair. I soon got into making cold process soap and haven't looked back. I can put the knitting needles and yarn in a box up in the attic and put the scrapbook paper in a drawer to forget. But soapmaking is different. Soapmaking easily becomes a passion and a journey that consumes you! And other soapmakers know what I'm talking about! We always try to warn the newbies. You'll be consumed with soapmaking...spending all of your money and you'll soon be dreaming about making soap. You'll walk into antique stores and view everything that looks like it could possibly hold soap as a potential soap mold...old wooden cheese boxes, old dresser drawers, antique jello molds...etc.
I used to sell soap but don't now. I give soap away...to family, to friends, to co-workers...to anyone who will take it! I love the feeling of just wrapping up a package of something homemade and gifting it to someone. Some people have never used handmade soap before and I love introducing them to it.
Working with scents and aromas is a powerful thing. Scents can evoke memories and emotions in a person and I think that is part of the magic of soapmaking.
Who has been the biggest inspiration to you in terms of soap makers and why?
There are a ton of soapmakers that have been an inspiration. Early on I learned the basics from Alicia Grosso's book, The Everything Soapmaking Book as well as from Anne-Marie on soapqueen.com and teachsoap.com and David Fisher (a fellow Texan) at candleandsoap.about.com. I also learned a ton from The Soapmaking Forum and all of the wonderful soapmakers there.
What led you to begin teaching soap?
I actually used to sell soap and hated it (the selling part). Making soap which I loved to do soon became a chore and a necessity if I wanted to keep up with my market demands. I decided that I didn't like what it had turned into and decided to stop selling. But I really wanted to somehow keep soapmaking as a "part time job" and bringing in some kind of income (at least to cover supplies). I was already getting a lot of requests from friends or people I ran into at the market to show them how to make soap so I thought doing classes would be fun. I asked a local supplier, GL Candle Supply (now closed) if he would like to offer soapmaking classes and he did so that was my first place to teach. I liked the idea of him covering supplies and I could just come in and teach. When he closed up shop I asked Taylored Concepts (know closed) if they needed a soapmaking teacher and they did. So I taught there a bit. After they closed down I thought long and hard about where to teach next. I decided the best route was to rent a space in Grand Prairie so I found The Bowles Life Center and love it! It's a beautiful facility and a great space to teach out of.
Being in Grand Prairie is great also because it's easy to get to from Ft Worth, Dallas, Arlington and Irving. Eventually I would like to have a little space in downtown Grand Prairie that I can teach out of and sell supplies.
There's something about soapmaking that is magical. I love the combination of chemistry and artistry. I love that soapmaking is an age-old journey that many have taken before us. I love teaching because I get to help students start their own journey.
What methods of soap making do you teach?
I teach pretty much anything and everything soap related. My most popular class is the basic cold process soap making class. It teaches just the basics and students get to take home two pounds of soap that they make themselves in class. A lot of soapmaking classes are demo style only and I've found that people much prefer a hands on class. The advanced class teaches layering, swirling and embeds. I also offer private lessons where the students get to come up with their own curriculum and learn absolutely anything they want to...liquid soap, hot process, swirls, whipped soap cupcakes, packaging...anything! I think the most popular private lesson request is to make the whipped soap cupcakes. They're pretty cute!
Where are your classes held and when?
At the moment my classes are held at the Bowles Life Center in Grand Prairie, TX which is a beautiful facility. Classes are scheduled every couple of months. I hope to add more and maybe have some guest teachers in the future.
How can people get in touch with you if they are interested in soap making classes?
If you're interested in learning how to make soap and want to take a class visit my class website at www.dfwsoaplab.com. You'll find the schedule and class info there. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tell us about your blog and E-Zine - where can we find them?
My soapmaking blog is at www.lovinsoap.com. It has basic soapmaking info as well as advanced design tutorials. There's a little bit of everything on the blog.
I started my E-Zine, Lovin' Soap after writing to The Saponifier (an online soapmaking magazine) to contribute some articles and never hearing back from them! I'm glad I didn't because I've had a great time doing my E-Zine, Lovin Soap. It features advanced soapmaking tutorials with step by step directions and full color photos. You can find the E-Zine at http://www.lovinsoap.com/category/ezine/.
What soap making supply/equipment would you never be without?
I'm a big fan of Bramble Berry Soap Making Supplies. They have two of my favorite molds that I couldn't live without. One is the 9 Bar Baltic Birch Wooden Mold and the other is the Silicone Loaf Soap Mold. They also have several fragrances that I love including Energy, Vanilla Select and Ginger Fish.
What is your dream project?
For the last couple of years I have REALLY wanted to construct a little town out of cold process soap! You know...like the way people make houses out of gingerbread. I want to make a whole town. I think that would be the coolest project to do. But then I think about the space that it would take up and what the heck would I do with it after it was done!? But I might have to tackle that one day...
What a fabulous interview! Thank you Michele I appreciate all of the time that you put into this interview. Amanda is not too far from my neck of the woods so I'm very familiar with where she is located. Please take time to offer your thanks to Michele as well as any questions, in the comments below.
My plan is for every Wednesday to feature a guest blogger. The topics are open for discussion. Interviews, featured artists or a virtual tour of a Texas town, like last weeks post by Norma Brock, would make great articles for this blog. If you didn't get a chance to read her journey through the east Texas town of Jefferson, you can find that here.
Have a great Wednesday!