Happy National Soapmaking Day! That’s right; the last Sunday of every September has officially been dubbed National Soapmaking Day.
We’re celebrating National Soapmaking Day by recognizing all of our fantastic Members and fellow makers all around the globe; today is your day! Recently, I sent National Soapmaking Day founder Kerri Mixon a few questions about this very special day and she was kind enough to share her thoughts on the industry and why she felt National Soapmaking Day needed to become a thing.
HSCG Sara: What inspired you to start National Soapmaking Day?
Kerri: In a variety of ways, the soap guild inspired me to start National Soapmaking Day. I’ve always looked forward to the Guild’s Annual Conference and enjoy being in the company of other soapmakers. I attended my first conference in 2003 and with each one, I found myself eager for the next. If only I could find the same camaraderie and sense of fellowship outside conference. It occurred to me, not nearly enough people understand the joyous experience of making soap. But, how can I encourage someone to learn more about soapmaking? That is how the idea of registering National Soapmaking Day evolved.
Sara: What was the process of getting a national day declared?
Kerri: Okay Sara, just call up the President and request a national day; it’s that easy and takes 10 seconds! I wish. In 2016, when I first decided to research registering a national day, I felt optimistic. Usually, the President or Cabinet of the United States proclaims a national day. When I submitted my proposal for National Soapmaking Day to the office of the Secretary of Agriculture (’cause soapmaking promotes agriculture by using vegetable oils), I received replies refuting, “the Secretary does not proclaim national days,” even though there are over 3,000 of them online in PDF, including National Pollinator Week and National Prepare a School Meal Week. Come on, all I wanted was one damn day!
After consulting other sources, I learned if I could irrefutably prove the existence of a day celebrated across the US, then I could proclaim the day – essentially, if it already existed! So, I could do it myself, if I could provide proof, including national recognition of the day, through website analytics and social media participation. I just wanted a day, not the expense and sacrifice involving a website and social media accounts. I already had several businesses and little free time; so, feeling defeated, I decided to celebrate my own “Soapmaking Day,” by simply holding a Soapmaking 101 class the last Sunday of September each year. I felt like Linus, exclaiming to Charlie Brown, “the Great Pumpkin is coming!’ except I touted “Soapmaking Day.”
Anyone can host a special day; for example, Major League Baseball’s “Roberto Clemente Day,” but it is not a national day. I was perfectly happy with my own “Soapmaking Day” for 3 years, until I attended the 2019 Guild conference in Dallas, TX. Everything changed the moment I was surprised with an honorary lifetime membership award from the Guild; I was emotionally overwhelmed. How could I deserve such an honor? At that moment, I committed to undertaking the expense and dedication to make “Soapmaking Day” a national day. By the start of 2020, I had a website, social media accounts, and a precisely penned proclamation. Thanks to thousands of participants across the US and Canada who submitted photos of soap and soapmaking activities to Instagram with #NationalSoapmakingDay in 2020, I had the proof I needed! Today, my proclamation for National Soapmaking Day has been signed by the governor of California and the mayors of 6 cities in the US. Even though National Soapmaking Day is now found on Google Calendars and other specialty calendars, I keep sending out my proclamation for it to be signed by more officials. There is even a fillable proclamation for soapmakers to add their own names, print, sign, frame, and display in their stores or workshops.
Sara: How do you celebrate?
Kerri: National Soapmaking Day is about SOAPMAKING. Learn about soapmaking by watching videos or reading a book, invite a friend to watch while you make soap, host a class to demonstrate the art of soapmaking, post photos of you making soap to social media with #NationalSoapmakingDay, or participate in the other activities available at NationalSoapmakingDay.org including a soapmaking word search and a soapmaking crossword puzzle.
The point of this day is for people to learn about or try something new to them: soapmaking. If you already make soap, push yourself to learn more or do more, something outside your “soap comfort zone.” Watch videos of how soap is made in foreign countries, learn historically how soap was made ages ago, read about the hybridizing of next-generation detergents and soap together in the same bar, or attempt an advanced artisan technique. Just remember, it’s about SOAPMAKING.
Sara: What advice would you give a brand new soapmaker who isn’t sure where to start?
Kerri: Honestly, soapmaking is a very forgiving art form. When fats and sodium hydroxide are combined, they usually react to produce soap. If the soap doesn’t turn out the way you anticipated, never throw it out; it can always be salvaged, usually through rebatching. Whether starting with a book, a class, or pre-made melt and pour soap base, just start!
Sara: What advice would you give to a seasoned soap business owner who’s having a hard time staying inspired?
Kerri: I offer private consultations to help soapmakers and this seems to be a big issue. Like everything in life, sometimes we just need a break to re-create ourselves. If making soap for a living has become mundane, spend a day doing something you love. Go for a hike, visit a local botanical garden, indulge in a spa treatment, relax at the beach, or whatever speaks to you. During your escape, when you find that sense of euphoria, identify it and remember it to take home with you. According to William S. Burroughs, “When you stop growing you start dying.” You might decide to create a new soap with pine essential oil (inspired by your hike), add different botanicals to your soap, formulate a soap to complement the spa treatment, develop a beach-inspired line, or some other new creation. Grow or die. Also, never tell yourself you “have” to make soap; I say I “get” to make soap. If you dread soapmaking, it is time to either re-create yourself, your company, or your soap line.
Sara: What do you want consumers to know about handcrafted soap?
Kerri: I want customers to know soapmakers enjoy answering their questions. Consumer education is one of the keys to generating a sale, so we will gladly share our enthusiasm and knowledge with you. Yes, $16 per bar is correct; it is i not a typo. This artisan handmade soap is not the same as a 4-pack sold in Dollar General. Luxuriously fine handmade soap is an affordable indulgence. Treat yourself. Treat your friends and family. Buy and give handmade soap because sales support a local soapmaker.
Thank you so much to Kerri Mixon for helping to bring awareness to the unique art of soapmaking!
To learn more about making soap, visit the HSCG How-To Library and make your first (or 100th) batch to celebrate soapmaking!