We’re 52 Days away from State College’s first urban flea on September 10. So to get you more excited for our inaugural event we wanted to introduce you to some of our vendors. Each week we’ll have a fireside chat with a few of our vendors to talk shop and preview the goods they’ll be bringing with them.
First up is Lyes & Lathers—a handmade soap brand out of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Jena is the owner and resident soapmaker and she had a lot of fun answering our questions about what makes her soap perfect for Pop Up Ave.
// Where does the inspiration for your company come from?
With the recent turn toward natural living, I wanted to make a product that is accessible to many without being a cookie cutter business. For this reason, many of my products are suitable for those avoiding animal products as well as those with sensitivities to chemical fragrances and dyes. You won't find your cousin's favorite 'Apricot Freesia' soap here, but I like to think I've put a modern twist on the classic soap scents we've all come to expect. I draw from nature rather specifically for a lot of the visual cues, as well as seasonal ingredients and scents. Balance exists for a reason, and that's echoed a lot in the perfumery tricks I use for my scent blends. My experience in high-end kitchens really helps me put all of these beautiful things together into one cohesive package.
// What was your first product?
I made my first-ever bar of soap in September of 2014. It was a well-calculated disaster; a culmination of everything I do so well: following formulas with laser-precision, general micromanaging, and fretting over nothing. Even though not a hair was out of place, this is organic chemistry we're talking about and behaved as one would expect—unpredictably. That setback only affected the appearance of my kitchen, I would realize after unmolding the next day. The mottled orange and black soap had weathered the storm so very well that it begged the question: “Why did it do that?” That was the day I went down the rabbit hole, and I've never looked back
// What was your favorite customer reaction to your business?
I still get jazzed whenever my regulars get excited about new things, so it never really ends. I do really love smashing the stereotype of vaguely-beige colored lumpy hunks of strong, polarizing scents that deteriorate way too quickly, though. When I can see that someone notices the difference from across the room, makes a beeline over to see if it's really soap, and then lets me give handmade soap another chance, what I'm really seeing is all my hard work come full circle. It doesn't get any better than that.
// If you had to sell/make only one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Sourdough bread. Hands down. By the time this goes to web-print, I'll already have spent my yearly allotted personal development time at Smoke Signals Baking in the mountains of North Carolina. If soapmaking can be likened to 'Go' in the way that it's easy to do but difficult to master, bread is the edible version of it. And I approve.
To see more of Lyes & Lathers check out their links below.