30. srpna 2016

Soapmakers of the World: Holly Shelton's Sipmle Elegance (USA)

Lemon Mint Teardorp

All photos are from Holly Shelton's personal archive

This time, my soapmaking friends, my guest is from USA. She won Soap Challenge Club three times, ones placed second and several times was very close to the top positions. Her soaps are very recognizable as they are not only both very simple and very elegant, but also are all natural. Queen of Natural Colors*, Amazingly Talented Soapmaker, very kind and grateful person and simply beautiful woman – Holly Shelton from Kápia Méra Soap Company.

Leaving the engineering field was a difficult decision but has turned out to be one of the best I’ve ever made.

-   Holly, we all know you are living on the farm now. Did you live on a farm all your life? Where are you from?
-   I grew up just outside Birmingham, Alabama in a small rural area.  My Father was a steel worker and my Mother worked some but was always home with me and my younger sister, Amy.  My parents always had a big garden and my Grandmother and Great Grandmother had beautiful flower gardens that I remember as a child. I never really lived on a farm until I bought my own small farm in 1994. Then I married my husband, Steve, in 1997, and we moved to the larger farm we live on now in Tennessee.  Ever since my first little farm, I’ve had honeybees, cows, horses, and now chickens.  When I was about 5 years old, I drew a picture of myself on a farm feeding chickens. I think a farm is just somewhere I’ve always wanted to be.

-   Is there something you are missing from your “past” city life?
-  Not really.  Except maybe really fast internet. I’m kidding.  I think being on a farm is just where I feel most comfortable and happy.


-    What made you move to the farm?
-  Before soap making, I was an Aerospace Engineer.  I received my degree from Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama way back in 1992.  I worked in the field for about 12 years before retiring and staying home to care for our farm.  I have a chronic illness that tends to get worse with stress (Crohn’s Disease).  About 2004, my husband and I decided I should get away from the stress of the engineering field to see if my health improved.  At that time, it was also proving difficult to take care of a farm when we both worked 50 to 60 hours a week.  Leaving the engineering field was a difficult decision but has turned out to be one of the best I’ve ever made.

 -     How old are you? What about your family?
-     I’m 47 years old, and my husband is 55.  We met back in 1994 while working together (we’re both aerospace engineers) and married in late 1997.

Just married

-    Aerospace engineer sounds to be interesting job, isn’t it?
-    I became an Aerospace engineer with the hopes of working for NASA and the space program in some way.  I’ve always been fascinated with space and space travel.  However, when I graduated from college, I was offered a job working outside the space field.  Engineering jobs were really tough to come by at the time, so I gladly accepted.  Had it not been for my health issues, I would probably still be working there. It was a very rewarding job.

-      Are you “alternative” in some other areas of life? Maybe you are a vegetarian or raw foodist?
-     I’m not vegan or even vegetarian, but I do try to eat organic foods and stick to a paleo diet as much as possible.  I make my own laundry detergent, hand soap, facial cleansers, and dryer balls.  I think all of that has come about due to my chronic illness and concerns over the chemicals we are exposed to daily.  The more I can stick to an organic diet, the better I seem to feel.  


-    You have so lovely dogs, can you tell us some more about them?
-   Thank you! We just love dogs.  We have 1 Llewelyn English Setter, 2 Labrador Retrievers, and 1 mixed breed dog.  The photo may show 2 English Setters, but we recently lost one to old age (Ed, the white English Setter, died last month).  In fact, all of my dogs are getting old.  Hank, the Llewelyn Setter, is 13 years old;  Biscuit, the yellow Lab, is 10; Roberta, the little mixed breed, is about 15; and, finally, Moose, the chocolate Lab, is 5.  Moose and Biscuit are both frisbee dogs.  They never tire of catching the frisbee, and I never tire of throwing it for them.


-      Holly, I apologize for such a personal question, but I just must ask you about your hair))) What is the secret of having such a beautiful hair, may be your own shampoo?
-    Oh, thank you so much!  That’s so sweet of you to say.  I’ve never tried to make shampoo before.  Well, except for making a dog shampoo bar for a friend.  I mainly just protect my hair from heat using a heat protector spray.  I also take vitamins that are specifically for hair and nails.  

Holly in her soap room


 I made my first batch using a disposable ziplock container for a mold. 


- Your blog starts at the beginning of 2015. When did you really start with soapmaking and why?
-          Back in 2010, a friend of mine gave me a bar of homemade soap she bought at a farmers market and asked me, “As much as you love chemistry, why aren’t you making soap?”  She thought it just sounded like something I would love to do.  At the time, I was really struggling with horribly dry, itchy skin, so the idea of making my own soap really appealed to me. I started researching and learning everything I could about it.  I’m one of those people who feels like they need to know everything they possibly can before diving into something.  I purchased every soap making book I could find, read countless articles and blogs, watched a lot of videos online, and even took a soap making and essential oil blending class at some point.  I made my first batch using a disposable ziplock container for a mold.  It was a plain, white, three oil soap scented with lavender essential oil.  After my first batch, I could not stop thinking about homemade soap.  I still can’t.  In early 2014, I knew I wanted to go from being just a hobby soap maker to actually running a soap business.  I began testing for my perfect recipe and deciding exactly which soaps I wanted in my line.

Whiskey soap by Kápia Méra

-          Is there any horrifying story about your first attempts?
-         I think all of my soap making disaster stories begin with the phrase, “Well, I was making soap really late in the day when I was very tired.”  I remember this one particular soap disaster where I started the batch around 8pm.  I was making a soap where I subtract from the recipe and then add an infused oil back at light trace (it was a very light infusion of calendula petals, very pale yellow). I didn’t notice that the infused oil was still sitting on the counter until the next morning. I had completely forgotten to add it back to the recipe.  I ended up with a 15 bar batch so lye heavy that it crunched when I cut it.  Just for fun, I tested it with a pH strip.  Of course, it maxed out the scale.  Since then, I’ve definitely had my share of goofs. I try to learn from every mistake, and I keep meticulous notes on all my batches, both successes and failures.

Salty dog spa bar by Kápia Méra

-          You are using only natural colorants for your soaps. What led you to use them?
-        I’m very allergic to certain dyes and perfumes.  So when I started making soap, I wanted to make bars that I could test myself without worrying about an allergic reaction.  I’m sure there are micas and fragrances I could use that wouldn’t bother me at all, but I just decided to stick with herbs, spices, and clays. 
Opposite Soap - entry for Soap Challenge Club

-          Where did you find information about natural colorants and how to make them?
There are so many wonderful articles and blog posts about everything from making infusions to the colors you can achieve with all kinds of herbs and spices.  In the beginning, I read everything I could possibly find and then started experimenting with my own recipes.  I went through a lot of trial and error, but I really enjoyed the learning process. And I’m still testing out new herbs and spices all the time that I’ve never tried before.

-        Where do you get your soap inspiration? Photos, books, videos or other soapmakers?
I’d have to say all of the above.  I’m just amazed at the soap makers who create their own original techniques and swirls and absolutely love reading articles and books on the science of soap making.  I’m so inspired by the women entrepreneurs in the handmade beauty industry, from the large suppliers to those making soap and creating a successful blog, like yourself. I love reading about them, learning how they’ve become successful, and what motivates them. And I’m just in awe of the soap makers who teach soap making all over the world to help women learn a trade to support their families.  They all inspire me to be the best soap maker, business person, and human being I can possibly be.  

Rimmed soap - winner of the US Category of Soap Challenge Club in March 2016

-          Your entries in Soap Challenge Club are always one of the best, you won the Challenge several times. What is the phenomenon of your soaps, what other soapmakers see in them and why like them so much?
-          Thank you so much.  I’m still shocked I actually placed or won.  Especially when you look at the brilliant colors and artistry of everyone else who competes, yourself included.  Your grand prize winning Damask Rimmed Soap was just absolutely gorgeous, by the way.  All the times I’ve participated in the challenge, I’ve never thought my own soaps were anywhere near the top of the list.  But I’m absolutely thrilled and so grateful to have placed and even won.  To be rewarded like that by your peers for something you create is just the absolute best feeling
Rainbow soap made with Sculpted Layers Technique

-                     What is soapmaking for you?
-                     For me, soap making is absolutely something I thought would be a hobby.  However, it quickly turned into a passion, and that passion led to this little business.  I just can’t seem to ever stop thinking about making soap.  I keep a notebook next to the bed to write down any ideas that come to me in the middle of the night.  I’m sure a lot of soap makers can relate to that.  My husband, Steve, tells everyone he’s an expert in soap making because he has listened to me talk about it so much. He really enjoys the chemistry and business side of it, though. 

Not only did I feel that Kápia Méra was the perfect tribute to my Father-in-law and the family farm, it was actually the perfect fit for me because it took me so long to find my passion in soap making.  


-          The name of your soap company Káipa Méra do sounds interesting and unusual. Did you think a lot about it?
-           I did.  Once I knew my soap making was turning into more than just a hobby, I began to think of names that represented how I felt about my business.  It took me a very long time to decide.  I initially thought the name should convey my all-natural approach to soap making, but I never came up with a name that I really liked. My husband eventually suggested his family farm name, Kápia Méra Farm (Kápia Méra is Greek for Some Day). Not only did I feel that Kápia Méra was the perfect tribute to my Father-in-law and the family farm, it was actually the perfect fit for me because it took me so long to find my passion in soap making.  

This is a photo of the stone they had laid when they moved to their new farm in 1984.

-         And how did your father-in-law came up with that name for his farm?
-        He was famous for telling his kids “some day.” He chose the Kápia Méra name because he thought very highly of the Greek family who suggested it and helped him with the translation from Some Day to Kápia Méra.  He also really loved the translation (he thought the Greek translation sounded so beautiful and so much better than just “Some Day” Farm).  

On Christmasfair 2015

-         Your logo was created by your mother. Why did you gave that “job” to her instead of giving it to some specialized company?
-         Ever since I was little, my Mother has created the most beautiful paintings.  She knows me so well, too. When I described to her the idea I had for my logo, her very first attempt was absolutely perfect. From there, she went on to paint images for all my soap labels. I’ve been very fortunate to have her help.

Holly with her mother on the farm

-        Soaps in your line are mainly simple and plain in contrast to soaps with colorants and fragrances.  Is it difficult to concur with them? What are they your clients who prefer artisan soap with natural colorants and essential oils?
-         It’s definitely hard to compete with the beautiful, bright artisan soaps and all the amazing fragrances people use. I’m just amazed and blown away at some of the gorgeous soaps people create. The soaps in my line are really quite simple in design.  I am finding more and more people who are interested in natural soaps.  Generally, my repeat customers are people like me with allergies or people who just want to use all natural products.  I don’t know how successful I’ll be with my all natural products, but I’m always hopeful.

Soap labels made by Holly's mother
-    Who makes Kapia Mera?
-  Kapia Mera Soap Co basically consists of me (the soap maker), my husband, Steve, who helps me with wholesale customers, brain storming, and carrying all the heavy stuff, and my Mom, who helps out at all the craft shows, paints all the artwork, and tests all my new creations.  I also have a few friends who test my products and always give me their honest opinions on everything from new essential oil blends to how a soap lathers and feels.  I absolutely love receiving constructive criticism and hearing different perspectives. Both my Mom’s and my friend's input has been invaluable to me.


I absolutely love making videos.  I’m kind of a computer and software geek


-          Your videos on making soap are not only beautiful but also have a very good educative element in them. First of all I would like personally to thank you for them, I adore them as much as the result of the process. And my question is - How long does it take you to make your videos? Do you make it yourself or someone is helping you?
Oh, thank you so much! That’s so sweet of you to say.  I absolutely love making videos. I’m kind of a computer and software geek.  I love the entire filming, editing, and creative process of making a video. It means so much to me when I hear that someone likes them.
I have a 2 camera setup in my soap shop - a Canon Vixia video camera directly overhead on a boom and my Canon DSLR on a small tripod for closer shots.  The second DSLR camera is really unnecessary, but I just like being able to add a different angle or view when I’m editing.  I also have 3 lights that I use just when I’m making a video - two 105 Watt daylight photography bulbs and one 85 watt light.
The editing process I use is quite simple and takes me about 1 day (maybe 6 to 8 hours total) from start to finish for a 5 to 7 minute video. I think the key to quick editing is first laying out every piece of video and every photo I think I might use - laid out in the program’s timeline in chronological order. Then I make one pass, cutting out everything I don’t want, then cutting again, and then finally cutting one more time after I’ve added some music.   I use Final Cut Pro to edit the videos, but I also really like Adobe Premiere.  I think the lighting and accurate color representation has been my biggest struggle with soap making videos.  But I’m learning more with every video and hopefully getting better.

Target shooting with some friends just for fun.  My husband photographed me before we got started
-         I also saw a video on your YouTube channel where you are working with glass.
My bottle breaking hobby came about because I saw some cute drinking glasses online that were made from bottles.  After researching a little, the whole process seemed really fun to me, so I tried it.  I made enough glasses for myself and enough to give to friends and family as gifts.  I only make them occasionally now when someone finds a really interesting or unique bottle.  As far as my glass breaking YouTube video, a friend of mine wanted to know how I made the glasses using my hot and cold water method. So I made a video for him and posted it. It was a lot of fun to make.

 Are you doing some other artisan work? Maybe painting?
 I wish I could say that I did.  I’ve always wanted to be an artistic person.  Both of my parents are very creative and artistic.  Growing up with a Father who is a wood carver and wood worker and a Mother who paints and sews, I always wanted to have more of a creative mind.  I think that’s why participating in the Soap Challenge Club has been so much fun for me.  Up until I entered my first challenge, my soaps were all very simple and plain.  I never really thought I could do justice to a swirl until I started trying them.

Holly with Hank

Thank you, Holly, for being so kind to answer my questions.
 Thank you for asking me to answer some questions about my life and soap making.  I’m just truly honored to be asked. 
*thank you, Debi Olsen, for those very right words

4 komentáře:

  1. What an excellent write-up! I enjoyed reading about Holly's ventures very much!! Holly, you're such an inspiration - both as a soapmaker and a completely humble and beautiful human being. Many blessings to you!!

    1. Thank you, Amy, for reading and your comment. I agree with you completely on Holly's qualities))) and I was very happy when she agreed to take part in my project!

  2. Thank you so much for publishing these very entertaining stories, Nasta! It was truly a enjoyable piece and I love the opportunity to have learned so much more about the immensely talented Holly!

    1. Thank you, Debi. I am happy you liked it! I love different stories, different people from all over the world! It is sometimes hard to FEEL a person you are talking to, but I hope I was successful this time)) and Holly enjoyed the process as well)))