Monday, August 6, 2012

Super Soapers, August, Featured Soap Artist!

Featured Artist:
Linda Mays

When Super Soapers asked Linda Mays, an Administrative Assistant, who lives with her Persian cat, Peekaboo, just outside of Huntington, West Virginia to be our "FIRST" Featured Soap Artist for our blog, she said she would be honored.
Little did Linda know, that when finding some handmade soap, while on vacation, that it would turn into a passion and eventually bloom into a part-time, side business, that would not only be a means of financial stability, but also open her up to a whole new, & exciting world of soap making.
We asked Linda if she could share with us some of her experiences with soap making and of her process, as well as some insight into herself as a person, & this is what she had to say:

Super Soapers: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Linda Mays: I am 51 years old and I’ve been making soap for just under two years. I am divorced and I have no children. I live right outside the city limits of Huntington, West Virginia, USA, with my Persian cat, Peekaboo. I have a few neighbors on one side of me, but two sides of my house border on a wooded hillside, so it’s nice and peaceful where I live. There are deer, foxes, owls, and other critter nearby.
I have lived in a lot of different places when I was younger, but those places were crowded cities and towns and I prefer more rural areas, so I eventually moved back to my old home town and built a small home – the one I’m in now.
I work as an administrative assistant at a medical center. I love cooking, reading, writing, gardening and, of course, soapmaking.

SS: How did you get started in soapmaking?
LM: I was on vacation in the Carolinas and bought some really nice soap at an exclusive gift shop. I loved the fragrance and when I ran out of the soap, I got on the internet to try to find more. I discovered this particular soap had been made by a wholesale company in Raleigh, North Carolina and they sold only to gift shops – not directly to the public. So I was unable to buy more online.
While I was searching the internet for that soap, I started seeing photos and descriptions of handmade soaps. I clicked on some of these links and saw that people were making soap right in their own kitchens. It had just never occurred to me that people were still making handmade soap in this day and age. I knew people used to do that kind of thing and the results didn’t seem to be so great (like granny’s old-fashioned lye soap). But the soap I was seeing online looked beautiful and I was fascinated with it. I started reading those web sites, then I ordered some books on soapmaking, and I eventually found the courage to try my first batch of cold process soap. It took me quite a while to make that first attempt at cold process because I was deathly afraid of lye after reading all the cautions and warnings about working with it.

SS: Do you CP or MP, & why?

LM: Nearly all of my soapmaking is CP, although I do a little MP now and then. I have asked myself why I like making CP soap so much better than I like making MP, and I really don’t know the answer. It’s a mystery why I would have such a definite and pronounced preference for CP, and yet not know the reason for that preference. I thought very hard about it again (because of your question), and the closest I can come to a possible reason that I seem to be drawn more to CP, is that I find CP to be more earthy and rustic.

SS: What inspires you most?

LM: Seeing a really cool bar of soap or seeing a video of someone making awesome soap cupcakes or cakes. I just start itching to go into the kitchen and try it myself.

SS: Do you consider yourself an artist?

LM: I totally don’t! I love creative writing and creative soapmaking, but somehow I always think of artists as people who have talents that I don’t – like singing and painting. I can’t do either of those things and I’m always so impressed with people who can.

 SS: How has soapmaking changed your life?

LM: Soapmaking has changed my life in several ways, but these are the two biggest ways:
· Soapmaking has brought me some much-needed extra money that has allowed me to stay in my home. There was a time when I thought I was going to have to sell my home and move back into an apartment, especially since I live alone and don’t have anyone else’s income to rely on. I work as an administrative assistant so I have a very modest income. I thought of advertising for a roommate, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I am a private person and I enjoy my quiet time. Taking on a roommate at age 51 would be very different than taking on a roommate at age 21. So soapmaking has allowed me to keep my head above water financially.

· Another way soapmaking has changed my life is that it has turned me into a small business owner. I have NEVER in my life aspired to be a business owner. I never even aspired to be a supervisor at any of the jobs I’ve had over the years. One of my family members thinks it’s because I have no ambition, but that’s not true - I just don’t have the right kind of personality. I like working quietly at my desk on the computer, minding my own business. I don’t like bossing people around, going to meetings, or speaking in public. That’s why I’m still a secretary and not a boss, LOL! I’m not a risk-taker either, so starting my own business has never appealed to me. But making and selling soap started slowly. It happened so gradually, and without me even thinking about it, and then it somehow turned into a business. There was never any time to be afraid or get nervous. It just kind of snuck up on me. It still seems very surreal to me that I am actually selling soap to people I’ve never met, and they are sending me money that I can use to buy groceries, to buy more soap supplies and to pay my mortgage. It seems like a miracle. A much-needed miracle.

SS: How would you describe your creative process?

LM: When I decide to create a new soap, I start by looking at pictures on the internet of beautiful soap from all over the world. Some of these soapmakers have been creating soap for decades. I’ve been making soap less than two years, so I like to get an idea of what has been done before by other people, in other places, during other times. Some pictures show styles that don’t appeal to me at all. Other pictures show techniques and styles and colors that seem beautiful to me. Since I think there are very few new things under the sun, I see nothing wrong with trying to imitate a style or technique that I particularly admire. I find it to be a great way to learn. Other times I may be looking at a picture of a bar of soap that someone else has done and it sets off a new, original idea in my head that is totally different than what I’m looking at. But some small detail about the soap photo I’m looking at can sometimes cause an idea to jump out of my own brain.

SS: What do you benefit the most from other artists in your craft?

LM: I probably benefit the most from other artists by seeing the colors and color combinations they choose for their soap and soap products. I am color-challenged! I don’t seem to have a natural knack for choosing nice shades of color, or for combining various shades in the same product.

SS: Now for a little bit of fun.
Most soap artists seem to be all about their FO's & EO's, which of course are an important part of soapmaking, and everyone knows that scent is the major trigger sensory known for people. If you could explain which, FO or EO, has triggered the biggest memory from childhood, or the most important time in your life, which would it be & why? (this is optional of course).

LM: This one is easy. I have two things that immediately jump to mind. Although I know I could think of many more, these are the first two that came to me.
· The smell of any honeysuckle fragrance oil transports me immediately back to childhood when I used to roam the woods and hills around our family house in West Virginia. The hillsides were covered in honeysuckle. I had five younger siblings and we used to build forts out of fallen wood, fieldstone and grapevines. We would ‘stock’ our fort with crackers, water, and honeysuckle flowers so we’d have something to eat while we fought off wild Indians, robbers or grizzly bears. We’d pinch the bottom end of the bud off, hold the bottom of the flower over our tongues, pull out the stamen slowly, and let one perfect sweet drop of ‘honey’ fall onto our tongues.
· The other fragrance I immediately thought of for this question also reminds me of childhood. It is the smell of coconut and other tropical oils. My family did not have a lot of money when I was growing up, so it was a rare thing to go to a public pool or a beach. On the few occasions we did get to go, it was such a rare treat that I was ecstatic. I remember walking past people who were lying on their towels and slathered with suntan oil. That smell was so strong because everyone had it on. So those happy feelings must have gotten mixed up with the smell of all that Hawaiian Tropic tanning oil that people used so much of in the 60s and early 70s. To this day, if I open up a bottle of certain tanning lotions and take a big sniff, it makes me feel really happy!

Linda is a member of our Super Soapers Facebook group. For more information on Linda, or her soaps, you can go to her website at or on her Facebook page,
You can also email her at
-This Feature was by Misty Raines Clapp, Founder & admin for Super Soapers Facebook Group.
You can email Misty at

*Look for a "new" Super Soapers Featured Artist every Month!*


  1. I love Linda's soap and I truly enjoy seeing her creation~~~

  2. I love seeing all the soapy goodies that Linda makes :)