HSCG Member Spotlight: Master Certification Recipients

HSCG Master Certified Soapmakers

Are you exited? Because WE’RE excited! I must say that I do love the fresh smell of ambition in the morning…

For those who may not know, one of the many Member Benefits of the HSCG is the opportunity to partake in the Certification Program.

 Long story short,  there are  3 levels of certification: Basic, Advanced, and Master.  Each available in either the CP/HP -or- the MP category, and each a bit more difficult/involved than the last (and no, you can’t just skip ahead & start at the Master level. You are required to start at the bottom, and pass you way up!)

The Master Certification level is the third and final level of Certification that an HSCG Member can achieve.

Comprised of 4 separate parts & allowed up to 2 years to complete it, this test is not for the faint of heart, people.  Just think of it as the SAT’s of HSCG soapmaking certification.  The Master level was implemented in 2012 to further evaluate the knowledge & experience of the soapmaker, along with their ability to research & investigate new areas, & expand the awareness of the handcrafted soapmaking community.  

If you were able to join us in Indianapolis, IN this past April for the annual conference, then you had the pleasure of helping us congratulate the very first 2 HSCG members ever to be awarded the HSCG Master Certification: Anne-Marie Faiola of Bramble Berry Inc., & Jackie Thompson of Gaily Rebecca Soaps!

HSCG President Feleciai Favroth presents Anne-Marie Faiola with her Master Certification award at the 2015 HSCG Conference.

“Completing the master certification has brought me the confidence in knowing that Bramble Berry and I can complete even the most daunting of soap challenges. We also gained much applicable knowledge in regards to lye production and transparent/melt and pour soap production.” ~ A.M. Faiola 

Having started making soap when she was 16 years old, it’s no surprise that this evolved entrepreneur was one of the first to complete this process.  However even with so much experience & success, when asked if she learned anything new that she might not have otherwise known before deciding to take the Master Certification, Anne-Marie gladly shed some light:

          “…There were many things! To name a few: the history of lye production, the chemistry of melt and pour and what the components do, how cream soap differs from something like bath whip, as well as the production methods for these items that could be applied to house made items at Bramble Berry.”

HSCG President Feleciai Favroth presents Jackie Thompson with her Master Certification award at the 2015 HSCG Conference.

Jackie Thompson, most well known for her adventures & experiments with liquid soapmaking,  was also kind enough to answer a few post-certification questions for us!  When asked about the process as a whole & whether or not she would recommend it to another soapmaker member, her answer was resoundingly positive:

“Of course I would recommend and have recommended other soapmakers complete the Master Certification! If nothing else the Master Certification creates a feeling of accomplishment as well as the understanding there is still so much more to learn.  It also gives the soapmaker a chance to understand the avenue of expertise they are especially equipped to focus in their soapmaking journey…beneficial for the soapmaker as well as the soapmaking community.”

(To read the entire Q&A with these lovely ladies, click here!)

So what are YOUR thoughts? Are YOU an HSCG Certified Member? What do you feel that you got out of the Certification process? We want to know! Drop us a line in the comments below to share your Certification story!

Spotlight: A+ Soapmaking Studio

A+ Soapmaking Studio, currently teaching soapmaking, business classes and more to students in the local southern California area and beyond, had an unexpected start. Owner Kerri Mixon had just joined the HSCG as the owner of Pallas Athene Soap and attended her very first conference that same year in Tucson, Arizona. Inspired by the incredible meeting of the minds that happened at the 2003 conference, Kerri started free Soapmakers Luncheons shortly thereafter. “I…decided a gathering of like-minded kindred soapmakers was too precious to have just once a year”.soapmaking studio logo

Her quarterly SoCal Soapmakers’ Luncheons grew and Kerri began bringing in guest speakers ranging from lavender growers to marketing specialists and beyond. It didn’t take long for luncheon attendees to recognize Kerri’s expertise and to start requesting formal classes.

Between Pallas Athene’s growing business and her desire to protect intellectual property, Kerri resisted, but soapmakers persisted until, as Kerri says, “I realized I had an obligation to provide my fellow soapmakers with accurate modern soapmaking technology”. In 2009, bureaucracy conquered and curriculum developed, the A+ Soapmaking Studio opened its doors and joined the Guild as a vendor member.

The Studio quickly took off, bringing students from as far away as Taiwan and Belize, and garnering local media attention. Today, the Beginning Cold Process Soapmaking class (Soapmaking 101, of course!) consistently sells out. “The most surprising aspect of teaching soapmaking classes,” shares Kerri, “is how eager people are to learn. I’m always amazed by what people will endure to learn and I’m grateful for their tenacity.”

Peruse the A+ Soapmaking Studio’s current class list here. You can also catch Kerri in action at the 2013 HSCG conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she will be presenting a two-part session on the chemistry and properties of fatty acids and oils.

Thank you, A+ Soapmaking Studio, for sharing a sneak peek into your past. We can’t wait to see what you come up with next!

Spotlight: Certified Lye

Southern California-based Certified Lye, supplier of sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide, and the necessary personal protective equipment, has been an HSCG supporter from its inception. It is a company that was years in the making, driven by market need and a soapmaker’s ingenuity.

It all started in California’s central valley, where owners Kerri Mixon and David Perez made their home in the early part of this decade. Soapmakers at the time were fortunate; olive production and processing throughout the central valley drove demand for sodium hydroxide production. “At the time,” relates Kerri, “the sodium hydroxide manufacturers also shipped lye to New Jersey, where it was resold as “Red Devil” brand lye, which is what I used to purchase for making soap because other sources of lye were nonexistent.”

Olive processing, however, would not last long in the area. Lye used in the production of olives was disposed of incorrectly, affecting growth of nearby orange groves, whose owners took legal action to have the olive processing facilities closed. Sodium hydroxide production decreased in response. “Meanwhile,” explains Kerri, “in New Jersey, Red Devil suffered loss of its lye supplier at the same time the company was fighting its own battles regarding the retail of a hazardous material often used to produce illegal methamphetamines.”

Kerri realized she needed a replacement for Red Devil and started to research what it would take to establish a lye supply company. Handling hazardous materials came with onerous restrictions, but a fellow soapmaker’s horror story surrounding the desperate purchase of fifty pounds of subpar lye gave Kerri the impetus she needed to create Certified Lye.

Learning from the legal battles of the defunct olive processing facilities, Kerri and David made sustainability a key tenet of Certified Lye’s operations. “We have seen the ramifications of environmentally irresponsible business;” says Kerri, “we do our best to have as minimal of an impact on our environment as possible.” In fact, Certified Lye continues to raise the bar, having recently completed additional solar panel installations and “sponsoring the gutters, rain chain, and 60-gallon water cistern for collecting rain water to irrigate the aromatic plant gardens at the A+ Soapmaking Studio.”

Thank you, Certified Lye, for sharing a glimpse of your history and for your support of the HSCG!