Tell us a bit about yourself
My name is Wendy, I'm 51 and I live on the Mornington Peninsula, here in Victoria where we as a family try to live a simplified and sustainable lifestyle. I'm a wife, mother and grandmother. I have four children, 2 adult kids a son 29 and a daughter 30 and my two kids from another mother, a girl 14 and boy 16. I have a wee 4 year old grandson and another wee boy due in September. I'm married to my best friend; he is a serving member of the Defence Force, so we tend to move a whole lot more than the average family, putting down roots where ever the Navy send us.
Can you explain your craft/art and the material you like to use? I am an artisan soap maker who makes old fashioned, cold process soap. I work with earthy, wholesome, simple ingredients. Nature has such a beautiful bounty to share with us and I am lucky to be able to use a variety of plant oils and butters, natural waxes, essential oils and botanicals in the things that I make. I choose to use sustainable and where possible organic ingredients so the end product is something that is not only mild and non-drying on your skin but also gentle on the environment too.
Where do you get your inspiration and what is your creative process? My mind is never far from soap, or thoughts about soap design or recipes. I even dream about it, truly I do. I don't know if I draw my inspiration from anywhere in particular. Looking at other crafters soaps can inspire thoughts and a 'can do' attitude; there are some really talented soapers out there who I have the highest respect for. Due to the fact I make my soap in small batches, it is hard to get each batch 100% identical, that's the uniqueness of what I do.
Once my recipe is formulated I work on the look. Colour for me, comes from scent, which means Lavender might not always be purple. When I smell a fragrance or if I am working on a scent blend, I think about what colour or look that scent brings to me or how that colour might make my customers feel or think. When creating soap it can be easy to follow my own personal tastes, so I work hard to keep my range of soaps varied, otherwise everything in my Madeit store would be citrus or lavender scented.
How long have you been creating and how did you get into craft/art? From My Hearth has been around since 2010, but I have been making soap and natural skin care for a time before that. For many years I suffered from irritated skin, at times it was so dry it would crack and bleed, little did I know it was the commercial chemical bars I was washing myself with, that was the cause. When I personally found out the benefits of handmade vegetable oils soaps, I wanted to share those benefits with others. For a long time I made soap and gave it to my friends and then it was my husband work colleagues. There were always several bars in the bathroom at any one time and still is actually.
Before long I was looking at the possibilities of selling it. It was a big step to go from soap making as a hobby to selling what I made, due to the fact that anyone selling cold processed soap here in Australia, is required by law to be registered with the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) - Dept. of Health and Ageing. The yearly registration is a little hefty, but by following these legalities and obtaining a NICNAS registration number, this has allowed me to live my dream of having a cottage industry and to be able to do something I enjoy doing, every day – making and selling soap.
How did you come up with your business name? The name From My Hearth comes from thoughts of a simpler time, when the hearth was thought of as a symbol of the home and the life of the family who lived in it.
The hearth was the heart and corner stone of daily life and my soaps come from the cornerstone of our home. From My Hearth is a small cottage industry, where we like to instil into our products and business some good old fashioned values - honesty, integrity, simplicity and sustainability. It is really From My Hearth, to yours.
What resources 'have or do you' use to help your creative pursuits (i.e. groups, classes, shops, websites etc)?
There is a huge amount of information out there for anyone wanting to make cold process soap, mainly online but that doesn't mean it is was all good or safe information, so I have had to do a lot of research. I am a member of a couple of soap making forums and I read – a lot, various soap making books from reputable soap makers, who have shared a wealth of knowledge on safety, technique and the legalities of labelling etc.
Some of the best information has come from those soap makers I have been blessed with meeting in person, those who have gone before and learnt and shared their mistakes and triumphs, those who have done the hard yards and had the good grace to share their hard earned knowledge with me, and I will always be grateful for that.
What's your best advice for someone starting up?
Believe in yourself and your ability to make something wonderful. Be unique because you're not going to be the only one out there creating the same thing as you. Research, research and more research. Depending on what you're making, if you don't do your homework you could hurt someone especially if you're making things like soap. There are no such things as a stupid question, so never feel silly asking something that might feel rhetorical.
Take baby steps, but do take the steps and you will achieve your goals. Patience, when I didn't make a sale my first day I felt like the sky had fallen. *smiles*
Trust yourself; if you think it is a good idea, it is very likely someone else will too. Lastly, keep it fun, if you're not having fun, brainstorming, creating and making, then it is probably not worth doing it anymore.
Do you have any advertising/promotion tips for sellers to be successful?
I need to work on this area myself; I use Facebook, twitter and have a website. A business domain name if you have a website is not only professional but gives you better standing in search engines. Take better than good photos, they are your best asset online and are what draw customers in. Bad photos can diminish the quality of a great product.
What do you sell? Emphasise this with your brand and look, make sure this compliments your products. Business cards are cheap and a very good promotional tool. Network – family, friends, co-workers, contact with other crafters and if you can afford it, a professional marketer.
I think our business is prompted the most by our customers – so customer care and service has to be paramount. Without our customers we have no business, so treat them well.
Can you share any lessons that you have learned the hard way? Be prepared! In my first year of selling soaps, I had absolutely no idea how popular my soaps would be as gifts at Christmas. I was so surprised and so unprepared for the influx. So now, I start making my soaps for Christmas around July so I have enough stock to meet the Christmas rush.
What do you like to do besides creating? Soap making is a huge part of my life, but I also enjoy knitting for my grandchildren, pottering in my garden growing veg and herbs, preparing fermented foods and breads. I recently bought a new sewing machine and I am looking forward to finding the time to teach myself how to quilt. I really am most content when tending hearth and home – making it a comfortable and welcoming place for my family.
What is your favourite music, television show, film, book, website I have an eclectic taste in music from the earthy sounds of Wendy Rule to Freddy Mercury to likes of Adele and Pink Floyd.
If I'm going to watch TV it would be Once Upon a Time, Dexter, Walking Dead, Hairy Bikers and Jamie Oliver shows.
I'm not a movie hound, but best movies for me would be Forrest Gump, Grand Torino, Shawshank Redemption and I have a bit of a soft spot for Nemo.
What would be your perfect day?
I think I have had my perfect day – my husband who knows my loves and passions, surprised me with a trip to the zoo, once we got there we were met by the keepers and I spent a few hours behind the scenes with the elephants and their babies. It was such an amazing time, I was delighted to be able to talk in depth to one of the keepers about deforestation and some of the environmental issues facing Orangutans and Elephants in some Malaysian countries , he had recently returned from some of the areas where farmers were being taught sustainable, green palm oil farming.
Who is one of your favourite madeit seller, explain why in less than 10 words? Ruth and Radish – they are imaginative creators of whimsical treasures that delight all.